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The thing about the internet in general and twitter in particular is that it turns us all into amateur comedians. And rightfully so. Can you imagine a twitter TL or a blog that treated every single subject with somberness and gravitas. In hip-hop lately though there has been a serious lack of LOLz. That Rick Ross controversy on the heels of Lil Wayne’s hospitalization have dominated the headlines and brought out all the humorless, dour naysayers, that rear their ugly heads to declare hip-hop dead every two or three years. Nobody wants to stand next to “that guy” at a party seriously. So when something obviously hilarious happens. It gets tweeted, retweeted, instagrammed, blogged and meme’d to death.
Comedy, like hip-hop, is an artform that many amateurs are now attempting because of stunning advances in technology that are destroying the barriers for entry. You don’t even have to know photoshop to create a meme. JoJo Simmons is now the butt of the jokes. It’s extremely easy to laugh at him though. We’ve been doing it for years. I’m not saying it’s fair. I’m not saying its right. But its true. When your father is a hip-hop legend your struggle raps are bound to be met with derision. With the exception of Cory Gunz we don’t really like the kids of rappers when they rap. That’s just the way it is.
What adds to the humor for many people is that JoJo’s little brother Diggy Simmons, whose hip-hop aspirations weren’t really chronicled on the reality show Run’s House the same way JoJo’s were, became a successful artist in his own right last year (albeit for the teeny bopper set). Diggy’s career only revived the sneers of those who point at JoJo and laugh. Those people may properly be referred to as haters. (Someone on twitter remarked that JoJo was the black Meg Griffin) They probably can’t even fully articulate what they don’t like about JoJo they just know they don’t like him.
While I’ve never personally been able to tolerate JoJo’s music long enough to determine if he’s posturing about things we know he never experienced I do have a retort for people who don’t like him based on that. We don’t begrudge Run of Run-DMC his success so why should we begrudge his son who is the by-product of that success. Imagine yourself in a situation where you work yourself into multi-millionaire status. You can afford to give your kids everything you had to struggle for. You can shield them from the horrors of the hood without completely disconnecting them from their roots. Why wouldn’t you? Sure your kids might be a little “cornier” than those who came up poor, hungry, and desperate. He may not have the same street sensibilities as those kids who had to navigate the concrete jungle with a latch key while pops was absent and mom’s pulled a double shift cleaning toilets at the old folks home just to keep food on the table. But those situations while “character building” are not the ideal we should be striving towards.
JoJo and his family have all been extremely blessed. Rev Run and his brother Russell Simmons both became titans in hip-hop. JoJo probably will never be taken seriously as a rapper. And maybe someone should have sat him down and explained the harsh reality. As long as you are the child of Rev Run and the nephew of Russell Simmons any moves you make in hip-hop will ultimately be compared to those twin pillars of innovation. And those shadows are almost impossible to emerge from. Diggy’s ascent was largely due to his target market and the posture he assumed. (And a little talent certainly didn’t hurt). Nobody wants to quit or admit defeat. But it’s hard to fight a battle you’ve already won by default. So what as a Rich Kid does JoJo do? Disses Juelz Santana.
Rapper Kids who Rap have this extra burden. Hip-hop more than anything else treats respect like currency to be banked, spent, or stolen. Run’s House turned the Simmons children into celebrities. Hip-hop artists love to use celebrity names in their rhymes as punchlines. How many Miley Cyrus, Nene Leakes, or Paris Hilton references have you heard today? It’s getting close to the thousands. JoJo Simmons by virtue of reality TV has become no more significant or worthy or respect than a pre- Kanye West Kim Kardashian. ( Watch the Kardashian references dry up from those emcees hoping for a G.O.O.D. music deal). So when an emcee like say.. Juelz Santana uses JoJo Simmons name in a verse how does JoJo react. It’s a Catch-22 for him because he aspires to be respected within the world of hip-hop. Would any emcee worth his salt tolerate a negative name reference or thinly veiled diss aimed at them on wax? Certainly not. JoJo’s status as Rich Kid doesn’t protect him from those standards if he truly aspires to rhyme. So he thinks he has to retaliate and records a diss record.
But a wise man once said “Take twice as much choosing your enemies as you do your friends”. (or did I just make that up). You see JoJo was under the false impression that he was playing the same game as Juelz Santana. I for one would never make that assumption for this simple fact. Juelz hasn’t dropped an album since 2005. So A) He’s Still Good after an 8 year hiatus and thus gets money in ways that can’t be publicized or B) He’s hungry as hell and will destroy you to avoid being the guy who got dissed by JoJo Simmons and didn’t smack the shit out of him.
When JoJo grows up a little he’ll realize this whole incident, the diss records, the instagramming, that damnable youtube clip he just released, could have been and should have been avoided. There are plenty of fields that require no street cred. As a rich kid uniquely positioned to take advantage of life’s opportunities JoJo could have went to Yale got straight C’s and been the George W. Bush of Black Presidents. (We won’t truly arrive until mediocre Blacks succeed). Instead we get this double dose of insult. Whereby we root for a bully and laugh at a square, making us look like the equivalent of the kids in an 80’s movie laughing at the nerd when the captain of the football team knocks the lunch tray out of his hand.
I’m going to try to change that. While I won’t promise that I’ll stop laughing immediately. I am going to wish much success to all the black men involved in this debacle. I hope Juelz Santana’s music is great enough to make us forget this. And I hope that JoJo reinvents himself in a way that allows him to shine without cashing in on his family name.