Editor’s note: The
views expressed inside this editorial aren’t necessarily the views of
AllHipHop.com or its employees.We survived
winters, snotty nosed with no coats/
We kept it real,
but the older brother still had jokes/
… Check it,
fifteen of us in a three bedroom apartment/
everywhere, cousins and aunts was there/
Killah, All That I Got Is You, Ironman
The working-class kid in me wants to
know why Hip-Hop fans would submit their precious time to the abuse of
spoon-fed, pampered, nannied, chauffeur-carried brats who know next to nothing
of growing up with no assurance where your meals coming from.
Yes, the long-awaited editorial has
arrived on schedule. Put down your shoes, pal! Therell be no invective-hurling
today. But some frank truths have been piercing my ear for a while now; and I
know better than to disobey those voices once they get cranky.
If youve made it this far, theres good chance we share core values. If not, hear
me out and prepare your profanity-laced, dimwitted e-mails thereafter.
In the last few months, Ive had to
suppress some impulse to stave off this editorial. I figured over time the
better angels within my nature would allay my increasing worries that many Hip-Hop
fans are losing the battle to reality, but I find the need even greater now to
let out these unflattering observationsand the consequences I think lurk
around the corner if we dont take heed.
When the young son of Rap legend Rev.
Run, Diggy Simmons, released his first mixtape last December, howls filled the
air. He was celebrated as fresh and unique and lyrical, by some AllHipHop
commenters Ive depended on in the past for what Ernest Hemingway calls the
built-in bullsh** detectora device he suggested no serious writer lacked.
You see it, feel it, and delete it. Each one dressed up their rave reviews in
contrast to his older brother, Jo Jo Simmons, and in contradiction to the tacit
presuppositions held of anyone with Run for a surname.
The mixtape was an attempt by Diggy to
prove himself as more than just the son of Rev. Run, wrote
AllHipHop co-founder and co-CEO Greg
Watkins, who filed the story. Diggys dad was pleasantly surprised to see his
son run swift with the flaming torch he lit some three decades back. Around the
time last year, I heard Diggys lead single, Point to Prove, and liked what
was coming through the speakers. I wasnt blown apart or taken aback: I had no expectations. And whoever said
rich kids couldnt flow? Listen to
enough Canibus or Talib Kweli, and your pattern should structure quite well.
But if hypocrisy were gold, many Hip-Hop
fans could own Vegas tonight. When Jo Jo Simmons first explored the unmapped
terrain of Hip-Hop music-making a few years back (on Runs House), no one with a shred
of dignity let him rest at night. Blogs and forums lit up, and Armageddon marked
a minute awayall because a rich kid thought he could walk through the
executive doors of major record labels and sign on the dotted line because his
father and uncle could move mountains with a finger-snap.
I dont know the extent of Jo Jos
experiences. Life, in fact, might be more complicated for him than most lacking
such access and ability available since birth. But if Jo Jo had no chance,
Diggy shouldnt. No one believed Jo Jo had much to inform about life and
hardship, about struggle and pain, about uncertainty and destinyand they ought
not to be hypocrites. But Diggy can spit;
Jo Jo cant!, I can hear some yelping. Well, yes and no. Yes: Diggy handles
breath-control better, and can imitate Rakim quite well. But, no: it wasn’t the
flow that got the Hip-Hop aficionados
seething: it was the silver fork hanging from Jo Jos lips. It was a firm
commitment to ensure Vanilla Ice would have no reincarnation. (All due respect
to that much-maligned man aside.)
Speaking with AllHipHop right after his mixtape dropped, the abnormally
well-spoken 14-year-old Diggy Simmons, now an Atlanta Records recording
the extent of his Rap career/passion: Ive been rapping since I was 5 then
I stopped. I dont even know why I stopped. Then two years ago I got back into
just recording normal tracks. I recorded a song and posted it on my blog and it
got crazy feed back, it wasnt even that lyrical it was more for fun. I love
music, I love making it. Im almost in the studio everyday.
Once, Hip-Hop offered loud voice of
political courage to command the attention of society toward moral correction. (Ever
heard The Message, By the Time I Get to Arizona, Evil That Men Do, Burn
Hollywood Burn, Black Korea, Mystery Of Iniquity, Strange Ways, or American
Terrorist?) Today, Hip-Hop fills vacuums: its a hobby; its an emotional
alleviator; its a social legitimatorit means youre cool. Once, Hip-Hop offered the only legal means of true financial
liberation for kids trapped into unlivable conditions. Today, Hip-Hop adds an
extra 0to the many other 0s lined up from fashion and modeling and TV deals.
Aubrey Graham, better known as Drake,
fares no better in my book. And though three years ago (please listen to Room for Improvement), I could vouch for
him, today I hang my head in shame at the caricature Young Money has turned him
into. But the once-Degrassi (some
suburban White middle-class drama) star doesnt mind: He rolled out the womb
into a golden crib.
For his much-anticipated (sure-to-flop)
debut album, So Far Gone, hes been studying
Nas (to understand how he painted those pictures and his bar structure and all
of that) and Andre 3000. Take a few seconds to award Mr. Graham his ovation.
But a few of usfans and artists alikestudied Nas for quite different reasons:
for the sense of agency and empowerment he provided our struggle; for the eloquent and extensive definition he gave to
inner-city reality; for the wisdom sprawled liberally from his lips to our
ears. No doubt artists can learn a good deal of poetic structure from Nas; but
when Rap music fails to inspire anymore, when technical mastery is all left to
glean from, something is wrongeither
with the teacher or the student, the speaker or the listener.
I tend to judge the likes of Drake like
Cormega would: I don’t like when these spoiled rich kids just get into
rap because it’s something they can
do. They pops got money and they put ’em in the game and then they start
rapping about something, a life they could never live. Go do something else. Ni**as
like us rap about sh** because we
lived it. These ni**as use Rap as a hobby.
If youve ever let your eardrumsand
heartfall victim to a Cormega track, the knee-jerk hes hatin reaction shouldnt find value following those comments:
he embodies every word. And Hip-Hop fans and artists have always stood close to
that timeless axiomno pain: no gain. Not in a fascistic senseas I picked up
from Nas and Damian Marleys Strong Will Continuebut meaning, if hardship to you is running late to a
video shoot, or the late arrival of a chauffeur, or a missed opportunity to
clock your closet with a limited-stock-collection-edition sneaker line, you
might as well stay clear of the mic and pick up a more appealing, less
transient hobbylike curling.
And, sure enough, Hip-Hop fans have come
down terribly harsh on rich kids who, with good muscle movement, eventually made
it onto the roster at some major label outfit trying to suck up to their
parents. Its only right that a keeping
it real-obsessed community should take sharp swords to the ankles of anyone
whose definition of poverty has more in solidarity with Carlton from The French Prince than J.J. from Good Times. (May I take this opportunity
to plunge into Will Smith? Nah, lets move on.)
The code shouldnt take much to crack:
we dont greatly appreciate rich kids
because they can tell us next to nothing of what nihilism means, of what
fatalism means: in short, of what Hip-Hop means. If I ask readers to name one born-wealthy
Hip-Hop artist whose message has poked in their hearts the perseverance to keep
keepin on until someday, as Lil Boosie might put it (fall out your chairs,
purists!), selling out the store/ my money dont fold now/, we might be
waiting till the trumpets sound, for an acceptable answer. But I let loose the
name Tupac Amaru Shakur, and libations shower the earth.
Listen, folks: I hate to be that guyyou
know, the party-crasher, the stink at the board meeting, the grump at the bar
mitzvah, the atheist at church; but wipe off your lips: youre drooling. These
folks share nothing in common with the artists by whom our lives have been made
meaningful and purposeful. So, feel free to wash over their albums at your
local store: they don’t need the money. But some doand if youll rather shell out precious coin to enlarge the
coffers of some glitterati scion, please dont show your face around here any
longer. I dont mind one less reader.
Olorunda is a cultural critic whose work regularly appears on AllHipHop.com,
TheDailyVoice.com, and other online
journals. He can be reached at: Tolu.Olorunda@gmail.com.