“I couln’t help but notice your pain
It runs deep
Share it with me!”-Intro to Tupac’s “Pain”
Where are all the crippled MC’s? The blind ones with lyrics of fury? How about the ones who got maimed in a freak accident, like say a javelin through the face at the high school track meet after being assaulted by gang members during initiation? I’d wager anything most of them can flow as well as suffering’s poster boy 50 Cent and have the story to boot.
He wasn’t the first with a sordid, captivating story, but 50 Cent raised the bar for the minimum requirements for a rapper’s biography. 50 Cent was shot nine times, mostly in the legs, even though he caught a ricochet or so in the grill and hands. Ouch.
Agony and suffering has been a reoccurring theme from urban (and un-urban) lyricists for decades, well before Hip-Hop. But one can’t deny that rap music had taken it, packaged it and sold it to billions. And like any product, the later the model, the more the upgrade is expected. Who would have thought that Pac’s five shots and real-life strife would have taken to a new level with 50 Cent? We didn’t even know much more about 50 Cent or even care about some of his equally interesting parts – just that he got shot.
But see, the scope on pain has also gotten wider too. For example Roc producer Kanye West often acknowledges that his near fatal car accident created the climate for his success via “Through The Wire.” So, while people weren’t quite feeling Kanyeezie before the chin plate, they started riding afterward – danger thrown to the wind! Others like Eminem flourish with their captivating stories while Jadakiss, Canibus and Ghostface sort of fall to the wayside because of their lack of a compelling saga. Or their refusal to dramatically capitalize off of it. To this day, I’m not sure why Ghost used to rock a stocking cap mask, even but we all know there is a great story behind that disguise.
These stories (or lack of) lead me back to the blind, crippled and truly crazy rappers. Why isn’t the industry capitalizing on most extreme sorts of pain, like say some of the vets coming home from Iraq with limbs missing? I KNOW they have a story to tell, but you can’t even get their story on the daily news – much less rap. Or is that too real for the master masquerade makers in the music industry?
There was a rapper on Capitol Records named Supervison, who was blind in both eyes, but his true tale wasn’t up to par. You know growing up all blind and whatnot. I guess being the rap Stevie Wonder wasn’t enough. Dip Set used to run with a dude with one leg, but he got ousted from the group. Well, what about the rapper that got shot in the chest like the homey Damu out in San Diego? He got bucked and ran into the studio too to records. Doesn’t he deserve some credit for his pain? Back in the days, I recall b-boys break dancing with no usage of their legs and all that.
Don’t expect that pain is leaving Hip-Hop anytime soon. These days the woe in your life is just as important as your skills as an MC – if not more. Pain + Rap = Sales if properly peddled. It’s not even good enough to be from the hood or have roaches in your cereal like Ghostface once rap about. DMX remains in our consciousness because of his constant bouts with himself. Hell, both The Game and Lloyd Banks of G-Unit have been shot, but does that matter? NO. They are going to have to get shot at least 10 times, by the Russian Mob and come back after being dropped by S. Carter Records to truly be as big as 50 Cent.
And, oddly enough, both are better rappers than the Gorilla chief.
Gone are the days of mystery in Hip-Hop with secret wars that are lost in folklore. The days where you heard of Kool G Rap nearly engaging in a gunfight with NYPD are gone. When PMD almost was allegedly bodied by his own partner – and we discover the whole story years later. When going to jail was something you hid. When your pain was a private matter.
In some ways, I can appreciate the pain though, because my name illseed is rooted in pain on a number of levels. But, those roots are deep in the dirt and I don’t really know if I want the world up on that quite yet. I guess that’s why I gave up rapping years ago and started writing columns, huh?
Like Supervison or the others, the world isn’t ready to hear about my pain. Still, there so much of it.
Hey, share your pain with me through email – email@example.com.