Rich Kids, Hip-Hop Discourse, and the Rage of the Rabble

Editor’s note: The views expressed inside this editorial aren’t necessarily the views of or its employees.Last week, I penned a “firey” editorial flamed toward the recent rise of “rich kids” in Hip-Hop—those who out of suddenness developed an interest to Rap music-making, and in a few months only had multiple labels vying for their […]

Editor’s note: The

views expressed inside this editorial aren’t necessarily the views of or its employees.Last week, I penned a “firey” editorial

flamed toward the recent rise of “rich kids” in Hip-Hop—those who out of suddenness

developed an interest to Rap music-making,

and in a few months only had multiple labels vying for their soul. The premise

was plain enough: something is out of kilter when artists from disenfranchised

backgrounds have to work like hell in gathering scraps of sorrow surrounding, and

eventually—painfully—craft artistic genius from those scraps, only to find out

greater attention (and $) is being paid to peers who see Hip-Hop more (and

mere) as a hobby: those for whom Hip-Hop only marks potential financial venture

to further swell their coffers.

By the rambunctious response poured in,

both directly and through the comment section, it seemed as though I had

suggested South Bronx isn’t the birthplace of Hip-Hop, or Kool Herc shouldn’t

take the credit, or MCs who happen to

be female have contributed nothing of substance, or Jay-Z knocked off Nas, or J

Dilla was a weed-filled neophyte who couldn’t punch his way out of an E-mu

SP-1200. Amongst others, I implicated Diggy Simmons, the 15-year-old son of Rap

royalty Rev. Run—and Armageddon arrived at my doorstep.

Many, half-inebriated, with their mental

pants lowered to their ankles, stormed through, banging down the door of my

mailbox, just to holler how ashamed I should feel for prescribing a narrow and

unacceptably limited vision of Hip-Hop. “Your article says because Diggy

Simmons is lyrical and daddy has money he should not rap.? that is like saying

Grant Hill can’t play a game of 21 

because he did not grow up in the projects. Smdh,” someone with a brain

spat out.

Others preferred to drivel off about

topics I don’t even recall raising. And some even qualified their (op)position.

We love your other pieces, they

wrote, but this time, with this one, you crossed the line—you cross-haired the

wrong target. 

Most troubling wasn’t the insults. (This

is, after all, the internet age—where, to echo DOOM, “squirts posing as

thuggers and hustlers” run the field, flailing threats recklessly against

anyone or anything they find objectionable.) The whipping backlash wasn’t

material enough, either. (Some views

are unpopular, and the least a writer can demand from readers is frank

disposition disconnected from sentimentality—prepared to agree or condemn.) My

head-shaking inducement was aroused most by the lack of complexity of thought

betrayed in many of the responses—the aggressive disregard for nuance and


Hip-Hop listeners are some of the

smartest thinkers this world holds stock of. The dexterity of language (ever

heard E-40 speak?); the virtuosity of narratives; the, yes, diversity of

backgrounds—all make up for disciplined intellectual experiences if engaged

critically. So I cannot accept the easily

assumable—that a certain class of Hip-Hop listeners must only be spoon-fed

raw, unseasoned, one-course meals. Any course higher, logic leads, and the bib

would need replacement.   

Three central thoughts were attributed

to the editorial—which deserve addressing:



in suggesting most—not all—kids from wealthy clans couldn’t speak greatly of Struggle,

thus inspire those still stuck (with

personal narratives), I truly think no one without a history of slinging crack

to pregnant single-mothers, and without a past of accompanying “Scotty” on boat

rides through white clouds, should ever pick up a mic. Many clamored this theme

without prejudice. For fairness’ sake, however, I went over my work carefully,

but failed to find what might have inspired that conclusion. It was a mental

magic trick—of pulling puppies from thin air, and running off to the grocery

store for a bag of Pedigree Lamb & Rice, only to return with no dog to




in addition to proposing a crack(-head) pass, I audaciously violated another

Hip-Hop constitution—decided who was worthy of using their voice as instrument

for social change and who wasn’t: that I pulled a Canibus, and tried to snatch

the mic from someone who did well with it. Again, delirium is deadly. I don’t

recall ever telling anyone to drop their

mic, or even sounding marching orders to fans to snatch from any artists. But

for those with staunch convictions—who, from peep of title alone, had their

hearts set against anything contained in the editorial—my intention was to engineer a coup d’etat, and

banish from the “almighty kingdom” of Hip-Hop any artists with whom I lacked




I was knockin’ the hustle of young Black men trying to bill-up legally, and

therefore encouraging criminality in inner-city neighborhoods—that by telling

fans rich artists don’t really need the money, and that ethicality demands

priority be paid to those who really need it

(those on the fringe of Welfare qualification), I was telling that young Black or Brown kid from a

middle-class background that if she never poisoned her community, and if she

never went weeks with empty stomachs, she had no claim to the mic, and fans

should turn their backs on her, and she had no place in Hip-Hop, and… The list

runs endless. None of these, of course, can be verified.

Only few applied intelligence in

interpreting what stared them down. I applaud Ms. Danica Dow, who, with her response

editorial, “Rich

Kids in Hip-Hop: Who Said the Gates Were Closed?

” (while not entirely

flattering to me), could disagree respectfully in true Hip-Hop tradition. Dow,

who surveys the world through different prisms than I can lay claim to,

contested “upper middle class” fans like herself have received the shaft for

too long, and they deserve no less recognition for their service to the good of

Hip-Hop. Ms. Dow lost me however in suggesting people “who come from success

automatically have a bigger fear of failure because they have more to lose.” I

disagree. (I would contest this point in detail, but I’ve studied too much

General Semantics to think of convincing anyone from the other side to structure their values based on my cultural capital.)

And Ms. Dow made great points in warning

how narrow definitions of authenticity in Hip-Hop produce the likes of Rick

Ross and Plies, who seclude their respectable past in shells of lies; but I

think this contention is simplistic because 1) it fails to take into account

the history of police brutality in Hip-Hop 2) it assumes any MC who denies past

noble employment is reacting directly to parochial Hip-Hop demands 3) it

suggests Hip-Hop fans lack the insight to decipher real from fake.

I would also disturb another point

made—that the premise of my editorial cracks away when fans consider how after

a first album most of the artists I extol as bright candles of inspiration join

the upper ranks—from advance, concert fees, and album sales. Too much here screams

as false if not deceitful: 1) most artists don’t climb to the top that soon—major labels have ensured that for long 2) that an artist someday rises

from the ashes of poverty to the zenith of financial stability is exactly what

picks inspiration in the hearts of millions of indigent Black and Brown kids to

keep forging strong because, if Jay-Z or Nas or Tupac or Scarface or MC Lyte or

Big Pun or Roxanne Shanté can do it, so can I.

Hypocrisy, however, winked at me several

times in other responses. Many wrote how much they agreed with the lines

picking on Aubrey “Drake” Graham, and thought the analysis was well-served, but

when directed at Diggy Simmons, somehow some sinister intention was at work. I

certainly would hate nothing more than being held accountable for a 15-year-old’s

self-doubts, but here some painful truths deserve mention.

Why did 5 or 6 or 7 labels swoop down so

hard on Mr. Simmons? “Because he’s talented

and he’s fresh,” the peanut gallery

is screeching. I would hope so, too. But strong doubts prevail. Ever heard of

the 16-year-old Pop phenom, Justin Bieber?—who sells out shows in minutes,

whose YouTube videos rake in tens of millions of views, who needs paramedics

with him whenever out in public: to resuscitate teenage girls whose lungs give

out upon sight of him.

Island Def Jam Music Group caught whiff

of Bieber a couple of years back and put a pen in his hand immediately. Bieber

is a self-taught multi-instrumentalist, I’ve read. Do the Island erudites

market him as a talented autodidact who can do more than lip-sync and dance

uncomfortably (I caught him on Letterman)?

Certainly not. For them, he’s just another addition to the extended list of

teen boy-bands/pop icons sold to unwitting teen and tween females. In a few

years, if confidants don’t guard well, he’ll be dragged out of some seedy

Hollywood hotel with vials of strong solid substance around him, and remnants

of a short-lived, transient past scattered.

Where does Mr. Simmons fit in here? As the Black Justin Bieber. You

would hope the giant labels had learned the lesson of the last 10 years, and

their imaginations could boast greater command of reality, but all hopes would

be dashed in the coming months, as the same formula, the same schemes, the same

currency of thought is cashed to make of Diggy the next “big thing”—for teens

and tweens. All who once crowned him Rakim’s reincarnation would be left

wandering in the desert of dizziness—with wool pulled over their eyes.

In truth, rich kids have less to worry

from fans or cranky columnists like myself, than from major label lackeys; most

of which, get this, agree with every word contained in my last editorial. They

don’t see any point in pulling off some “Hov did that so hopefully you wouldn’t

have to go through that” theme.  It’s

comical and costly. Honesty works better: You

work as a short-time gimmick, and the back door is opened for a graceful exit.  

Those who think I’m too tough on the kid

should stay calm till the experiment checks out—and then, at that crux, at that

tangent where former skeptics can’t but let off a self-flagellating sigh, I’ll

welcome all apologies.


Olorunda is a cultural critic whose work regularly appears on,, and other online journals. He can be reached at: