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Column: Hip Hop #03

By ; May 13, 2010 at 12:01 AM 

Coming out of jail recently, Gucci Mane stated to his fans that he intends to be a “role model” from now on. One has to wonder what this entails. I promised myself I wouldn’t mention Eminem this time through, but his derisive eponymous track from 1999 is too relevant to ignore. Essentially: within hip hop, being a role model just doesn’t seem to mean what it means elsewhere.

Tupac shot cops, Biggie came off as a pervert in a whole lot of his rhymes, Slim Shady is obviously fucked up beyond reality, and so on. What I probably should have said formerly is that being a role model in hip hop doesn’t sell. People don’t care if you’re a good guy — they want guns, violence, bitches, all that stereotypical rap shit. Don’t believe me? Go ask a pre-sellout Common or any other “conscious” rap artist. So conversations as to whether Gucci will live up to his promise are all ultimately pointless: if he does, his buzz will probably disappear like that.

Sorry to the Gucci fans, but you think he’d have nearly the buzz he’s enjoyed if he hadn’t been in and out of prison? It’s that very thing that’s brought him fame. Remember Tony Yayo? He managed some pretty good buzz simply from his time in prison. Even disregarding that I think Gucci is at best a slightly better Mike Jones (seriously – why is that guy getting acclaim?) I think we’d be kidding ourselves if we thought his fame came from anything else or that most people would’ve given a damn if he’d come into the game as a “good guy.” So sorry Gucci, it’s not right, but it’s about your prison stint, not what you do after it.

Think about it: Weezy managed to pretty much weather Rebirth without tarnish because he was going to the big house. T.I. nearly coasted through Paper Trail talking about his upcoming sentence (along with the insufferable “Whatever You Like,” which I mention solely for the opportunity to say that that song alone should forever bar him from being “King” – if you’re not Lil Wayne, don’t try and do a “Lollipop”). Beanie Sigel made his best album when inspired by his own approaching time. It goes on. Rappers might as well be begging to go to jail. I wouldn’t be surprised if T.I. even planned his own arrest with how dumb his slip up was.

True, you don’t have to be a thug to make it in hip hop anymore. If you know conscious won’t sell and don’t want to present the gangsta image then… well, you can be Drake. Go “Find Your Love.” Tool. I’m kidding, not in that I don’t think Drake is a tool (I do and you should too), but I’m hopefully obviously kidding about most everything else. Hip hop has become enough of an industry that claiming everyone should be hood is more than unrealistic, it’s tiring.

So, if anything, what I’m really calling for is a decent rapper. In the new era of hip hop, we’ve got plenty of people who aren’t Gucci Mane. Unfortunately, those people are guys like Drake, Flo Rida, and Asher Roth. In all honesty, I enjoy dancing to “Right ‘Round” as much as any sorority girl, but wouldn’t it be kind of nice if one of these guys were saying something? Maybe a hipster rapper a la B.o.B. except, you know, good? Anything would have to be better than Roth.

After a while, any genre grows stagnant. This will keep happening, and always requires some new artist to shake things up and give it new perspective. If you ask me, Shady did that back in ’99, but no one has since. It’s getting past due. It’s true, really, that that’s what people like Drake, B.o.B., and Roth are kind of doing, but are these guys really what you want everyone to be emulating in a few years time? It seems odd to me that in what I’m calling the hipster rebirth of hip hop that not one respectable performer has managed to rise up. I’m holding my breath, because I’m convinced that if someone figures out how, that this could make for some good music. Hell, if no one else is gonna do it I’ll start writing rhymes. Anyone got any beats for me?

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