Is hip-hop today materialistic or what? Is that a reflection of the American culture? And what is up with all of the name-dropping and label checking that goes on in hip-hop songs? Hmmm, this calls for some examination.
With the exceptions of Eminem, and maybe a handful of others, I can’t think of any current rapper that doesn’t chock-fill their songs and albums with numerous references to $100,000 or more cars, $1000 bottles of champagne, designer clothing labels, and luxury homes on the ocean. And in their videos, they are often seen rapping and dancing in front of these pricey playthings or decked out wearing them.
For instance, Trina, bless her heart, Miami’s own spitfire rap queen, whose latest album I swear drops at least a half-dozen references to designer clothes per song, goes off about every luxury car in the book. “Traded in the Lex for the G5 Benz,” she boasts. “F**k a Beamer, got me a Benz and some rims,” she happily fires off. Hey, more power to you, sister. But look at her partner in rhymes, Trick Daddy’s latest song “Thug Holiday.” It’s a sad, important, and dare I say it, emotional slice of life from a guy who’s survived his past and hopes others will do the same, without dropping a single brand name. So from that, we know it’s possible to make meaningful music sans the vanity and attitude.
Now I don’t mean to pick on Trina. I am a fan of hers, but she was a hip-hop artist, just one of many, who immediately came to the top of my mind. The way I see it, if somebody wants to brag about all of the nicer things in life that they have over the masses of us who don’t, that’s fine with me. But when the theme gets played out to death, like it has been for a while now, it starts to sound just plain annoying and juvenile. I realize this is what money and fame can buy and that a lot of rappers are fortunate enough to come into success from difficult backgrounds. Maybe rapping about the better things in life now is easier than talking about tough times in the past for some. Either that, or they tell us what we want to hear, and we seem to want to hear about beautiful and expensive things. Anyway, I don’t really have the room to assume, since I’m not them and I don’t know them or their lives.
It does seem, however, like one can almost follow a simple formula nowadays and become an instant rap success. Take these following references: Sipping Cristal in club VIP’s + anything by Gucci + 22-inch chrome rims + a certain slang term for females = big hit on your hands! Now from that, I have this following rhyme, all my idea, made up on the spot: I eat sushi, rock frames by Gucci, hit the coochie, not that ho Susan Lucci.
But please, don’t get me wrong. I happen to be a huge fan of hip-hop. I know I also happen to be a terrible freestyler as just witnessed, but that’s beside the point. I would just like to hold on to a glimmer of hope that there’s something else maybe a little more urgent or important going on in our world to rhyme about. Is that too much to ask?
Derek Bramble is a senior majoring in Broadcast Journalism and Theater.