God Bless the Freaks: In Defense of Weirdo Rap

By:  H.T. (@Gees3Howard)

For as much as I can defend the modern trends in rap, I think it needs to be said that with Jay-Z’s latest album, I think there’s a point he made that a lot of people ignore.  See rap in its inception was a genre that was nihilistic in nature.  Born in streets infested with crime, drugs and death; it was a genre that had no vision of a future despite the fact that ironically the music gave hope to those who lived in these environments.

By the 90s, hip hop was now being heavily integrated into mainstream pop culture as it was new, dangerous, exciting and above all forbidden to the wealthy white kids.  By the 2000s, hip hop stars were now household names, many of the ones that were labeled as dangers to society with their music were now treated like Mr. Rodgers, including Snoop Dogg, Ice Cube, Ice T, and of course Jay Z.

By the 2010s, hip hop came to a place where now the conversation of older fans and older rappers viewed this generation of rappers as “Weirdos” as they didn’t fit into the usual standards of bravado, swagger, fashion or masculinity.  In short, the journey of rap is a reflection of the journey of black America.

For as much as the members of Blacklantis and Blackistan want to pretend that this is what happens when black people are watered down, the fact is rappers like Chance, Childish Gambino and, yes Young Thug and Lil Yachty having a real audience is actually a sign of progress.  The biggest sign of this is why you don’t see as many guys like Bobby Shmurda running things these days, but Drake is essentially what Jay-Z was to my generation growing up; because now there’s no real relevance mainstream-wise for black rappers who act like criminals.  Most black kids these days grew up at least middle class as many black kid’s parents were the Gen-Xers who were college educated and found a career, and thus grew up in very racially and sexually diverse areas as no one they knew grew up worrying about crime and poverty.

Yes, mumble rap is lazy and heavily relies on a good beat.  But as I said before, this is the nature of the beast.  And frankly I don’t see how this is a problem really.  Yes, there are real social issues going on, but the fact is there’s no money in making kids socially aware AND giving them a nuanced perspective.  For as militant as Rage Against The Machine or Public Enemy may make you, it still doesn’t speak to the reality that anger only gets you so far.  Many a times the most effective way to fight the power isn’t the most romanticized one.

People may call kids today spoiled or even ignorant, but I think the average young person between the ages 15 to 22 can understand the problems in the world but still not need to be as angry and militant as their elders to prove it.

To me, progress was supposed to look like black people having easier lives than our ancestors as that’s how progress works.  For as much as I’ll always love “Apocalypse 91” and everything rappers like Prodigy brought to the game, the fact is history can’t remain stagnant to preserve the golden times of one generation.  At some point, we need to progress, however that may play out.

I defend the weirdos of hip hop, not as a fan, but as someone who sees that they are the sign of black people getting closer to truly being comfortable.  We were macho and posturing because that was life for black men back then.  Most really don’t have to live like they live amongst criminals.  In fact, the most thugged out rappers today tend to be, essentially, nerds.  Please understand, things hopefully will never go back to the 90s as to get such music back in style, we’d have to regress.  No amount of complaints about the illusion of inclusion will stop this, especially as I know many of you spouting this benefit from said progress.  Fact is, if we as black people want a better life for our children, we have to stop framing their lives in our image.  There’s no way around it.

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