The ongoing debate of whether hip hop is a culture, a lifestyle, or simply a genre of music will continue to plague those who know, feel and breath its essence. One thing cannot be debated, Hip Hop has become the main voice of pop culture today. Rap is now Pop. Today’s hip hop or rap is mainstream and diluted by endorsements. For a genre so focused and tailored by youth the people of the music can no longer afford to participate. The Hustler, the Hoe and the Money between continue to be the genre’s main focus while the concept of a hustle has widened scope, the women are growing more educated by numbers, and society at large struggles to keep up with costs of living first and foremost. If nothing else one could say that today’s hip hop has an added element that only the onlookers of the past saw coming with every plug in device and every new fangled screen on the market: Escapism.
We all do it. We wear our headphones in transit. We carry text conversations throughout real-world ones. We choose our drugs or vices of choice to lose (or gain) sight with whatever our current concept of reality might be.
Because Hip Hop in its essence is so tied into lifestyle, fans and participants listen to music that highlights a lifestyle similar to their own and in turn copy a lifestyle that can be highlighted by the music. And so there is little separation.
We emulate the practices we hear about, these are more favorable compared to that of living modestly, or driving an affordable car. So we can identify with our peers who identify with the music. Often times not because we truly have any real world connection with action but because of our ties to the music and ultimately, the culture.
The popularization of strippers and strip clubs through songs like Kanye West and 2 Chainz’s Birthday Song and Juicy J’s Bandz a Make her Dance have presented a new found love for the exotic. Strippers and the highly specialized abilities associated with their craft, twerking, booty clapping, pole climbing, etc. are the newest trend in cultural degradation, more objectification of women characterized by love of the female anatomy and aesthetic.
One could compare the inclination toward sexual freedom and drug exploration to the sexual revolution of the 60’s and 70’s. Furthermore, the cultural restlessness and resurfacing of extacy as a designer drug to the 80’s and 90’s. And though the twerking phenomenon could be seen as an act empowering women, with misogyny at its back drop the complexity between subjugation and freedom remains constant.
Many current singles glorify use of designer drugs not as a spiritual or mental trip but simply because we can. Herein lies the attraction to Molly. She’s everywhere! And we are happy to oblige the widespread intrigue. Many people who can quote the myriad of appearances she’s made in songs throughout the past 2-3 years had never tried molly or knew she existed before the hype. Drug culture is American culture and has always been closely tied to artistic expression. But where do we stand as culture-creators when artistic expression is overtly used to market a projected reality?
It has become a vicious cycle, do we like it because they told us to, or do record labels and mass mediums reinforce what we like? The lifestyle portrayed by “celebrities” is a façade yet it triggers the minds of audiences to strive for, or at least emulate a similar one. Often times these pseudo celebrities speak of decadence just to achieve fame. Lyrical content has become a formulaic mixture of brands, foods, shoes, and luxury cars we would love to possess but never will or simply cannot afford to. We continue to sing along and repeat these lyrics that in actuality mean very little in relation to our lives. Many of said things are not within the reach of most people. Many artists talk freely about their fortunes of money but very few artists with radio play, and cross genre popularity lyricize the depreciating worth of the dollar. Nor do they glorify respect for women or violence as a negative act.
This glorification of an adverse lifestyle is nothing new, but with the onset of a more informed listener why does it still work?