In the eighties I loved hip-hop and rap. Back then it was political (Public Enemy), spiritual/mystical (Eric B. & Rakim), or just plain fun (DJ Jazzy Jeff and The Fresh Prince).
Then NWA came along and things got ugly. Like every other white city kid, I listened to NWA with a mixture of shock and fascination. I even bought into the academic cultural studies line that gangster rap was a “narrative of the streets.”
While my love of hip-hop beats stuck with me (and influenced the Momu production style), the violence, materialism, and misogyny of rap turned me off, and I stopped listening.
But youth culture in America didn’t stop listening, and the “values” of gangster rap (crass materialism, ruthless individualism, objectification and hatred of women, laziness, entitlement, lack of restraint and self-discipline, personal specialness, not giving a fuck, the end justifying the means, and anti-intellectualism) somehow became the values of many young people in both suburban and urban areas (of all races). This lowest-common-denominator “youth stupidity” culture can’t be blamed entirely on gangster rap. Wall Street shares the exact same values, and these values trickle-down to our youth via advertising and reality television. Lax parenting and absentee fathers also play a role.
Independent horrorcore rapper Hopsin (Marcus Hopson) takes on youth stupidity in his latest release/music video. The track is a tight five part essay:
- intro, where he disassociates himself from rap culture, including his own previous work
- attack on suburban male youth stupidity culture
- attack on suburban female youth stupidity culture
- attack on black gangster culture (“real n*ggas”)
- outro/call to action (earnest, which makes it a little precious, but also shows huge balls)
It’s as if Hopsin is channeling conservative commentators David Brooks or Charles Murray (The Bell Curve, Coming Apart: The State of White America). The problem, according to Hopsin, is a lack of values, poor personal decisions, and not taking responsibility for your own life. It’s a very conservative message, and doesn’t take into consideration economic injustice and inequality, racism, and the legacies of slavery and colonialism. But it’s also refreshing, especially in the context of attacking all the bullshit that makes up “hip-hop culture” (or faux hip-hop culture). Hopsin attacks the real (street gangsters) and simulated (suburban kids living out the values of street gangsters) as if they were one. It’s all the same bullshit.
Watch for yourself, if you don’t mind profanity and racial slurs. What do you think?