Gangsta rap ain’t dead. It just slid on a pair of skinny jeans.
Hip Hop has taken a noticeable change in character, gradually over the last few years. It tends to do that every few years or so. Though we still have the misogynistic POV’s & adamant gunslingers, the attitude has mellowed out, progressively, and these days one could easily hear an MC lamenting “fuck a bitch,” just as quickly as “I’m lonely,” or “why you gotta do me like that?” Many a rap fan and Hip Hop head alike blames Kanye West, but if we put emo-rap under a microscope, plenty of your favorite rap cats let raw emotions fly, before it got all trendy. The feelings didn’t change, the uniform did. Where as before, a nigga could camouflage himself in tough guy apparell, now schmedium tees & painted on denim is the costume of choice. Add funny ass hair styles and other slightly comical forms of self expression, and one might be hard pressed not to rap-sing along about broken hearts and lost love. No homo..
Take Tupac for instance. At the time when he dropped ‘Brenda’s Got A Baby’‘, ‘If My Homies Call‘, and ‘Dear Momma‘, respectively, cats weren’t yet ready to bare their souls, and admit to the chinks in their own armor. Or at least, not to such an extent where their vulnerabilities and sensitivities were exposed without a veil of guarded bravado. Of course ‘Pac wasn’t the first dude to make a song about his homeboys, but his anthem was more tribute, less battle cry. Between shooting at off-duty cops, and spitting at cameras between court appearances, ‘Pac poured heart and soul into his music. To this day, ‘The 7 Day Theory’ remains one of the most aggressive & enigmatic albums ever recorded. Dude was mad as fuck, and it was obvious. He even carried his disposition to the silver screen, and played one of the most believable bad guys ever. His emotion was prevalent, but he was too busy being a gangster in the interim. It’s quite possible that he was the first emo-thug.
Speaking of which, Game shares a few characteristics with ‘Pac. His adoration for his mom. He fervent ability to spaz out on an entire coast, with very little provocation. The blatant disregard for their biological father(s). He even wrote a song where he’s drunk & crying to Dr. Dre, about God knows what. His inability to cap his emotions often gets him labeled “bipolar”, when in actuality, he’s just an emo rapper, caught between huggin’ and thuggin’. About a month ago, he went on a Twitter rant about Christina Milian’s feet, and how wretched they are, only to apologize the next morning. See, I have quite a bit of family in Compton. In fact, they grew up ON Compton BLVD, and they don’t do that type ofback-pedal shit. Although, it’s hard to apologize, much less Tweet, from inside penitentiary walls, but that’s a drop for another day. Leave it to Game to taunt 50 Cent so intently, only to say there’s no real beef. On the contrary, there’s beef. Just ask 50. It’s just that Game’s an emo-thug to the full.
As recent as ten years ago, the emo-thug hid behind a gangsta persona, only giving the fans glimpses of how they felt on the inside. Pause? Now, it seems that the process is working in reverse. What appears to be your mild-mannered emo hipster, is secretly hiding anger and angst, to compliment the depression and confusion that torments emo artists of any genre. Yeah, it’s not just relegated to rap and rock. Country music is also in that class of music where a song can be equally abrasive and heart-warming simultaneously. Cowboy Troy got that shit on lock.
Now, we have Kid Cudi, who came into the game as the lovable black sheep, under Kanye’s wing, attacking fans between blog outbursts. Charles Hamilton has gone on record, saying more or less “fuck niggas,” which could be his ever-fluctuating disdain for the industry he so desperately wants to be a part of, or an apparent cry for help. What with his past drug problems and all. And let us not forget last year’s shooting, which occured at a Drake concert. Even the Martin Louis the King, Jr himself has had a few blackouts in his career. Joe Budden, who’s been depressing his fans for years with tales of unhappiness & mental anguish, continues his digital douchebaggery via JoeBuddenTV, between working with ‘Slaughterhouse’ & keeping Newport cigarettes in business. I’m not saying emo-rap is the new gangsta music, by any stretch of imagination, but it’s just as popular, almost as entertaining.
But Lil Wayne may be the single most important catalyst in emo-rap’s chase for street credibility, with his Rock & Roll gangbanging & proclivity to wear space boots & red flags on stage. Drugs, free love, criminal activities. Dude is quickly becoming rap music’s Bob Dylan, or Johnny Cash if either man were Black, spoke through a talk machine like a throat cancer survivor & allergic to protected sex. & in true gangsta rapper fashion, he poses & postures with his weapon of choice, with clearly no intention of really using it.
Hip Hop is formless, rebellious self expression, so we can always expect a shape shift, whether we like it or not. Lest we end up the mainstream machine that we so resiliently buck at all costs. I, for one, accept the change, even if it’s just for the shits and giggles of what the next generation may have to offer.