Saturday, June 22, 2013

Who Stole The Real Out of Rap?

As a 43 year old, I was around during the infancy of rap & the birth of the hip Hop culture on a whole. The edge that made rap music what it was in the 70’s & 80’s and its ability to flourish over the years is that the music itself originated under the ideals of realness. Rappers such as Africa Bambatta, Kurtis Blow and songs such as ‘The Message” brought the day to day struggles of urban life to the masses across the nation & around the world. Not just within the entertainment industry, but the whole state of mind among inner city African Americans at that time caused the generation to adopt the moniker of “Keep it Real,” to be the slogan for the time.

It was the realness of rap music that appealed to the youth and transcended racial lines. I remember thinking to myself that finally, people would now understand the day to day plight of inner city youth. Whether not anything would be done was a different story but at least now it would be out there. Rappers were the reporters of the urban youth and they told it how they knew it. N.W.A. and the GETO Boyz gave the world the urban life straight with no chaser. 2Live Crew and Digital Underground added a comedic aspect to their approach while Public Enemy and X-Clan got into our minds; motivating us to make a change. The bottom line was there were many different artists speaking to the world on behalf of a generation and culture that desperately needed a voice.

Fast forward to 2013; each day I take a trip of approximately 35-45 minutes into downtown. This trip takes me along scenic Lake Shore Drive into the Loop the out the 290 highway. As a lifelong fan of rap music & the hip hop culture, I listen to what’s being played on the radio. During my trip, every rap artist that I listened to during my travel, spoke of the exact same content in their music. Money, cars & women were the topics and hook of every song. How much money they have, how much sex they get, and what kind of car they drive. The artists speak on how they belittle others with less money or how they eliminate (lyrically I assume) others that are trying to get where they are. The artists are giving listeners an impression of life that is anything BUT real. Even the artists themselves don’t have the type of money and live the type of lives that they rap about. One record said, “I woke up in a new Bugatti.” Get the f@#k outta here!!

What frightens me is that impressionable youth are listening to these lyrics and since none of these artists are giving these kids the step by step method of “earning” the type of money that they rap about, these kids are on their own to figure out a way to get it.  The contemporary artists that promote this type of lyrical content give African American youth a fictitious view of life. They undermine the parental efforts of instilling a strong work ethic and promote a short cut mentality in Black youth. Youth that adopt this short cut mentality believe that they are entitled to expensive material possessions without a diligent work ethic. Furthermore, these artists have the opportunity to explain the “make believe” nature of their lyrics through interviews.  However, they choose to show their “outlaw” nature through random run ins with law enforcement, used by publicists to enhance their, street credibility. Ironically, most of these artists receive their first contact with police after becoming famous.

Ironically, the ring leader or the “Boss, “of the circus of unreal rappers calls himself Rick Ross. William Leonard Roberts II is a former Florida correctional officer that caught his big break and ran with it.  After graduating from Miami Carol City Senior High School, Roberts attended the historically black college Albany State University on a football scholarship. Instead of utilizing his life to inspire & motivate others seeking the same path. Mr. Roberts took the life, style and name of convicted drug dealer; Ricky Ross. The phenomenal good that could have arisen from the story of an individual who worked to feed his family while struggling to attain his goals will never be known. Instead the man was content with the personal gains reaped by claiming the life of another. So pitiful is this case of identity theft, even the way Ross wore his beard and head was imitated. Mr. Roberts went as far as to deny his legitimate past until he was presented with irrefutable evidence of his previous work history.
Real Rick Ross

As an original participant of the hip hop movement, the culture that evolved from it and the music that represents it. I am shocked & appalled at our current state of being. The whole basic dynamic of this life is that of realness, no matter where you come from. The original rappers were reporters from their respective geographical areas.  These reporters used their lyrical ability to give insight on their past, present and future state of being. Though the artists gave it to us in their own manner, they held fast onto the ideology of keeping it real. Through Tupac Shakur’s lyrics we were allowed into his life and inner most thoughts. Notorious Christopher Wallace told us where he came from and how he got to where he was. Ice Cube took us with him for a day in his life.

The Rapper/ RobertsII
The movement began from a people’s desire to evolve and tell the world of their evolution. Though it may sound simple, keeping it real was the essence of the hip hop lifestyle. In order to institute change we must return to rationally based thinking grounded into reality.  It was this way of thinking that created a culture based on integrity that would influence the lives of millions. We must return to this way of thinking, accepting all that is real and rejecting the unreal. At that point we will see the rebirth of the movement that spawned a culture so powerful that it created a music form that changed the face of entertainment; forever.

C.O. William Leonard Roberts II

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