Monday, March 16, 2009

The Art of Life

Being a rapper used to be one of the top aspirations for children. Right alongside doctor, astronaut, actor & football player. Pose the question "what do you want to be when you grow up?" to a child, & most assuredly their was a 50% chance that rapping was somewhere on his/her agenda.

Maybe it was all the "shiny" things associated with the career that drew the child's interest. For some, it might have appeared a chance to garner the attention they couldn't receive elsewhere. Others may have been genuinely talented & were prompted to focus on a field where they would surely flourish. All had personalized reasoning, yet the same goal in mind. To be a rapper. Now, with a new generation eyeing the future with hopes & goals in mind, rapping is slowly backsliding on their list of "things to do".

Frankly, it seems that being a rap star today is a tad bit too dangerous for the average cat. That may explain the influx of drug dealers & hardened criminals that saturate today's already mediocre market. What was once a performer's platform is now a con man's game. A hustle that knows no talent or skill. In most cases, even if you don't like their music, you do however "respect their grind".

At one time, in order to achieve success in hip hop, crew affiliation was mandatory. But, when did gang affiliation become a necessity? Even in hotbed cities of gang activity where hip hop was still a prevalent lifestyle, rarely did a person "cuz" or "blood" on wax. It was generally considered taboo, & although one's street ties might have been acknowledged, not often was it trumpeted in song. For those who grew up in gang territory, you know that the LAST thing you wanted to do was tell people where you were from.

& it's one thing to rhyme about the urban, war-torn environments that envelop us, but it's another to refuse to separate the art from the life. This is merely cliched observation, but other genres of musical art aren't consumed by street level violence. Why hip hop then? What's so glamorous about thug life that it out-glamorizes the good life? Time & time again rappers boast of a better living situation than they had growing up, but what's the point in moving out of the "hood" to start another one in the Valley?

When Marvin Gaye was shot & killed it caused a worldwide gasp. When Souljah Slim was murdered holding his daughter, it was accepted as an undertone of the rap life. We (hip hop fans) are accustomed to the rapidly changing faces of our beloved art form, but when we begin to grow so indifferent & complacent about the violence plaguing us, a red flag should be raised.

It's not that the music isn't any good or substantially entertaining. It's when the already blurred line between fact & fiction is completely erased that problems arise.

Do we blame the artists? The labels? The bloodthirsty fans? The lack of parental fortitude? Or do we just sit back, churn out more conspiracy theories & let the chips fall where they may?

Perhaps some questions aren't truly meant to be answered.