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Wednesday, February 3, 2010

According to a recent GQ article, these 3 together killed the “gangsta” image in Rap. I’m sure somewhere Kanye is screaming about how he had the pinkest Polo’s of all time but that’s beside the point. If Gentleman’s Quarterly is to be believed, one cannot help but wonder what did Wale, Drake, and Cudi do to drive out a character that has been as pervasive in the industry as gold chains.

Music has been peppered by the likes of 3000, Common, and Mr. West but never simultaneously and with such widespread success. As a proud Hip Hop head, I can attest to the skills exhibited by plenty of non-thug rappers over the years and their relative success but the mainstream appeal of these new jacks is a little jarring. People are taking note mostly because it all seems to be happening at once. In explaining the “gangsta killers” phenomenon, I would point to a few factors that may have influenced this shift, the first being attributed to the our Hip Hop head of state.

President Obama along with his First Family ushered in an image of Black America that wasn’t new but had yet to be subscribed to.There is something undeniably Hip Hop about Barack Obama. He walks like a ballplayer and has a mastery of language that could rival Rakim’s. People know that Obama is cool and his qualifications and political skill allowed them to vote for the smart, cool, black guy. With his election and the movement that accompanied it, many Americans have been able to experience Blackness that affirms more than guns, drugs, and hoes and I think the power of that experience has made its way into the buying power of the masses.

And then there was the Internet. While in years past, an emcee would have to struggle for distribution through a major label to get his songs to the masses, artists like Wale, Drake, and Kid Cudi have been able to use internet downloading as a proving ground for their unique brands of Hip Hop. In short, millions of downloads equal leverage. So instead of being molded into 50 Cent by label heads, now artists can blow up off of a mixtape while maintain their artistic integrity. There is no better example of this than Drake. After the huge success of his mixtape and the ensuing buzz, the rapper was able to secure a deal selling his music and image as is (a Canadian former star of a teen soap opera.)

With Hip Hop transitioning to allow for wider expression, I’d look to see what effect, if any, it will have on the culture as a whole. It brings me to question whether or not the “gangsta” will ever be killed in Hip Hop without the archetype being killed in our society?

These and other questions will hopefully be answered on mixtapes and albums to come, what do you think?…


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