June 08, 2003

This great article from the Village Voice talks about the relationship between gangster rap and the realities of disenfranchised Black men. Here, the author points out that, at least during the heyday of NWA and Co., there was a legitimate crack epidemic and commensurate warfare between rival dealers who saw drug dealing as their only means of achieving the materialist American Dream. But, 10 years later, true crackheads are few & far between, and most disenfranchised brothers are more likely to be dodging child support then bullets. But deadbeat dads are harder to sell to rich white teens who dream of being Black & Cool then the drug dealing cowboy descendents of Nino Brown. Hence, 50 Cent's emergence as the vanguard of the Neo-Gangstas, shrink-wrapped and presold to the MTV audience as the "real thing", while probably outnumbering their real-world counterparts.

On a side note, this also reminds me how much these terms have lost their meaning over the years. "Thug" and "Gangster" used to be a way of indicating that someone had made certain choices in their lives in terms of criminal activities, ruthlessness, social rejection. Today, when bubbble-gum rappers like Ja Rule and Fabulous can call themselves thugs with a straight face, these terms have now devolved into ghetto pronouns, the santized moral equivalent of "nigga" and "ho".

And, ignoring cultural hegemony for just a second, as a writer, I desperately miss the King's English. Maybe one day it will all come full-circle.
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