Keep It Real: Hip Hop’s Changing Views On Authenticity “Speaking in tongues / About what you did, but you never done it / Admit it, you bit it / ‘Cause the next man came platinum behind it / I find it ironic / So I researched and analyzed / Most write about stuff they fantasize…” –O.C. “Time’s Up”
Does it even matter if your favorite rapper’s real? At one point in Hip Hop’s lifetime, an emcee’s authenticity was vital. Chris Rock’s 1993 film, CB4, made a mockery out of Gangsta Rap artists who rhymed about a life they’d never lived. Nobody in Hip Hop wanted to be associated with “MC Gusto,” Chris Rock’s character in the film, who pretended to be a locally known criminal to get respect for his raps. Nas condemned the industry’s “Gusto” rappers on 1996’s “The Message.” Jay-Z later did the same in 2003’s “La-La-La (Excuse Me Miss Again),” noting, “You can’t see me, dog. Nigga, you CB4.” There’s a contingent of Hip Hop listeners who were raised on KRS-One’s “My Philosophy,” where “The Teacha” clearly stated that, “It’s not about a salary. It’s all about reality.” But it seems that is not the case anymore. What does this mean for Hip Hop?
Jay-Z has acknowledged that reality can be scarce in Hip Hop. “I’m aware that I’m rare,” he said on 2009’s “Real As It Gets.” “I rap and I’m real / I’m one of the few here.” Looking at success in Hip Hop, it’s tough not to argue that he’s right, assuming everything he’s ever said has been real. Rick Ross haters will relish this, but the conversation has to lead to “The Bawse’s” history, one that has been criticized as fraudulent by many. Ross’ musical presence cannot be denied. Ross, real name William Leonard Roberts II, has amassed many accolades. His albums have topped the Billboard charts, most recently with last year’s God Forgives, I Don’t, which debuted at number one and was certified gold by the RIAA. But many have questioned his history. In 2008, The Smoking Gun revealed information that matched the rapper with a past as a correctional officer. Ross originally denied and refuted the claims, saying someone had Photoshopped his face on another person’s body in a correctional officer’s uniform. However, once more details were unveiled, he admitted that he worked as a C.O. in the ‘90s. This would have crushed a rapper’s respectability in the past, but as proven with accolades since, the news did little to damage his career. Some believe this is horrible for Hip Hop.
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