Thursday, September 3, 2009

The Necessity of a Chip


Today I was listening to Jay-Z's My First Song and was commenting to Rilla about how I just loved this song.  He suggested that I write an appreciation piece about it.  As I was thinking about what I would write (and just began writing) I re-discovered the reason my appreciation for this song is so thorough.  It's because Jay-Z and the artists like him, mostly gangster rappers (read T.I., Jay-Z, 50, the Clipse, etc), have contributed to the game.

It is a very common passtime these days to knock gangster rap.  And while I agree that the overaching message of degredation of women is negative, not in the individual song, but rather in the collective effect on young women of listening to music that calls them bitches and whores regularly.

Eventually the suggestion effect takes affect and, I think, most women who are regular listeners of this type of music at best lower their self-expectations, and at worst act out the caricatures, living down to the expectations set for them by the artists. 

Young men begin to act out these caricatures as well.  The image of the alpha male in the African American community  becomes the man that whores himself with as many women as possible, despite mutual attraction, and fights. 

The artist Murs who I highly recommend talks about the requirement of black men to pretend to be thugs.

  Those who are held up as role models in gangster rap are those who commit crimes, sell soul killing drugs to others, and in the process abase their own souls.  Gangster rap is and continues to be very damaging to the African American community.

But this is the point.  The reason Jay-Z and many others are popular is that they talk, emphasize, and their lives testify to the fact that in order to make a mark in this world you must have a large, oversized chip on your shoulder.  The fuck you must be apparent in your walk, your speech, your everything. 

Jay-Z lays out the argument immediately in the first verse. 
Uhh, uhh, yes, yes

Y'all wanna know, why he don't stop

Y'all wanna know, why he don't flop

Let me tell you pe-eople why

Came from the bottom of the block I

When I was born, it was sworn, I was never gon' be shit

Had to pull the opposite out this bitch

Had to get my ri-ide on

Eyes on the prize, Shawn knew I had to

Had to had to get these chips

This attitude sustains the underclass, the source of great art.  This chip allows a poor, uneducated man to walk with a braggadocio which allows his psyche to withstand the barrage of the greater society saying he will never achieve anything.  Gangster rap is negative.  I do not approve of it.  But this music has sustained the pride, ambition, and  masculinity of many men, my brothers.  So to quote Mase, while I do not fully approve ... "A hustle is a hustle so I never knock a nigga."

-- Goodwork

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