In the summer of 2012, I bumped into one of my closest partners from high school. Now when I say he was one of my closest partners I mean we were running mates. Hustling, video games, drugs, girls, fights; I mean we saw one another through a lot of crazy things. My other partners all thought my dude was crazy, but I didn't care; that was my dude. We hadn't seen each other in years and that's mostly because our lives began to take us in two different directions. Mine, brought me here to you. His, well...I won't go into great detail, but let's just say not much had changed since the last time we spoke. However brief the conversation was, it was a little disturbing that it sounded like a conversation we had hundreds of times when we were younger.
And so the song goes...
As I began to reflect on this encounter, it started to bare a strange resemblance to the relationship I have with rap music. I was born in 1985 when rap music was essentially only six years old and really just beginning to burst onto the national scene. "Rock the Bells" by LL Cool J and "The Show" by Doug E. Fresh and the Get Fresh Crew was blasting out of boom boxes all over the country. I've never known life on this Earth without rap music. I grew up with it. It was one of my best friends growing up. It saw me and helped navigate me through my childhood, my teens and my young adult life. Through all the fights, all the girls, all the parties, all the deaths, all the hard times; rap music was there and provided the soundtrack for it all. Now at the age of 28, as I prepare to enter into a new stage of my life, I find that it's becoming increasingly difficult to relate to rap music these days. No, not because rap music has changed, but because it hasn't changed. I have; I've grown up. I've grown mentally, emotionally and spiritually. But while I was growing up and began to go down a more constructive path in my life, rap music is still on the path of self-destruction.
Follow me on this one...
I find myself in the conversation all the time about how rap music is so different than it was when we were growing up in the 90s. But is it really all that different? I remember one of my favorite music videos in the early 90s was 2 Live Crew's "Pop That Coochie". Sure I was only 6 years old, but I mean scantily clad women gyrating all over the place...of course, I was intrigued by it. That video from 1991 doesn't look all that different from the average 2 Chanz, Lil Wayne or insert popular rapper name here, video. Even though I would NEVER put Rick Ross and Notorious B.I.G. in the same category with respect to talent, you can't help but notice similar themes in their music; pop bottles, get money, get high, knock off a bunch of chicks and gun play for anyone that wants it. So where's the difference exactly? Oh, but we had Tupac Shakur in the 90s. Rappers that actually rap about what's really going on in the world. Agreed. But J. Cole's "Crooked Smile" and "Lost Ones" sound very similar to Pac's "Keep Your Head Up" and "Brenda's Got a Baby". So again I ask, where's the difference? Why does the music seem so different to us now than it did when we were younger? Well, what we have is the same scenario that I came upon when I bumped into that friend from high school. One of us had grown up and the other one hadn't.
This conversation I had with my friend from high school sounded like conversations we've had plenty of times before because we were talking about the same things we always talked about. Yet at the same time, it sounded so different to me because I was hearing it with an older, wiser, more mature mentality. That's exactly the same feeling I get when I listen to rap music these days. The content of the music is the same as it's always been, but it doesn't sound as appealing as it used to. While my friend, rap music, is still talking about hitting the club and smashing a plethora of random chicks, I would much rather spend a quiet night at home with ONE woman that's special to me. My friend is still talking about getting into fights and busting guns; I think I have about 3 good fights left in me and I'm trying to save those for situations where I have a good reason to fight. My friend is still talking about getting high and getting drunk everyday; me on the other hand, I would rather spend that time doing things like taking care of business or reading a book. My friend still has dope boy aspirations of making a bunch of money and blowing it on frivolous things; I'm more focused on having a legal career, saving, investing and spending my money on things that appreciate in value instead of things that depreciate.
Now does this mean we can't be friends anymore? By no means. The memories alone are enough to keep us bonded for the rest of my time on Earth. However, I haven't seen my partner from high school since we bumped into each other that day and I do spend a lot less of my leisure time listening to rap music these days. I hope at some point they both grow up and start to develop more productive pursuits. The most mature rap album I've heard in recent years was Nas' Life is Good album. But mature albums from elder statesmen in the game come so few and far in between that it's hardly enough to make a real impact on the mainstream level of the music. So, it leaves me to wonder...will rap music ever grow up?
"When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things."
1 Corninthians 13:11 NKJV
Houston native, Bizzle, released his album The Good Fight in 2013. This song is a perfect illustration of the message conveyed in this editorial.
Former GOOD Music recording artist Kid Cudi recently appeared on The Arsenio Hall Show and expressed many of the same sentiments. Though, this episode aired after this article was published, it seems so fitting, I had to add to the article.