It’s often said that “seeing is believing,” but one spin of a hip-hop record in its current state provides an alternate twist on the idiom – where as “listening is consuming” and every aural encounter is but an oral argument for excess. What started out as an art form that was meant to unlock certain mysteries, as well as shine a much-need spotlight on both urban decay and the various plights of those pushed to the fringe of society due to various larger issues in the country, hip-hop today is bordering on being a SkyMall catalog – chock full of items that are either downright unobtainable or ridiculously gaudy. 2013 was a year that saw a slew of new records from the likes of Drake, Jay-Z, J. Cole, Kanye West and more. While “luxury rap,” isn’t something new to the genre, I questioned just how quickly emcees turned to “show and tell” on their projects. Part of me was surprised by the findings – the other half was a little saddened that under the microscope, new comers and established veterans all relied on the popular-noun crutch so quickly.
A$AP Rocky – Long. Live. A$AP
Time into the album: 1:12
The line: Motherfuck a wishlist, my ghetto was ambition/For my benjis and my Bentley, and them bitches now I gets gets.
J. Cole – Born Sinner
Time into the album: 2:57
The line: But I’m probably just go and and buy Ferraris, vroom.
Kanye West – Yeezus
Time into the album: 44 seconds.
The line: Soon as I pull up and park the Benz.
Wale – The Gifted
Time into the album: 2:50
The line: But a brand new Maserati got me plottin on another hit.
Jay-Z – Magna Carta..Holy Grail
Time into the album: 5:51
The line: I just want a Picasso in my casa.
Big Sean – Hall of Fame
Time into the album: 6:58
The line: Bought my fam new land, six star crib.
Drake – Nothing Was The Same
Time into the album: 33 seconds
The line: Comin’ off the last record, I’m gettin’ 20 million off the record.
Pusha T – My Name is My Name
Time into the album: 2:06
The line: In a cranberry Rossta, inside track on the G rap poster.
Eminem – The Marshall Mathers LP 2
Time into the album: 9:05
The line: It says ever since I drove a ’79 Lincoln with white walls.
Essentially, no artist who released a “huge” album this year was able to get through two complete songs without falling into the pervasive trap. You may ask, “what else are they supposed to talk about?” Something. Anything. Just not everything. I’m reminded of the quote from Fight Club: “the things you own, end up owning you.”
Call it curiosity, but I decided to check out a classic album from hip-hop lore to see if this was always a pervasive problem. Consider this: there isn’t a single popular noun boast on Midnight Marauders aside from mention of a Polo shirt and Timberland Boots on the entire record. Sure, it’s a limited sampling, but I’d argue that there hasn’t been a single rap record released in the last five years that charted on Billboard’s Hot 100 that avoids the “rich guy” trap.
Where as we tune into television shows or attend the movies in order to get an escape from reality, it’s a shame that hip-hop has turned into The Hunger Games – and we the listeners are treated as the “thirsty” ones.