I started thinking about this when Kreayshawn’s* Gucci Gucci came out. This lyric of the chorus sort of bugged me:
“Gucci Gucci, Louis Louis, Fendi Fendi, Prada/ The basic bit**es wear that sh**, so I don’t even bother.”
Obviously hip-hop has historically involved a lot of posturing when it comes to being able to afford designer products. Suddenly, Kreayshawn was rolling in and implying that she was above “that shit,” unlike “basic bitches.” While yes plenty of affluent white people really like Louis Vuitton, et. al, it also seemed like she was saying, “I am above the materialism of hip-hop.”
This also came to mind when I sat down and listened to Thrift Shop by Macklemore. The lyrics are this and more of this:
“Now walk into the club like ‘What up?! I got a big cock!’
Nah, I’m just pumped, I bought some shit from the thrift shop
Ice on the fringe is so damn frosty
The people like “Damn, that’s a cold ass honky”
So to me, the song seems to be once again making fun of the materialism of hip-hop, and also the masculine posturing that so often happens in hip-hop. Macklemore also has a song called “Same Love,” which is an ode to believing in same-sex relationships. It’s rather touching, but also seems to be a bit preachy when volleyed at the hip-hop world, which has a history of being homophobic.
I’m not saying that it’s awesome that the hip-hop world involves liking name brand stuff, big dicks and saying things like “no homo.” I’m saying that hipster rappers rolling in and being like, “I’m going to publicly denounce that stuff and help enlighten all of hip-hop” seems like a vast misunderstanding of why those things might exist in hip-hop in the first place.
For starters, being “above” social symbols of wealth is still somewhat of a white privilege. It is easy to be secure with having a shitty purse if your status in society is not regularly questioned. Secondly, part of the reason (I assume) that hip-hop involves so much masculine posturing is because, historically, society has emasculated black men. Whether it was inflicting violence on them for “touching white women” or just generally making it harder for them to get high-paying jobs, it really has. It’s no coincidence that hip-hop first started to embrace homosexuality when America got its first black president.
I do think it’s cool that Macklemore and other people in hip-hop are championing gay rights, don’t get me wrong. I just think that when it comes to changing the dialogue to be one of empowerment rather than braggadocio, we need to start by actually empowering people. And that comes from understanding, not preaching.
*I know Kreayshawn isn’t really socially-conscious hip-hop but I felt like cramming everything that tends to bug me in the headline.