“Die young, but fuck it we flew first class”- Rick Ross. Nihilism in hip-hop is about as old as hip-hop itself . For years rappers have boasted about their carefree attitudes towards everything from sex, to drugs, to money. Although the glorification of these things did not start with hip-hop, they sure were accentuated by it. I still vividly remember watching the Jay-Z and Jermaine Dupri “Money Aint A Thang” music video as a third grader and being enamored with the images of pretty women, sports cars, and thoroughbred horses. At that very moment I thought that success was watching Jay-Z and Jermaine Dupri throw money at the camera and drive fast cars. Fortunately as I grew older my idea of success became less narrow, misogynistic, and superficial. For twenty years I’ve had a relatively good relationship with Hip-Hop. We have had our ups and down, but we are still in love. As a hip-hop aficionado I sometimes find myself questioning my criticisms. Am I too hard on the genre? Why should I blame rappers when they are merely just a reflection of society-at large? However, I believe that with anything you love, you must be critical and hold it accountable. So Hip-Hop, because I love you I must critique you.
Last week I heard a song that made me kind of mad at you. The new Kanye West and Rick Ross track “Live Fast and Die Young “ rubbed me the wrong way. As you know, I’ve been a Kanye fan since College Dropout. I know the self-proclaimed “Louie Vuitton Don” is an egoist at times, but his beats are so cold. Moreover, for every track he makes about conspicuous consumerism he usually dedicates a track to something about introspection or some societal problem. Rick Ross on the other hand, well let’s just say he lost my respect after he lied about being a corrections officer. Sorry to put you on blast Ross, but it is what is. Let’s get back to my disappointment in you. When I first heard the track my reaction was more or less positive. I thought the beat was nice and that Kanye’s delivery was on point. But the second time I listened to it I had some qualms. Rick Ross’ line, “ice insurance, fuck life insurance” made me think that he will probably be in the same boat as MC Hammer sometime soon. Like a lot of other songs that glorify wasting money on items produced by exploited African children I stupidly tuned it out. But when I heard Ross’ line at 3:25 “Look at Haiti, children dying around the clock nigga, I’d send 100 grand but that’s a decent watch nigga”, I couldn’t believe it. With all the turmoil and unconscionable devastation that Haiti has been through in the past year and historically I felt like this line was completely irresponsible. If you don’t want to donate money to any kind of earthquake relief fund that is fine, but don’t say that you thought about it but decided to go buy a watch instead. I have heard some low blows in rap songs before but this made “Ether” sound like a gospel song. I was so infuriated that I had to write this letter to you. You’re probably saying that you can’t control what comes out of Rick Ross’ mouth. To a certain extent you can’t. However, the nihilism that you tolerated over the years continues to grow and be exacerbated by your new wave artists. I fully understand that every rapper should not be put into the hedonist category, but I feel that to some degree it is a few rappers too many. I’m sorry if I hurt your feelings Hip-Hop, but you really let me down on this one. Maybe we can set up a date to talk to about this later. Perhaps we can discuss it at the Rock the Bells concert after Lauryn Hill and A Tribe Called Quest rip the stage. Until then, be easy Hip-Hop.