It is a shame that we live in a world where “keeping it real” is a way of life. The definition of keeping it real is as convoluted as Malcolm X’s “by any means necessary.” People often ascribe their own feelings to these phrases and use them as mantras to enact violence or to do other antisocial acts. What I find most disheartening is that we use these phrases out of context as sort of a justification of their dastardly deeds. In lieu of Remy Ma coming home from her bid, I wonder what the affect her release from prison will have on the fans and for the Black community?
The trend in Hip-Hop seems to be the more “real” you appear to be, the more fanfare ensues. The qualifications for being “real” is never in terms of positivity like when DMX saved a church from being shut down in Yonkers, but 2Pac shooting two police officers is considered an act of “realness.” Recently Remy Ma was released from prison after serving time for shooting a woman who she alleges stole money out of her purse. When she first was charged with attempted murder by law enforcement, she was also simultaneously charged with “keeping it real” by those within the Hip-Hop community. The fact that her actions were viewed as an appropriate response to her money allegedly being stolen from her, speaks volumes to the psychosis that is “keeping it real.” George Zimmerman was and still is a racist that stalked and executed a little boy because he was afraid, was he keeping it real? The 12 men who hijacked and flew commercial jetliners into the World Trade Center because of political and misconstrued religious ideologies, were they keeping it real as well? I guess they were keeping it real relative to their position within their situations and by the convoluted Hip-Hop use of the term.
I too am guilty of subscribing to the frame of thought that is keeping it real, but in my defense my definition is different. When I think of keeping it real to me it means, “don’t lie.” When 50 Cent said he was shot 9 times and survived, he was keeping it real because those events actually happened irrespective of what the nature of the events were. When Rick Ross the rapper talks of the copious amounts of narcotics he’s sold, why simultaneously denying the fact that he had an honest legal gig as a Corrections Officer, to me this is not keeping it real at all! There is no need to deny your past if it is indeed what actually happened to you. I am all for rappers or anybody for that matter telling their stories as long as it is rooted in truth. Lying to sell records or to gain notoriety seems to be commonplace in world and it is an even bigger issue in the microcosm of Hip-Hop where if you say it, you better mean it. Of course this kind of discourse doesn’t allow for the use of artistic expression where fabrication is touted and celebrated. The more imaginative an artist is the more they bring to the table, but where is the line being drawn between creativity and falsifying?
What I cannot co-sign, as a citizen within the Hip-Hop community is the fraudulent personas and fabricated histories that rappers and everyday people pass off as truth. This blatant disregard for being genuinely genuine leaves room for misinterpretation and corrupts those around you who buy into your personality. If we are to keep it real we shouldn’t stretch the truth or celebrate negativity as the gold standard for realness. If Remy Ma goes to prison for shooting a woman in the stomach who allegedly stole money from her, this doesn’t make her “real,” but the fact that it did indeed happen and if she decides to speak on it in a rap, is however lockstep in her “keeping it real.” I feel once the Hip-Hop community is able to discern facts from fiction and artistry from con-artistry, the genre, as a whole will benefit tremendously as well as those who consume the music.