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Monday, May 4, 2009

Is Keeping It Real Just A Catch Phrase?

Early last week reports of Virgina resident Anthony Gonzalez had been charged for his involvement in a 10 million dollar drug ring. Gonzalez had been the manager of the Clipse, a duo knowing for their unique style of cocaine raps. Shortly after the announcement Malice released a video distancing himself from the drug trade that he raps about. Insisting that his his real life and the lifestyle he raps about are 2 different worlds. During his explanation of it just being entertainment Malice confirmed something that many of us already know, rappers are full of shit.

Since it's inception, hip hop has placed an emphasis on authenticity. This is one of the key elements that has given hip hop it's appeal, it's candidness and brutal honesty not seen in other genres. But does authenticity in hip hop still exist? The success of an artist like Asher Roth who doesn't fit the textbook image of a hip hop artist, nor does he try to, speaks volumes. The public appears to think no less of an artist because they don't fit a stereotype. That said one can question whether Roth's hit single "I Love College" would have had the same success if he was black.

The innovation in hip hop is gone and the industry has essentially become a game of follow the leader where everyone attempts to copy the success of past acts through imitation rather than originality. But can we really blame the artists? The success and popularity of artists like Gucci Mane who is more known for the authenticity of his street life than actual talent doesn't really help the situation. Gucci Man is never going to win an award for his musical or rapping talents, however he did kill someone.

As Jay-z once said, artists are afraid to be themselves. With doubt's of the marketability of their real lives artist often turn to the reliable and tested image, drug dealer. It is the music BUSINESS after all and at the end of the day and the point is to sell a product and make money.

Is authenticity still a requirement in hip hop or is it just a memory of the past that old heads and backpackers keep clinging to?