Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Hip Hop Machismo

The gentleman in the above picture unfortunately represents many of the stereotypes, unfounded and concrete, associated with Hip Hop music and culture. To the hip hop uninitiated, i.e. corporate media and your parents, the picture likely sums up all of their fears in one neat 8x12 frame. The ostentatious display of money, guns, and gadgets evokes images of hustling, violence, and materialism. Sadly, the floppy disks as bling only reinforce the digital divide for minorities. The young man certainly provides fodder to the debate whether life imitates art, or vice versa. Is he posing because he's a thug? Or he is imitating pictures seen in countless album liners, such as The Game's 2005 "The Documentary" seen below?
These images reinforce these negative stereotypes and strip rap from its rightful appreciation as urban poetry. The thug image sells just as well as sex does these days, and that's why photos of young, tatted men with guns proliferate. The reality is that while much of rap speaks to the truth of hard living in urban America, it appears that there is a flipside. One cannot argue that much of the fronting, boasting and beefing is more about image and record sales and less about life. The Game, previously known as Jayceon Taylor, is seen above in his kitchen with an AK-47 and a box of Smacks. Before his hip hop career took off, he was the loser on "The Dating Game" sometime in the 90's. Not meaning to mock one's lamest moments, the picture serves to illustrate what the rest of America could learn from hip hop. These aren't individuals one should fear, but rather try to understand.

Just as Stanley Kowalski from "A Streetcar Named Desire" was an angry, scared, and sensitive man, trapped by the shortcomings of his upbringing, the same can be said for many rappers. Marshall Mathers, better known as Eminem, has shared his stories of childhood struggle, from parental drug abuse, to claims of Munchausen Syndrome. Eminem's vicious rants against his sometime wife Kim echo the words Tennessee Williams penned for Stanley. Each exhibits a personal turmoil that bubbles over in cruel diatribe towards others.

Next time you see a rapper flexing and preening in order to convey maximum "alpha male," think 50 all the time, remember what the former NBAer and openly gay John Amaechi had to say about locker rooms:
"The NBA locker room was the most flamboyant place I'd ever been. Guys flaunted their perfect bodies. They bragged about sexual exploits. They primped in front of the mirror, applying cologne and hair gel by the bucketful. They tried on each other's $10,000 suits, admired each other's rings and necklaces. It was an intense camaraderie that felt completely natural to them. Surveying the room, I couldn't help chuckling to myself: And I'm the gay one."

Taken in 2006, the photo of Lil Wayne and Baby apparently kissing near the lips, created an uproar in hip hop. As the below article explains, sexuality and the machismo are on a collision course.

"No Homo"