Keeping It Real Is No Longer A Big Deal In Hip-Hop
Once upon a time, in a land far, far away, hip-hop was all about “keeping it real.” If you weren’t what you claimed to be on a record, you were banished from the culture. Remember female gangster rapper Bo$$? The hardcore femcee made waves with her debut album Born Gangstaz and the single “Deeper.” All was well until she revealed to the Wall Street Journal she grew up in an upper middle-class family and attended private school. Her credibility took a major blow and Def Jam subsequently shelved her sophomore album before finally dropping her from the label.
It appeared being a studio gangster would not be tolerated.
Fast forward to 2008 where Florida rapper Rick Ross was seeing his star burn bright after releasing two well-received albums (2006′s Port of Miami & 2008′s Trilla). Ross ripped rhymes about the dope game and being a true gangster with songs such as “Hustlin’” and “The Boss.” Everyone was buying into it and enjoyed Ross’s brand of mafioso rap.
But in July of 2008, The Smoking Gun produced overwhelming evidence linking Ross to an eighteen-month stint as a correctional officer in a Florida prison facility. With his back against the wall and his image in question, Ross denied everything. But when the photos surfaced of the large rapper in a corrections uniform, there was nothing else he could say. It looked like this would be the Bo$$ situation all over again. Rapper 50 Cent took shots at Ross in a high-profile feud, and it appeared the “Bawse” was about to don the role of “studio gangster.”
Oh, how have things changed…
Instead of Rick Ross’s career landing in the toilet, it appears he’s become an even bigger star since the incident, while 50 Cent has found his presence to be less significant. Rick’s Deeper Than Rap received positive reviews and became the fourth highest-selling rap album in 2009. It spawned singles “Magnificent” and the monster street anthem “Maybach Music” which featured Kanye West, T-Pain and Lil Wayne. Even though Ross was caught rocking faux Louis Vuitton shades on the cover of XXL, nobody seemed to bat a lash and continued giving Ross kudos.
We’re days away from the official release of Ross’s fourth studio album Teflon Don and the anticipation couldn’t be higher. For those who have garnered a listen, it is easy to say this is Ross’s finest work to date. The production is top shelf, his lyrics have gotten better and the guests lend a great helping hand, making this—arguably—the album of the summer.
But all of this begs the question “What happened to keeping it real?”
What was once something rappers lived and died for has become a mere afterthought. As long as the music is good, all is well. Once upon a time, hip-hop was all about individuals coming from the streets and telling those tales on wax. If you were found to be a phony, you were exiled from the island. This isn’t to say Ross didn’t do dirt before being a corrections officer—he very well may have. But if Snoop Dogg was exposed as a policeman back when Doggystyle was released, I’m quite sure that he wouldn’t be treated the same.