Monday, March 2, 2015
RICH GANG AND THE RAP CULTURE WAR: IT'S MORE THAN TIGHT PANTS!
Seems 2014 was the year of RICH GANG with all these crit hoez bending over to get spit roasted by RICH HOMIE QUAN and YOUNG THUG, but why exactly did they become such a cause célèbre? It seemed to go beyond music, a get with it or get left behind ultimatum on the future direction of rap. Da Yung Turkz drew a line in the sand, tellin old heads to get with the program or fuck off - a flip of the bird to the conservative coalition, with RICH GANG as the extended middle finger.
Other day I was posted on the corner suckin on a chili dog with my lil homie, just bumping some OG MELLENCAMP and passin a Kool back and forth. Exhaling the mentholated essence, my patna tells me QUAN is a hipster rapper, totally changing my perspective of his standing in the rap universe. I felt like 18th century headz pobably did when Galileo dropped his Origin of the Species mixtape talkin bout we evolved from Magilla Gorilla. It's true, but not in the sense SHABAZZ PALACES or YUNG LEAN are - hipsters like em, but they ain't the sole or primary audience.
Full disclosure: me and the lil homie dipped the Kool in the wet up, so by now I was seein diagrams of the stars like my man Saint Francis Drake when he discovered that Pluto was actually just a cartoon dog. I thought back to the Culture Wars of '04, when Kelefa Sanneh hit em up with that rockist dis track and Pitchfork realized rap was about more than white dreadlocks and dudes in Che shirts.
Surprising many, hipsters rallied around DIPSET. CAM's Purple Haze was especially galvanizing. The choice was understandable if unexpected: THE DIPS pillaged '80s cheese in an ironic way, but they kicked a kind of diddy-boppin Harlem flyness that was new without being drastically removed from East Coast classicism. They were charismatic, absurd, and visually outlandish, comin off like a hood take on the garish-fabulous David La Chapelle schtick. It was a radical departure from the rappers presented themselves, and their contribution to rap aesthetics still hasn't been appreciated properly.
These days RICH GANG occupies the same role. YOUNG THUG and RHQ kick two styles of raps that are equally controversial and relevant. QUAN is one of the more visible practitioners of the ATL strain of melodic rapping, a particularly troubling development for OGs who see it as the end of straight rappity-rappin. Everyone knows THUGGA is a weirdo and that's nothin new in hip-hop, but the way he's acting out that eccentricity is. We had cats like DEL and SHOCK G who made some noise in the mainstream, but at the end of the day they were cult figures standing on the sidelines of the mainstream ball. On the other hand, LIL B is too much of a self-contained concern, and the underground freaks don't count for quinoa. WAYNE and ANDRE are the closest antecedents to YOUNG THUG, but WAYNE's weirdness declined once he became a pop star and got off the drugs. ANDRE is more about kickin knowledge, with a style that owes more to SOULS OF MISCHIEF than KILO ALI.
Where ANDRE was workin in the mainstream and critiquing it at the same time, YOUNG THUG accepts convention only to bend it out of shape. If he's critiquing anything, it's only implicit. This could just be a byproduct of the times they came up - 'KAST laid the groundwork for Atlanta rap on an international scale, so there wasn't yet an established idea of what it was "supposed to be" - but ANDRE is an outlier within hip-hop and in pop culture at large. His subversion is undisguised; THUG is doing something subtler.
On top of that THUG occasionally puts on a skirt, so of course hipsters gonna rally around this shit! Ol' hatin ass LORD JAMAR would call them beta males (or worse), and what are hipsters if not beta males (or worse)? It's cool, good music is good music, but let's hope they don't start pandering to the new audience or gettin high on themselves cause that's how you end up with an Idlewild. I'll accept some Speakerboxxx/The Love Below self-indulgence, but first they gotta drop their ATLiens.