“This is all about my image. They buildin’ me up and destroying me on the same image they perpetuated. I’m selling records, this is what I do for a livin’, don’t get it twisted. This is not my real life; this is not how my real life is supposed to be. I’m not supposed to have all these villains in my life.”
These are the infamous words spoken by a post court appearance Tupac Shakur after being mobbed by reporters. The infamous 90’s where allegedly you had to be about the life you portrayed and gritty street tales of killings, drug dealing, and paranoia why was Pac given a pass? What is the importance if any does street credibility or credibility period have in the landscape of Hip-Hop? Is Hip-Hop an art form of inner-city centric tales in the vein of Urban Lit or is it a genre of tales based on a true story? If the later is true there what’s the litmus test for a “real nigga?”
I began to examine how Pac’s remarks would have been received into today’s world of “exposing” and “receipts?” Pac is arguably the poster boy for the “real nigga” with his image of lawlessness and in your face realism. Many Hip-Hop artists still aspire to capture the essence of seeming authenticity that 2Pac had and continues to hold. If Pac admittedly says, “this is not my real life,” why is he still revered and venerated for his authenticity without calling into play his contradictory images? Perhaps we are all full of contradictions at our cores, but none so boldly paraded in front of us, as was the case with Pac. When 50 Cent went after Ja Rule in the early 2000’s his main strategy for completely obliterating Ja Rule’s career was to call into question Rule’s authenticity. 50 argued that Ja was a fraud and shouldn’t be deserving of the acclaim and respect his given. 50’s image was juxtaposed to Ja’s was one of a street-tested orphan who’s upbringing was rife with all the clichés and stereotypes of wayward Urban Black males. Not only was 50 Cent making catchier tunes, but his platform of authentic vs. fraudulent captured the hearts and minds of the people. Ja Rule soon became a “wanksta” and his career and the careers of those musically associated with him were put to death!
To this day Ja Rule clings to this “thug” persona and has to my knowledge has never publically shied away from it or corroborate 50’s sentiments on his street cred. You know who has admittedly said the gangsta image is not real; you guessed it Mr. Thug Life himself, Tupac Amaru Shakur! Why then do we not call him out on fraudulent charges of claiming a street persona? Why do we honor and justify his thug like we do another fraudulent rapper Rick Ross? So if the music sounds good we don’t care about the authenticity of the persona behind the mic? If this is so, why does credibility matter at all and why is the notion of the “real nigga” even a thing within the Hip-Hop community when we praise frauds, berate those whose lived experiences are reflected in there music, and generally decide who lives and dies in the pantheon of authentic rap artist arbitrarily? I have more questions then answers, but what I do know is that we need more uniformity in our judgments of what’s permissible in Hip-Hop and what isn’t.
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