HIP-HOP: DOPE CULTURE

It seems like nowadays there are no rules and regulations. Everything is up for discussion and what was once deemed inappropriate or at the very least, not kosher amongst those who consider themselves apart of Hip-Hop culture, has now been commodified and normalized. I remember a time where I used to play in the park on St. Nicholas Terrace in Harlem and seeing these colorful tops sprawled about on the ground. I remember reaching down to pick one up one day and my mother sternly telling me not to touch those things for no reason under any circumstance. Those colorful tops were the lids to crack vials that at one point held the narcotic before drug addicted folks consumed its contents.

Back in the day those colorful tops where EVERYWHERE and the older I got the more I understood what those tops signified. I was born during the crack epidemic that plagued this country in the mid 80’s to mid 90’s. In ghettos across the country two things were spreading: Crack Cocaine and Rap music! For as long as I can remember there was always this street element to rap music whether it was early Snoop Dogg and the West Coast brand of gang culture infused raps or the Notorious BIG bringing his East Coast street hustling sensibilities to the mic. The street element has always been there and it always exuded this counterculture cool that remains prevalent contemporarily in Hip-Hop.

The rags to riches element in rap music that is more street influenced has become cool because it is the “American Dream” packaged in a way that is palatable for urban youth, and by proxy those voyeuristic white folks who live vicariously in the ghetto through rap music. It will ALWAYS be cool to rise from poverty and do so on your own terms and I believe that is what rappers are tapping into when they tell their tales of ascensions from the streets to the boardroom even if it was through illegal means. In the end we see individuals make a marked shift from criminality to legality and that inspires folks. I always aspired to have the same things and achieve the kinds of career success that I see rappers having, but I NEVER thought any and everything they did was cool either.

Nowadays anything goes from being a drug addict to falsifying whole criminal backgrounds (Rick Ross) and even drug habits (Future.) I believe that we are now in the “dope culture” age where exploiting gender norms for profit (Nicki Minaj and Young Thug) is acceptable and cool. You can sell folks tales of being high on mollies and having homosexual encounters in the name of “music” and people eat it up as artistic expression and ultimately find it cool. Rappers make whole songs about nothing and its cool with the consumer because as those who have seniority and influence with youth in Hip-Hop aren’t allowed to convey the message of “everything isn’t cool” because folks will counter them and let it rock (pun intended) because the behavior is profitable. It was never cool to be a drug dealer, but it was understandable due to its subversive nature.Rappers always somehow expressed whether it was sincere or not the sense of desperation and despair they felt that compelled them to sell drugs to survive.

Nowadays the fiends have come to prominence in Hip-Hop culture and whole host of other once unacceptable things.

My point is this, if being a fiend is cool and taking a whole host of synthetic forms of heroin acceptable, where will we draw the line? Eminem rapped about “raping his own mother abusing her horse snorting coke and you gave him the Rolling Stones cover?” The absurdity of his lyrics was what kept folks from taking it too seriously and kept his work firmly in the realm of ridiculous fantasy. I’m afraid that if Hip-Hop keeps pushing the limits of what is cool with disregard for what is actually being promoted knowing damn well that what they produce becomes popular culture, when Lil Uzi Vert raps “all my friends are dead, push me to the edge” will suicide become trendy? Hip-Hop needs to be limitless in its evolution by doing so within limits that keeps intact artistic integrity and polices lunacy or else it will continue to produce “dope culture.”

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