Andre 3000 once said, “all the fresh styles start off as a good, little hood thing.” He also pointed out a few bars later by the time they reach Hollywood, they’re over.
Hip-hop has weathered storms of over saturation, mainstream misunderstanding and every now and then outright mockery, but the culture has maintained better than most. Nearly 40 years since it’s birth, the culture still fighting battles against those who may admire it but don’t grasp it.
It’s safe to say it’s easier to be a rapper now than ever. Software is readily available nixing the crate digging required in the past. Gaudy jewelry still has its purveyors but the overall look is affordable for even the most modest income but there’s something about the actual execution of hip-hop that remains this mainstream fascination. Only a few can do it well but everybody has tried it, at least once.
The most recent to step up to the mic was actress Anne Hathaway of all people. Most famous for her lighthearted roles in The Devil Wears Prada and The Princess Diaries, Hathaway decided to spit her verse on paparazzi stress recently on Conan.
WATCH ANNE HATHAWAY’S ‘RAP’ ON ‘CONAN’ HERE:
If imitation truly is the highest form of flattery, then hip-hop should be blushing but for some, Hathaway just having a good time came off as someone who doesn’t respect the craft of hip-hop. It’s not late 80s commercials with rapping and breaking grandmas, or Fred Flintstone going all Sugar Hill gang bad but it’s easily in the ballpark.
But why shouldn’t it be?
As niche and tight-knit as we like to portray the community, hip-hop is popular music. Over the last 20 years we’ve seen the the disconnect between the hip-hop world and the rest of the entertainment community disappear. It isn’t the same fight Run DMC had, now hip-hop is so readily available — from the fantastically crafted to the fantastically awful that fans aren’t nearly as shrewd about who’s giving it to them.
It’s evolution from ‘a good, little hood thing’ to mainstream juggernaut made perfect sense. It’s all about the packaging. The same things that sold it closer to its inception power it now, although some of the rawness has been substituted for the rock star flair it began rubbing shoulders with.
More so than Jay-Z and Beyoncé paling around with Coldplay’s Chris Martin and Gwyneth Paltrow, the clearest example of how hip-hop has become one in the same with popular culture is the irrelevance of hip hop based awards. You don’t need The Source, Soul Train or BET Hip Hop Awards to shine a light on artists anymore but hip is consumed on such a massive scale that the Grammys, MTV awards and other have been forced to recognize it’s sheer scope.
I bet Will Smith never saw that coming.
Chances are Kool Herc didn’t think an MC would hobnob with two of the world’s richest men the way Jay-Z does with Warren Buffett and Bill Gates but it’s standard practice at this point. No one’s surprised when Kanye West decides to name drop Russell Crowe because they’re celebrity is on par with each other.
Like any scenario where cultures meld together, some people get entirely too comfortable and carelessly offend because they feel they’ve earned the right. Rapper Kreayshawn blew up virally with her catchy track, “Gucci Gucci,” but caught immense scrutiny for her liberal use of the n-word. Crowds didn’t seem to mind the rapper and her sidekick V-Nasty dropping the word, once word got back to the blogosphere, ire soon turned their way.
But that just goes to show you how much they feel they are a part of the community. Though extremely naive and offensive, the music they decided to make may be an interpretation of the life they live and the things they enjoy but it certainly proves that no matter how household hip-hop becomes, some areas will never merge.
WATCH NATALIE PORTMAN’S ‘RAP’ ON ‘SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE’
As encompassing has hip hop as become, its roots in the black culture will always leave a gray area that outside entities, no matter how famous will be able to infiltrate but that shouldn’t stop the growth of hip-hop and its acceptability into homes, hearts and minds.
Who among us hasn’t tried to rhyme a couple bars? It usually fizzles out after those first two things you managed to rhyme don’t lead to a third. But it’s something that’s fun. It makes you appreciate the craft and it’s most skilled technicians for how they manage to put it all together. Maybe we all could step aside and let the pros handle hip-hop and just be the best fans we can be.
As far as parodying the genre, hip hop has to stop being so sensitive. What Natalie Portman or the Lonely Island guys have done on SNL aren’t offensive and were absolutely entertaining and the sooner hip hop can laugh at itself, the sooner we can all stop being so caught up in who’s rapping now. Hollywood hasn’t killed hip hop yet and I don’t see it coming anytime soon.