Listening to the Marshall Mathers LP 2 got me going back to listen to some old Eminem songs. The one thing about Em other than his incredible lyrical ability is the fact that in his music he gets to be vulnerable and talk about making it to where he is based on being in a place of insecurity. The hottest rappers who are black pretty much all avoid ever showing any weakness. It is interesting because of this cultural difference especially when you look at all of the rap fans who say they do not listen to Eminem because they can't get with his content.
One of the main themes and reasons people relate to Eminem is that he admits he wasn't cool and that he was bullied as a youth. There are more people that can fit that mold more closely than that of the baller whom everyone dreams of being. The entire idea that is always annoying even beyond listening to most street rappers talk about selling drugs is that so many pretend to have been at the top of the distribution chain. No one talks about the dangers of really being hand to hand once they get on. It's all about balling and throwing their money around in excess. So they definitely won't be caught dead talking about being awkward and insecure as a youth and using that as a motivation. How many of these guys started rapping so they could hang out with the thugs while not having to actually be involved in the most gangster of activities?
Though most won't admit it, there are a lot of dudes who have fears. Some are being broke, being alone, and not fitting in. Part of that conformity leads us to the situation where an artist like Childish Gambino or Tyler the Creator who take different ideas of some of what Em does great and (not that they are doing it because of him) use those in their music. What happens is that they get pigeon holed or called 'weird' for actually having the nerve to be black and show vulnerability or be more concerned with shock. They get pushed into being a 'niche' artist instead of being considered reflective of people as a whole.
One thing we need to look at is the aspect of bravado in the urban community. This all stems from the civil rights era and the fact that black people can't be as sensitive and to allow someone to see they are getting to you is a sign of weakness. Weakness is exploited, then, by the ruling whites, now by the wolves that run the hoods of America. Bullying is real, people who are the victims aren't allowed to become the ones who end up being celebrities. It's the type A personalities who 'have all the girls and popularity' already who are our overall representatives. Just listen to their verses, when they are talking it's about balling and how you the listener are a lame who isn't on their level. It's a constant put-down and air of superiority and that's part of why they are successful, because they are better than you.
This is why when you see a crowd around Childish, or Tyler, or Danny Brown, it's mostly white kids because they are allowed to let those kinds of lyrics reach them. Thats something that could probably help us mentally, to know that even our heroes have insecurities and that we don't have to try and keep up with their consumption in order to be someone or able to relate. According to these rappers, the only people in their class are the peers who can afford the latest Gucci belt. It is cool to be emotionally unavailable and have the appearance of not caring. Everyone cares. You want proof, just look at how salty and defensive these artists get when the criticism hit them negatively. Suddenly they are able to show anger- which is an emotion. The only other urban artist who expresses some emotion is Drake and we know how he is perceived.
Am I saying I want all rappers to be more like Eminem....yeah, yeah I am. I want them to care and to show some actual depth. The problem is that it's hard. I get it, songs about how they do it for their mama are one method, but honestly part of the issue is that's all everyone does because it's all that is readily accepted. It's a challenge and too many artists actually doing it would either make the songs themselves stand out less when i hear them, or make these rappers into full people instead of caricatures. Not sure which will happen, I just know that it gets tiring to hear 93% of mainstream rappers pretend as if there is only one thing to ever consider and one way to relate. I want more artists to be people and show the sides of them that are just like all of us, not just present an image of them being above us people who support them. Is that too mush to ask? All of your fans aren't aggressive and it isn't always an escape for them to listen to you if they don't think you understand where they are coming from and some of their insecurities, I'm sure some of you mainstream rappers have as well.