Analysis of Gucci Mane’s “Iced Out Bart”

gucci mane bart necklace

Gucci Mane Bart necklace

Today hip hop artists not only boast about their riches, but also insert instances of self-critique and awareness of the absurdity of this lavish lifestyle and explicit self-aggrandizing.   By calling himself Gucci Mane LaFlare (see image below), he takes possession of the word “man” and alters it to still denote himself as a man, but also to create his own language and dialect and set himself apart from other “men.”  His choice of using the elite brand name “Gucci” conveys a high class status.  He adds LaFlare to add “umph,” spectacle, and reference French, a language considered to be romantic and civilized.  This in conjunction with the “incorrect” spelling of “man” (Mane) could be said to set a contradiction between the aristocratic, exotic, and the street lifestyle.  Gucci, his short name, conveys a high financial and social status.

Gucci Mane’s company is called So Icey Entertainment.  He has incorporated the onomatopoeia word “Burr” (an alteration of BRRR) to describe the sound one utters when one gets the chills when confronted with Gucci Mane’s jewelry which looks and often feels cold, like ice.  “Burrr” is also meant to freeze the viewer in his tracks from amazement at the sight of such riches and images.  Furthermore, Gucci has recently branded himself with a tattoo of an ice cream cone on his cheek to reference the chill.  While it’s possible to associate the shine that bling produces with a heat generating entity like the sun or star, he usually opts to interpret the shine as icy cold.  Gucci does not conceal his fixation on money and wealth and talks about it in his songs as well as interviews saying that he has a money chasing habit.  He personifies the idea of money.  By embodying a belief in the power of money, in the idea that “money is everything” and “it’s all about the money” he attempts to show us that in our capitalistic society, money matters more than anything, and possibly hints at the fact that we see and value each other in terms of financial status and the potential in financial gain.  His goal seems to be so that when people look at him, they see “money” before they see Radric Devonte Davis.

This idea is supported in his songs such as “Iced Out Bart.”  This song also exemplifies the idea of compensatory consumption since Gucci buys a necklace of a cartoon character to fulfill the desire for love or affection in this song.  In “Iced Out Bart” Gucci says, “I got an iced out Bart where my heart used to be,” and follows by reciting several times, “A iced out Bart where my heart used to be.”  This is followed by “I scratch off on a bitch, it’s nothing to me.”  In a later verse Gucci begins by saying, “I got an iced out Bart where my heart at,” and goes on to have a self-aggrandizing conversation with himself about his jewelry, only once asking his producer what his ring is called, and then alludes to a problem with his ex-girlfriend, and telling us she is mad because he “hit” (can mean to have sex or literally hit) her friend, warns us to watch out because “your girlfriend Nicole next” and explains it by reminding us that he has “an iced out Bart where his heart at,” so his actions may be brutal and unsympathetic.

Interestingly, according to Wikipedia “Bart Simpson’s character traits of rebelliousness and disrespect for authority have been compared to that of America’s founding fathers, and he has been described as an updated version of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, rolled into one.  In his book Planet Simpson, Chris Turner describes Bart as a nihilist, a philosophical position that argues that existence is without objective meaning, purpose, or intrinsic value” (Bart Simpson).

What Gucci is talking about in this and other songs is his total understanding of what purpose bling serves in our society, his awareness of extreme materialism, and strive to gain materialistic things which serve no intrinsic purpose outside of the role they play in society, his narcissism, how lonely he is inside, and that this has partly been brought about through his hard work ethic and thus little free time to develop his other sides.  He mostly has a conversation with himself in this song only twice uttering something to his producer.  This monologue takes place within his own head as nobody responds to his questions or thoughts giving us a sense of a detached insular world; the recording studio closed off from the world.  His recitation of “I got an Iced out Bart,” serves to comfort and to reassure as well as frighten him about his loneliness and coldness.  As if, well, I still got this expensive little character I wear around my neck, and that’s for sure.  But, but I have no heart because bling took its place.  He is telling us as well as himself how this bling is useless, but what is one to do in a world where it is valued?  He makes us aware that the world’s relationship to materialistic symbols of status is necessary but has no explainable meaning.  We cannot undo our human nature and agree to throw out our bling, because we need it.  But already knowing our intentions, purpose, and process of achievement, we are merely repeating something; we are doing it because it is the thing to do, and because we have no other choice but to do this thing.  But this awareness is fruitless and like Bart, nihilistic.


Serious Party Girls (2009)

At a well attended college party around time of Halloween. I was checking out the low-lit scene; i hardly knew anyone.
I was walking past a guy in the middle and two scandalously dressed girls on either side. One girl put a glow stick in between her cleavage. The other girl replied by leaning right into that girl’s big boobs and proudly taking out the glow stick with her mouth.
As i approached I asked, “What game are you playing?”
They said “what!?” So i repeated louder.
The guy looked blankly at me, and both girls exchanged a look at each other with a hint of perplexity and turned to me.
Then the girl that dug the glow-stick from her friend’s boobs replied with a touch of vitality, “It’s not a game.”

Art and Party


Hip-hop is dangerous. Hip-hop is political. Hip-hop is rebellion. Long Live Hip-Hop!

The primal quality of rap is extremely relevant in todays society as it allows people to imagine, or actually express and get in touch with their subconscious desires which our “civilized” culture has successfully taught us to repress.

Our subconscious desires (mainly survival, and fear) as Freud studied drive our actions.  However these desires can be very irrational or can operate irrationally, and lead us to irrational actions and feelings which can be very dangerous to the self and especially others and if unleashed can cause destructive chaos.  This is the fear that many hip-hop haters (I’m picturing parents and older generation) have.  They fear, perhaps rightfully so, that allowing these locked up inner desired to surface would destroy the status quo, cause chaos, and turn human beings back to their ancestral roots; animals.  All civilized masks would disappear and we would cease to be actors or exercising accepted and appropriate social norms and etiquettes and simply express our raw primal feelings including violence, physical aggression towards enemies, overt verbal and physical sexual advances, and hatred. 

What I like about this is that essentially, if humans were to act on their true inner desires, they would become completely honest with each other, and not repress anything.  The more aristocratic classes in our society are the least overtly barbaric/animalistic, and tend to conform to professional social rules and etiquette which are in place to maintain order and productive business.  The poor, however live in conditions that are closer to the survival of the fittest, and fight or flight environment.  They always feel threatened.

Repression is a necessity for the safety and contentness of the majority.  The government must implement a political philosophy that accounts for the repression of people just enough to keep them comfortable.  People’s individual unique feelings and desires must be repressed in order to maintain control, safety, and a steady or growing economy and repression is necessary for business and the capitalistic/consumer system.  It is the role of businesses to manipulate people’s minds so that people transfer these inner desires to products or other harmless things rather than allow people to express them otherwise.  But “order in the streets, leads to chaos in our minds.”  I believe the more ordered our world becomes, the more we crave the unexpected, the chaotic, and the more we crave and are potentially susceptible to the ideas and values of hip-hop.

NWA, Wu-Tang, Lil-Wayne, Waka Flocka, and numerous other rap artists get us in touch with our subconscious drives and remind us that we have them and what they are.  They rap about killing the enemy, power, fighting the system and pro-creation in a very crude, irrational, raw, barbaric way.  Hip-hop is dangerous.  Hip-hop is political.  Hip-hop is rebellion.  And because the system of consumerism and capitalism and the order they rely on will only get more systematic and fine tuned, I believe, and hope that Hip-hop is here to stay!  We just need to continue finding and popularizing good hip-hop artists.  I think hip-hop will only die when we have given up the hope and accepted that changing our systematic repressive culture is impossible.   Or if it does bring about change, and the idea of systematic repressive environment becomes a thing of the past.

PS. i touched on this topic in this post

conversation 15 (feminist artist)

A: Do you know that female artist that made really feminine work? Fuck I can’t remember her name.
B: Which one? Ohhhhhh you mean the one that pulled a scroll out of her vagina?
A: Hahaha, no, the one that made a series of dildos like modeled after skyscrapers.

Conversation 14 (killing time)

A: What are you doing here?
B: Killing time.
A: Killing time from what?
B: Just to get out of the house—take a break from homework.
A: Oh
B: You?
A: Just killing time.

Lil Wayne Concert August 13th 2011

Lil wayne concert, and most other concerts

The lil wayne concert in Chicago was truly an epic moment.  To me, it was a pilgrimage.  It was the first concert that I sought out and bought tickets to.  I’ve been to concerts before, and to summerfest, but I usually went to spend time with friends, and or get drunk and be amongst the young, intoxicated, impenetrable nightlife crowd more-so than actually listen to the music.   Although I’ve been to summerfest a few more times than is useful (none this year though), I don’t remember many concerts, and anyways I’m not usually a fan of concerts in general.  (most live concerts I attend I don’t even face the stage, I just talk with friends and watch the illuminated bodies, limbs and heads behind me yell and wave at the band while my back is to the stage.)  And afterwards my friends ask me what I thought of the concert and I just tell them that “I don’t know, I wasn’t listening,” or I say, “it was ok, but it’s no lil wayne.”

So August 13th, 2011 was a different experience.  I felt I not only witnessed, but participated in history in the making.  Yes, I believe a lil wayne concert is a historic event.  When I’m an old creepy man this is the story I’ll tell to little odd children that sit next to me on my bench.   I’ll become known as the “old guy who tells the same story about a lil wayne concert.”

So here was a guy (Wayne) who actually commanded my attention (and not only my attention) more than any girl in the audience that night.  I mean most concerts, girls attract my attention more than the music, but it really is something when you can attract a straight guy’s attention more than a pretty girl.  (Does this mean I’m not that straight?)

Description of the concert.

First up was keri hilson.  She’s good, she’s cool.  Next was Dick Ross featuring 100 extra pounds of fat that creates an illusion of a Mafioso tough guy character, which his skills do not warrant in the rap game.  When he came on I took a seat in my chair, and watched dark masses go wild above me, and laughed internally when I heard the girl next to me recite all the lyrics of his song.  Did she know the lyrics of one of Rick Ross’s obscure songs because she was black? And he was black?  Because I couldn’t think of what would compel someone to learn the lyrics of one of Rick Ross’s obscure songs other than because they sense some kind of illusory relation to this artist (skin color) because the musical quality certainly doesn’t warrant such dedicated fans.  He’s lucky.

Then I emptied my bladder in preparation for lil wayne.  There was a line to the mens.  I asked the guy ahead if he’s been to a lil wayne concert, and he said he has been 4 times.  There was a girl in the bathroom waiting for someone to roll a joint or something, and I’m guessing every 10th guy commented on her being in the men’s.  Then I bought another beer and went to my seat.  Timely, lil wayne came on and there was a humongous roar from the crowd, and I almost yelled so hard my eyes closed and I barely saw him.  Lil wayne performed a lot of his best songs, including a few from his No Ceilling mixtape.  I was amazed to say the least.  He said some things in between a song or two about jail time.  Then some bridge was lowered and he sang on it.  I think he also did “lollipop.”  Towards the end some others came on stage, including Birdman.  Wayne asked the crowd to cheer for one more song, and they did, and he gave us one more song.

It’s really hard to see something for what it is the first time you look, especially if you are overly excited for it.  Because I almost remember myself singing and cheering more than the actual songs.  If I see him again, I think I’ll be able to overcome my excitement and pay more attention to the music.

Fans and Tragedy/Questions

I couldn’t settle with the amount of people that were there.  I mean it was a testament to what he has created.  He created armies in numerous cities around the world that will bow down to him and follow him, and listen to him.  It started with a small cult, and grew to such unstoppable proportions.  To think: how many people’s ears has he convinced and conquered?   This was a profound, yet tragic moment for me.   I realized again, what a feat he has completed, and how immensely hard it will be for me to do the same with my craft.  The most tragic recurring thought that goes through my head, is that visual art cannot accomplish this feat.  Very few artists, if any have been able to create work that has figured out the issue of art in a system of consumerism, democracy, and mindless masses.  Very few works of art appeal to both acclaimed critics and casual enthusiasts, and very few works function anywhere outside of a white cube space.  And also tragic because how do you move on after witnessing the epitome of what you aspire to be?  What do you do when you come back to the studio the next day? 

These are horrific thoughts and feeling that I have to overcome.  Really, it won’t be easy.  But I must somehow get over this concert, and maybe over lil wayne in general.  I don’t know.  I don’t know.

Best rapper alive

Still, I really feel lucky that I got to be at this concert.  At the point of his career where he could start making nothing but mediocre work from now on.  I wish I got to see him two years ago, when he was in his prime.  Everything from him now might be “post-fact.”

Towards the end of the concert he took the mic and said straightforwardly: my name is Weezy and I am the best rapper alive.  And I loved this.  I love that some people hate this, because it comes across as egotistic.  But is it egotistic if one really is the best rapper alive?  Or is it just truth.  The same way some people proclaim themselves as black belt karate or “professional” photographers.  That’s just his title: Best rapper alive; it’s not much of a boast.

lyrics to above song

Garbage videos

When I heard that youtube is filled with garbage, I decided to literally fill it with videos of garbage, so that there is a collection of garbage videos and a channel dedicated specifically to cataloging all kinds of garbage.  Maybe this channel could become a resource for garbage videos in case someone is ever interested in watching garbage. Although I can’t possibly fill this expansive world with garbage, I thought I would try to do my part and I want one of the videos to get popular because it is exactly the opposite of what we strive for to create, and what we consider we want to view.

Furthermore, I decided to videotape garbage around 2008-2009 when I saw that someone tried to create “the worst youtube video.”  That video was a shitty video of some celebrity shot from a cell phone or something, and it got milions of views and became one of the most popular videos on youtube in terms of view numbers and thus was listed under “Top Youtube Videos” back when youtube had that section (I don’t know if youtube still has that section or how it’s judged today).

At some point I noticed there was a video where someone videotaped paint drying.  They did this because someone claimed that youtube videos are as interesting as watching paint dry.

Later, I was very interested in doing things that have anti-art, have a punk-aesthetic, and most importantly encompass Warholian ideas of triviality and the mundane.  Devoting time to make something very banal and useless on purpose, in an almost apathetic way, without dramatizing the subject or beautifying it.  Now there are several such videos: one two.

My goal was to get a video of garbage to accumulate millions of views.  In a community like youtube, the most important thing is popularity.  Videos that are popular surface in the forefront of this community, and videos that are not popular, yet possibly really good, are forgotten and hidden.  Having a video of garbage surface to prominence would exploit the judging system of youtube, by revealing the faults of glorifying popular things rather than tasteful creative endeavors. Anyways, in a context where everyone is trying to create a creative video, a fascinating video, a wild video, or a funny one, a video of trash stands out.  It’s something unusual in this context.


Some notes on garbage:

These videos are exactly what we don’t want or care to see.  But people are interested in what nobody wants to see, or they could stumble upon it by accident due to the way things are linked on the internet.  People are curious to know what something worthless or terrible looks like.

When I think of garbage I think of objects that nobody need.  Extended it’s not just objects but anything.  Anything can be garbage in the wrong context or time: noise, music, art, love, old technology.  People think of garbage as useless.  One man’s trash it another’s treasure.

Garbage piles are something that is in the way of people; it is kept hidden in black bags in opaque trashcans.  It is in transit to some other place which nobody knows about and which is not a place of interest.  To a dump.  A morgue for useless materials.  It’s used material, or sometimes it’s new material that is in excess, or at the wrong place at the wrong time, and thus not in current need.  It looks gross because it is often the remains of objects that are not desirable.  The bottoms of lettuce, the bones and cartilage of a chicken breast that nobody can eat, empty bottles of drunk drinks, wrapping paper.

Garbage is ubiquitous as useful things.  We make useful things out of garbage.  Artists make visually intriguing things out of useless things.

The Internet, like our world, is full of garbage.  Spam is garbage.  Irrelevant home videos popular on youtube are considered garbage.  Everyone makes them, but nobody besides the creator and their close ones care about it.

I thought I would video record something that nobody claims they want to see, something that is traditionally unpleasant to look at.  Yet visually it forms descent compositions that are not much different than a lot of sculptures or paintings I’ve seen.  I’m not talking about the materials, but the way the shapes and colors are arranged and relate to each other.  Garbage piles happen naturally.

We, a first world “civilized” society, create more garbage than any other country.  It’s what we create.  When I think about this, I think that it is not a conscious decision that we do this, but more like an inevitable consequence, but nevertheless, it’s not something that most are proud of.  But still, we really do create garbage.  That’s undeniable.  Yet we don’t think of it as something we create and it doesn’t really have a purpose, so we don’t glorify this creation.  The garbage we create could be acknowledged.

Why I Like New York City

Many People

What many people don’t like about New York City, is that there are too many people.  It takes focus to walk down a street and maneuver past all kinds of bodies going right, left, stopping, slowing down or speeding up.  But this is precisely what I like!  I love being in a crowd.  My favorite is the subway at rush hour.  I enjoy the idea of being compressed amongst the hundreds of bodies on the subway train with the blank or tired sagging faces turned in different directions trying not to slip and fall.  I like to stand my ground while other bodies push me about.  Everyone is fighting for their body’s room, and one has to be assertive about claiming space at peak times.  This arouses in me a love for the city because I see, and literally feel life gushing and pulsating around me.  Sometimes you can feel the heat of the person next to you and realize how close you are to a stranger: closer than you can get anywhere else without it being socially unacceptable.  I smile when the conductor yells to not hold doors for the last few people that squish into the subway train instead of waiting for the next train because this shows that, yes, there really is an overwhelming amount of people, of life.  And I am more interested in the idea of confinement in the subway, reminding me that I am alive, over the confinement of a coffin, alone and dead.


I really like how careless people are in public.  New Yorkers have seen and heard so many odd things about so many people that odd things don’t capture their interest as easily as the rest of America.  People dress more unusually or wear crappy old clothes and others don’t pay much attention to that.  There are so many people and everyone is so busy and in such a rush that others don’t have time and energy to care about each individual as much.  And in a way I like the idea of this.  I like the fact that one can go about their business without others wondering who this person is, why he’s dressed like this, or what he is up to.  You go into a store for a chips and beer, and the cashier doesn’t really care about you.  He serves you quickly, because there is likely another customer behind you, and that’s another dollar.  To him you are just another buyer.  I think it’s great when strangers don’t care about your business because it allows you to be yourself, not attract attention, and not think about what they think about you.  You don’t have to answer to “Hi, how are you? Did you find everything you were looking for today?”  Everyday encounters aren’t elevated to special occasions the way they are in small towns.  You can simply be an object to others; another number in the city.

Waka Flock Flame, the Artist’s Role, & In Defense of Violence in Rap pt. 2

In recent time I’ve come to accept a wider array of very explicit vulgar gansta-rap. I’ve been a fan of Crucial Conflict for some time, but recently I really started to appreciate Waka Flocka and the likes who are kind of the underdogs in the genre that focus on exaggerating and glorifying the disgusting cruelties of violently raunchy, masculine dirty street/gang life. It’s easy to dismiss this type of music as silly and useless, but I feel that on the contrary it serves a crucial role of bringing awareness to issues regarding problems of the bad parts of town. By showing and often exaggerating killers and gangster’s mentalities in Waka Flocka Flame’s Bustin’ At ‘Em: “Shoot first, ask questions last. That’s how these so called gangsta’s last.” He precedes the song with this dangerously scary motto as a warning to anyone who thinks of messing with him, or the subculture he represents. “Ain’t no talkin’ homie, I’m jus’ bustin’ at ’em.” By showing a corrupted way of thinking it brings awareness to the values and conditions of this subculture, which creates discourse and thus opens the doors for possible political and social change. His songs are about as scary to me as terrorists, and I would never feel compelled to actually hang out with such groups of people. But, the more vulgar and urgent it is the more the song will call people to thought and action; the more seriously they will be taken…

In Waka’s other song “O Lets Do it,” he asserts that he influences “drug dealin’ music.” And I think this is great, because it creates so much social and political fear of “this music/these people.” Partially it propagates criminal and racial problems even further because Waka isn’t really proposing any solution, but somewhere between matter of factly and proudly acknowledging his effect on our society which is hauntingly unsettling. (But still beautiful). Nevertheless, his music preaches a certain camaraderie among his dogs (friends and close ones) He claims that he will rob kill etc. for his homies in “This is For My Dogs.” This is a very romantic idea, that shares similarity with numerous other classical plays, movies, songs books where the protagonist promises to do anything for his significant other.

Now, for the uber-cool art nerds, I want to throw in a contemporary art comparison: Santiago Serra. His work questions the morality of capitalism, arguing that degrading actions are not unethical in a capitalistic society because the people that are being degraded are being fairly compensated for their degradation, and they all participated voluntarily. I don’t know when he started doing these pieces, if it was before hip-hop started or after, but nevertheless the two share similar philosophies.

Lastly, I want to throw in one of my favorite quotes about art:

“Artists don’t solve problems; they create them.”

And I think that it is important for us, artists, to continue to cause as many problems and as big of problems as possible, whether they relate to violence, gender issues, or economic beliefs, and let the “other” people deal with or solve them. We cannot get caught up in ethical debates surrounding our own work. Ethical or not, we must put it out there, and let others decide. These other people need this, and it’s a strong, if not the only way to initiate change.

I think artists should continue to exploit their reality even if its absolutely repulsively cruel. Because without doing so, I don’t think people can become aware of their realities, in order to form opinions about it or initiate change.

I also think the popularity of this music indicates people’s repression, particularly that of violence, and power that I feel is prevalent in American culture. It seems manifesting these repressed themes can only be expressed through art because their expression even in minor forms is increasingly controlled and socially unacceptable. I don’t think its merely violence that is increasingly controlled, but other social standards and behaviors as well.

The Song Remains the Same

Recently, I’ve been thinking about (again) how inevitable some things are in our world. Like how inevitable that parents play a parental role, children are forced to respond by playing the children role, politicians play the role of a puppet, outsiders see the world as if they are outsiders, and consequently insiders treat outsiders like they cant be insiders. These relationships don’t go away and one feeds off the other in a never-ending pattern. Waka Flocka’s subject matter in rap has existed for probably over 30yrs now. There were rappers 10 yrs ago, 20 and 30 yrs ago that rapped threatening lyrics about ghetto and gangsta life. People responded in different ways, but some people respond with fear and feel like waging a war on gansta rap to not let their children hear it etc. So I don’t know if this music has brought about practical change.

Nevertheless, rappers attempt to keep making this music that should in theory initiate change. Perhaps it is our political system that doesn’t allow for change once the doors for change have opened. So here in 2010-11 Waka Flocka is bringing awareness to an issue. But I don’t think that change will ever come unless the political system or some systematic way of life and law and beliefs is altered. So I feel his voice will continue to be looked down upon by people who dismiss his music as violent garbage that ruins our country, and he will inevitable stick to creating more violent songs, because that’s the only way he knows how. And I think that even if he is aware that he isn’t bringing about change, I believe that he must continue to do what he does. This is what the system asks of him, and he seems to be a good candidate for that role that keeps the system going. Unfortunately, I don’t know if him taking up that role or rejecting it has any effect on the functioning of the system.

In Defense of Vulgar Gangsta Rap

Some people view gangsta rap negatively because it is catchy and it promotes sex, drugs and violence amongst youth in America.  And I would say the same, except I would say this in praise rather than in assault on rap.  I know it makes me have sexual, violent, and drug taking urges, and from working in an inner city school, I can see that that’s one of it’s effects on young kids today.  But unlike concerned teachers and parents I defend and even applaud rap music for this (as long as I never encounter it personally).  I think this is evidence of one of the philosophies of rap and hip-hop taking form, particularly gangsta rap.  In other words these rap artists have decided to stop fighting unfairness, corruption, and “the man,” with their own hands and feet, and decided to create something that would instigate a much larger group of other people to do it for them, while becoming famous and making tons of money doing it, all of which gives them a more powerful voice.  If rap can create an army of young rebels to cause friction to the system—any system, be it the school system, political system, our social expectations for sexual expression, or social acceptance of drugs, etc. then those artists’ hands need to be shaken (as artists) because they really did their job.  They created an army to challenge and fight the status quo.  Sure many of these kids aren’t creating any new solutions for the roots of these problems, but it’s still honorable, and needed for someone out there to simply, to cause friction for the system, so that the system becomes self-conscious or aware of itself.  Because once the system starts to reflect on itself this will lead to change, and new solutions.  Of course I don’t want my kids to be like that, but I do want someone’s kids to be like that, and frankly that’s what’s going to help cause change as dangerous as it sounds.

It’s a pretty clever way to fight the man, or the system if you think about it.  It works well with how commercialized rap has become in our capitalist society.  The rapper sells his music to “the Man,” and “the Man” sells his music to the public.  He is essentially selling weapons against himself, and negative propaganda, but he will do this no matter what values the music preaches as long as he can get rich doing it. And if he doesn’t do it, the next man will.  So really it’s him that’s making the choice, but someone making the choice to release this danger into our society at such a scale is inevitable.  It’s great though that he sells something that he is probably in complete opposition to.  Whether rappers think about it like this or not doesn’t matter, what matters is how their music functions and what philosophy it creates or fits under.  Perhaps it went beyond punk rock in terms of figuring out how to become part of the system and exploit it, rather than completely reject it.

Drug References and Glorification of Drugs in Hip-Hop

Talking about drugs in hip-hop songs has been around since the start of the genre, since drugs were very much a part of more inner city hip-hop artist’s lives.  Although some artists condemn the use and sale of drugs, many and if not most today glorify the drug culture—that of the dealer, and the consumer.  I wondered why this glorification of the drug culture is so prevalent in todays hip-hop.  There are several reasons.


First, hip-hop is listened to in clubs and nightlife venues, where people go to celebrate something.  It is a party atmosphere so naturally people want to hear about drugs and intoxication.  I also think that we live in quite celebratory times, unlike in the past.  We celebrate everything, and celebration is basically necessary.  For example, concerts are usually just celebrations of the band; we have easy access to their often much better versions of the songs than those performed by most bands live, and anyways people don’t usually go to actually listen to the music.  Art openings are just parties too in honor of Art foremost, and somewhere succeeding it, the artist him/herself.  All kinds of organizations hold galas to raise money, which is essentially an exclusive party.  Parties and nightlife is an escape from your daily activities such as work.  The darkness of the club and the night lets you transform into your other self that you don’t show in the daytime, and makes it easier to feel not self-conscious in the dark.  It being after normal work hours which means there is a different set of rules and expectations.  Mostly the rules and professional interaction between people is ideally tossed out the door.   Essentially, nightlife is a creative way to express your real and fantastical/imaginary inner personas.  You leave behind your reality at the door of the club/bar.  This escape from reality parallels the escape that drugs can provide.

Power and Rebellion

It is a metaphor for power and say.  Boasting that you sell a lot of drugs is basically raising your status; you become a person who everyone is in need of because you provide the good product for the party.  Hip hop started and has arguably always been by those and for those who feel unrepresented in their society at large, who’s status is diminished, and whose voice isn’t heard.  When you have drugs, people want to listen to you and it attracts attention.  Boasting about drugs is a call for attention.  The interesting thing about drugs in hip-hop is that philosophically it is about fucking the system.  It is about the poor who have a diminished voice in politics and really everything else, and who want to speak, the political/social system discourages this and the ability to successfully sell drugs is like saying ok if your not going to listen to me ten I’m going to do something you don’t want me to, because I don’t agree with you, and because I can!  Its about revealing the corruption of society, esp considering that people of all financial levels consume drugs, so selling it to white wall st bankers is a way to infiltrate and challenge the system.  And cocaine started as an expensive drug for the elite.  It also reveals the corruption in our society, and draws attention to the impoverished conditions in the inner city.


When a hip-hop artists song that is mostly about drugs and getting high hits number 1 on billboards charts, it in a way creates embarrassment for the leaders of our country, and is sort of a defeat of their beliefs, and in other words a victory of the people who don’t have much of a voice.

Interestingly, graffiti and tagging are too a significant part of the hip-hop way of life, because graffiti is again for the voiceless to express themselves in public, even if it be illegal, and their graffiti attests their existence.  It’s a way to evade and challenge the rules imposed by the more privileged people in power.

The more our society encourages a following of a set system that increasingly get more systematic, predictable, and boring the more we will seek an escape into a reality where these rigid rules and ways of life don’t apply.  This means the more we’ll want to hear about drugs in songs to provide us with a creative escape from mundane life.  We’ll turn into Japanese, except instead of cameras we’ll relish in drugs and drug-references.

What Hip-Hop is About

Hip-hop is as much about what is said as it is and perhaps even more so about the assertion of power and influence, which is why most hip-hop artists boast themselves and their power.  Before these artists can start talking about other things they must first prove to the world that they do in fact matter, and are in fact important. This is the triumph of hip-hop.  And oftentimes I hear people ask what a particular rap or hip-hop song is about and really its not so much about anything other than an expression of existence and importance of the voiceless and unprivileged.   Unfortunately, the success of Hip-Hop could be seen as a double-edged sword especially because it has been around for so long.  Because the influence and ubiquity of hip-hop is no longer questioned after being around for over 30 years.  Now, hip-hop artists have the power; they sort of don’t need to prove it, although many still feel they do and end up molding themselves to a preexisting way of making music, which often results in it being unauthentic.  This is why people are asking if hip hop is dead, and it very well might be on its way down not in terms of ubiquity, but in terms of quality and novelty, except for a few artists. Its like you’ve won the power to say things, but now what?

Why I Like Hip-Hop/Rap

Hip-hop is the most urgent form of expression.  The primal, sometimes brash quality of minimal vocabulary grabs and shakes you calling you to action.  Other styles of music can be urgent too, but they are too sophisticated because of the clutter of complete formal words and grammar, to be as urgent and have that all-inclusive potential for comprehension.  Also, in styles like punk and hard rock the guitar and other instruments plays an equal if not larger role than the lyrics, whereas in rap and hip-hop it mainly serves as the background.  This allows direct verbal communication with the listener so as to eliminate everything beside the message, and language, not music, is the most urgent and comprehensible way to express a thought or idea to a person.  The Hip-hop form also provokes and deals with the two basic motives of/in life: sex/power and death, often being a call or response to those basic elements.  Perhaps in this way it relates to everyone all the time, which could explain its popularity.  In this way it grabs you [by the balls?] and makes you feel alive, now!  It doesn’t exactly tell one what to do, what action to take, at least not in some everyday sense, but it doesn’t need to, and it wouldn’t be beautiful or fitting if it did.

the “Why do You Make Art?” Question

I think it’s so silly when people ask me why I make art or why I made these ink paintings.  Because I made them the same reason an art critic is asking me these questions and the same reason anyone in the world does anything.  If you break down a physical thing you get to protons, neutrons and electrons, and I think they discovered even smaller things.  Likewise, you can break down a person’s motive for self-expression.  And what you end up with are these things.  Survival, sex, and a felling of self-importance.  These are the core elements behind the reason anyone does anything.  Everything someone does relates back to these core things.  Everyone wants to survive, to fuck/bring offspring into the world, and feel powerful/existence whether they are conscious of this or not.  Indeed, that’s WHY I make art: power/sex, and I fear that not making art threatens my survival/existence.  Why I am interested in art is something I would answer differently.  These people should ask why I am interested in art or to tell them ABOUT my art, rather than why I make it.  And I don’t like when someone gives different reasons for making art other than those core things I just mentioned.  And today the problem of survival is virtually solved.  If you work a slightly above minimum wage job then you will survive.  So today in America people really do things for two reasons: Sex and a feeling of importance, which are related.  If I could have sex and feel important all the time, while knowing I have the means to survive, I might not be making art so seriously, or doing anything at all.  Why work when you can afford to just play?