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.