Rap is Dead

I can’t exactly recall how I got that Nelly song about those puerile teeth coverings made of hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of precious metals and gemstones got stuck in my head. I’m fairly certain I don’t want to know because if it was the result of some direct action by another human I might be forced to hunt them down and pummel them around the head, neck, chest and shoulder region. I’ll assume it was an annoymous car stereo that was playing at a reasonable volume and just happened to penetrate my rolled-up windows and blaring music of quality at a stop light during a moment of intermission zen between Rush’s “2112” and The Replacements’ “Unsatisfied.” It makes the world safer that way, trust me.

I don’t want to be accused of painting too broad of strokes but I don’t find a lot of use in my life for jewlery of any kind. I wear a wedding band of simple metals and minimalist design and that’s it. I suppose I could be persuaded to wear a watch on occasion but my wife has presented me with roughly 47 watches—many of which were nice/expensive and I wore them each for about a week and a half before I realized that wearing timekeeping devices set an expectation for promptness that I just was not comfortable with.

To a small degree I accept men who wear necklaces as reasonably harmless as well, so long as they remain consistent with the rest of their accoutrements (shell-bead necklaces and power ties don’t match, nor does a thick silver cuban chain with a polo shirt) and aren’t worn to excess. Earrings are fine, but stretchy earlobes are just gross. Anything else is cause for suspicion: Bracelets, bands, extra rings, facial peircings, and anything that is large enough to be considered “bling.”

And other than wedding bands and watches I have to question the necessity of anything else. They serve no purpose. I suppose there is no harm in a hemp necklace purchased in Hawaii or a leather wrist cuff since they are cheap and purposeless, but expensive jewelery on a guy? I don’t even understand spending a lot of money on jewelery for girls who may actively demand that they receive pointlessly pricey rocks and human tinsel. Why would any guy buy an expensive fashion accessory?

To then take that question and try to comprehend the idea behind making teeth covers of supposed high value is like trying to make scientific and rational sense of the plot of the Back to the Future trilogy. One can reasonably assume that covering ones teeth with jeweled mouthguards requires said item to be placed in ones mouth. Once there it will necessarily be covered with saliva and hidden, unless unfortunately disfigured by some tragic accident, by ones lips.

To summarize, these “Grillz:”

  • Are expensive jewlery.
  • Designed to go in one’s mouth.
  • To be covered with spit.
  • Hidden by lips.
  • Unless one makes a comical facial expression in order to reveal them.

It was in thinking about all of this that I realized unequivocably that Rap is Dead.

If that is a shocking statement (and it was for me at first), I should tell you that we should have seen it coming. I mean, the warning post was set right there in front of us in 1998 and we missed it. In retrospect it was clearly obvious.

The end of Rap was heralded by Jay-Z’s sampling of the song—nay the Show Tune—”Hard Knock Life” from the broadway production of Annie.

I’ll let that sink in for a moment.


Little orphan Annie.

You will note that the play also contains the song “(The Sun Will Come Out) Tomorrow,” a contender for the schmaltziest, most saccharine song ever written. And Jay-Z chooses this pop culture divide between his thug life image and uplifting children’s tale as a chasm he’d like to cross. And people liked it. It was a legitimate hit for Mr. Z.

I want to make sure my point is clear here: It is not okay to try and repurpose anything related to or even in the same spiritual meme as Annie with growin’ up on the mean streets of Compton. Word. It simply cannot be done; not with irony, not straight, not even in satirical contexts. It just doesn’t work.

It’s not like Jay-Z decided to try and use the phrase “Hard Knock Life” as a description of what it was like to live as a gangsta. Nope. He sampled the chorus. With the original cast recording using children’s voices. And he raps about violence and struggles in the verses, again with no irony. Observe a snippet of lyrics:

Sleeping on foutons and cots, the king size, dream machines, the green fives
I’ve seen pies let the thing between my eyes analyze life’s ills
Then I put it down tight grill
I’m tight grill with the phony rappers you might feel we homeys
I’m like still you don’t know me,
I’m tight grill when my situation ain’t improving
I’m trying to murder everything moving, Feel Me!!

Trying to murder everything moving? How do you find time to listen to the Annie soundtrack, then Jay? How do you find the time? So no, I don’t “Feel” you. Sorry. Maybe those adorable little abused and neglected children feel you? You seem to feel you have much in common with them. I’m thinking suddenly that the parallels between the black urban experience dealing with the police and oppression can be plainly seen in the interaction between the lovable rascals that are the orphans and Miss Hannigan. The juxtaposition is simply chilling.

So I really shouldn’t be surprised that Nelly is rapping about obscenely priced tooth covers and other artists have resorted to singing about dancing whilst wearing clown make-up and fabricating words to describe this revolutionary activity; it’s clear that rap ran out of stuff to talk about eight years ago. I’m just surprised it took me this long to realize that rap had succumbed to the same fate as rock n’ roll, but then again, I’m not really hip with the scene.

But if rap is ready to start branching into more of this kind of territory, what with the clowns and funny teeth masks and Broadway shows, I’d love to see a DMX/Sound of Music/Ringling Brothers mashup. I’m thinking “So Long, Clown, Farewell (Popped a Cap).” It’ll be brilliant.

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