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Fake Gangsters: Why Do Rappers Have To Pretend To Be Thugs To Sell Records?

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Fake Gangsters: Why Do Rappers Have To Pretend To Be Thugs To Sell Records?

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Do we put pressure on rappers to portray the thug image in exchange for success?

By: Amanda Anderson

Oh, the controversial world of Rap music. Artists may come and go with each new decade, but the authenticity of music rarely ever changes. Sure, it is totally understandable that an artist needs a certain image to succeed in the tough music business, but just how far should artists be willing to go to sell records? Most rappers nowadays rap about the gang life, drugs, and violence; but most of these artists don’t have much personal experience in any of these areas. It makes you wonder if it really takes a false image to sell at a time when people rarely buy albums.

While most of us have enough intelligence to know that most artists aren’t who they say they are, none of us can deny how hilarious it is when they are exposed. When Rick Ross first entered the Rap game, he labeled himself as “The Boss.” Most of his lyrics revolved around his “experience” as a drug dealer, and he made it known that he was no stranger to the thug life.

The rapper may have found much success initially with the drug dealer image, but it wasn’t too long before he was exposed for the real life he had before launching his rap career. Rapper 50 Cent exposed Rick Ross’ true past as a Correctional Officer during a recent feud between the two artists. While the Hip Hop world may have been shocked initially by the rapper’s true past, none of us can be quite sure that Rick Ross would have embarked on the same amount of success if he was honest about who he really was.

In the earlier days of Hip Hop and Rap, artists were diverse when it came to their messages. There were the original gangster rappers like Bone-Thugz-And Harmony, the Notorious B.I.G. and Ice T. They were controversial in their lyrics, but other artists took different approaches to their music. In contrast, rappers such as Public Enemy and NWA were known for their strong and influential political messages. The deeper messages provided by these artists did not in any shape or form prevent them from reaching much success in the business.

Today, most rappers are cut from the same cloth. They all rap about the drug game, thug life, and violence that most of them have never truly experienced first hand. Lil’ Wayne is one of the hottest rappers out right now, but most people don’t know that he made straight A’s in college. As the youngest artist on Cash Money Records in the beginning of his career, rap kept him out of the danger that the projects of New Orleans is notoriously known for. Wayne isn’t much of a thug, but his lyrics continuously suggest otherwise. Lil’ Wayne is no fool, he just knows who he has to appear to be to sell millions of records. And so far, the formula has worked well for his career.

And this is one of the reasons we have to ask ourselves why we as a people don’t allow artists to be who they truly are. Do we just really love violence and the gangster life or have we gotten to the point where we require all of our artists to project the same image? Whatever it is, it really forces us to take a long look at ourselves to figure out our obsession for a lifestyle that should no longer be glorified in the black community. In a time when black violence is happening at a rate way beyond understanding, maybe it is time we move past a genre of music that glamorizes a lifestyle that is truly killing us.

Amanda is a TV junkie with a passion for all things reality television. She's from Decatur, GA.

8 Comments

  1. Anonymous

    May 1, 2010 at 12:06 am

    It's pretty pathetic that we want rappers to come from the same mold. They all rap about the same things like guns, drugs, violence, etc. but as soon as someone unique comes a long we don't feel like their album is worth buying. So we can't get mad when they play the role and get busted for it. This is why I no longer listen to rap. But I will say B.O.B. and Drake may make me reconsider.

  2. Matthew

    August 26, 2010 at 10:40 pm

    I can't believe i just read an article on gangster with drake in it no fucking rapper is a gangster otherwise they would be in adx florence or pelican bay shu or something and you would only hear their rhymes over a recording big meech gangster i say no more

  3. Anonymous

    July 25, 2011 at 12:32 pm

    B.s. We don't make them do anything. The ones that are fake, that are willing to sell their soul for the money, cars, jewelry, and hoes, know exactly what they're doing. The ones that keep it real don't get any exposure in the media. Even someone like Ice Cube, who strangely enough is very famous, but yet he puts out a video and is only seen on 106 And Park for like maybe a week. Actually, not even a whole week. But yet so many wack videos from these fake rappers get constantly played on 106 And Park, and sometimes for many weeks. The problem is much bigger than what was written on this article. Its just too bad that you didn't mentioned those responsible for giving these frauds record deals. And the real reason why they do it. It has more to do than with just making money. And that is the reason why all the new real Hip-Hop talent is in the underground. They won't sign these rappers unless they are willing to sellout and be told what to do and say. Another thing, could you please recognize the difference between real Hip-Hop artists and Pop-Rap acts. The rap music that people like us grew up listening to back in the days was real Hip-Hop music done by real Hip-Hop rappers. The mainstream water down commercial bubblegum nonsense that the media is passing for Hip-Hop now at days is all just Pop music. Where the "artists" instead of singing, they rap to some club music Pop beat. Just because someone raps that does not make them a Hip-Hop artist, or a rapper for that matter. Do you remember back in the days, those music groups like C & C Music Factory that would have someone rapping in their Pop songs? And what about the lead singer of System Of A Down. Or the guy from Korn? Are they both rappers because they have rapped on some of their songs? Is Fred Durst also a rapper? That's all I'm saying. And thank you for doing this article. _James From Miami

  4. Amanda

    July 25, 2011 at 1:03 pm

    @ Anon/James From MiamiI think you somewhat missed the whole point of the article…well actually I'm quite sure you did.Firstly, I wrote this article over a year ago, and the purpose behind it was to make people question WHY they support gangster rap music. You see, we aren't the blame everything on the white man kind of website, so we tend to write articles that force people to consider personal responsibility, or their role in the struggles of the black community. YES, we the audience have some fault in all of this as WE ARE THE ONES WHO CONTINUOUSLY SUPPORT these kinds of artists. Music executives have responsibility, but they are all about pushing out the images that will sell. And not only are these images selling, but they are influencing an entire generation of black children that killing each other, and becoming "thugs" is more important than going to college. And if you read more of my articles, you'd know that I know oh too well the difference between Hip Hop and Rap. But sir, that was NOT the point of the article. But hey, I even stated that those artists were HIP-HOP…guess you missed it?I feel somewhat of what you're saying about artists having to conform for success, but we determine success when we buy music and go to concerts. No one held a gun to these young dudes' heads, they sold out because they knew that's mostly what WE support. That's why underground artists don't eat.Maybe if we stop supporting this kind of music, they wouldn't be Rick Rossin' when they used to be correctional officers.And that my good sir was the point of the article. Personal responsibility does a community good.God bless.

  5. Anonymous

    October 30, 2011 at 2:09 am

    I can I agree 100% with the writer of the article. It's just too bad how many people don't say anything about alot of these rappers who potray this image. I'm from New Orleans and in no way do I support or condone a "Gangsta" life, but we don't have "Crips" or "Bloods" but yet you hear Lil Wayne and Birdman pledge their alligiance to something they did not grow up around and probably know nothing about, and yet people from all over eat it up. It's nothing wrong with telling your story whomever you are or whatever background you came from, but whenever you feel you have to make music that advocates violence, drugs, and murder, you are doing nothing but promoting negativity and perpetuating more ignorance. At the same time, I can respect anyone who pursues their dreams and takes a legitimate way out rather than contiue down a destructive lifestyle, but it comes a time when you have to be responsible to what you say and do and what type of impact your lyrics are going to have on people who look up to you. "Your art should always imitate life."

  6. ry

    October 2, 2012 at 6:22 pm

    99.4% of rappers are full of sh-t.

    nas grew up with an jazz artist as a dad. biggy’s mom was lower middle class. kanye grew up middle class, mom was a college teacher. bone thugs and harmony are slightly full of sh-t too, and ALLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL of their songs (and everyone else\’s) are the same crap over and over.

    sh-t even outkast, which is pretty low key compared, still says the same crap in some of their songs.

    eminem was different, and he did grow up poor, but his life wasn’t any harder than mine to be honest.

    most of these retards aren’t even tough enough or smart enough to actually sling dope, and if they had, and then wrapped about, im pretty sure that would catch the fed’s eyes in some sorta rico act or w/e.

    tu pac had a fairly rough start, but he went to catholic school, and was in the poet’s society literally.

    atleast mathers raps about SOME elements of his actual LIFE. most of these retards ( and i love nas btw b/c of his lyrics) LIE out their A–. 4-matics? lmfao. i doubt any of these monkeys have even TOUCHED a gun until they actually HAD success. and even then it’s for protection most likely, and stupid at that.

    i could go on and on, a guy like talib kwali or common has SOME decent things to say, but more likely than not rap by itself sucks.

    listen to juicy by biggy, and you’ll realize how PATHETIC of a lie he tells. he never went “hungry” and his mom even said so.

    jay-z MIGHT have sold something on the side for A SMALL time (is there even proof?), but most likely these are just highschool dropouts who try and act like something they’re not.

    you should listen to michael franti. he’s not hip hop but he has POSITIVE things to say. i dont think there’s a single rapper out there that’s honest AND intelligent, either it’s retarded and honest, but most likely just semi-intelligent and BULLCRAP.

    i LOVE illmatic, but nas is full of SH-T. rza with wu tang is an intelligent guy, but that group is PROPOSTEROUS with some of the crap they say.

    gimme bob marley all day everyday instead of this bullsh-t lmfao.

  7. ry

    October 2, 2012 at 6:24 pm

    oh and dont get me started on that moron “50 cent”. WORST RAPPER EVER. yea he probably slung some dope back in the day AND HE ALMOST DIED FOR IT. now he cant even go back to l.a., and he probably lives in fear for his life.

    so the ONE guy out of FEW that might have actually lived that life, is a HORRIBLE rapper, AND he almost died AND there’s been a hit out on him for YEARS, which is why he’d held up in fu-kin connectict.

  8. Jew-Breaker

    November 26, 2012 at 2:08 pm

    Jews own record labels, Jews own private prisons. Jews own the rap radio stations, jews own the rap magazines.
    They are incidentally racial supremacists, something they were able to successfull pin on whitey as being, incidentally.
    Oh yeah and jews also formed and still run the NAACP.
    Tell when the dots start connecting for you. And if you’re having a knee jerk response to the contrary, ask your self where you got that opinion from

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