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Chains hang low, keys still open doors

September 29, 2009

tpain-chain-410x307Hey Common! Step up your internet game.

The past few days, hip-hop Tweeters have been debating the latest public statement from Common, made to CNN:

On Saturday, Common said he is already seeing signs that Obama is making a mark on a musical genre often vilified because of its focus on drugs, violence and the degradation of women.

“I also don’t find as much gangsta talk,” he said. “You see the whole chain-shining-and-rim era is gone. That’s like super-played out. Just to have that, I think, is part of the Obama effect.”

Common’s got a weird place in the hip-hop canon. He’s one of the few rappers that can seemingly get away with being semi-preachy, has a decently successful acting career and has managed to clamber onto the B-list without damaging his rap cred. It looks like he’s able to straddle both worlds.

But when he says stuff like this (key words: wishy-washy, “inspiring,” Obama-related) it doesn’t only serve to prove how far Common is moving from the Oh No set toward Oprah and affiliates, it reduces rappers to uncritical, single-minded Obama-drones. How exactly has Obama contributed to the “playing out” of chains and rims? Is this “successful black man” syndrome on hyperdrive? And, is Gucci Mane exempt from Common’s analysis? Because going off the Atlanta rapper’s pro-fuckin’-lific output (and, uh, his name) it doesn’t seem like hip-hop has vanquished vulgarity and/or brandism at all.

I’m not saying hip-hop hasn’t changed. It has. I’ll confess to a penchant for gully-ass street rappers of the baggy-jeans-and-Timbs variety and having to come to terms with the fact that The New Rap is a more plebian version of the jiggy era: obnoxious chains have (mostly, with the exception of homie above) been replaced with overly extensive sneaker collections, a bougie-like appreciation of fine liquers and spirits, and the inclusion of non-traditional (but still ridiculously buxom) bitches. In other words, the materialistic, overtly ‘gangsta’ references to chains and rims have been replaced by analogies that tout accessibility.

So maybe Common is making a link to recession-friendly rap during a recession. But the widening of rap’s pro-capitalism reach was in play long before Obama came into power and, if anything, it’s more insiduous than the shit the Taking Rap Literally task force outlaws. Because, realistically not everyone can buy a chain, but they sure as hell can collect a closet full of Air Force Ones.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. Simon permalink*
    September 29, 2009 11:43 pm

    Wouldn’t Eminem be the rap equivalent of Obama?

    Did I just blow your mind?

  2. September 30, 2009 12:56 am

    Yeah, I think the “Obama effect” is confined to Jay-Z, and Common’s friends (though his peoples were like that already before Obama took office — is it just that these rappers seem more famous nowadays?). Granted, that’s probably the only hip-hop he listens to.

    And boy, I’m glad I wasn’t high when I read Simon’s comment.

  3. Anupa permalink*
    September 30, 2009 11:44 am


    The comment just really bothered me. I hate seeing once ridiculously ill rappers being reduced to simplistic, stereotypical fucking quote machines. Don’t you think Common could say so much more about the state of hip-hop than that? He’s become such a simp.

  4. October 1, 2009 2:34 am

    I don’t know If I said it already but …Hey good stuff…keep up the good work! 🙂 I read a lot of blogs on a daily basis and for the most part, people lack substance but, I just wanted to make a quick comment to say I’m glad I found your blog. Thanks,)

    A definite great read..Jim Bean


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