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Not a rapper, just a hustler that can rap good

Yesterday Coolfer posted a look at Soundscan numbers for recent hip-hop releases. Needless to say, things are bleak this year, and will probably remain so even if the much anticipated blockbuster fourth quarter pans out. With the exception of a handful of albums, rap sucked this year. And it didn’t sell. I have an idea why. One of the c-boys over at Coolfer had the same idea: “These rappers are hustlers in the truest sense, they have no respect for the buyer, just like crack dealers.”

I wrote about this a few months ago in my column at Pound Magazine. I think 2006 will be remembered as the year that The Hustler trumped The MC as the prevailing icon of the culture. The year that rappers became so busy trying to be entrepreneurs and pitchmen and Hollywood actors that they didn’t have the time or the inclination to make dope music anymore. The year that being a rap artist—someone who sincerely aspires to spit mind-blowing rhymes—became, well, kinda corny. The year all your favorite rap stars started adamantly denying they were rappers.

Where, exactly, does that leave rap fans? If it’s corny to make rap music, is it corny to listen to it too?

I have nothing against hustlers per say. There’s always been hustlers in hip-hop, and a good lot of them have managed to make hot music. The problem with so many of the hip-hop hustlers today is that hustling is their sole focus, their primary purpose, their reason to be. That and the fact that they’re often peddling bullshit products. Their goal is to charm you with their slick persona/sexy swagger/dramatic backstory/titillating beefs—and then get you to shell out for a mediocre album, or some ugly sneakers (word to Ice Cream), or a weird energy drink. In some places, guys like that are called con artists. And nobody wants to feel like they’ve been conned.

Which is how you’ll feel if you pick up about 70% of the rap releases this year.

I wonder if this whole dynamic hasn’t contributed to Game’s success. [1] Game is many things—emotional, erratic, stunningly self-destructive. But he’s not too cool to adore hip-hop music. He makes it very, very clear that he wants to be a rapper. He loves everything about it. He loves being part of the culture, he loves listening to other rappers’ music, he even loves buying their CDs.

But most of all, he just seems to love recording rap. And so he makes it good. In turn, we love listening to it. And so we buy his records.

It seems so simple, doesn’t it?


[1] That’s right, I’m cosigning Kalefa Sanneh at the New York Times and, um, Bol. It’s true. Doctor’s Advocate is the best hip-hop album out this year. So far.

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