Try so hard

I don’t know if anyone else heard Tru Life on the radio last week after he slapped up Cam in the club, but I did, and it’s been bugging me ever since. Dude sounds so conflicted—so caught between who he’s been and who he wants to become—and I wonder if that’s not part of his appeal. I bet a lot of people can relate. Tru Life seems to represent that battle between growth and self-destruction that so many men in hip-hop struggle with. The street mentality is so insidious, so hard to shake. That voice in your head that tells you that defending your respect trumps all other interests—even safety, even peace of mind, even getting money, even being around to take care of your family—is so hard to drown out. I’m glad Tru is trying, and I like him all the more for it.

Hip-hop is an inherently aspirational culture. It gives poor kids the world over hope. But if artists can’t grow out the state of mind that sees violence as the only solution, what are they really giving youth? If rappers are still brawling and beefing and on edge all the time, well into their thirties, they’re basically just telling kids that it doesn’t matter how much success they get, they’ll never escape the bullshit they grew up around. Which is a downright heartbreaking thought.

On that same note, I spent the last week listening to the new Bone Thugs album and I have to say that I’m seriously feeling it. After months of get-drunk-and-get-freaky club records, Strength & Loyalty is exactly the album I’ve been waiting on—something smooth, mellow and moving. In other words: headphone music. The track that samples Fleetwood Mac is so ill (Rumors is one of my all time favorite albums). But I really can’t stop bumping “I Tried.” Something about that song is so haunting. That struggle to transform your life is one that so many in hip-hop live with every day.

Sometimes it’s a mental thing—letting go of old ideas that don’t work anymore. And sometimes it’s a financial struggle. Often it’s both. I’ve watched so many dudes I care about go through it. I don’t think that people who grew up comfortable have any idea how hard it is to change your life when you don’t have financial resources. You make a wrong turn somewhere and find yourself living a way that fills you with anxiety. You know you need to change, and so you try. But there’s no support net to catch you, nobody in your family that can pitch in for rent or groceries as you find your way, nobody to buy you those dress clothes you need for that job interview. You have to reinvent your life out of nothing, and it’s a gargantuan effort. There’s always that transition period between what you’ve been and what you want to be—a time of weeks or months or years when your back is up against the wall and you feel hopeless and helpless.

I’m guessing most rappers know a little something about that scenario. I’d like to hear more songs about that—and how if you hang on long enough and keep doing the footwork, eventually things change—and less about chains, chicks, and clubs. Cause none of that is worth much if you’re still looking over your shoulder all the time.

  • http://www.myspace.com/chronikill ROXONE

    You really seem more interested in mentoring kids than you do in hip-hop.

    “its hard in the hood and i like the bone thugs album, but mainly its hard in the hood.”

  • The DJ Formerly Known as N-CREDIBLE

    I said the samething in a comment a few days ago. All they are talking about is the problem and not presenting solutions. These youth need more guidance then whats provided by saying “get a education”, “stay in school”, “don’t do drugs”…the problem is that our older generation has turned their backs on us just the way Willie Lynch wanted it…families are broken just the way “the powers that be” want it…we need everyone to pitch in…dont put the weight of the world on the rappers and hip hop…put it on the community and hold every individual responsible for change…old and young…

  • My Effin’ Opinion

    ROXONE Says:

    May 11th, 2007 at 12:22 pm
    You really seem more interested in mentoring kids than you do in hip-hop.

    ^^^^^

    Back in the days, some hip hop _would_ mentor kids and steer them in the right direction. Now-a-days, 95% of Hip Hop doesn’t do shit for them (there is still that 5% that does)

    That’s one of the points in Tara’s blog, that she wishes more “Hip Hopians” would talk about this rather than clubs, rims, etc.

  • J.R.O.

    Nice, Tara. Hip Hop is where the money’s at these days.

    Look at Joell’s album. That’s the best album I heard in a long time. They ripped on it in the magazine. People aren’t caring when they should be… The ignoramuses.

  • http://cajunpeach.typepad.com/ Cajun Peach

    Great post Tara…we’re actually slowly beginning to see alot more of this grown-up rap emerging on the scene. the biggest struggle will be whether or not the kids (who buy a majority of the music)will be willing to listen to it and invest in it. It’s almost like a cycle – most artists will put out what they know is going to sell. If they put out grown-up music and it doesn’t work, they may dumb down the lyrical content for their next release. It will take the strongest artists to not be concerned with this trend. Jay-Z’s last effort was extremely different from his previous relaseas in the fact that it was more responsible and not about chicks, whips and diamonds and such. but the hip hop culture wasn’t feeling it. it also goes hand in hand with society and to piggyback the comments of The DJ Formerly Known as N-CREDIBLE, if parents would begin RAISING their children with morals, values, self-worth, real ways of making money (hard work and investments, networking) it will create a ripple in everything. the more positive and productive energy is pushed out, the more it will reflect in the music. if artists know that kids no longer want to hear the nonsense, they will stop speaking the nonsense…

  • Danny

    Does it happen to anyone else, that when your going to click on the latest blog you click on Paul Walls gay hand because its fuckin overlapping the blog??

    I think this is a promoting strategie for XXL lol.

    If it wasnt for that I would never click on that gay “Audio blog” section….

    Ya dig??

    Oh and this post is fuckin stupid!!

    Tara,

    Tru Life is not confused about his past or being street or not being street. The reason he sounds confused is because he is a fuckin liar!!! he is making up storys he doesnt even believe!!

    If he really struck Cam, then thats assualt and he would be arrested on the spot!! do you think someone would really snitch on them selfs like that? Plus he says there were cops everywhere.

    If there were cops everywhere then once again he would have been………….. ARRESTED!!!

    I have said it b4 and i’ll say it again….

    Tru Life=Plankton from “sponge bob”

    Always trying to fuck with everyone but nobody really cares….

    Ya dig??

  • Fernando

    The only mentoring I see in hip-hop, is teaching the youngsters how to buy D’s when you get a Cadillac, how you have to buy AF 1′s in sets of three because they must be discarded after one wear, how to not snitch even if “a serial killer is next door”, and how everything you do must be geared towards being fly and getting girls.

    Look, everybody wants to be cool. But being fly to the extent of screwing up your future which is basically what a lot of the garbage mainstream rap promotes, is just retarded.

    Deeper messages than “stay in school, dont do drugs, etc.etc.” are definitely needed, but those basic messages need to be handed down in the family environment, not from public figures. And when the schools suck and the family is broken up, negative images in the mainstream become what youngsters listen to.

    To Tara’s point. Negative images in Hip-Hop dont help, but they are definitely not the cause or the solution to societie’ woes in the urban communities, just a bye-product.

  • Nice post

    This album takes backseat in what your looking for to those Seattle boys, check the Blue Scholars new release “Bayani”.

  • rizzop

    Good one hun….Not enough reality rap going around. Even rappers go broke and struggle. Most folks cant relate to these dudes rappin so they dont even bothetr to buy that shit anymore

  • Dr Flav

    E 40 said years ago, “why cant we be broke sometime, I mean its cool to floss, but dont buy an 85,000 dollar car, before you buy a house!” Rappers Ball. We need more common people rap, I remember when it was Carlos Rossi and E & J, Red Lobster and a Caddie, now its gold bottles and Maybachs.

  • http://www.thursdayplantation.blogspot.com lar

    you just have to watch Tru’s segment on Beef 2 to see his conflict over which path to take. Good post Tara.

  • Dip Set City

    I didn’t know Tru Life had any appeal…

  • yaboy

    nice post tara. i wish more of hip hop had some actual thought put into it…

  • http://laminatedlist.blogspot.com The Brooklyn Boy

    I caught this post, checked out that video and have been playing it on a loop. It’s not the first time one of your suggestions has hooked me. Good look, Tara.

    And the rest of the post was on point, too. Between you and the other commenters (dj formerly known as, cajun peach), anything I want to say here has been said.

  • DaTruth

    Good points, I feel like Tru’s conflicted as well and I do think it makes him seem more relatable. I think he’s being himself. Unfortuanately, kids are caught up in the industry bullshit side of music, so an artist can’t be multi-dimensional. He’s a product: the happy rapper, street dude, ladies man, etc. Anytime an artist deviates from the mold, people don’t like it. It’s kind of a catch-22, you wanna leave the street person behind, but you ain’t cakin without the street persona.

  • http://laminatedlist.blogspot.com The Brooklyn Boy

    Tara – I checked out that video, and it’s been on loop since. That’s not the first time one of your suggestions has hooked me. Good look.

    The rest of the post was on point, too. Between your writing and the commmenters (DJ formerly, cajun), everything I wanted to say got said. Do you.

  • mrmartin

    i love when white chicks talk about conflicted cats in hip hop, i.e inner cities, i.e Blacks. I’m sure seeing a Black dude get in trouble is appealing and entertaining to you. You’re probably the type to write a drawn out interview piece with some random inmate with a sob story. yeessh

  • THAT BOY NOAH

    SHHIT I FEEL THAT STRUGGLE. CAUSE THERES DUDES AT WORK THAT I FEEL LIKE WHOOPIN THEIR ASS. BUT I STICK TO THE PLAN AND MAKE IT HAPPEN.

  • Beeyo

    Yay for Tara. We love you Tara.

  • Chanel

    Good points…Don’t really like Bone, but good points.

  • http://brandonsoderberg.blogspot.com brandonsoderberg

    Tara would love the victimization anthem that is ‘I Tried’ wouldn’t she?

  • silly willy

    sure i gotta pick a number, tara. but i think i love you.

  • jeez-he-sux

    DANNY=COMPUTER GEEK THAT HAS NEVER BEEN IN ANY TYPE OF SITUATION IN UR LIFE BUT STILL THINK U HAVE ENOUGH BRAINS TO JUDGE SOMEONE ON THEYRE CONTRADICTIONS….SHIT COZ A DUDE DOESNT SOUND CONVINCING DONT MEAN HES LYING,IT JUST MEANS HE CANT TELL STORIES FOR SHIT…THUS MEANING-LIKES TO WALK THE WALK AND NOT TALK IT!!

  • jeez-he-sux

    TARA U ARE THE TRUTH!!!
    NEVER ON HERE HAVE I READ SOMETHING SO CLOSE TO HOME IN MY LIFE

  • http://www.myspace.com/sinistahmoneybagz Sinistah aka Sin Piff

    Ironic, well Tara heres a video my co-partner Dutchie shot last year titled “I Tried So Hard”.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wTrNIXfUdAw

    ya’ll cut and paste that in ya browsers, its low-budget but fuck it, its not like its the actual DVD quality, and if you want to see the whole video, just click my name and go to his page from my list. (i dont spam links).

    Enjoy!

  • http://www.myspace.com/donnygoines Donny Goines

    You kow something, this is probely one of the best blogs Ive read in a long time. I am glad to hear there are people out there who can relate to the struggle and understand the mindstate of some of us rappers. As good as you think “I Tried” is tho, most people wont gravitate towards that record I bet. Because without the bling, women, and money all over the video people just dont tune in.

    As an artist myself I find it hard to find balance at times, with myself, my music, my direction etc. but I try to share that with the people who listen. Because they desevre to know the truth and the struggle.

    If you ever get a chance I would love for you to listen to some of my music

    http://www.myspace.com/donnygoines

    You are the kind of person I really try too reach with it. Much love and God Bless

  • Danny

    jeez-he-sux Says:

    May 12th, 2007 at 11:01 am
    DANNY=COMPUTER GEEK THAT HAS NEVER BEEN IN ANY TYPE OF SITUATION IN UR LIFE BUT STILL THINK U HAVE ENOUGH BRAINS TO JUDGE SOMEONE ON THEYRE CONTRADICTIONS….SHIT COZ A DUDE DOESNT SOUND CONVINCING DONT MEAN HES LYING,IT JUST MEANS HE CANT TELL STORIES FOR SHIT…THUS MEANING-LIKES TO WALK THE WALK AND NOT TALK IT!!

    ^^^^
    And your just a gullabale dumb fuck who beleives everything he hears…

    Ya dig?

  • Domjel

    I bought Bone on the strength. Thanks Tara.

  • http://poisonousparagraphs.blogspot.com/ Dart_Adams

    God bless you for being the voice of reason and the conscience of the XXL blogs. Keep on doin’ ya thing. One.

  • hannah smith

    “Tru Life seems to represent that battle between growth and self-destruction that so many men in hip-hop struggle with.”

    Er, no, Tru Life seems to represent meat-heads.

  • VLR08

    Good post ma, keep it up…..

  • http://www.myspace.com/sinistahmoneybagz Sinistah aka Sin Piff

    After The Roots “What We Do Video”

    i learned not to even give 2 fucks about a rappers image, and this was when the music quality was actually worth listening to about 98% of the time.

    So to have a bunch of albumless niggaz with questionable song quality, run around and act retarded for recognition is beyond my interest. And i got respect for Tru-Life and his “Banger-Ban” because promoting that “banger” lifestyle is something that you just shouldn’t put out there to the general public, especially when the Hip-Hop game is geared from pre-teen kids on up the ladder, moreso brainwashing the young who know no better. Nowadays children learn rap songs faster than basic scholastics, and thats probably because the rhyme content is equivalent to two kids chatting on the Yellow Monster (yellow school bus).

    But Tru’s mission of ridding NYC of the Dips alleged “fakeness” has vastly overshadowed his musical output, or if i’m da one under a rock, his lack of credible tracks. Mixtapes are cool, but the last thing that would be on my mind with a Jay/L.A. Reid co-signing/investment is making a mixtape, every penny and spare chance i’d get would be towards showin not only my bosses, but the doubters and haters, why i got the $$$$/machine invested in me and my project in the first place.

    Sure all the punchin dudes in the face is great media, but see the thing is, not only is the reckless shit counter-productive for him bizness-wise, with all these puppet ass “outsiders” takin lil pop-shots at hip-hop as of late, it makes alot of the blind and generic stereotypes of the culture seem valid.

  • JOJO

    yeah that new Bone album is HOT!!!!!!… cop that 4 real

  • Horus

    Respect is an illusion for Black men. One must CONTROL one’s SELF and resources to have RESPECT.

  • Static

    I must say that it was extremely refreshing to read this post by Tara. A lot of artists do seem to struggle when it comes to personal growth and it’s all because of record sales. The kids these days aren’t checking for anything intellectual or uplifting. It’s all about rims,whips,girls,clubs and coke! The vast majority of hip-hop is nothing but garbage. I’m 30 years old and hip-hop to me is standing in the stairwell somewhere, puffing on a blunt with your boys. Being part of the cipher even if you can’t rhyme well. That’s hip-hop! Hip-hop is not standing in the club drinking hypnotic and listening to Yung Joc and company. Corporate America has taken over and hip-hop will never be what it once was. It’s a shame.

  • outya’self

    i feel like dat ere’day and there really is no solution except self awareness; half these kids in the hood get so caught up in tryin’ to be what these rappers claim they forget who they are and what reality is.

  • http://www.youheardthatnew.com Nile

    Great posts Tara…especially about certain people not growing up in that type of enviornment. You crossed every T and dotted every I….Keep it going baby girl!

  • Moe Real

    I think you got spun by Tru Life – which is kind of sad. He is just trying to position himself for mainstream appeal, slapping people but preaching the good life. How pathetic. He is what’s wrong with hip hop.

  • DaTruth

    ^^^^

    And the Dips are what’s right? GFOH!

  • willcom

    wait… mixtape beef rapper w/ ponytails (tru life) has appeal?

  • http://plusgigs.com/ google+ hangouts

    lUZ2ZB I really like and appreciate your blog post.Really looking forward to read more. Really Great.