It’s not necessarily my intention to side with Jim Jones in this beef he’s trying to initiate with T.I. I’m just saying. The guy might have a point.
If we’re gonna define swagger as something that’s actually meaningful, in the sense that it’s something you can’t just buy, if you’ve got a lot of money, I don’t know if you can say T.I.’s got a whole lot in the way of swagger.
Allow me to explain.
The difference between a guy like T.I. and a guy like Jim Jones is that T.I. is actually a fairly talented rapper. But who gives a shit if a guy can rap? Probably not very many people in T.I.’s target audience, i.e southerners, young kids, girls, and what have you.
Hence, the new T.I. comes loaded down with songs with Rihanna singing the chorus, songs produced by the guy who ghost produces a lot of Timbaland’s stuff, songs where he brags to girls about how much money he’s willing to spend on them, and so on and so forth.
He pays people to add fruitiness to his music so that people might actually buy it. To me, that’s the opposite of swagger. Swagger to me would be creating something that’s a true reflection of who you are, and having people buy it because they recognize something innate in your being that they find to be worthwhile.
T.I. doesn’t really have swagger. He’s just got a huge budget from the major labels, i.e. the Bush Administration of the entertainment industry, and a country full of people who don’t know any better.
In that sense, he’s got a lot in common with his idol, Jay-Z, the guy who introduced the term swagger to hip-hop, as if it didn’t already exist, along with crap like button down shirts (which he calls button up shirts, because he’s from the projects), and numerous other unfortunate trends over the years.
A man with a mind so warped by consumerism, he once did a song about how his world view is different now that he’s nearing middle age, and it basically consisted of a list of the different features of his watch, and his car, and his stock portfolio and what have you.
Jay-Z might be the ultimate example of a rapper whose entire life is defined by the things that he owns. Yeah, he raps about how, if skills told, he’d kick more knowledge, and about how, if you were from the projects, you’d be celebrating the minute you had money. But you get the idea he just says that because he’s embarrassed about how empty he is on the inside.
He’s not avoiding doing anything worthwhile because he’s waiting until he’s got enough money to take that kind of risk. He’s avoiding doing anything worthwhile because he’s fucking sick in the head.
And that’s where the term swagger, as put forth by the likes of T.I. and Jay-Z, comes from – the idea that, if you can make enough money, usually by finding various ways to subjugate you manliness and degrade your culture, you can reach a point at which your wealth becomes your identity.
T.I. can say he’s got the most swagger in hip-hop, and most people will go right along with it. Whereas, if I made such a claim, people would be like, “What the fuck are you talking about? You live in your mom’s basement.” When the truth of the matter is that neither of us has the most swagger in hip-hop.
Say what you will about Jim Jones, but he actually does seem to possess a certain degree of personal charisma, which he uses to cover up for the fact that he isn’t particularly good at… like, anything. He’s got swagger, in the actual dictionary sense of the term.
That’s why he was able to prevail, to the extent that he did, in his beef with Jay-Z a couple of years ago. Jay-Z, who’s a far superior rapper to Jim Jones, tried to face off with Jim Jones in a silly swagger contest, and he lost. Because he doesn’t have swagger in any way that’s really authentic.
If T.I. makes the same mistake, I wouldn’t be surprised if he suffers a similar fate.