Thursday, November 20, 2003

Gangsta Rap – Authenticity or Depravity?

Those of us in the "flyover" region of the Midwest were treated to a spectacle yesterday that clearly illustrates how sick our "culture" (and I use this word in the broadest possible sense) has become. Dennis Greene was convicted of murdering his 28 year-old wife, Tara by a Kenton County (KY) jury. Greene was sentenced to life in prison for nearly decapitating the schoolteacher and mother of their seven-year old son, Chi'An who witnessed the murder.

This alone is heinous enough, but there seems to be no depths our criminal underclass today will not explore. After his savage crime, Greene fled to his hometown of Chicago to evade authorities. In the spirit of our narcissistic times, Greene shot a "rap video" where he boasted of "killin' da bitch" and "cut her neck with a sword". A much-edited version was released last night on the evening news. Notwithstanding Mr. Greene's nearly Shakespearean lyrics, we also were allowed to watch him smoke a joint, dance, and wave his arms in the infantile manner so germane to this particular genre of "music".

His attorneys attempted to prove he acted under extreme emotional disturbance, which would have dropped the charge to first-degree manslaughter and his sentence to 10 to 20 years. But the jury of eight women and four men didn't buy that argument. Apparently, they had trouble with the "authenticity" of Greene's "urban" experience and decided that life in prison might be in the best interest of everyone, including Greene's young son.

Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of this tragedy is that it should not serve as a deterrent in Mr. Greene's pursuit of a music career.

If you should think this is far-fetched, think again; the November 17th issue of Advertising Age, a trade magazine in the marketing and advertising fields, recently honored "The Ad Age Marketing 50, 2003: The Top Brand Success Stories Of The Year" where "Since 1992 the editors of Advertising Age have identified and profiled a select group of marketers whose vision, drive and innovation are major milestones of the year's brand success stories."

One of those honored was Steve Berman, senior executive - marketing and sales, Interscope, Geffen, and A&M Records. If you are not familiar with Mr. Berman, he is the man largely responsible for inflicting the model citizen known as "50 Cent" on the listening public:

"'He had done so much to heat up the streets,' says Mr. Berman, one of the architects of 50 Cent's ascent. 'He was well on his way.'

[Berman] says the meteoric rise of 50 Cent began with authenticity. 50 Cent has it: rap sheet, former second-generation drug dealer and multiple gunshot survivor (nine times at last count). He also helped to build his own buzz before he'd ever put out a record, by circulating his mix tapes and working the hip-hop circuit as his own goodwill ambassador."

Even the writers at Advertising Age join Mr. Berman in taking every opportunity to employ the argot of guttersnipes and illiterates in their praise of his marketing coup:

"You can buy advertising, but you can't buy street cred."

While I am still trying to process the cognitive dissidence of trying to imagine 50 Cent as a "goodwill ambassador" it has become plainly evident that there is no depth our consumerist culture will not plumb in order to make a buck. Or is there?

Take the case of a particularly noxious little miscreant who styles himself "X-Raided" and has managed to produce several albums of his thuggish art, all but the first from his prison cell where he is currently serving a 37 year sentence without possibility of parole for the cold-blooded murder of a middle-aged working woman who was unfortunate to have a son who was one of "X-Raided's" gang rivals.

His second album was recorded over the telephone from his current residence at a California correctional facility. Still, this hardly curbs the enthusiasm of his fans and critics:

"If you're a fan of hardcore/gangster rap and want to hear some true heartfelt music... pick up Unforgiven! Possibly the best rap CD of 1999!"
"Now this is one rapper who hasn't recieved (sic) the props he deserves. X-Raided is the siccest rapper on the West Coast since Pac. He keeps it real, that's why he don't get no radio play. The man's in the pen, steady thuggin, puttin it down for that G life."

Heartfelt music? And where does one go to buy the works of this Cole Porter of the penal circuit? Why, of course! And, I suppose any other major record chain in the United States. It would appear there is gold in murder and mayhem; capitalism in its finest hour.

My opinions here will certainly be rebutted with the tired old saw that I am a middle-aged, white male (the source of all evil in the upside-down multiculti world) and that I simply "don't get it." It will surely be remarked that my assessment of Tupac Shakur's "poetry" is unduly harsh and Eurocentric in focus because I believe it could only held up as poetry to a profoundly retarded six-year old.

But, think before you answer. (I know this will be particularly difficult for those of you who make a habit of listening to this aural sludge, so take your time.)

The point is that I do get it. Working as a reporter, I have seen the victims of assault, rape and murder and have seen their loved ones who survived them. Only the most depraved among us could possibly glory in the devastation left behind. Membership in the human race is certainly questionable when one profits from the misery and degradation of others.

With that said, I have no doubt that Mr. Greene's future is assured. He certainly has the "creds" now. I ask only one thing of you when you purchase his first "breakthrough" CD with all its "authenticity" and "urban" grittiness, please think of seven-year-old Chi'An Greene watching his mother being slit from ear to ear.


Post a Comment

<< Home