o-dub on coke rap

deejdeej 5,129 PostsClassic
edited April 2016 in Music Talk
or crack rap or whatever

Cocaine rap continues to resonate

By Oliver Wang

MEDIA NEWS CORRESPONDENT

Cocaine and hip-hop share a long history, but over the last few years, there's been a surge in coke-themed songs and artists -- aka crack rap.The roots of this fad date back to 2002, with the critical and commercial success of both Scarface's "The Fix" and especially the Clipse's "Lord Willin.'" While Scarface spoke mostly on the necessary evils of drug dealing, the Clipse's Pusha T and Malice gleefully glorified hustling as the way into wealth rather than path out of poverty. Their songs were cartoonishly outrageous, even by Tony Montana-standards, as they co-opted children's rhymes into coke boasts and dropped punch lines about yayo-smuggling grandmothers.Four years later and the genre shows little sign of decline.

Bay Area rapper E-40 started off 2006 with his ode to blow, "White Gurl." Then a parade of mixtapes like Juelz Santana and Lil Wayne's "I Can't Feel My Face" kept things frosty until the last few weeks where Jay-Z's "Kingdom Come," the Clipse's "Hell Hath No Fury" and Young Jeezy's "The Inspiration: Thug Motivation 102" promise that talk of snow this winter won't necessarily be about the weather.One of the more fascinating outcomes of crack rap's bubbling rise is in its impact on how artists position themselves through a new paradigm of authenticity.Rappers used to rap about rapping. Parochial as it sounds, for at least 15 years, this was good enough to turn lyricists such as Rakim and KRS-One into legends. However, in a slow and steady shift that began with pioneering gangsta rappers like Schoolly D and Eazy-E and then found its apotheosis in Biggie and Jay-Z, being a good rapper was no longer enough to be a good rapper.To wit: On Jay-Z's 1997 "In My Lifetime, Vol. 1," he opens with this intro: "I ain't no rapper, I'm a hustler. Just so happens I know how to rap." Subtle as it may seem, Jay exemplified a new narrative arc for the king emcee -- from ruler of the crack game to the rap game.Even on "Kingdom Come," his ninth album and first since "retiring" three years ago, Jay is repeating the same message: "I'm just a hustler/disguised as a rapper/in fact you can't fit this hustle/inside of a wrapper." At the core of Jay's boasting is how's he's gone from cooking up crack hits to cranking out rap hits, but even if the background's changed, the hustle remains the same.

Today's cocaine rappers manage to take that even a step further: They never left the kitchen to begin with.It's a point made visually on the cover of the Clipse's "Hell Hath No Fury," where Pusha and Malice stand next to a gas-range oven. As they insist on "Keys Open Doors" (they're not talking about Schlage), they've earned enough off coke that they "ain't spent one rap dollar in three years, holla." It's a remarkable and utterly illogical pose: Rappers are rapping about not being rappers, yet there's an odd appeal in listening to artists promote their craft by negating it. Only in hip-hop.It has not escaped notice that for all the pleasure in celebrating the hustler's credo, the subgenre is, well, amoral, not to mention divorced from reality. Few street dealers ever made fortunes off cocaine -- the profits blew up the chain to the cartels -- and in any case, cocaine and crack use (and related violence) have fallen precipitously since the mid-1990s.It's tempting to read crack rap as a form of imagined nostalgia. Most of these rappers would've been too young to remember the height of the crack epidemic in the '80s, yet this may be what makes it easier to romanticize the trade and gloss over its deleterious impact.However, what's being promoted isn't nihilism, despite appearances otherwise: It's crack as a metaphor for power. Drugs are deeply symbolic in our culture -- not just in hip-hop but American pop life -- of escape, pleasure, obsession and despair.

For a young cadre of rappers trying to one-up their peers, coke has resonated as their signifier for mastery and control.If hip-hop respects nothing else, it's the idea that simple things can move minds and bodies, whether that power is found in a gun trigger, a raised fist, a mic grip or, as it now seems, trapped in a glass vial.Topically, the trend has to exhaust itself eventually -- in theory at least. When it does, what will future generations think of this crack-rap era? Will they see it as a colorful fad, like polka dots and pastels from the late '80s? Or will they curiously wonder how it is that as fans and artists alike, we stared at the dystopia of cocaine culture and reacted, not with concern or horror, but with rapt fascination and celebration?
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  Comments


  • HarveyCanalHarveyCanal "a distraction from my main thesis." 13,239 PostsSuper OG
    IMO there's no more crack-related rap out there today as there has been for 12+ years. Certain folks are just now coming around to listening to it and having to deal with it.

  • jleejlee 1,539 PostsAlumni
    However, what's being promoted isn't nihilism, despite appearances otherwise: It's crack as a metaphor for power. Drugs are deeply symbolic in our culture -- not just in hip-hop but American pop life -- of escape, pleasure, obsession and despair. For a young cadre of rappers trying to one-up their peers, coke has resonated as their signifier for mastery and control.

    i am okay with this statement.

  • The_NonThe_Non 5,681 PostsSuper OG
    IMO there's no more crack-related rap out there today as there has been for 12+ years. Certain folks are just now coming around to listening to it and having to deal with it.

    I knew there would come a day where I agreed with you. I think BITD, some of the references by some rappers were veiled. Now, it is wide open and obvious.

    Real bad boys move in silence.
    To wit, O? You sound

  • batmonbatmon 27,590 PostsSuper OG
    Cocaine and hip-hop share a long history, but over the last few years, there's been a surge in coke-themed songs and artists -- aka crack rap.

    The roots of this fad date back to 2002, with the critical and commercial success of both Scarface's "The Fix" and especially the Clipse's "Lord Willin.'"



  • noznoz 3,628 PostsClassic
    yeah, no disrespect to o-dub, but i'm not so sure about this short sighted breihanic "coke trend started with the clipse and scarface 2002" perspective that i've been reading lately. maybe these albums bear some importance in that they got critical community to take "trap hop" seriously (for better or worse), but they definitely were not the origin. neither was jay. i mean face and his peers were rapping about small time dope game cocaine more than a decade prior to the fix.

    a little while back someone left this comment on my blog - "I grew up in the Bay in the 90???s, so to me crack rap is just normal."

    Oliver weren't you writing about hip hop in the bay in the 90s?

  • deejdeej 5,129 PostsClassic
    Agreed w/ harveycanal; and further, I'm curious as to why The Fix and Lord Willin' get so much credit for 'the crack revival' even if such a thing were to exist?

    edite: oof my post now irrelevent

  • CosmoCosmo 9,758 PostsClassic
    Nevermind... this is going to turn into "battle of the most connected to the hip-hop skreets all-stars" thread in T minus 3, 2...

  • noznoz 3,628 PostsClassic
    I think Trap Muzik is more responsible for the resurgence than either of those albums.

  • yuichiyuichi Urban sprawl 11,322 PostsSuper OG
    I thought it was well-written.

  • batmonbatmon 27,590 PostsSuper OG
    Agreed w/ harveycanal; and further, I'm curious as to why The Fix and Lord Willin' get so much credit for 'the crack revival' even if such a thing were to exist?

    That's where I'm stumped. Did it ever disappear as a "sub genre"?

  • IMO there's no more crack-related rap out there today as there has been for 12+ years. Certain folks are just now coming around to listening to it and having to deal with it.

    I knew there would come a day where I agreed with you. I think BITD, some of the references by some rappers were veiled. Now, it is wide open and obvious.

    Real bad boys move in silence.
    To wit, O? You sound

    Did you all read the article? Or are you just restating the main points of the essay? He baslically says the exact thing you two just said. Check out the first sentence:

    "Cocaine and hip-hop share a long history, but over the last few years, there's been a surge in coke-themed songs and artists -- aka crack rap."

    And I think this is one of the best articles that has been written about the current popularity of coke rap, although I would like to see the raw numbers on the prevalence of cocaine in urban America over the last 30 years, and how much money the average dealer actually makes.

  • batmonbatmon 27,590 PostsSuper OG

  • HarveyCanalHarveyCanal "a distraction from my main thesis." 13,239 PostsSuper OG


    Did you all read the article? Or are you just restating the main points of the essay? He baslically says the exact thing you two just said. Check out the first sentence:

    "Cocaine and hip-hop share a long history, but over the last few years, there's been a surge in coke-themed songs and artists -- aka crack rap."


    The point of contention that a bunch of us are making is that there hasn't been a recent surge. The quantity and even prominence of coke-related rap has been pretty constant for a looong time now.

    It's just a case of a lot of folks who didn't used to listen to the UGK's and E-40's who are now just tuning in to them to say "wow, so much crack".



  • Did you all read the article? Or are you just restating the main points of the essay? He baslically says the exact thing you two just said. Check out the first sentence:

    "Cocaine and hip-hop share a long history, but over the last few years, there's been a surge in coke-themed songs and artists -- aka crack rap."


    The point of contention that a bunch of us are making is that there hasn't beena surge. The quantity and even prominence of coke-related rap has been pretty constant for a looong time now.

    It's just a case of a lot of folks who didn't used to listen to the UGK's and E-40's who are now just tuning in to them to say "wow, so much crack".

    But isn't the current popularity of the genre inspiring rappers to focus more on crack themes? What about Busta Rhymes transformation into Busta Crimes? It seems like every rapper that used to stop at bragging about robbing and killing are now adding drug slanging to their resume.

  • HarveyCanalHarveyCanal "a distraction from my main thesis." 13,239 PostsSuper OG


    Did you all read the article? Or are you just restating the main points of the essay? He baslically says the exact thing you two just said. Check out the first sentence:

    "Cocaine and hip-hop share a long history, but over the last few years, there's been a surge in coke-themed songs and artists -- aka crack rap."


    The point of contention that a bunch of us are making is that there hasn't beena surge. The quantity and even prominence of coke-related rap has been pretty constant for a looong time now.

    It's just a case of a lot of folks who didn't used to listen to the UGK's and E-40's who are now just tuning in to them to say "wow, so much crack".

    But isn't the current popularity of the genre inspiring rappers to focus more on crack themes? What about Busta Rhymes transformation into Busta Crimes? It seems like every rapper that used to stop at bragging about robbing and killing are now adding drug slanging to their resume.

    "The current popularity of the genre"???

    Again, I don't see how it's any more popular today than any day out of the past 15 years.

  • faux_rillzfaux_rillz 14,352 PostsClassic
    What about Busta Rhymes transformation into Busta Crimes? It seems like every rapper that used to stop at bragging about robbing and killing are now adding drug slanging to their resume.

    I can't wait until LL boasts of having moved more kis than Liberace on his upcoming 50 Cent-helmed "comeback" album...

  • from a TVT press release emailed today:

    "Twisted Black - the father of cocaine rap"

  • mannybolonemannybolone 15,029 PostsClassic
    To me, this is one of those arguments that isn't meant to be definitive. It's like arguing over whether hip-hop has or has not become, say, more materialistic over time or not. Some would argue that there was some kind of important shift that happened circa 1997/98, others would point all the way back to 1979 and call bullshit on the idea that materialism hasn't been an intrinsic part of hip-hop since day one.

    Personally, I like that there's debate over whether or not crack rap is something new or not even though people around here might think we've already beaten that dead horse into glue. Ultimately, it reveals a series of arguments over trends, influences and hidden histories and I think that's all very valuable.

    But just so we're clear here: I never said that crack rap is new. But yes, I do think it's taken a shift in the POPULAR SPHERE over the last few years where, as an "identifiable" sub-genre (and yeah, I know that's debatable too), it's taken on a different shape/form than what preceded it, one that is far more pronounced and public than it has been. NONE OF THIS DISCOUNTS how the genre has been (no pun intended) bubbling up all along. Believe it or not, I've actually listened to some of these previous examples (but I also readily admit, there's many I did not).

    I'd suggest that what we saw in 2002, specifically with the Clipse and Scarface (and yeah, I know all folks don't agree on this) was a new plateau of the genre. Someone have described it as a "crack nostalgia" which I think is a fair way of looking at it too (though again, open to debate) since it would constitute something different from before - even if that difference is slight.

    To put it from a different angle, even if you were to accept that crack rap has pretty much been "same as it ever's been" I would therefore have to conclude that people would accept the idea that the main difference has been that some critical mass of people (namely writers, bloggers, etc.) finally noticed...in which case, this still supports one of the basic tenets of my argument: something has changed with the genre, perhaps not internally but at least externally.

    To give this some broader perspective - one could certainly argue that gangsta rap existed well before "Straight Outta Compton" or that politicized hip-hop existed prior to "It Takes a Nation" but to me, these albums constituted shifts in how the genre was noted, accepted, debated, etc. Hip hip's history is not smooth or linear - you have these moments where change/shifts happen. I think crack rap has seen that over the last 3-4 years where it's far more VISIBLE now than it was 10 years ago.

    Just to repeat: I WELCOME CHALLENGES and I'm not saying this to throw down the gauntlet. I'd like to see what people have to say in regards to tracking this history because personally, I think it's important to get a sense of it and people's reaction/response to it.

  • batmonbatmon 27,590 PostsSuper OG


  • deejdeej 5,129 PostsClassic
    Who will save Philly's Most Wanted, the REAL Neptunes-helmed godfathers of crack rap???

    Seriously tho, "Cross the Border" is straight

  • mannybolonemannybolone 15,029 PostsClassic
    Batmon,

    A song about baseheads is not equivalent to "celebrating crack rap."



  • mannybolonemannybolone 15,029 PostsClassic
    short sighted breihanic

    Dude, that's like a worse diss than saying I'm


  • deejdeej 5,129 PostsClassic
    from a TVT press release emailed today:

    "Twisted Black - the father of cocaine rap"
    Haha TVT knows what they're doing when it comes to critics.
    "Crunk Hits Vol. 2" owes its NPR-life to TVT's relentless critical push

  • HAZHAZ 3,371 PostsAlumni
    Crack rap has been around since forever. If its popular today its cause the guys rapping about it are the most talented in the game at this moment.

  • spelunkspelunk 3,400 PostsClassic
    Well-written article. Interesting part about how rappers used to rap about rapping, but that's not the popular style now, and where it's all headed. Definately some truth to the statement that now most raps are loosely about a subject, while as you look further back it was more all over the map (we're talking about popular stuff, there are always exceptions). But even though they're about a single subject, most don't tell a full narrative story a la Slick Rick. Just an observation. Nice work Odub.

  • The_NonThe_Non 5,681 PostsSuper OG
    Hey O, I was teasing. I don't really care.
    My 2c though is in terms of "coke rap", there has been a huge upswell of celebratory commentary about selling crack cocaine than there was previously. IT EXISTED PREVIOUSLY, I know. Even The Infamous, while super gritty, has a crime don't pay element to it. By Hell On Earth though, they abandoned that.
    PS The article is a good read.

  • batmonbatmon 27,590 PostsSuper OG
    Batmon,A song about baseheads is not equivalent to "celebrating crack rap."

    True. But I would say that Crack related Rapp has discussed all facets of the game. Even Mobstyle would discuss the perils of Crack even when profiting.

    Has this "resurgence" filtered the self-critque? Scarface being an architect cant possible be Crack nostalgic.

    I'd like to focus on the albums you feel have recontextualized this subject matter. Where is the paradigm shift? Noz says Trap Music might be an example.

  • what about Raekwon??? I mean Cuban Linx is nothing but coke rap... Ice Cube - Bird in the hand... on and on and on. I don't see any resurgance, it seems steady as far as mentions and references to it (although alot of the artists professing to be in the crack game aren't writing about it as well). And looking at the Clipse album sales as a benchmark, then the popularity of coke rap may not rising but declining.

    I think the bigger issue coming in 2007 is the re-divide between pop and hip-hop, not crack rap as a subgenre.

  • faux_rillzfaux_rillz 14,352 PostsClassic
    But yes, I do think it's taken a shift in the POPULAR SPHERE over the last few years

    I'd suggest that what we saw in 2002, specifically with the Clipse and Scarface (and yeah, I know all folks don't agree on this) was a new plateau of the genre.

    I believe that The Fix was Scarface's worst-selling album to date (excluding various J. Prince cut-n-paste jobs).

  • deejdeej 5,129 PostsClassic
    I wonder if you can think of a rapper who created such a comprehensive persona in the rap game as T.I. did on trap muzik - addressing so many aspects, self-analytical, internal conflict, issues of family, love, the day-to-day details (keeping-your-head-down, dodging the cops), that simultaenous self-loathing and sense of noble duty, the sense of community awareness ('be better than me') and how it ends on his acknowledgement of the game's dead end. I don't like to think of my case 'for' Trap Muzik as being as much about "here is ground zero for modern 'crack rap'" as much as it is about the breadth of T.I.'s approach and T.I.'s talents as a performer, as an artist. I think its important to be extremely wary, in a genre that has so many unsung and unheard artists on every street corner, of people making those Big Statements about how influential artist A was on the skreets of artists B-Z, especially when rap has become SO broad geographically, when people don't all look to NY any more. (or all look to 'those dudes who made grinding' or whatever)
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