The hip hop culture is one often filled the message of debauchery, genocide, hedonism, and materialism. I love the culture and the music but that is the truth of the matter unfortunately. In any good rap song is one of the major components. It is either a song about sex, killing, hustling or money (not all but I'm talking commercial hip-hop right now). Right now I wish to discuss the materialism in hip-hop culture, simply because I feel as though it is the most widespread and the most visible. It is rather easy to ignore the imaginary murders rappers commit simply because the average gangsta rapper spits as though they are Jason Vorhees or Michael Myers and we know that not to be true. The sexual appetites of artists are personal and we only know very small amounts about that besides this is not a gossip column. Materialism is flooded in the media already, we know this, the Fortune 500 lists Jay-Z, Sean "sometime P-Diddy other times Puffy" Combs made or what have you. We see money not just in hip-hop but in other forms of media, and because it has seeped into the minds of the public at large it has also flooded the airwaves. Rappers have made it their business to let the world know of their success or coming success, but there are times where the rappers have unfortunately decided to fake said success. And that is the topic we are going to discuss today. There are far too many examples of artists going too far to push an image of success but I have chosen only three for this column because these are the most pervasive in the industry. Borrowing jewelry, cars and designer clothing for video shoots is commonplace, very commonplace and the most important when discussing the false lifestyle that artists portray in videos to the youth.
Getting busted with jewelry that doesn't belong to was once a big deal in hip-hop. It was a "dissable" offense (meaning you got dissed for wearing borrowed or fake jewelry) and perhaps it still is. One of my favorite artists Jadakiss got caught with jewelry that wasnt his. He borrowed the jewelry for a video he was doing with Mariah Carey back in 2004-2005. Now as I mentioned this is commonplace so there really isn't an issue of Jada being the broke ass rapper who can't afford the fly bling he wants to use for a video, alot of people (labels) do it. Jadakiss is not really a rapper that wears a lot of jewelry anyway, but it was $400,000 worth of jewelry, that is a pretty steep price but the image attached to having it is worth way more to people in the industry. Kiss was busted and he did get dissed by 50 Cent for it, but was it really worth it? Is the need to portray this image that necessary? For alot of rappers the answer is a resounding..yes.
Wearing jewelry that is not yours is one thing but wearing designer clothes the manufacturer doesn't even know exists is another. Rapper Rick Ross was busted sporting fake Louis Vuitton shades on the cover of XXL magazine. How did he get busted? Well once Ross wore those false shades on the cover it garnered a hell of alot of attention and requests for the shades came pouring into Louis Vuitton. Upon a quick search it was found that those sunglasses are not made by LV and that those particular frames were fake. A spokesperson from the company had this to say:
"...the sunglasses Mr. Ross is wearing were not made by Louis Vuitton and, in fact, are counterfeit. Louis Vuitton did not grant permission to Mr. Ross or to whoever did make the sunglasses to use our trademarks. The second is that no affiliation, sponsorship or association exists between Rick Ross or XXL and Louis Vuitton. The third is that counterfeiting is illegal."
To the rapper's defense a customizer nicknamed "The Sunglasses Pimp" stated he customized Ross' LV Millionaire shades and that tricking out sunglasses is the same as tricking out a car. I say that may be true but Ross was attempting to portray an image and that image is the "boss" character he has decided to play in the hip-hop game. Why do I say that? Well because an aforementioned "boss" Jay-Z debuted some authentic Louis Vuitton Millionaire shades on a different XXL magazine cover. Why the falsehood? Perhaps he wanted for people to believe he was on Jay-Z's level as far as money and power, unfortunately that turned out not to be the case a very embarrassing lesson learned.
We have just discessed rappers borrowing jewels for video shoots, wearing borrowed or fake clothing for photo shoots and those things are small compared to the most gaudy objects such as luxury cars. Neo-rap princess Nicki Minaj was driving a hot-pink Lamborghini for one of her music videos, the problem was the car wasn't hers and she damaged it by driving off-road.Strangely enough the damage she caused to the car was far more than it cost for her to rent the vehicle in the first place. Once again we see artists attempting to push an image of success and in doing so instead showed their lack thereof. To Nicki's defense it was her first solo video and maybe she didn't have the practice handling other people's property that some other artists do. What made me think of this case was recently, I saw a woman with a hot-pink corvette with the word "Barbie" (which is one of Nicki's gimmicks, even if it was ripped off from Lil Kim). And that got me to thinking about the cultural impact stunts like this have on people. Now it is impossible for me to know that the random woman painted her car pink because of Nicki Minaj, but I can say I never saw a hot-pink sports car until now and if I am wrong in saying one has something to do with the other so be it, but its a strong correlation.
Throughout the hip-hop industry we are blasted with imagery. Images of poverty stricken ghettoes, images of flashy husters, images of wild sex, images of lavish lifestyles including luxury cars and million dollar homes and the wise person realizes just how much of a facade most of it really is. Granted an argument can be made that the artist's record label is the ones paying for the fake jewelry and rented cars but some responsibility needs to be taken by the artists who indulge. I am sure it feels good to be able to drive a lambourgini but like my mama would say "if you ain't got lambourgini money keeps your ass out of it", amazing how simple a message that is right? However it is sad that the label and the artist feel that they need to portray these images of success and wealth to make an artist successful and wealthy. One can only hope that one day we can move past the small minded materialism we have as a nation, maybe then hip-hop can move past it too.