We keep ’em coming back
For three seconds I considered Photoshopping a coke moustache, a la Perez Hilton
Drugs and rap have been intimately partnered, for better or worse, since the late 80’s. Gangsta rappers covered both sides of the coin, in that they expressed enjoyment in using drugs and the fat stacks gained by selling them, yet also understood the life-fracturing capabilities they possessed (eg. N.W.A.’s “Dopeman”). As the genre progressed, the balance between slangin’ pride and wariness shifted more and more for the former. Biggie, Jay-Z and countless others glamorized distribution as a lucrative career, albeit one brought on by a dearth of other opportunities.
Fast forward to today, where waxing nostalgic about moving weight has become a common precursor to rapping; the topic’s popularity has only been bolstered by fans who see their own experience (in the most basic of ways; no one makes all that much money selling crack) in their heroes’ words. In fact, most of the year’s most successful rappers, including Lil’ Wayne, The Clipse, Rick Ross, Young Jeezy, T.I., Juelz Santana and even Jay-Z have made explicit and repeated mention of pushing white.
Recently a surprising new tune by Ciara called “Dope Boyz” leaked and no, she’s not just complimenting some fellas. A track saluting hood delivery men from Three 6 Mafia is plausible, but Ciara? 50 Cent of all people confusingly starts the breezy track, setting the tone by emotionlessly uttering lines like “Just one dose of me will have you addicted” and “I’m a hustler, baby, I provide by any means.” Ciara responds indirectly in a hushed tone that “my girlfriends’ tellin’ me I don’t know how to act,” but she’s so swept up in a hustler’s confident charms and his being “so heavy in the streets.” A clap-happy rhythm bounces around on lilting piano sweeps and she continues, admitting that good boys aren’t as appealing as dope boys — she “can’t leave him alone.”
Her affection is matched by a defensive streak featured most prominently in the chorus: “they say he’s gonna hurt me / just wait and see / they don’t know me.” Including this kiss off to her worried, naysing friends acknowledges that there is some cause for concern but she doesn’t give a fuck. 50’s second verse acquieses then squashes any misgivings: “Your friends trying to confuse you, but you know what / my intentions are good / I can’t help it I’m hood / I wouldn’t change if I could / you shouldn’t tell me I should.”
So what happens when pop singers add their encouragement to dealer pride that’s topped the charts? Will an accepting climate in the realm of rap translate to broader acceptance with its listeners? For me to try and answer these questions would be foolish and unadvised without considering the deep-seated ties between music in general and drugs, the importance of fervernt capitalism in music and rap specifically, the degree to which fans emulate their idols’ actions and sentiments, the fiscal and social situations making drug dealing a feasible occupation, etc., factors I don’t have the knowledge or time to broach here. Regardless, “Dope Boyz” is provocative for its bold stance and lingering uncertainty. As a new year of music approaches, we’ll get to see how sentiments like Ciara’s resonate with her peers and fans.
Also, greetings to new readers referred by the always amazing Another Night On Earth. Thanks for the kind words, Chris!