Imaginary Gangster: Why Can't Hip-Hop Just Be Honest? (

Published: Monday - August 25, 2008
Words by Carl Lamarre

Rick Ross (left), Plies (middle), and Kanye West (right) (Photo: Def Jam and Atlantic Records)

"The game is not to give 'em nuttin REAL ... real, real, real, real / Nothing they could use, nothing that they could FEEL ... feel, feel, feel, feel / Give 'em a bunch of lies and teach 'em that it's REAL ... real, real, real, real / So that's all that they a-know / That's all that they a-feel ... feel, feel, feel." -- Lupe Fiasco on "Real"

Real has always been associated with hip-hop. The word never had a negative connotation when being used to identify artists. Apparently emcees are suffering from identity crisis and forgot the magnitude of the four letter word. Walk with me as I explore the harsh realities of lies, and deceit among our fellow rappers.

"And why do n****s lie in 85% of they rhymes?" -- Jadakiss on "Why?"

Why lie? Like seriously, why con people into believing you're moving keys like you're money-making Mitch from "Paid In Full?" What many rappers fail to realize is that people do actually pay attention to the lyrics, and take into account everything you say. For some reason, rappers have a tendency of embellishing their pasts in hopes of garnering the audience's respect. For example, you have Rick Ross, who is notorious for his hustling prowess and immaculate street cred. The man, who epitomized the soul of a hustler, was seen sporting police uniform dating back to his college years. This obscene photo has fans and rappers questioning the boss' legitimacy and credibility. What bemuses me, and everyone else, is that rappers think it's a crime to be honest. Rappers think they'll get a 3-5 for displaying some candidness in their lyrics. It's ok to be honest. Whatever happened in your past, stays in your past. If you were a correctional officer, man up, and let the people know, rather than have your fans second guess picking up your next album.

"So, don't believe everything your earlobe captures / It's mostly backwards, unless it happens to be as accurate as me." -- Jay-Z on "Ignorant Sh**"

I understand everyone wants to personify the glorious gangster image, and emulate Pac, but come on. Be original with your lyrics. With a bevy of rappers trying to exude this image, creativity has been minute. You have people boosting about how many people they killed, and how much their chains costs, when in reality these are the same people taking the bus to their own video shoots. The people advocating violence are the same people playing on Facebook. Piles, known for exemplifying the definition of real, was exposed by HHDX about his past. The life that Piles has claimed to be living (you know, the life of a goon?) has been a hyperbole of the truth, according to HHDX. Instead of delving into the land of honesty, and be "real" with his lyrics, Piles has been doing the complete opposite.

"I hear 'em gearin' up / people talk so much sh** about me at barbershops / they forget to get their haircut / OK fair enough, the streets is flarin' up / 'cause they want gun-talk, or I don't wear enough / baggy clothes, Reeboks, or Adidas." -- Kanye West on "Everything I Am"

Why do you think Kanye West is quickly being considered as among one of the best performers in the game? The man is real, and original. Only Kanye had the audacity to wear pink polos, with some skin tight jeans, and still drop a venomous verse. Before, Kanye was ridiculed for his vile taste in fashion. Now, the same people who displayed their exasperation for his swag, are the ones wearing jeans from the Gap. Coincidence? I think not. The reason Kanye is thriving is because he's been real throughout his career. He made you feel his realness. On stage, when he performed "Dear Mama" days after the death of his mother, you felt his heart drop after he recited each bar. You felt the tears come down from these eyes, as he was gasping every line out in pain. Originality can't be faked.

You have to wonder when rappers stare and point at their reflections, are they satisfied with placing a front in hopes seeing dollars? The game was molded by artists being honest, and depicting the truth. Are we at a point where we have to lie to gain respect? With that said, I won't say hip-hop is dead, but damn hip-hop is sure is lost.

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