Hip-hop. Or, more specifically, rap music. Like your ex-con cousin on the verge of his third strike, I have a love-hate relationship with it. He will always be family, and every now and then I like to spend time with him, but for the most part, I'm over it.
Was reading a preview the other day of Def Jam Vendetta II, a fighting game coming out for the XBox that features several prominent rappers and a hip-hop related theme, and went from geeked to disgusted by the end of the article. I love fighting games and the concept for this one sounded like a lot of fun if a bit heavy on the negative stereotypes that have plagued rap since the early days of the gangsta era. The more I read, though, the more offended I became. From the "battle for control of the underworld" setup; to the cheesy and sexist "girlfriend" mode featuring the likes of Lil' Kim, Carmen Electra and, surprisingly, Kimora Lee; to the ability to purchase officially licensed gear and, of course, bling-bling from none other than Jacob the Jeweler! WTF?!?!
Then, while taking my cousin to pick up his car from the dealership in Yonkers this morning, I'm listening to the radio and happened across Ed Lover's morning show on Power 105. He had Jam Master Jay's mother on and they were talking about the foundation that's been set up in his memory and how the family's been holding up since his still-unsolved murder. I was only half-paying attention so I missed how they got into it but at one point, Jay's mother starts talking about all of the rappers that showed up to the memorial pledging to make sure Jay's family didn't want for anything and how the vast majority hadn't lifted a finger for them since. The family's struggling, she explains, and pretty much getting by, barely, on their own. His wife works 6 days a week and their kids have had to switch to public school. Ed Lover went off - "Some of these people own 100-million-dollar businesses!" - and even called out Jay's old partner, "Reverend" Run, by name and challenged rappers to call in and explain why they haven't stepped up. I used to be an avid fan of the old Ed Lover & Doctor Dre morning show on Hot 97 and was glad to see Ed hadn't lost his edge. Rap on the other hand, totally has.
Some days, I wish it had been the fad so many expected it to be and simply faded back into the underground where it couldn't do quite so much harm.