Tuesday, January 24th, 2006

The Reality of Crack Rap

Joining this to Hua and Oliver’s recent writings about the Pet Rock fetish that is crack rap, here’s a new movie called “1 More Hit” that promises to uncover the reality of crack, hip-hop, and reality TV through the story of Pharcyde producer J-Swift. For me this trailer was particularly difficult to watch. J-Swift was a roomie of one of my best friends about a decade ago. The tragedy, of course, for older hip-hop gen folks, is that his music epitomizes the innocence of the “Golden Age” (a term BTW that I don’t believe in any more than “conscious rap”). Call me corny, but this is beyond sad.

posted by @ 7:35 am | 38 Comments

38 Responses to “The Reality of Crack Rap”

  1. beez says:

    I feel like I’m yet to read anything particularly on point about this crack rap.
    No one from within Hiphop seems to have come out all guns blazing against crack dealers for many years and none of the intellectuals and journos seem to have thrown much in either against or in favour of Scarface, the Clipse or Juelz Santana.

    They all very much preach a message of “getting out of the game”, hence the rapping. Only Fiddy’s flipping of his Columbia advance has rappers still pushing.

    O-Dub and Hua’s pieces just say “my, isn’t there a lot of trap rapping about?”. Where are we having the debate?

  2. Jeff says:

    first i was gonna say, “i feel you, why don’t you do it?” then i was gonna go and defend hip-hop journalism. but why do that? that’d be a waste of precious bytes.

    so i will say it’s difficult. the stuff that makes me uncomfortable is the fact the d-boys are still on the same corners on the next block over like 10-20 years later and it’s getting worse this spring i’m certain. i give 5-1 the majority of the critics who like crack rap don’t have this problem walking to the post office everyday.

    at the same time, a common line from hip-hop progressives is this one: there shouldn’t be more crack rap because we settled a long time ago that crack is wack and no one smokes that anymore. which is just plain bullshit.

    btw i’m waiting for the first rap about the joys of crystal meth. what do you mean it hasn’t crossed over yet?

    at the same time, crack rap gives the same voyeuristic thrill it did 10-20 years ago to the same voyeurs. when it gets too grimey and real, they won’t be on it anymore, will be the first to be denouncing it.

    but that’s confusing art and life, i think.

    i don’t object to the fact that crack rap exists, nor that some of it is aesthetically, uh, dope, i object to critics or progressives praising or denouncing it like it doesn’t intersect with reality.

    i think i’m in the silent minority on this one. i don’t come to the conclusion that it all ought to be destroyed. nor do i come to the conclusion that we should throw a parade for the undiscovered geniuses of crack rap.

    i’m like you, beez, i want a little clarity. i do think hua and oliver contribute some to that. now i’m asking: so what do you say?

  3. Anonymous says:

    I don’t see any major changes recently, except that alternatives to what people call “crack rap” seem to have diminished.

    I blame the situation on monoculture and mediated experience. Black culture defined itself as a resistance, an alternative, a collective conscience. Now that Black culture has international recognition, and now that certain battles have been won, it is hard to discern a “next level”.

    This crack rap thing (Dope man please… can I get another hit?) is nothing new. What is different is that it meets no resistance. There is no counter movement. Forget about journalists… they are just note-takers. The artists are the ones dropping the ball.

    The obvious next step is for hip hop artists to throw off these new chains. Abandon the archetypes, stereotypes, and other trappings of “blackness,” “realness,” etc. Get back to the business of fusing different cultures and values. Get back to the practice of reaching out. Get back to universal messages of hope and fun. Crack rap is just cannibal rap. It is rappers eating each other. It is self-centered and fatalistic. A defeatist attitude is settling in. The collective is dead and success is now limited to individuals and crews. And success is defined by mere economic survival, or merely suggestions of it (conspicuous consumption).

    My suggestion is that rappers look outside of what is stereotypically thought of as “black.” Do what Wu-Tang did and branch out. Look in unexpected places. Do unexpected things. On this note, ironically, I’ll be someone could get up there and be a nerdy Republican rapper and that would probably be a smash hit. I would TOTALLY support that, because at least it starts a dialog. At least it gets us to the 2nd or 3rd page of rap history. I’m sick of reading the 1st page over and over again.

    On the bright side, I think we are in a situation in rap music where things couldn’t get any worse. We have only progress to make.


  4. ronnie brown says:

    “look outside what is stereotypically thought of as black”



    Black folk have been trying to REcover our authentic selves for 400 years. Stripped of the African we were and fighting against the WASP we are not. This is NOT a struggle of the multiracial “hip-hop nation”…this is a crisis of the Afro-diasporians that live and create the musicial reality of what is called Hip-Hop. In a morally twisted way, our “Art” has morphed into a “life” more decadent than the day crack first hit the corner in the 80’s! Your call for Black people to get back to fusing different cultures and values (and the dog-chase-tail redundancy of “creating dialogue”) IS NO SUBSTITUTE FOR HEALING AND WHOLENESS OF SELF.

    I can’t front on your good intentions…but this battle is “in house”, you’ll have to watch patiently from the sidelines to see how this shakes out…

  5. Anonymous says:

    Ronnie… good to see you again.

    What I meant by dialog was simply a range of perspectives. I apologize for not being clear. I DID NOT mean a black/white dialog or some intercultural thing. I did not mean a white republican rapper, I actually meant a Black Republican rapper (because THAT would be so nuts, right?). The dialog I am talking about is simply a competition of ideas and values. The values expressed today in rap seem lopsided. There is an obsession with power obtained though money, violence, and affiliation. I do not hear a lot of people who are true rebels, people who have integrity and compassion. How strange that, in today’s popular culture… being thougtful is rebellious.

    My comment about “looking outside of what is thought of as black” is not a controversial point. Do you think black people are well-represented by todays rap artists? Do you think today’s rap artists represent the full spectrum of black experience? Do you think there is a correlation between stereotypes and sales? Do you think stereotypical rappers get more sales? I do.

    Clearly some of this is a result of white-owned record companies. But it is also a result of willing participation by artists. Everyone involved is responsible: audience, artists, and media companies.

    I agree that healing is essential. And I think part of the healing process is branching out culturally. And I think black people ARE branching out. And I’m not taking the blame off white people. White people made and perpetuate this mess. But I don’t believe the answer is to “stay in our places” and have “in-house” battles. People should be encouraged to defy racial boundaries, on both sides. If you disagree, please explain how black people alone can solve this problem. Last time I checked, the main problem was white racism.

    My point is simply that the music isn’t undermining the stereotypes. But it can. And it has. The music is reinforcing all those steretypes and myths that started and reinforce racism. And I believe more rebellion and counter-culture will make for more compelling and impassioned music. In some ways I am just selfish and just want to hear some good music again. But obviously I believe music culture is a force for change, be it positive or negative.


  6. ronnie brown says:

    Eric, when you break this issue down to its last compound, one is left with your simple and profound observation:

    “White people made and perpetuate this mess”.

    It should be obvious to all concerned parties that the distress expressed over Hip-Hop’s downward spiral has been incredibly one-sided. White society is not interested in “dialogue”…the imposition of stereotypes and misrepresentations, continued poverty, bias in the form of institutional exclusion remain because white people desire to REINFORCE and FORTIFY the social/economic inequalities that they created in the first place!

    The reality is this: Black people have been engaging your brethren for decades…imploring and dying, hoping you would listen to reason. But white people have become more implacable and arrogant with every entreaty. The right and left wing of white society have drawn a line in the sand. So the time has come for Black people to take stock. In order for us to survive, maintain and ultimately overcome, we need to do so IN SPITE OF YOU…so, in-house we MUST go and you will have to observe the proceedings from a distance.

    At least you were honest enough to acknowledge that your primary motivation is for Black folk to start makin’ that sweet soul music again.

  7. reeshard says:

    isn’t 50 cent a black republican rapper?

  8. Anonymous says:

    No doubt, 50 Cent is a Republican rapper… and look how popular he is!! Nice one. So much for my theory.

    Anyway, I definitely agree with you, Ronnie, that most white people have little desire or motivation for change. But I should point out that my white “brethren” are not monolithic, just as your black brothers and sisters are not either 😉 There are A LOT of white people who ARE down for change. But the bottom line is that people need to be inspired, and they need to feel empowered. People need leadership on both sides, and I just don’t see it. And I think it is very much appropriate for me to point it out on both sides of the biologically arbitrary line.

    But my white ass digresses.

    My point is simply that if — and this does happen — that a rap artist (black, white, etc) asks for my opinon on their raps… I tell I am turned off by cliches, stereotypes, and fantasies. It doesn’t seem genuine, and it’s not original. And it abuses their role as leaders. Rappers are leaders.

    Murs, 2Mex, Sean Price, Ellay Khule, Median, Planet Asia, Grouch, Eligh, Gift of Gab, Diverse, Grand Agent, Dave Ghetto, Masta Ace, PEACE, Aceyalone, Abstract Rude, Asheru, Blue Black.

    Rappers don’t run the media. But they can provide alternatives. Every listener is important. Sometimes a tradition must go underground in order to survive. And at some later date, it can resurface and flourish and be part of a mass movement again. Simply carrying on the tradition is important.

    And, of course, these things go in cycles. At some point people will look for an alternative to G-Unit and screwed and crunked. Hopefully they won’t choose reggaeton 😉 My bad, I meant !Viva Reggaeton!

    I think it is no coincidence that reggaeton has gotten so huge in the last few years. Like the rise of hip hop, the rise of reggaeton shows that the music landscape can change very quickly.


  9. Brother OMi says:

    The latest issue of sCratch has an article on J Swift and his habit (i think)

    ironically , the stereotype of the black crack dealer does not fit anymore. more and more african americans are going to jail for guess what? child support… i got to find the article soon as i do i will send it

  10. hardCore says:

    on a consumer level, hip hop artists are bridges that allow outsiders to enter the hood, look around, see the ills of the community, while delivering them home safely, without being forced to take any of the dysfunction they witnessed with them.

    the problem is, the same lyrics that provide a field trip for some, become the bible for those stuck in those impoverished environments. and acts as a self fulfilling prophecy for all the little boys and girls who have yet to come across people willing to tell them there IS more to hope for in life.

    as long as listeners are willing to justify some of these images and lyrics with “at least they getting paid”, money will always win out over morals.

  11. ms cee says:

    Why does everyone like to say the white people are always the start and finish for the demise of black people. If people are in general (teens or those to really know better) dumb enough to get hooked on drugs or either they are so easily influenced by what they see on TV then its not white folk problem but its their problem. It also may have to do with their home life where the parent my want to be the child friend instead of the parent, the child may be out of control,the parents don’t care,education may not be stressed. I believe that it is time for us black folk to START taking responsibility for our own actions and stop blaming everything and everyone else.

  12. Anonymous says:

    ms cee… i definitely agree that those afflicted with problems should take responsibility.

    while it is true that the problem of racism adheres to a color line, it would seem only logical that solutions to racism would defy this line. let’s encourage any and all possible solutions, whether they originate inside or outside of a particular “community”. why limit ourselves?


  13. Brittany O. says:

    In response to ms cee, the reason that people say that White people are the “start and finish for the demise of Black people” is because they are. That’s where it started. Whether you agree or not White people run things and they have and will continue to do all they can to keep Black people down. While naturally people of any race should take responsibility for their actions and/or addictions, you yourself said that may be all they have known or ever seen. Perhaps their parents did want to be their friends and maybe television was their family, you cannot expect someone to all of a sudden just wake up one day and change everything they have ever known and/or been taught.

  14. Anonymous says:

    Let us use a hypothetical situation as a metaphor for race relations.

    George hates Malcolm.

    Now there are many ways this situation could.

    1. One or both of them die.

    2. George spontaneously stops hating Malcolm for no reason.

    3. Malcolm magically convinces George to stop hating him.

    4. The two of them are forced to hang out with each other (by mutual acquaintances, circumstance, etc) and they learn to become friends.

    I can’t deny that white people started and perpetuate racism. But I think the solution is for people of different backgrounds to show solidarity with each other and to work together.

    This is about a shared brotherhood, right? To say that the white brotherhood needs to work only within the white brotherhood, and that the black brotherhood only within the black… is that the road to progress??? To me, that seems a step backward, and I can’t help but say it does seem like we are very much taking steps backward right now.


  15. Anonymous says:

    I left out a word:

    “Now there are many ways this situation could END.”

  16. ronnie brown says:

    This notion of “taking responsiblity” is the mantra we espouse when it becomes clear to us that we are unwilling or unable to hold white society accountable for their sins against us. It’s funny how the simple logic of “cause and effect” flies out the window when it comes to the reasons that Black people are suffering (collectively) in a greater way than any other ethnic group on the planet.

    We can, with the utmost conviction, express sympathy and explain the causes and ramifications of child/spousal abuse, drug addiction, bad schools, poverty, unloving, emotionally distant parents…BUT when it comes to Black folk having to endure 296 years of chattel slavery (with the U.S. being the most brutal)100 years of Jim Crow following right behind with years of lynching, murder and humiliation running alongside, and the mental anguish of Black, Africa, Nappy; words burned into our psyche as qualities to be ashamed of instead something to be proud of…i have to hear “get over it”, “forget about the past”, “don’t be a victim”…

    With every other ethnic group who has had to endure a legacy of persecution/oppression the battle cry is NEVER FORGET!…but with us, (and i got to hear this from my own people) it’s TAKE RESPONSIBILITY…sigh!

    Ms. Cee, with all due respect, you need to re-acquaint youself with our history…

  17. Anonymous says:


    I was just talking about this with a Persian friend of mine. We noted how a lot of Middle Eastern people are very much stuck in the past. And this seems to undermine their ability to branch out and feel a connection with non Middle Eastern Americans.

    I think the focus on responsibility is not necessarily bad. But it is one component of a strategy that should also include some sort of reparations.

    As I’ve said before, I think we should not think of reparations as some sort of settlement or restitution for slavery, but rather an investment in our people. And I do not think it should be limited to black people (cuz the line is pretty fuzzy at this point), but to all people who deserve a break. I mean, I don’t think Sean Combs should get reparations, cuz he doesn’t need it. But I don’t see why a Vietnamese refugee shouldn’t get some help too.


  18. ronnie brown says:

    please, do not allow your wishful thinking to muddy the facts about Slavery and restitution. Whether you think Sean Combs qualifies for reparations is NOT your call to make…and to suggest that reparations should NOT be limited to the black people who endured its horror and their descendants who had to suffer its after effects is EXTREMELY presumptuous on your part. You need to seriously rethink your last post…

  19. smyrx says:

    Eric – The only reason black people have come this far and broken so many barriers that white people set up, is because of unification and BLACK PEOPLE COMING TOGETHER. You questioned black brotherhood working within black, even though that is precisely what the civil rights movement was, and what made it work, with very little help from white people. And of course white people (and anyone that wants to help) should help, and do whatever they can. But the question is, how? How many white politicians have you heard discuss significant progress in improving the civil rights situation? Of course, in an ideal world EVERYBODY would be jumping in to help black people. But the sad truth is that most white people in a position of power to actually DO something would rather have the situation stay the way it is. Also, as for “branching out” and your comparison to your Middle Eastern friend, it’s hard for somebody to branch out when they were forcefully disconnected from the culture that are trying to branch out from. It is important to know your own history, background and culture before you try to emerse yourself in somebody else’s. What you think of as “stuck in the past” might be people trying to reconnect with themselves.

  20. Kamal Secret says:

    Being a hip-hop head for all of my life this crack rap era is sad. I grew up on artists who strived to be original and creative and make good music, making money in the proccess. Nowadays artists begin a project with a formula. They need certain types tracks: a club track, a love song, a street track, a bounce track. Its no longer about making quality songs, its about the paper. Instead of hearing new and original material, we here the same bulls**t. Right now that bull is crack rap.

  21. MichelleG2 says:

    I have to agree that in some sense, the white race is the demise of black people, they do pretty much control everything and if they just happen to feel like they are losing control, they do things to infest the black neighborhoods, like reinfest black neighborhoods with crack.

    Maybe my sheltered life has not previously exposed me to “crack rap” until recently. I have recently met a rapper and kind of got to know him on a personal basis, and I was surprised to find out that many rapper’s actually do smoke crack. I just always thought that they may have sold it to get to where they need to be, but that was all.

  22. Anonymous says:

    I feel that CrackRap will be an important part of Black history and popular culture. The Crack epidemic has a profound effect on African Americans and perhaphs the only way to get the message out to them is to use the power rap stars and pop star artist have to get the word out. Crack Killed Apple Jack…KYle

  23. DemonCleve says:

    I read the book, and i must say that i enjoyed it. I notice that the south as a whole was left out of the book. The go-go music movent was mentioned. I would have like to have seen more on the orgins of bass music and why it didn’t have to display the politcal and social side of hip-hop .

  24. kesha says:

    “Crack Rap”
    Many down south rappers rap about selling crack(dope).Rapper such as T.I. , Young Jezzy, and many more. They call it trapping. They rap about the money they make by selling crack. Which is illegal, they million of dollars raping about something that they are doing that is illegal. To answer anonymous question Do you think black people are well-represented by today’s rap artists? NO. Rapper rap about selling drugs, making money, being poor, and much more . That is not the case for all blacks.

  25. Anonymous says:

    Crack cocaine enters the U.S. market in a big way in the mid-1980s. Which is the period of time and generation these rappers like TI, Juelz Santana etc. grew up in. So of course their lyrics are going to reflect that.Today crack continues to be consumed at high levels, which is why rappers display as their “get rich quick” scheme. And many rappers equate the rap game to crack because they are always competing to “hook” new “buyers”. In dollar terms once they’ve got you hooked you become established clientele, and their gross and profit margins become larger than life.

  26. Anonymous says:


    “Is not my call”???

    Then who’s call is it? And how will it be made? Last time I checked, reparations would require a vote in the House and Senate and also Presidential approval. This means, theoretically, anyone who votes would be part of the “call”. Unless, of course, you think it would be a class action lawsuit. 😉

    My point about reparations is simply that we should seek comprehensive plans, not just “Group A gets $1 million and Group B gets $2 million” The same rules should apply to all groups who qualify. Have Native Americans received reparations? Japanese internees got reparations… why not black people too? You see my logic?

    Also, does a person who is 50% African get 50%, even though we know that a 50% black person usually gets 99% of the racism? Sorry, I had to throw that in there just to keep things complicated.

    smyrx… I am all for Black unity. The more the better. Who could argue with that? And, as pointed out, it’s not realistic to think that white people would lead a movement for reparations or other social justice legislation. The movement would clearly be led by black people.

    But let’s get back to the situation of reality. Black people comprise about 10% of the U.S. Let’s assume 80% of black people unite behind a plan of comprehensive reparations.

    Then what?

    About Middle Easterners, looking to the past can be good or bad. I don’t think any of us would argue that Black people should be ignorant of their history. But I think we can also see examples of an obsession with history leading to bloodshed. Israel is a good example.

    “Looking to the past” often seems to get mixed up with religion. The Nation of Islam is an example of this. The Nation of Islam has some good elements and some bad ones. I am all for looking to the past, but that doesn’t mean looking to the past won’t introduce new problems. Sorry to open another can of worms.


  27. ronnie brown says:

    The U.S Government would have to agree to offer reparations…but the distribution and the nature of the restitution will be determined by us…thanx anyway!

  28. Anonymous says:

    That’s what I’m getting at…

    who is “us” ?


  29. ronnie brown says:

    The African-American population who’s descendants who were imported and born in America!…who else could it be?

  30. Anonymous says:

    Clearly, anyone who is 100% descended from slaves should qualify for the maximum restitution. But what about those who are not 100%?

    If the crime was importing slaves, then it’s clear cut: everything goes by genetic percentage.

    But if the crime was more than just being imported… if the crime was the entire system of racism and brutality, then it would seem any person who has visible African ancestry would qualify.

    When you are talking about millions descendants, even a small percentage of 10% is an enormous number of people.

    Further complicating this issue is, what if your parents were descendants of slaves, but you are white? Should you not also be entitled to something? After all, your life was imperiled by the racism faced by your parents?

    I don’t pose this question to insult injury, but to simply show that with such a vast crime, it can be difficult to draw lines. And when you multiply this by millions of cases, it becomes hard to imagine.

    That said, I do believe now is the time to push for this. If it doesn’t happen soon, it fear it will never happen.


  31. ronnie brown says:

    I appreciate your zeal, i really do. But your rationale has a way of trivializing the issue with a tad bit “white man’s paternalism” to add insult to injury.

    One of the strengths of the civil rights movement was its multiracial participation…but the one thing that white people of good will NEVER forgot was that it was BLACK PEOPLE THEMSELVES who determined how the the movement was to take shape. White folks never presumed to know more about what Black people needed to do to liberate themselves…you need to learn that.

    Black people are not obligated to include white people (even those who support our cause) in our collective affairs. You can’t accept that. You would impose and insist when sometimes the best thing to do in certain situations is to standby until asked.

  32. Anonymous says:

    Thanks for having patience with my questions. I apologize if I come off as paternalistic. You are welcome to ignore my questions and comments.


  33. ronnie brown says:

    I could have ignored your comments long before now. No need to play the martyr. I’m offering you constructive criticism. Don’t take it personal. You have a lot to contribute to this dialogue…but presentation is everything, dude!

  34. Anonymous says:

    No doubt.

    I cut my response short because the message I was getting was “this is none of your business.” I don’t want to force myself into a conversation. I definitely don’t want to play the martyr. I think “gadfly” is the appropriate term.

    On a side note, I would like to point out that when I call out white people for racist behavior, the response is often “Who asked you? It’s none of your business!”

    I do admit I can be cavalier and trivializing. But I think we should not lose site of the fact that we mostly agree on these issues. If you read my comments, you will see that I am for of any and all types of reparations (makes no difference to me), for black people leading the movement (who else, right?, and basically I am down for whatever the movement can achieve. Our analysis may be different, but our values are pretty much the same.

    This is just one conversation on this topic, and I recognize it as such. Your honest responses are always appreciated.


  35. Freestyle Rap King says:

    the extent to which reparations could be established depends on whether we (or the gov) view this as a problem that is “over” or “repairable” by the reparations. If, on the other hand, reparations are merely designed to appease a group, lessen responsibility, or excuse the government from guilt, well then reparations are feasible. Otherwise, reparations must take the form of drastic social change, starting with education.

  36. ronnie brown says:

    “If, on the other hand, reparations are merely designed to appease a group, lessen responsibility, or excuse the government from guilt, well then reparations are feasible.”


    If reparations were just an act of appeasement, Black folk would have received them decades ago. Reparations, in its purest form, is the ultimate act of responsibility, the quintessential acknowledgement of a guilty party.

    Lastly, who came up with the notion that “drastic social change” can be implemented without the finances to fund it?

  37. syn says:

    I feel that for a long time no one from with in Hip hop seems to have come out.In this most of the Black people to get back to fusing different cultures and values.I feel that now the rap music can get worse.


    Crack Cocaine

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