5 Rappers Smarter Than Their Lyrics
DJ A-See and me had just finished dinner at a friend’s house over the weekend when she pulled out the hip-hop karaoke. Now, if you’ve never had the unfortunate indigestion that comes of seeing the lyrics to This Is Why I’m Hot in print, you want to thank your stars and keep the brain space. It got us to thinking, no way these rappers are really that dim. They’re just lazy: Keep It Simple, Stupid. Or they don’t want to complicate things for the listeners. We took the 5 biggest offenders to task for their sins. They’ve gotta be dumbing it down. They’ve just gotta be—don’t they?
5. 50 Cent
Back in 2007 when it was rumored that Fiddy made $400 million dollars off his investment in Vitamin Water (even though it was more like $100 mill), everybody had to say Whoa.
Mr. 50 Cent is one of the reasons we had to start Grownheadz. His songs, monotone tales of guns, drugs and death, made hip hop a little less interesting and a whole lot more immature. But on the business side, Fiddy is a grown-ass man.
Curtis was doing the usual rapper business model: Start your own label and sign your boys. Check. Start a clothing line. Check. But while other rappers were making Pimp Juice and Crunk Juice, 50 invested in a company he believed in because he drank it when he worked out. Unlike his predecessors, he kept the venture low-key and initially didn’t promote his connection to the firm, quietly banking shares and making bank.
In interviews, 50’s been heard quoting The 48 Rules of Power by Robert Greene—he even inspired me to pick up the book, and it’s thick, y’all—so he’s got more than coloring books in his library. But if he truly wants to impress, he needs to stop rapping about shooting up the block and talk about his investment strategy.
4. David Banner
What does a former president of the Student Government Association do with an undergrad degree in business from Southern University (HBCU’s in da house) and a master’s degree in education from the University of Maryland? Why, become a rapper, of course!
Levell Crump, a.k.a David Banner, is by all accounts is an educated man, with the proper bourgie credentials to make him eligible for all sorts of mature blackman stuff. You know, Grown and Sexy Sundays, good credit, hell, he could be a principal at somebody’s school. Instead, we get lyrics like:
Bend it on over, lemme see it from the back/Work your thumb in it girl, I love it like that/
Freaky ass hoes, lil’ freaky ass men/Lemme work ya slow, lemme see it going in
Hold up, big cat! I thought you was edu-MU-cated. In his defense, David Banner told Vibe the public had a choice . He gave the world Cadillac on 22’s heartfelt lines:
Lord, they hung Andre Jones/Lord, they hung Reynold Johnson /Lord, I wanna fight back but I’m just so sick of bouncing /Lord, I’m sick of jumping, Lord, just please tell me something
And also Like a Pimp. And the winner is? You guessed it, and David’s been dumbing it down ever since. But come on, Dave. You’ve been in a few movies, you get good money for producing, and you have by now established your street bonifieds enough. Give the public one mo’ chance, please! We promise, we’ll do right this time.
When you go from street hustler to being president of one of the most storied record labels in the industry, you gotta know something. When you and your partners build a multi-millon dollar independent label AND fashion company, you gotta know something. When one of those partners goes broke and files for bankruptcy (cough *Dame* cough) and you still got yours and a whole lot more, you GOTS to know something.
In 2008, Hovah was #7 on the Forbes Celebrity List. Keep in mind, this was not the rappers list, not music list, but the Celebrity List, which put him in the ranks of Will Smith, Oprah, and Tom Cruise. I repeat, YOU HAVE GOT to know something. Hov even admitted on record that he dumbs it down on purpose:
I dumb down for my audience/And double my dollars/They criticize me for it/Yet they all yell “Holla”/
If skills sold/Truth be told/I’d probably be/Lyrically/Talib Kweli/Truthfully/I wanna rhyme like Common Sense/
But I did five Mil/I ain’t been rhymin like Common since
Sean, now that you got the money, do that artsy, lyrically dense, deep, mature hip-hop album you’ve been running from for the last ten years. You made your dough. You can just do it for the fun.
Not to offend all the Thug Lifers, but Tupac is one of the worst offenders of dumbing it down—he might even be the poster child. Resident Alien just calls it treason.
We all know the story. Pac’s momma was an elite Black Panther; she even did time for the cause. With Geronimo Pratt as his godfather and Assatta Shakur as his aunt, Pac was revolutionary royalty. Granted, revolutions don’t pay, so he grew up poor and his childhood had more than its share of challenges. But he was conscious, attended a performing arts high school, and you know he knew better.
He launched his solo career during the last vestiges of hip-hop’s Black Power movement, so Tupacalypse Now’s songs about revolution, empowerment, and social ills made, if not hits, at least impact. But after Strictly 4 My Niggaz, somebody started believing his own rhymes.
Pac truly seemed a case of mo’ money, mo’ problems, but instead of a therapist and valium, he got into frontin’ and self medicating with indo and Henny. He went to jail for some dumb, brutal mess that SHOULD NOT have happened (you know the story) and even in that situation, he knew better.
Enter Suge Knight and DeathRow Records. He sprang ‘Pac and just like that, Mr. Shakur was back to poppin’ glocks and hittin’ switches out west. He knew better. He became a rapping Mitt Romney, refuting everything he used to stand for. Killing, beefing (the first, I believe, to truly make it personal) and a whole lot of weed. In the verbal battle for his soul, Pac threw all his weight on the devil’s side. Three words: he knew better.
1. Master P
That’s the first thing I think when you say M
Of all the names on this list, he is hands-down the worst rapper in the bunch. When you saw his videos or heard the records, it was hard to believe that THAT guy was the owner of a label that had over 20 gold and platinum plaques. Like a lot of cats, I couldn’t stand Master P, but couldn’t hate on the hustle.
According to Wikipedia, P’s empire included No Limit Records, Bout It Inc. (a record management company), No Limit Clothing, No Limit Films, No Limit Sports Management, PM. Properties and Advantage Travel—not to mention the restaurant and gas station. No Limit Sports Management made a big splash when P signed Ricky Williams right after he won the Heisman Trophy.
Adding insult to injury, No Limit Films shocked Hollywood when Bout It, Bout It made millions. P was doing the Tyler Perry thing, only with gangster tales and guns. Even though No Limit filed for bankruptcy, P ain’t missing no meals. In fact, he’s been giving seminars on how to build generational wealth and wrote a book called Guaranteed Success: When You Never Give Up. Now, if only he had put some of those smarts into writing rhymes.