Amplified Observations: Bragging in rap has evolved since the music’s origins

When I first started writing this column, it was kind of cool to put swear words in it, just because I could. However, somewhere along the way that became no longer cool to me, so for a long time I tried not to use any. I use one here, but it’s related to the subject matter, so it was worth the joke.

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Luke Furman | Columnist

It’s rare that someone would take shots at something they love, yet alone something that covers their mortgage and car payments. But rappers do it all the time.

In a trend exclusive to their music, rappers are often heard belittling or dismissing exactly what they’re doing, which acts as a fairly meta lyrical technique, but one that has been around for a while. A common phrase that spans many songs in hip-hop’s canon is the proclamation “F–k rap,” which can be heard as early as Slum Village’s 2000 track “Fall In Love” (F–k this rap s–t/ I listen to classical) to songs released this year such as Vince Staples’ “Norf Norf” (F–k gangsta rap/ where the ladies at?).

Other artists have expressed this same sentiment, such as Kendrick Lamar on “R.O.T.C.,” ScHoolBoy Q on “Break the Bank,” Jay Z on a cut off “Vol. 2… Hard Knock Life” and Pusha T, who on “Numbers On the Boards” criticizes people who rely only on rap money to feed their family.

So what’s the point of this? Well, mainly, it’s a progressively meta style of bragging.

Rather than rappers building their larger-than-life, king-of-the-game image by talking about their material possessions or pronounced rapping abilities, they dismiss rap as a whole, which creates a persona that appears they would have been successful even if they never faced a microphone.

This braggadocious trend can be summarized in a line from Mac Miller’s 2013 track “Watching Movies,” where he raps “I got so many ways I can make money/ I’ll always be straight, I just thought you should know.” Miller also more bluntly raps “F–k rap/ make a million off a shitty app” in his 2015 song “Ascension.”  By claiming that other rappers rely specifically on one source of income, it elevates their status to the equivalent of a utility player in baseball.

Bragging and building up one’s personality has always been a staple of hip-hop, and as the genre nears a more mature age, methods used to brag have changed accordingly and will most likely continue to change in more lyrically clever and self-aware ways. Long gone are the days when simply rapping about money paid the bills. Now it’s all about rapping about money but doing it in a witty and conscious way like in Childish Gambino’s “Sweatpants” where he quips “I got a penthouse on both coasts/ pH balance.”

Post-2000s hip-hop is reaching a point where rappers want the public to perceive them as so careless that they don’t even care about their day job a.k.a. rapping. They want to make it seem as easy and effortless as possible. So, if that’s what works, then all I have to say is f–k columns.

Luke Furman is a sophomore studying journalism and a reporter for The Post. What do you think of this lyrical rap style? Tweet him @LukeFurmanOU or email him at lf491413@ohio.edu.

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