In 1972 the Cross Bronx Expressway was completed; this marked the separation of the southern Bronx and was followed by the “Bronx is burning” which began the downward spiral for this urban, African American neighborhood. Around the same time hip-hop was founded and became an outlet for the frustrations of the poor, suffering people of this region. The result was the culture of hip-hop that glorifies violence, drugs, money, and a gangster persona. This has become the image of the Hip Hop artist, and is used by musicians to gain the approval or “street cred” of their fans/peers. With this proof of authenticity, however, many rap/hip-hop artists have sent messages of criticism and condemnation of the life in the “hood” and the failures of the Civil Rights Movement. In the song “Hate it or Love it,” these themes of hip-hop are portrayed throughout the song. Rappers The Game and 50 Cent both use signification and realism to gain credibility and critique the failures of the Civil Rights generation. As defined by Imani Perry, a processor of African American studies at Princeton University, realism “encourages a critique of the media and reflects the significant realities of social inequality” and signifying “[is] a metaphor for the revision of previous texts and figures (Perry, 61, 101).”
Credibility is an idea that is very important in hip-hop. It is often referred to as “keeping it real” and calls attention to the authenticity of the rap artist (Perry, 87). According to Imani Perry, this entails maintaining “allegiance to black youth populations or subgroups within [their] community.” Most enthusiasts believe that hip-hop artists should stay true to their roots and stick with the style of their home-region. The Game stays “real” by recording “Hate it or Love it” as West Coast style hip-hop and visually signifying N.W.A. (a hip-hop group also from the same city of Compton, CA) in the music video. The song also allows featured artist 50 Cent the chance to stay authentic when he signifies Tupac and Rakim, both of which were also from New York. The Game and 50 Cent though not directly sampling from these artist do cover the identity their predecessors created; as a result, they cover and maintain allegiance to the image of men from black American urban communities.
In addition to signifying, “Hate it or Love it” uses realism throughout its lyrics to build credibility with the audience. Rappers/ Hip-Hop artists are expected to “witness” and “live out” the narratives that they tell. 50 Cent starts the song saying, “let’s take’em back” signifying the transition to story of a “real” time before he or The Game were known rappers. Both artist reference this reality by disclosing details of ghetto/gangster life in lines like “Brenda is still throwing babies in the garbage,” “niggas had stole my bike,” and “one phone call’ll have your body dumped in marshes.” These phrases all refer to personal or witnessed events that describe the problems like teenage pregnancy, theft, and gang violence in black American urban communities. This “reality” regardless of truth authenticates the rapper because it shows he has experienced the pains of racism, and poverty. It gives the listener a reason to believe the artist can sympathize with his/her own struggles and authenticates the words in the song. Imani Perry also says that, “[Realism is a] testimony to the emotional state resulting from the experience of poverty, blackness, and the crisis of urbanity (Perry, 87).” After proving oneself as “real” and establishing their ability to relate to black America, rap artist can further their credibility by targeting the emotional hardships of urban poverty. 50 Cent conveys these emotions when he raps, “Different day, same shit, ain’t nothing good in the hood. I’d run away from this bitch and never come back if I could.” Here he expresses a genuine hate for the “hood” and shows his vulnerability as a child, a sentiment not often admitted to in rap. It is...
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