When Rap Was One Big Rugged Family
There was a time when rap was one big rugged family and I miss it. From the mid 90’s to the mid 2000’s there was a major flux of rappers becoming CEO’s and getting distribution deals that gave them their own label. I am going to give praise to a few giants that we will all recognize. Roc-A-Fella Records, Bad Boy Records, Death Row Records, No Limit Records, Cash Money Records, G-Unit Records, Murder Ink, Ruff Ryders, Dipset, Wu-Tang. These were musical juggernauts and growing up falling in love with the culture I understood these faces and their stories. Yes I realize behind the illusion of most of these was some middle aged white guy who was making all the money.
Snapple Fact Of Life: Behind almost everything, and yes I mean EVERYTHING is some middle aged or old white guy that’s making all the real money.
Still outside of our sports these were our heroes. The only Christopher we acknowledged was Wallace. These record labels helped shaped our identity growing up. When you threw up The Dynasty sign for Roc-A-Fella records that was like a flag you held proudly in the air with your fellow countrymen. When we said “It’s Bad Boy for life” there was no telling us that this historic run wouldn’t go on for eternity and we wouldn’t all be apart of it. Cash Money records was royalty to us. All these young black males with an absurd amount of jewelry, cars that weren’t rented but actually had the license plate, making up words that actually became accredited and got into the dictionary (see:Bling Bling). 50 cent had a moment when the entire world was a G-Unit solider. “In Da Club” was playing on country stations and no matter your race, creed, religion, ethnicity you could find unity in yelling “Ggggg-unit”. Ruff Ryders with the double R would actually come to your local hood and feed the people while popping willies in the street. My mother was once part of a biker gang and I actually saw this happen growing up in Philly.
All of this and the best part was the head of these labels that got these distribution deals were all like me. They yelled these names out at the top of songs or after their verse and you thought you were part of the clique. Everyone of these labels had a different style and flare. They all had different signs to let you notify the world you were affiliated (at least musically) with them and different phrases you would yell out during the song at the local house party. I was trying to avoid the term but during this time these were the worlds most powerful gangs, besides the government and mob of course. Still they were more than gangs they were family. I guess depending on your circumstances gangs are family the same way my best friends are family. Every time you heard these songs it invoked emotion. They went hard you went hard, they rapped about love you wanted to experience it. If Ja Rules “Put It On Me” doesn’t make you want to get your voice as raspy as possible and scream that chorus to the top of your lungs like you are still watching TRL or 106 and Park then we simply can not be in the same room together, because I’ll fight you. The music videos were the best part of our day. Back when you actually could catch music videos on television. After school belonged to TRL and 106 and park
Hmm- Maybe I should do a “Just My Thoughts” on the greatness that was TRL.
When these record labels had beef we were torn and had to affiliate with sides. It would be discussed in heated debates in barbershops and in between classes. When diss songs made your soul burn slow and want to takeover everything. Sometimes it would get too real (Major R.I.P. Big and Pac), but sometimes they would come together cousins and make us love family reunions.Shout out to The Dipset and Roc-A-fella alliance that was fun while it lasted.
These labels had clothing lines, rappers getting signature shoe deal, they were making movies! This was black excellence! And when I say black excellence I don’t mean only black folks could enjoy it. Because America loves black culture, even if as a whole we don’t like bla…nvm. All I’m saying is it was a beautiful time and I miss it, I think we all do.
Nowadays there’s more rappers than fans. The gawds we once knew that set atop Mount Olympus sipping champagne like nectar are just titans held captive to the thing we are all held captive to, the money. Snoop is on ESPN or doing pop Songs, Ice Cube is a lukewarm family friendly man, Ja Rule is a ghost, Nelly drops music no one hears, 50 cent starting beef now is more of a comedy routine, Dipset doesn’t rap and when they do we don’t care. Master P’s son is doing community college commercials, Lil Wayne and Baby are going to court, Dr. Dre is never giving us The Chronic, HOV is always buying something, and Diddy is always selling us something. I don’t hate it I respect it, I respect it all. All of it was to get to the money and open doors and that’s exactly what these labels did. So I have to admire it. I just miss my family.
Now we got male R&B singers throwing up gang signs and rapping mid song. Like please just sing to me about being in love, being miserable, or getting my girl back! All the devoted fan bases belong to the ladies Beyonce, Rihanna, Lady Gaga, Adele etc., no longer the first lady of these labels like an Ashanti or Eve. All have nifty names for their fan base( Bey-Hive, Ririnavy, Little Monsters etc.). The Boy bands have reemerged and taken all the pretty girls with nice feet back who use to be in rap videos giving us ugly dudes hope. And I appreciate and respect it because they are all extremely talented. But don’t you dare try to tell me saying bey-hive is the same as throwing up The Dynasty sign. Just invokes different emotions. Remember before Kanye got put on and when he first got put on how ecstatic he was to be down with the “R-O-C running this rap shit”. We were all Hip-hop street teams a bunch of nieces and nephews getting hip to the game and all the riches it had to offer from rap lyrics and screaming rap exces who was all up in the video. It was suppose to be Bad Boy for Life and Cash Money taking over for the 99′ and the 2000’s. Now its like looking in photo albums at your Nana’s house during family reunions. It was an ignorant, flaunting, stunting, beautiful bliss and now it is just nostalgic. I miss my family.
Shout out to G.O.O.D Music, Shady, Taylor Gang, St. Lunatics, Disturbing Tha Peace, MMG, Young Money and OVO. But I think we can all admit it is just not the same. They are all the children of these labels and for the most part only have one major star unlike the aforementioned labels. I’m not perfect you don’t have to agree with me. Maybe you like R&B dudes constantly singing about stealing your girl. IDK I’m just a kid from the Midwest that likes tequila shots.