“When I got into rap music way back when, one of the things that really turned me on to it was I always looked at the lyricist being the newspaper,” said Neil Levine a long-time music exec who now heads up Sony/BMG’s newly launched urban imprint Battery Records.
“Well , things are very different now,” he said. “I think people are tired of hearing the same lyrics, the same crap. I’m certainly hoping that the lyrics change with the times.”
Not everyone agrees with Levine. Harlem rapper Jim Jones is leading off his upcoming solo album, Pray For Reign, with a single called, “Pop Champagne.” In the song, he raps about purchasing a new drop-top Ferrari and buying out bottles in the club. Jones doesn’t see anything wrong with his lyrics even during an economic downturn.
“Sh*t if you making money why not talk about opulence,” he asked? “Yeah you should be aware of what’s going on and you should always be aware of the recession but that’s on you if that’s the type of music that you want to make.”
Though Jones claims that recession isn’t affecting him personally, the “Ballin'” rapper said he tries to balance his raps about excess with tales of the hard work that made it all possible. “They know I’m Ballin’ [but] for the most part I keep it grounded because I come from the struggle where we gotta hustle. Without the hustle you can’t ball. It just shows that my hustle is paying off.”
Akon is another artist who is unapologetic about making songs that commemorate his success. His new single, “I’m So Paid, “which features Lil’ Wayne and Young Jeezy does just that.
“It’s a record of celebration really, even though it’s a recession going on we actually celebrating that were not being hit by it,” he said. “We have the right to celebrate because we worked hard to get to this point and we shouldn’t let someone else’s mistake destroy that happiness.”
But some rappers weighed in on the other side of the spectrum. Q-Tip stressed the fact that artists have a right to exercise their freedom of speech but said that he finds those types of lyrics a bit insensitive in light of the current financial crisis.
“For me personally I think to talk about that stuff is a little bit of a slap in the face to the regular folk but it’s upon the individual,” Q-Tip told SOHH exclusively. “I don’t think there needs to be any law or unspoken law that artists should now speak about this. I think it depends on the individual.”
Atlanta rapper Ludacris encourages his fellow rappers to use their music to help regular folks survive these tough times and not make them more difficult. “I think that during this recession it is important for us to take responsibility and try to make some music that when people listen to it it’s something that kinda helps them get through their days,” he said. “So whatever that encompasses, that’s what I think people should be doing.”