I just came back from the gym where they were playing such rap classics as “Get up out of my face” and “I’m going to knock you out” over the PA system. You know, hip hop culture asserts that the fire in the belly lies in narcissism, not putting up with anything, and superior capacity for violence. The average rap lyrics are about, “I’m exalted over you. Don’t mess with me. I’ll hurt you (threats, threats, more threats). I won’t allow anyone to disrespect me. I’ll hurt them too. My style and my pose should make you understand this. Oh, and I expect lots of sex and money to come from my attitude.” etc. Now, true, this is drivel for the socially pathological mind – meaning, these days, about a quarter of the populace. But it’s interesting to note how it encourages a culture in which one’s sense of self and one’s energy and prowess come not from work, but from the parasitical reliance on others’ adulation and fear – it’s an alienation from the self. One has to feel sorry for people who live and breathe this way. I feel sorry for them, just looking at their wardrobes – baggy pants, sports paraphenalia, and oversized everything. It’s clear that they aren’t prepared at all for a culture of work – indeed they’ve repudiated work, having denied meaning altogether. When have you ever heard a rap song about the joy one derives from one’s vocation? They’re lost.
The pimp, the gangster doesn’t work; he draws his living, self-image, and gratification solely from the labor of others. He’s the antithesis of the entrepreneur.Lyrics from someone who lives in his work would probably bore a youth culture obsessed with personal image, brutal violence, and the tyranny of unintelligent demagogues: “Sorry, I don’t have time for lyrics; I have work to do. Are you offering to pay me; perhaps I could refer you to one of my colleagues? Yes, I’m sure you are very important, and a pimp, and a gangster and all, but I really have to focus on my clients; perhaps you’d like to schedule a free consultation. No, I’m not disrespecting you; I’m busy. Yes, well, I don’t really know anyone who deals in hoes or farming implements in general. Sorry, I couldn’t help. Yes, have a good day.”
No, the preference for image over meaning, the desire for respect without character, the insistence on preference without contribution are hallmarks not of the culture of work, nor really the culture of anything – they’re a rejection of culture. A glance at the top ten rap songs of all time paints a fairly bleak picture of what’s going on in the minds of your basic hip hop fan. And those who say the lyrics don’t matter – they just like the music, have repudiated something just as deep, when it comes to art, though they’d never realize it. Work may be seen as the enemy, or at least the ultimate inconvenience, but real work is actually the cure for this deprivation. Finding the work of one’s life, so that you have no time for posing and demanding attention, for whining about respect, and for being terrified that someone isn’t thinking highly enough of you, for singing anthems that amount to how other people don’t matter. Work is the cure, and not making the journey toward your work is “dissing” yourself. This is why the “pimp” and the “gangster” are the icons of hip hop. The pimp, the gangster doesn’t work – he draws his living, self-image, and gratification solely from the labor of others. He’s the antithesis of the entrepreneur, and the pied piper of a generation who doesn’t know how to derive significance or happiness from work. The lost follow the lost.
I get the impression I’m at the gym for an entirely different set of reasons than my hip hop loving counterparts.