Pop Culture, Theory & Essay

Believe Half Of What You Hear and None Of What You See?

These guys have killed millions. Of people. A lot.

I realized something a few days ago. And I’m not quite sure how to say this so I might as well just say it straight up.

I like being lied to.

Yes, apparently as a fan of mainstream hip-hop, I appreciate being lied to by some of my favorite artists.

Notice I said, MAINSTREAM rap. For all of you boho’s out there who will think this is an indictment on ALL rap, please read the preceeding sentence again. Go ahead. I’ll wait.

*humming Eminem’s “I’ll Kill You”*

N.W.A. lied to me constantly, Mobb Deep lied to me.

T.I. lies to me. Rick Ross lies to me. Lil Wayne lies to anybody who will listen. Common is lying to us all now. Well you get the point. These ninjas are all lying because they continue to write all of these tales of their current street acumen and all of the weapons they travel with and the drugs they currently slang, etc.

And I am a fan.

Now granted, I don’t actually believe any of these dudes do half of the sh*t they claim to do. I don’t believe that Rick Ross is moving that much snow in the hood or that T.I. is still moving blow in the hood. I don’t believe that any of these dudes have murdered anybody, with the possible exception of 50 Cent and that’s strictly due to one line on his song “Problem Child” from like 2003:

“they say you can never repay the price for taking a man’s life/I’m in debt with Christ cuz I done did that twice” – 50 Cent

I’ll admit, I do question the veracity of that statement and maybe it just sounds good in rhyme. But, errrum, most rappers tell you that they WILL kill you, as in future tense. 50 says that he HAS done it. Somehow, that makes me a little nervous. Luckily he isn’t in any jeopardy of going to Heaven anyway as I do in fact believe his posters are plastered through the Great Hall of Hades as one of the biggest proponents of Hell.

But for the most part, I don’t believe most of these rappers. And I’m not saying that none of these dudes sold drugs. I’m sure that T.I. did as I’m sure that Jay-Z did. I’m sure 50 Cent did as well as a slew of other rappers. Of course, there are lots of questions about how big these “drug dealers” were as even Biggie’s own people have said that he wasn’t nearly the drug dealer he claimed to be. Many of these dudes do indeed have the soul of hustlers so I believe that many of them have done SOME of the things they claim in rhyme. Let’s just say that amongst the lies they share resides some segment of truth.

But between all of the murders these rappers claim to be willing to commit and all of the weight that they claim to be moving and the fact that I don’t actually believe any of them are as big time as they claim, it just seems that I like being lied to. I mean, I buy into it as it relates to their persona on wax. And somehow, they seem to buy into their own stories enough to convince me to buy into them. And I’m not alone. For some strange reason, as far as our mainstream rappers go, with the possible exception of Kanye West, we all like to hear about how hard these dudes are and we can easily look past the fact that their entire catalog is filled with odes to drug slanging and killin’ ninjas on the block.

Now for the life of me, I can’t figure out why I’ll let this type of sh*t slide. The lies, I mean. Most normal people detest liars. People that will lie to you are the very people you’d not want to be around. Yet in mainstream rap, being able to convince people of your street respectability, be it fabricated or not, is paramount. If somebody found out that Kenny Rogers had never played a game of poker, well, how upset would the country music world be? Or what if the Dixie Chicks were from Canada? Or what if Guns ‘N Roses didn’t live the life they sang about? Of course, that’s an impossibility because if you’ve seen the vh1 Behind The Music on the Guns, you’d realize, them white boys and Slash were nuckin’ futs.

I guess this all ties into the very notion that even as an educated black man, respect and pride are very important. I live in a black neighborhood and you don’t want anybody to even think about wanting to mess with you. Somehow, these are the problems we concern ourselves with. So I sometimes walk around with this air of “don’t f*ck with me or this might be a bad day for you”. We all know I’m as gangsta as they come, but we also all know that I purchased a Hillary Duff CD. The key is to not let anybody else know it. And I think this is a problem that is unique to the black man experience. I could be wrong, but it seems to me that we spend a lot of time trying to scare the bejesus out of white and black people. Hell, we don’t have anything else…all we have is our respect.

Or so we say.

And maybe that’s why we like to be lied to so much. We spend so much time trying to be the dude that everybody wouldn’t want to mess with, kind of as a manifestation of our idea of self-preservation, that despite the sheer impossibility of many of these rappers claims, we see them as a lot like us, even if we may come from totally different circumstances. Right?

I remember during the last episode of Season 3 of The Wire, after Stringer Bell, had been gangstaliciously murdered by Omar and Brother Mouzone, Detective McNulty was in Stringer’s apartment looking through his books and possessions and couldn’t believe the types of books String had been reading. It was so astounding to him he wondered aloud who in the hell was he chasing?

I wonder if a lot of these dudes are indeed like that. They all seem to look up to Tupac and we know the intelligent hoodlum he was. I know a lot of people don’t like Tupac as a rapper, and I have my days as well, but as a person he was the epitome of the young black man so many of us wish to be. Educated but respected by all. He had the pedigree, he had the struggle, he had the ability to rise above it, and he went out in a blaze of glory. Actually, nix that last part, I’d rather go out while drinking some Kool-Aid when I’m 98.

All in all, I wonder if the reason we love being lied to so much is because so many of us spend time lying to ourselves about who we really are. From white suburban “thugs” to some of the inner-city black “thugs”. Yeah the white boys get to grow out of it, but so many of us black men still fall victim to the idea that we have to be able to be respected in the streets, at age 30.

So yes, I like being lied too. Hell, I enjoy it thoroughly. And I think I don’t pay much attention to it because in some kind of weird way, I understand.

Besides, if I want honesty, I’ll just listen to Milli Vanilli.

So what about you? Do you like being lied to as well or do you even pay attention anymore?


Panama Jackson

Panama Jackson is pretty fly (and gorgeous) for a light guy. He used to ship his frito to Tito in the District, but shipping prices increased so he moved there to save money. He refuses to eat cocaine chicken. When he's not saving humanity with his words or making music with his mouth, you can find him at your mama's mama's house drinking her fine liquors. Most importantly, he believes the children are our future. You can hit him on his hitter at panamadjackson@gmail.com.

  • KMN

    I’ve stopped evenlistening to most of that mess. The lies are so rampant, so many, by so many, and so many telling the same lie…who can keep up? Who can care?

    I just like the beats anyway :)

    I think about the only folks that don’t lie are R&B singers (w.the exception of mr Baby “I’ll pay your rent” Face…i think he lied about that

  • KMN

    them white boys and Slash were nuckin’ futs.

    LMAO i forgot to add this…i see what you did there…


  • I think you’ve hit on it. Being lied to shields us from the cold harsh truth. That we’re mostly worthless human beings.

  • I only believe the Clipse. I liked intricately weaved tales so I don’t mind being lied to in music. I mean I still listen to Lupe even though he pretends to be an intellectual.

  • Royale W. Cheese

    This is very introspective.

    From now on, whenever I hear black men ponder why black women put up nearly indestructible walls to mask our vulnerability, I will give them a link to this article. We all do it, just differently.

  • Tx10inch

    I only hate being lied to when suspect azz rappers and singers claim to love hot apple pie when they really want a sausage sandwich. Now, I’m sure it would be diffucult for an openly gay rapper or singer to keep his audience but don’t lie to me bro……Let me decide. *I’m lookin at u Neyo AND Trey Songz*

  • naturalista88

    I’ve stopped giving a damn some time ago; just get me drunk enough & anything will sound hot to me *lol*. But seriously, I don’t really care whether someone actually pushed all that dope they claimed they did, or chexed half the world (only person I believe on that front is Lil’ Wayne) cause it ain’t me tellin’ them lies to sell records, so it don’t concern me.

  • Maybe this is why I don’t listen to much hip-hop any more. I only like my R&B folks to lie to me. We gonna do it all night huh? I believe you. I do.

  • Amos Banks

    I don’t worry about whether or not I believe the hype. My concern is about the impressionable youth who hear this stuff on the radio and think that’s the path to success.

    Also, I got your suburban thug right here. Blackhawks celebration in 2010.


  • Why are all my comments going into moderation? Am I no longer welcome? Has the heart not grown fonder in my absence? :(

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