"Represent yo' clique! Represent yo' clique! Bia-biaaahhh!!!"
Lil Jon, "Bia Bia" (radio version, of course)

50 Cent. G-Unit. The Game. Fat Joe. Jadakiss. Sheek. Jay-Z. Nas. Lil' Kim. Lil' Cease. Trillville. Lil' Scrappy. Lil' Flip. T.I. Chingy. Ludacris. It's hard to tell who doesn't have beef with anybody in hip-hop anymore.

The whole posse thing—excuse me, clique—(though, I suspect most of these folks would spell it ‘click’ if you asked them), is just out of control. Why is the ultra-clique necessary to go out anywhere? A mild-mannered group of folks that happens to meet each other at the same spot is one thing—But imagine five SUV’s arriving at the same time, or two of those Hummer limousines. They come into the club or wherever, and their entourage/crew, official or unofficial, is like 15, 20, 25 deep; at least half of them smoke weed, and damn near all of them drink, and for most it’s not a thing where they’re content to have one beer or wine cooler and leave it at that; they’re trying to shut the bar down. And if you have all these people crowded in there, two dozen of whom are all under the presumed leadership of these one or two folks, all in varying states of sobriety, it’s like trying to juggle dynamite and nitroglycerin.

I don’t really travel in the same social circles as a lot of these folks. Based on my experiences—or the lack thereof—I’d have to say that I’ve just never been in some of the situations that lead to these kind of—misadventures—that so many people from hip-hop, or from the hood, period—seem to get caught up in. I’ve never been in the situation where I’m driving to a party or something with somebody and they say, “Yo, why don’t you hold this heater for me ‘til we get to the spot; I got two strikes, if Five-O pulls us over, I’m in mad trouble”. I haven’t been, like, hanging with somebody, then we go to a 7-11, and it turns out the cat mopping the floor has been dating my friend’s baby’s mama, so naturally, it’s on, like “Yo! Whazzup, kid! Who told you you could kick it with my woman! What! What!” –all I wanted was a bag of Doritos, and I can either try to defuse the bomb or join in and run the risk of having a jail record because my pal is too jealous for his own good. Sure enough, sometimes you can be in the wrong place and at the wrong time, but for some folks, their trouble-meter is always in the red zone. As the saying goes, “If I can’t change the people around me, I change the people around me.”

Dope-hustling and prison culture have crossed-over with hip-hop to the point where too many acts see themselves as being anything but arguably well-compensated entertainers. As Jay-Z has said, (I’m paraphrasing) “I’m a hustler, I just happen to know how to rap”. To ask a lot of them, if they weren’t rapping, they’d be straight thugging. Damn, brah, is it that deep? 5 years into your major-label deal and you’re still on the verge of doing stick-ups? Something’s wrong with this picture. Only, too many people think it looks just fine. Kids raised on sloppy joes who think filet mignon looks weird as hell, and won’t touch it (meat abstainers, bear with me). People who are so used to the bottom-line fringe edge of society, that they barely see anything better for themselves in the long run—even with an expensive house/cars, etc., they’re still capable of making catastrophically bad choices that may lead them to lose everything, largely in the name of preserving street credibility. I understand that plenty of rap folk come from ‘troubled’ backgrounds. Okay. Everybody’s got to come from somewhere. Unfortunately, after getting their deals, too many heads tend to revel in the ghetto pathologies that they were once trying to escape. Every once-stifled fantasy harbored since puberty is now at their fingertips. But maturity-wise, a lot of “grown” folk are still stuck in high school, or earlier.

Too many cats have instigators in their inner circles. Folks who don’t really contribute anything of value; they’re just there to get in on the goods. Not formally accountable to anyone (they have no ties to the record label, lawyers, etc.), this almost always leads to problems somewhere down the line. And even these artists themselves have trouble on the discipline end based on all the cases they seem to catch on a recurring basis. And, when they’re ‘lucky’, they get off with probation, fines, and/or community service. Not going to jail is one thing, but with respect to probation, this stuff can last for years. Going through the rigmarole of reporting to some case-overloaded cop who doesn’t care whether you go back to jail or not is not something that I look forward to. I have trouble remembering to take out the garbage to the curb weekly, let alone a checking in with Officer Grizwald (and when the P.O. gets p.o.’ed, that’s more hassle).

Looking at the corporate world, Microsoft and Apple are longtime rivals. They’re both trying to win. But for whatever its worth, you haven’t seen Steve Jobs rolling up to Bill Gates’ headquarters with a crew of 10 guys carrying Glocks intending to pistol-whip somebody. Jobs and Gates know what’s at stake. They know what they have to lose, and they’re not trying to upset their own apple carts. Too many rappers can’t say the same. Is this the end result of a racist equation conceived centuries ago? Or is this something we’ve stumbled into ourselves, abetted by vices which are available to everyone?


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