Rich Hil, the tatted-up 21 year-old son of Tommy Hilfiger, just got himself a record deal with Warner Brothers. (You can celebrate the moment with him in this video.) While Hil is, at least, more talented than Chet Haze, the rise of two celebrity scions into hip hop prominence at once makes me fear the very worst.
I'm not afraid to stand up and crankily say that back in my day—the hip hop golden age, mind you, when you couldn't throw a rock in MusicLand without hitting an album that would inspire a Michael Rapaport documentary 20 years later—hip hop was about skills, okay? You had to have skills, a term so conveniently vague that it means just what I understand it to mean, and asking me to explain it to you would only reveal your embarrassing, shaky grasp of vague concepts with no fixed meaning.
The important thing is that there existed, in hip hop, a collective agreement that people couldn't be too wack, because a surfeit of wack people walking around claiming to represent hip hop would just look bad for everyone. Hip hop was a self-regulating system, in the sense that if you were good at it, you were accepted, and if you sucked, you got laughed out, and this way everything took care of itself, producing the aforementioned 1990s Golden Age. This is not about being white. 3rd Bass was not wack! Hip hop has always accepted white people, as long as they weren't wack. Sure, white people might have had to clear a higher bar of skepticism to win acceptance in hip hop, but with good reason. World history has proven that once you start handing shit over to white people without a struggle, colonialism usually ensues.
There also has never been a rule in hip hop against rich people. The whole idea that hip hop was the same as "gangster" or "ghetto" is, frankly, bullshit, and if you hold or ever held that view, check to make sure you're not a Republican. De La Soul was making songs about their fucking lawns on Long Island, in the 80s! But they had skills! Nobody was mad about it. Do you know who bankrolled one of the best underground hip hop labels of all time? James fucking Murdoch! Biggest sellout in hip hop history by certain standards, btw. Put out a lotta good music though.
I don't propose that white people, or rich people, or the sons of famous people be summarily banned from hip hop. I simply propose that in order for someone to be considered an actual (as opposed to a joke) rapper, they be held to these mild standards:
1. They are not wack.
2. You might have conceivably listened to their music even if you had not known who they were.
I submit that both Rich Hil and Chet Haze fail on both counts. I also submit that, you know, so does Drake, but reasonable people can disagree. There's nothing wrong with being white and rich and famous and liking hip hop. There is something wrong with being a wack ass rapper who floats along on a family name. The point is: don't feed the trolls. Stop signing these people to contracts, and hiring them to do shows, and going to those shows for laffs, and for god's sake, stop reading and writing about them on the internet! This blog post is part of the problem! (I'm very disappointed in you, for reading it all the way to the bottom, and thereby encouraging us to repeat our mistake.) Less attention for Rich Hil. More attention for Homeboy Sandman.