By PHILIP SUSSER
Growing up, for “white-boys” such as myself, rap was an ironic musical genre. Us awkward Jewish boys fully embraced the overt, inflammatory language of rap, glossing over the true meanings of the lyrics and bopping our heads to the beat. It was pretty funny. I remember the first time I listened to 50 Cent’s “In da Club” (clean version), arguably the biggest banger Camp Mah-Kee-Nac has ever seen. When Curtis Jackson smoothly uttered the lines “We gon’ sip Bacardi like it’s your birthday,” I sang along with my own, “We gon sit the party like it’s ya birthday.” Because why would my nine-year-old self have any idea what Bacardi was, or the fact that birthday parties would be comprised of anything besides a trip to Chelsea Piers for bowling, arcade games and chocolate cake? It was nonsensical to me. While I still have zero clue as to what any of Sean Paul’s lyrics mean, I think I currently have a firm grasp on the meanings underlying many of the gangster rap songs of the first fifteen years of the twenty-first century. And it has little relevance to my life, or my upbringing. Thankfully, I was never shot nine times and never had to sell crack in the fifth grade. Yet, the highlight of my Yankee themed bar mitzvah was the discovery of Soulja Boy.
My demographic has for too long had to settle with the removed and frankly, irrelevant rap of our upbringing. We have struggled as we “cranked that,” “leaned wit it and rocked wit it” and “let it rain and cleared it out.” Fortunately for us, a rapper has recently emerged from the abyss to give a relatable voice to a generation of hip-hop’s confused young followers. Meet David Burd, a.k.a. Lil’ Dicky. His unique path to rap stardom is now well documented as a riches-to-fake-rags satirical take on the hip-hop we have grown so accustomed to. The second song of his debut album Professional Rapper, is an interview with Snoop Dogg, reviewing his qualifications and outlining his place in this musical genre. Holding true to his college educated background — he graduated from the University of Richmond with a 3.03 GPA — he uses this song as a “thesis” of sorts, telling audiences that he wants to bring something different to rap, a new voice. While he surely isn’t the first musician to express such a desire, there is no denying that his rap-comedy resonates with a lot of people; His music video “Lemme Freak” currently has over 8 million views on Youtube.
There is no doubt he is a funny guy. Yet his music is slightly unsettling for me. He has been lamented by Vice for being a beacon of white-privilege and ignorance. His music does at times seem a little out of touch and overly confident. Most notably, his music video “White Dudes” shows him and some friends strolling by a police car, smoking weed as cops turn a blind eye. Obviously he meant for this message to be taken lightly, as a hyperbolic comment on the comforts of being white and having law enforcement often give him the benefit of the doubt. But does he have the luxury to make such a statement? With Lil Dicky in the picture, hip-hop now seems to be a double-edged sword. On one end is the established derisive commentary of gangster rap. On the other, is a stoner white boy chuckling at his “leftward sloping penis” (“Ex-Boyfriend”) because he has nothing else to worry about. After all, “imprisonment is not a predicament.” (White Dude)
Dicky’s brand is surely unique. He brings observational humor to the studio and finds a way to rap about such issues as being double billed for a coffee refill at a diner.
He’s like that friend you had in middle school who was the first guy to start telling masturbation jokes. Did he push the envelope? Sure. Did you find him funny? Of course. But odds are, this friend, just like the rest of us, eventually realized that he needed to get a job and would unfortunately have to limit such humor in public spaces. Dicky himself expressed the risk that he took by publicly releasing such raunchy humor. During his interview with Vice, he mentioned that his parents were “begging [him] not to put anything online because it would completely damn any possibility of having another job.” He undoubtedly took a “risk” in assuming the proverbial role of the masturbation-joke friend. The best part of his quote though, is that anybody’s parent would have said the exact same thing (I can vividly picture my parents declaring my professional career over), which adds a real authenticity to his work and significance to his rise to success.
Dicky should tread lightly. In being an Internet celebrity, his lyrics have implications. Unlike many other comedians, he is not shielded by the safety of comedy clubs and the implicit understanding that one will make people uncomfortable. His words will be especially scrutinized given his comfortable upbringing. One careless slip up and he can set back a group of young men who, for years, have been clamoring for such a rapper to come around. After all, he is representing a cohort of individuals like me, who want to show how well they can $ave that money.
Philip Susser is a senior in the College of Human Ecology. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. An Ithaca State of Mind appears on alternate Wednesdays this semester.