Many people, including me, were scratching their head at the end of Drake’s “The Motto (Remix)” video. Drake, Lil Wayne, and Tyga each took turns saying how real they were. Since the song and subsequent video dropped, “Real N*gga What’s Up” has become a rallying cry for many hoods in America. The REAL question is what is “real”? And when did Wayne, Drake, and especially Tyga become the personification of it?
Hip-Hop has traditionally associated the word “real” with only the most authentic hip-hop acts. When you would say ‘that is a real emcee,’ you would be making a bold proclamation that the particular emcee in discussion not only lived what he was talking but also made music that other “real” people could relate to. When someone would say they were bringing the “real back” they would be speaking about bringing hip-hop back to its roots and away from the glamor and glitz it is typically associated with. When people typically refer to “real hip-hop” they are usually speaking about artists like Gangstarr, not artists like Lil Wayne.
One of the most popular mentions of “real” was on 2Pac’s “Against All Odds” where he boldly proclaimed the song was “the realist sh*t” he ever wrote. This is a particularly startling statement considering Pac’s prolific catalog. However, on this song from The Don Killumanti: The 7 Day Theory, 2Pac lashes out at everyone from the presently incarcerated Jimmy Henchman to Queensbridge legend Nas. So does this mean keeping it “real” is not about bringing hip-hop back to its essence but rather stirring up beef for no apparent reason? I would hope not but many hoods in America seem to view it this way. They see a “real n*gga” as someone who takes no sh*t from anyone; someone ready to pull a trigger in order to defend the honor of himself and his hood. I for one think that may be a “real” quick way to become a prisoner of the state, but far from what “real” is.
It seems these days anyone can create a definition of “real” and use it to describe themselves. On Jay-Z’s The Blueprint 3 there is a very prominent track featuring Young Jeezy called “As Real As It Gets.” Jeezy takes his time defining real as gangbangin’, drug dealing and showing others how to do the same. Jay-Z seems to define real in an entirely different way. According to Jay-Z it is being accepted by people anywhere you go because you are “real,” being true to who you are, repping where you are from and taking care of your family. This seems to be much closer to the true definition of what real is.
Whatever “real” is, why is it currently being associated with jeggings and songs about strip clubs? Is that a proper representation of real? I for one think not. To me real is Public Enemy being played on MTV while talking about how corrupt America is. Real is Eazy-E kicking his feet up at a White House lunch he was randomly invited to. Real is gangs calling truces after innocent children have been shot. Real is being yourself and not fabricating images that sell records.
As hip-hop listeners, we need to put our dollars behind what we consider, “real” hip-hop and starve out anything else. If we choose not to, “real” will continue to be people rapping in lime green fur boots. I guess even that is okay if it is being true to who you are. So, if Tyga truly lives in “Rack City” and Wayne is honestly drawn to wearing women’s clothing then I will toast to them as “real n*ggas.” If not they should seek more appropriate wording to use the end of future songs. Word.