“The abandonment of a rapper with big dreams and little real support.”
By Randy Lee
I admit that I was late to the Bobby Shmurda bandwagon. (I’m not about that life). My first introduction was via the “Shmoney Dance”, which I affectionately describe as a drunken version of “The Wop”. I was just discovering Vine (late) and the Shmoney Dance was trending. My first impression was that this was some kid shit … cool.
A couple of months passed and I began to hear “Hot Nigga” everywhere. It was blasting out of cars, out of apartment windows and escaping out of off overpriced headphones on the subway. Basslines were blaring out of the sneaker/hat/cellphone/perfume/jewelry stores strewn all over Flatbush, Fulton and Nostrand Avenues. Everywhere! That shit was hot! But as the Jay-Z and Beyoncé plugs faded, we were left with a handful of songs from Bobby’s only release, Shmurda He Wrote, that were unabashedly psychotic.
Should you take someone who claims to have sold crack in 5th grade seriously? I struggle with the “rap is just entertainment” argument. Are listeners expected to not question it’s authenticity and understand that it is just a show, a ploy, an act? I believe Raekwon on the song “C.R.E.A.M” when he talks about “pulling out gats for fun,” yet I am doubtful when I hear similar bravado from a teenager.
I struggle with admitting that I like some aspects of the single. There is a comedic element in the way Bobby spits out the different ways and reasons to shoot a “nigga.” And although I hate the content of the song, the context in which I first heard it was unusually non-threatening. It was outdoors in the early evening, when I walked past a group of kids. They were all adorned in the same series of Jordans and working the hell out the Shmoney Dance as the Jungle Beatz track banged out of speakers taped to the window of a hat and bootleg DVD spot. Sometimes Brooklyn is still Brooklyn, so thank you, Bobby.
Regardless of how I feel about Bobby’s music, I am sad that he is currently unable to continue his rap career. He awaits a trial date for a string of charges ranging from reckless endangerment to conspiracy to commit murder in the second degree. I find his lyrics reprehensible. Again, I am not about that life—yet I can’t help but feel sad that the kid who released a song named “Wipe The Case Away,” about using a lawyer to, well … you get the point, is sitting in jail with no financial means to get out.
The irony is almost comical, but the seriousness of his charges makes it hard to laugh. John Legend’s Oscar comment regarding the number of black males under correctional control is a disheartening reality feeding Bobby’s music, writing, lifestyle and his fans.
Is this a social justice issue? Is he the product of an overwhelmed working-class community, where the proximity to violence, drug and domestic abuse molded him into an unapologetic goon? This is the child of a country obsessed with violence and shooting things who was adored like a modern-day Billy the Kid, straight out of badlands of East Flatbush.
Whether or not he is guilty, his label has distanced itself. Although no official statement has been released, anyone with some industry knowledge could tell you it was about money. You cannot insure an artist for a tour that attracts that much goonery. Especially in the snatch-your-chain-and-post-it-on-Instagram age. No tour, no live appearances means no way to recoup production and promotion costs; studio time, travel, video budgets, the things that an artist expects a record label to provide them in exchange for a percent of albums sales and merchandise. No return on that investment equals no deal. Those edgy lyrics, the same ones that got him signed, are now the reason he is being abandoned.
But what if Bobby made it all up as he claimed in a recent interview? I am a big fan of the creative and quite familiar with battling, where the use of extremely violent statements is commonplace and a means of unsettling an opponent. Yet the context, the idea that these two rappers are trying to win the praise of an audience, hedges against the often-horrible things exchanged during a competition. It is theater. To hear those same things, without that context is unnerving at times, but only if you believe.
Should we only judge Bobby on his performance of rap and not the veracity of his statements? Am I the only motherfucker who still believes what street rappers are saying is true? The problem is that kids think that Bobby is real. He is a real gangster and he is real popular. Call of Duty and Bobby are different in degree, but both occupy the same killing-as-entertainment space. And the kids are addicted to it. I don’t know if I’m cool with that. But I am currently playing Lil Wayne’s version of Bobby’s song, and Wayne raps that street shit as well, so maybe I’m just a hypocrite. Or is there something really unsettling about a 20 year-old rapper whose shtick is murdering people.
~Randy Lee is the Chief Panda at Brooklyn Props. He occasionally writes, loves Prince Paul and is still learning Serato.
I’m so glad The Stuyvesants got together to make amazing music. This Brooklyn-based duo has blessed us with, FINE, a 20-track collection of soulful tracks that has the ability to be the soundtrack to an amazing night curled up with someone special. The cover of this LP is just as dope as the project itself. Stream and support!