Monday, November 7, 2011

The American Dream

"Super Nintendo, Sega Genesis

When I was dead broke, man I couldn't picture this

50 inch screen, money green leather sofa

Got two rides, a limousine with a chauffeur"

-The Notorious B.I.G, "Juicy"

Jay-Z was, by all accounts, a poor bastard for a long time. He grew up in the mean streets of New York, sold crack and hustled for what money he got, and fought to survive on a day-to-day basis. So is it any surprise that when he became a multimillionaire rap star, he spent a lot of lyrical time reflecting on his rise to the top?

In the #OccupyWallStreet era, the idea that American ingenuity and hard work can take the lowest beggar to the top of a capitalistic empire is at an all-time low in popularity. The only idealists left are rappers. The Notorious B.I.G, Jay-Z, the many members of the Wu-Tang Clan – these are poor, disenfranchised black men, given nothing from society, who worked their way to the top and now pull in millions of dollars (except Biggie, of course). That's the American Dream, the classic Horatio Alger story in action. Hell, Jay even named his record company after Rockefeller!

Yet rappers are decried for their violent, misogynistic lyrics. Admittedly chivalry isn't the modern rap star's strong suit, but that's not what capitalism is about! When the top one percent of America controls 40 percent of the wealth, the fact that a regular Joe from the streets with a pocket full of weed and a microphone can be a multimillionaire and married to Beyonce in ten years is one of the last exponents of classic free enterprise. Those who criticize rappers on moral grounds should instead embrace them on economic ones. After all, one of the only parts of the American cultural identity that dwarfs violence and misogyny is a dedication to free enterprise. Put simply, we've always had the disdain for hoes – but take away the idea that you can be no one and then be someone, and you've taken away that x-factor that makes America the great country it is.

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