T.I. + Justin Timberlake = Pop Apologies

OK. So rapper T.I. kind of messed up in 2008. He got busted with a lot of gun charges and spent most of his house arrest writing “Paper Trail,” his current album. This single “Dead and Gone,” a track he did with the eponymous J. Timberlake, leaves the usually scattered ass that litters rap videos in the dust bin for some cold, wind-blown Canadian imagery, a burning piano and Justin Timberlake trying to emote the shit out of black, lower class struggle.

Elvis’ “In the Ghetto,” it is not. But then, “In the Ghetto” also makes me giggle uncontrollably. This song does not. Considering that despite all the desired “street cred” in the world, no one, not even rappers, want to go to prison. So this sudden bout with mortality, sorrow and “pretty please don’t lock me up” is probably a tad self-serving, but has a larger, deeper purpose. I’m supportive of any art form that actually discusses the pointlessness of violence rather than glorifies it. Rapping about dead friends, meaningless squabbles and rap music’s sometimes role as the official endorser of ignorance, is about as close to a mea culpa we’re going to get on the man who wrote “Rubberband Man.”

Most rappers get by in saying that what they are creating is fantasy or entertainment and shouldn’t be taken seriously, while at the same time wearing bullet proof vests and occasionally winding up dead as the result of a robbery or fight gone terribly bad. And usually this is all over some drama that they should have walked away from the minute they left the hood and entered a higher tax bracket.

Unfortunately some of the more impressionable members of our society don’t see rap music as escapism, but black reality. It was odd growing up in the ‘burbs surrounded by black kids who desired for a more “hood” credibility when they’d been raised in the land of shopping malls and soccer fields. Who confused my all-black working class suburb with “the ghetto” by concluding that anything majority black must be “hardcore,” even if the neighborhood was low-crime, everyone was employed and everyone owned their own homes.

How tough can a place with manicured lawns and where kids play in the street be?

Yet many of my fellow county brownines craved to be “down” with the city kids who they also mocked as poor and tacky. And a few of them took their desires to the extremes, losing their lives in the wrong places at the wrong time with the wrong attitude.

There is no glamour in inner city violence, self-hate, drugs, gangs or the exploitation of women, but you wouldn’t know that from the radio. I can separate the record sales from the reality, but many of our children have bought into the very lifestyle their parents worked hard to keep them from. Some of it is harmless escapism, but there is always that one kid who thinks the only true black experience is the ubran, inner city black experience, the poverty-stricken black experience, the hood experience.

But there’s not glamor in dying before you turn 21.

As for Timberlake singing on the track, he does a serviceable job, even though it is humorous to see an ex-Mouseketter channel his best “Across 110th Street” to T.I.’s latest version of “The Message.” He gives the song the seriousness it deserves while only annoying me a little. I give the overall effort a B+ even though T.I. has a high chance of backsliding into “Hurray for gun-totting” once the charges are a thing of the past and the community service is done.

Or maybe he’ll pull a Snoop and become the most commercially viable repellent person in the history of hip hop.

Anything could happen when you’re “King of the South.”

12 thoughts on “T.I. + Justin Timberlake = Pop Apologies

  1. you make some good points, but I think the video and his new show, TI’s Road to Redemption, are really good and show that this might have actually been the wake-up call he needed to let all that hood-ness go, esp since he has been in a much higher tax bracket for a while now. i hope he doesn’t go back to his old stuff cuz i really like the new TI πŸ™‚

  2. @ PatriceI enjoy some of TI’s music as well, especially since he’s now become "self-aware." He can still be a bit of an asshat, but he appears to be an asshat who is growing and learning. And I do hate it when rappers ruin their lives (and the lives of other) because of some "keep it real" BS.

  3. sorry I cannot stand timberlake, so any reference of him in anyway shape or form renders me semi-speechless

  4. I’ve been thinking for a while that T.I. is doing a pretty good job of explaining his transition to "grown-ass man." Hip-hop seems to be making an effort to grow up, which I appreciate. The awards shows should have a Grown-Ass Man category. I’d call it the O’Shea Jackson Award. πŸ™‚

  5. BMC I’m sorry to be the one to inform you that Hip Hop is not evolving, it is diverging. Being down in PHX you’ve never had the pleasure of hearing "Do the Stanky Leg", that my dear is anything but evolved. That being said I too am proud of T.I.’s "grown man" transformation, but it remains to be seen if it will stick once he’s out early for good behavior. I hope so because hip hop would be the better for it, but I know it really only depends on if his record sales will be. And "Nipple Gate" aside I have a special place in my heart for J.T. and his brand of Blue-Eyed Soul, he had me at N’SYNC. Also Snob, I’ve been reading for a while, but I’ve never commented, just wanted to say you rock!

  6. I like T.I. No doubt his "Road to Redemption" show on MTV was a publicist’s wet dream, but he seems generally interested and invested in the kids he’s helping. It’s a gritty, raw show (taking Pee Wee to the morgue?!) but you can tell he really wants to get these kids on the right track, and he’s doing it as he knows how.Loved that he read Romeo & Juliet to Pee Wee and dropped the word "thespian", too. That made me giggle.I wish him well. I hope he’s on the right track.

  7. Remember…it’s spelled "King", but pronounced "Kang" of the south. I really didn’t like this video, which is odd. Just not feeling it at all. Good points.

  8. I despise, Justin Timberlake. I don’t use that word often, it’s reserved for people that really really draw my ire. He is such a phony ass wannabe, coat-tail riding … punk …. oooh, let me stop! *lol*Luckily we live in a world of advanced technology, so I can pretty much avoid those types of annoyances. See, I’m doing it now *click*

  9. This from the same album as "Whatever You Like" and "Swagga Like Us" ?I will give T.I. this, all the singles I heard from this album, he manages to say more with less. I’ve ended up liking his verses more than the hook, especially on this song.

  10. i like this song, and i like your reference to "rubberband man" even more=o) i’ve been a T.I. fan ever since he came out; I don’t know, I’ve just always liked his flow. And while I wish that it hadn’t taken the threat of incarceration to slap some sense into him, at least it did something. Hopefully he sticks with it. Oh yeah, THANK you for mentioning the "suburban-kids-who-wanna-be-down" phenomenon. How many times have I heard, "What up blood?" TOO many…and the folks saying this live in houses where they have their own pond in their backyard, in addition to their 80 acres and an Arabian horse stable. STFU.

  11. What’s with the JT hate? Is he a wannabe? Sure. But he still kinda rocks my socks. As for T.I., he seems really scared shitless about going to jail and I think there’s something comforting about that, like the world is completely screwy.

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