This isn’t a post about The Wire. Not primarily.
Jay-Z on “H.A.M.”:
I’m like “Really, half a billi? Nigga, really?” You got baby money
Keep it real wit’ niggas, niggas ain’t got my lady money
Lil Wayne on “It’s Good”:
Talkin’ ’bout Baby money? I got yo’ baby money
Kidnap yo’ bitch, get that “How much you love yo’ lady?” money
The average hip-hop fan’s mentality isn’t so far off from the one that has kids in high school chanting “FIGHT!” at lunch. Fans hear lines that are subliminals or could be double entendres and immediately tweet about whether someone killed it or got killed. Nah Right- and message board-borne vernaculars have a space for (creative way to die) being used as stage direction in the wake of a particularly cutting or humorous insult. Posse cuts are accompanied by “Who won?” lines in blog posts.
It’s a culture that produces greatness that simmers up from the Darwinian cauldron: Kanye’s ambition to make it as a rapper and a producer has always been fueled by being told he couldn’t do both at all, much less well; Wayne’s own “Best rapper aliiive!” stretch came about because of a combination of his long, slow education on how to rap, his remarkable work ethic, and a vacuum at rap’s helm after Jay’s retirement. It’s both why Jay and Ye named an album Watch The Throne, and why their amity on that album, which showed flashes of a place beyond petty fights and ostentation, confounded many.
It’s at the heart of the corner boy’s mentality, too: if my competitor has a better product than I do, I need his turf, or his product, or a baseball bat to show him that I am tougher and deserve this spot. And I know that once I take my place atop the totem pole, I’ll be fired on in kind. Violence begets violence, and in a world where one can get ahead by climbing carcasses rather than lending a hand, there is a substantial body count.
Bodie’s right about the independent crew pushing back on the Barksdales’ corner boys. The episode after this one is entitled “Stray Rounds.” I’ll let you guess why.