As I peer through my office window into the Student Centre below, I notice that though its a Sunday evening, there are still people playing foosball. Now while I love the sport, these arent the kinds of people I generally associate myself with. They are wiggers.
Dressed in oversized football jerseys and touting the rapping prowess of 50 Cent and Lloyd Banks, these select few are representative of much of the hip-hop culture at UTM. Many of us share the experience of sitting next to a wigger in our tutorials, and it is obvious how this subset has become integrated within our community. Let me make this clear: I have no problem with wiggers, in fact I like them, albeit in an ironic sort of way. What interests me is the notion that hip-hop, a predominant black cultural identity, is being obsessively consumed by the very people it set out to confront — ignorant white folk.
It is, in a sense, an old story. The artistic expression of black struggle has always allured white viewers, ever since plantation slaves expressed their anguish in the form of music. This, coupled with the inclination of suburban kids to use foreign, aggressive music as a channel for their own dissatisfactions and fantasies, is the driving force behind hip-hops popularity with the average white listener. But in spite of the many resemblances, hip-hop is a truly unique trend. Rock music, initially a black form of expression, did not gain popularity until Elvis gave it a white face. Hip-hop on the other hand, has remained fiercely black for more than three decades.
One of hip-hops trademarks is its exaggeration. If you had never seen Black culture before and listened to a rap song, you would think that African Americans were the wealthiest and most virile beings on the planet, while Caucasians are all pencil-pushing squares. This same exaggeration gives credibility to those who otherwise wouldnt be hip-hop. Young, beduragged suburbanites who think a bad time is when mom forgets to buy the Pop-Tarts clearly do not fit the bill, but their fashion and music choices would contradict that.
This leads us to another important postulate of hip-hop — keeping it real. Generally speaking, many of these wiggers have never set foot near anything rooted in hip-hop (i.e. reminiscent of the early days in places like Queensbridge and Watts.) Instead, they are comfortable being drive-by fans and surrounding themselves with what their general impression of the culture is. Bandanas which were used to signify gang involvement have been perverted to denote ones street credibility within the movement. One could argue that black rappers use this to their advantage as well, but the fact remains that they do not have to prove their realness unlike their fellow white spectators.
Im reminded of a scene from Office Space where the character of Michael Bolton, a very geeky, white programmer, listens to a song by the rapper Scarface during his morning commute. He has the music turned up loud and is feverishly rapping along to the songs hardcore lyrics until he notices a black man selling flowers down the side of the road. He proceeds to lock his doors, turn down the music, and stop rapping until the man passes. For many white hip-hop fans this incident rings true. Their attempts to connect with blackness are usually undone by their own irrational anxieties.
To many, hip-hop is essentially a way to prove themselves. In the case of Michael from Office Space, he is not necessarily afraid of the black man, but by the fact that he recognizes how, even with the music, he still cannot compare to the realness of the passerby. This simple predicament can be expanded upon to include all forms of white hip-hop gangsterism. For many, they take their projected blackness as a joke, a way to illustrate and romanticize the otherwise insipid feelings they may have. Others have taken this trend to a much higher extent, accepting it as their own situation. As Dr. Dre once said, anybody can be a muthaf*#$%@ n%@@& .