Blame Hip-Hop (and Meek Mill) for his Awful Kobe Lyric

Flexing at any cost is an increasingly common tenet of the genre.

Meek Mill’s 2018 studio album, Championships.

I’m not here to protect Meek Mill. I’m not even sure I could if I wanted to, but I assure you, I don’t want to. The leaked lyrics to Meek and Lil Baby’s unreleased track, “Don’t Worry” don’t need protecting. The line in question, which invokes the untimely demise of Kobe Bryant, is ill-timed and ill-conceived, taking the death of a largely adored public figure and equating it to a Scarface-esque blaze of glory.

The lyrics, which in the hours after discovery have sparked a healthy amount of social media outrage, were a misjudgement. Despite the word play, Meek’s bar misses its mark, turning an unplanned tragic event into musical fodder. But unlike the masses, which have been quick to vilify Meek Mill for his scathing insensitivity, I’d argue it’s not Meek Mill’s fault. This one is on hip-hop.

Hip-hop is obsessed with legacy. For much of the genre’s recent history, the spoils of war have been at the top of many artists’ minds. In the 1980s dookie ropes were all the rage. By the 2000s the culture had shifted to focus on diamond encrusted chains and blacked out G-Wagons. More recently, hip-hop is obsessed with designer fashion. Louis Vuitton belts and Gucci flip-flops are the latest status symbols for any artist who can get their hands on them.

The obsession makes sense. As a genre intertwined with Black culture and its blood-soiled history of slavery and disenfranchisement, physical manifestations of wealth are a logical pushback. If you can finance a chain of your face from your album advance, why not?

These symbols, however, can lead to rapper’s overstating their importance. The financial associations created by physical displays of wealth don’t create enough separation between rapper’s and the masses. So, bars like 2Chainz’s, “When I die, bury me inside the Louis store,” or Meek Mill’s Kobe reference become the norm as artists jockey for their position atop the throne.

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That’s not to say that all of hip-hop is financially focused and morally bankrupt. In 2011, an up-and-coming Joey Bada$$ rapped on “Hardknock,” “I want the gold chains and diamond rings/ but I just can’t live my life like this.” His dilemma is the other side of the genre’s fascination with legacy. He continues to spit about his legacy, in the form of a future wife and kids, which offers an alternative concept of what rapping is all about.

Rather, that is to say that hip-hop is all about theatrics. Whether it’s Lil Uzi Vert implanting a gem in his forehead or Phonte opining that, “Ain’t nobody like me,” rapper’s are constantly trying to separate themselves from the pack. It can’t be an easy existence to feel like everybody wants what you have or that you’re the only person with your best interest at heart. Insensitive as it was, Meek Mill’s Kobe lyric was perfectly in line with everything he’s ever said about self-preservation. He just should have kept it to himself.

Forever hunting for my new favorite music sample. Founder of tripleot.com & abrandbox.com. 🌴🦩

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