Things Fall Apart: What Could Have Been for Gucci Mane and Lupe Fiasco

March 26th, 2013

(Photos from left: Prince Williams/FilmMagic, Jeffrey Ufberg/WireImage)

By Jake Rohn

On the week following the loss of the great Nigerian author, Chinua Achebe (R.I.P.), it seemed only fitting to look to one of his works in search of a profound moment of observation that encompasses an endless array of truths in today’s culture. In this case, I’m talking about two different rappers from two different places with two very different stories. So what bond do these modern day poets share? Neither has lived up to the level of stardom we hoped they would. Gucci Mane and Lupe Fiasco are seldom if ever compared to one another. Each one’s respective fan base would most certainly represent opposite ends of the ever-growing spectrum of hip hop’s demographics. For both of these artists, however, the hopes that they would become hip hop’s biggest stars have been marred by distractions brought upon themselves.

There is no arguing that Lupe Fiasco is an intelligent guy. His rhymes display a social cognizance that’s unsurpassed by any other MC in rap. Like Frank Zappa did for rock n’ roll in the ’70s, Lupe ushered in a new message of self-education and independent thought. The problem is that, recently, the “Kick, Push” MC’s Twitter feed has become more famous than the man himself. His most recent headlines include: 1. Repeatedly rapping lines speaking out against President Obama at an Obama inauguration party, leading to his dismissal from the stage,  2. A Twitter feud that he had with fellow Chicago rapper Chief Keef, and, finally, today he was in the news for posting 19 tweets denouncing the level of violence pervasive in all media, but especially hip hop.

While his recent propensity for calling rappers to task is not necessarily a bad thing, it would make more sense and have much more of an impact if he used his music to get his point across. It’s like an artist that has a paintbrush but elects to use a Sharpie to create expression.

Gucci Mane enjoyed a similar ascension, but after a promising early career which saw singles like “Lemonade” and “Wasted” make their mark on the Billboard charts, the rapper, whose real name is Radric Davis, has become more of a staple on TMZ than iTunes.

They say no press is bad press. Let’s just be clear, per Gucci’s example, that pushing a girl out of a moving vehicle is bad press. Striking a man (who also happens to serve the country in the armed forces) over the head with a champagne bottle for trying to get a picture with you, which Gucci is accused of doing, is bad press.

Hip hop is a part of popular culture whether people like it or not. Rappers getting in trouble is nothing new. Rappers speaking out in anti-establishment protest is nothing new. But when Public Enemy was commanding a nation of millions, they didn’t tweet “Fight the Power,” they used their strength to make you listen. ODB got in trouble with the law (a lot), but his transgressions never became bigger than his hits.

The jury is still out on both of these would-be stars. Sure, both can still pack a club, but wouldn’t it be better to pack a stadium?

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