By: Marcial Robiou
Twenty years ago, mainstream rappers idolized the gangsta image. But now, musicians admire another type of lifestyle; they want to be pimps. According to Rapworld.com, rap originally started in the mid-1970s in New York’s South Bronx. Rap was then called “MCing” and thought of as a passing craze and as “offensive [and as] alien as rock ‘n’ roll,” stated Michael Goldberg, associate professor at the University of Washington Bothell.
Although it seems like the whole ‘pimping’ idea in rap just surfaced, pimping has been rapped about for years. Copkiller auteur, Ice-T, glorified pimping in the early 80’s, and admits to being a former pimp. Hip-hop pioneer, Big Daddy Kane, sang about it in the late 80’s. Even in the 90’s, the pimping game was prevalent when Biggie Smalls rapped: “Pimpin’ ain’t easy but it sure is fun.” Hip-hop artist, Jay-Z’s most popular and successful song, Big Pimpin’, is the summer anthem for 2000.
Now with 50 Cent’s single, P.I.M.P, on top of the charts and almost every rap song referring to pimping, it doesn’t look like the pimp craze will soon go away. But, why are rappers worshipping people who, in the eyes of the law, are smut-peddlers and out right criminals?
In a weird way, it makes sense. Most of today’s rappers grew up in the 70’s when “blaxploitation” films flooded the market and portrayed “pimps” as Donald Trump-like rich characters that were always sharply dressed and had gorgeous women hanging on their arms. It was enough to make Snoop Dogg, an L.A burnout with baggy jeans and blue flannel shirts, change his image to the ultimate hustler with wide-brimmed hats, colorful pin-striped suits and shoulder-length curly hair accompanied by Bishop Don Magic Juan, the self-proclaimed king of the pimps, as his spiritual advisor. Don Magic Juan is an ordained minister who was one of the biggest pimps back in his day. Snoop even showed up at the recent MTV Video Music Awards with two women on leashes, saying: “Every dog’s gotta have a leash.”
In fact, with recent HBO specials, like Pimps Up, Ho’s Down and the Hughes brothers’ critically acclaimed American Pimp, current and former pimps are now celebrities. The ‘Bishop’ is currently in the works on a reality-TV series.
Yet, there are those who disagree with the whole pimp attitude.
“It’s just like gang-banging and doing drugs,” said R & B singer, Monica, who is opposed to the pimping phenomenon. Many people side with her on the issue, including Chris Rock who is appalled at Lil’ Pimp, a cartoon movie involving a little boy pimping out his friends.
?uestlove, from the musical group the Roots, offers his comments on the true meaning of pimps. “If you want to talk about really pimping, you’ve got to talk about being a government official,” he said.
However, while most people think it’s all about insulting women, some rappers think it’s just another extension of the American way. In interviews with the press, rappers revealed the fact that America pimped black people for years, and now that the tables have turned and rappers can be pimps, why shouldn’t they embrace it? In response to the belief that pimping degrades women, the ‘Bishop’ has inducted many women like Pamela Anderson, Lil’ Kim and Mariah Carey as pimps in his Famous Playa’s Club card.
Ultimately, being a pimp comes down to control. “To be able to feel like you’re doing it your way, nobody tells you what to do. You can move and groove like you want to,” said the ‘Bishop.‘ If that’s what it takes to be a pimp, then all I’m missing is a jewel-encrusted chain.