One of my favorite stand-up routines is Chris Rock’s Siegfried and Roy bit at the beginning of his “Never Scared” comedy special. If you haven’t seen it (or, if you can’t immediately recall decade-old comedy routines off the top of your head like I can), Rock joked that the tiger who bit and severely injured Roy Horn didn’t go “crazy”… it just went “tiger.” Basically, knowing what we know about tigers, we shouldn’t be surprised when tigers do what they tend to do.
I’m bringing this up because I’m reminded of this skit whenever people get upset when a rapper is caught saying something that doesn’t seem to make much sense. I could list some rappers and outline their notable gaffes here — bizarre, contradictory, nonsensical, and occasionally dangerous statements about everything from drone attacks to domestic violence — but it would actually take up less space to name rappers who haven’t done that yet.
This isn’t an anti-rap or anti-rapper rant, mind you. I’m not even suggesting that “rapper” automatically equates to “unintelligent.” This is more about us, though, — and “us” in this sense is “rap fans” — and our tendency to assign certain characteristics to people who haven’t really shown that they possess them yet. A person having a song or two about politics where they rhymed “euphemistic” with “cataclysmic” shouldn’t make us assume they’re experts on foreign policy.
To wit, most of today’s popular rappers share three characteristics: They’re male, young, and (relatively) uneducated. They’re also in positions where they have to talk…a lot. And, if you talk to most uneducated young males long enough, they’re bound to eventually say something that’ll have you thinking “How the hell did you think thinking that and saying it aloud was a good idea?”
Is it excusable when Kendrick Lamar says he doesn’t vote or Lupe Fiasco uses some Fisher-Price deduction (“He approves drones. Drones kill babies. Obama is a baby killer”) to make a point about the President? No. One of the only things worse than public ignorance is what happens when we ignore the publicly ignorant, and it is right to call out someone saying something so obviously wrong. But, I think it’s about time we chill with the surprise and righteous indignation when it does occur. Regardless of our misplaced expectations, rappers, er, tigers will continue to go tiger.