In Defense of Aspiring Rappers Everywhere

FX screenshot
FX screenshot

On last night's episode of FX's awesomely awesome new show, the Donald Glover-helmed, Atlanta, there's a scene towards the end where Earn's kinda-sorta girlfriend but definitely baby mama, Vanessa, is doing that thing that people do when you tell them that you do "music", she lets him know that being an aspiring rapper - or manager in Earn's case - is basically a pipe dream and he needs to get real to help take care of their daughter. He fires back that being a boutique owner (I guess she's either the owner of a boutique or aspires to do so) isn't anymore original which pisses her off.


He then delivers one of those, "I believe in me and everything that I'm doing I'm doing for us" speeches that is met with a "that's so much bullshit" line, reminiscent of that debut Cosby Show episode where Theo attempts to "but Dad, I'm trying my best and you should support me…" Cliff only to be met with the "that is the stupidest thing I've ever heard", a classic boomerang on Theo who thought he had tugged at the heartstrings of his father. Dad's don't have heartstrings for bullshit. Apparently, neither does Vanessa.

There are a few things of note here: while Vanessa thinks that Earn's hip-hop dreams are bullshit, I actually agree with him that her owning of a boutique is just as much of a pipe dream. But somehow, people view hip-hop aspirations much differently. Yes, it's very trendy to be a rapper. But in the most punishable pun of all time, it's JUST as trendy to do "clothes" for a living. Sure everybody raps, but everybody and their mama is also trying to open a store and sell their fashion sense to people who maybe "just don't get it". I don't actually know what makes them different, and I'm not being difficult on purpose.

Full disclosure, at one point, I was an aspiring rapper. Actually, I should probably clarify that: back in 2004, I was an aspiring songwriter at the behest of a friend of mine, who ended up becoming very interested in music production and needed somebody to either rap or sing over my own works (and those of my musical partner), so instead of waiting for somebody to show up, I decided to rap myself. I'm not saying I was awesome, but I wasn't trash either. And at the very least my musical soundbeds were solid. I can't tell you how many people, women specifically, viewed it all as just some "hobby" not to be taken seriously while SIMULTANEOUSLY expecting me to be supportive of whatever business or dream jobs they aspired to. It was the source of many arguments, but in almost NO situation was there ever any sort of belief that attempting to be a rapper and attempting to do any other dream were similar. Folks respect dreams as long as they don't include aspiring rapper. I've always found that odd.

At the same time, I get it. We all have family who would rather "be a rapper" than get a job. Or folks who pretend like "doing music" is something that actually pays unless you do the work. But if you see somebody actively attempting to put in the work and producing tangible outcomes, rocking shows, etc., I think you should give them at least some support. Now, if they're entirely fucking off their responsibilities, that's one thing, which I think is what Vanessa is getting at in Atlanta. Earn, despite his best efforts, isn't really coming through in any capacity the way she needs him to for their daughter. But he's trying. (Now if he fucks off their kids money or something, she has every right to force him into retirement.)

Back to aspiring rappers, and supporting them: Everybody is aspiring for something. Everybody. It might not be fame and riches from rapping. It could be aspiring to have a nice garden, whatever. The point is, for many of us, all we have is our dreams. They keep us going. They keep us going. Without them, most of us would be zombies and even Fela hated them. I know that it seems odd when a person with advanced degrees and a career is still buying recording equipment and forcing their music on you, in stealth, via emails about other things and adding, "yo, did you check out that song at the end? It's me. What you think?", but I mean, you have to shot your shot, right?

And yes, a lot of people suck. But that's okay. Personal expression, something that people seem to be so big on nowadays, shouldn't be stifled. Here's why: There's an audience for EVERYONE. It's just a matter of finding it. You cannot convince me that Lil Yachty is a good artist. But I know who he is and this cat is making appearances on albums from rappers I like and listen to on purpose. I'm sure LOTS of people told him to stop, and if he did, who knows what he'd be doing. Instead, I'm talking about him right now as a rapper who can't actually rap but in today's climate makes more than my dentist (according to him).


Point is, being an aspiring rapper is one of those things where nobody sees it as valuable or worthwhile until they hear you on their own on the radio or see a video or something that you didn't send them. All of a sudden they'll start introducing you as the "rapper" friend they have. I seen the same shit happen to Kane…well, not really. But it happens with writing/blogging too. You tell folks you have a blog and nobody gives a shit until your posts are being sent all over the Internet and the next thing you know folks are like, "this is my writer friend, his blog is pretty popular, you've probably heard of it…"

So if you see an aspiring rapper, hug an aspiring rapper. Sure he or she shouldn't quit their day job, but neither should you. We all have dreams; stop shitting on theirs.


At some point Jay-Z and Snoop Doggy Dogg were aspiring rappers. Now they're world-wide names that have made millions off of rhyming.

Because of good timing.


I'm a rapper.

I'm not.

Panama Jackson is the Senior Editor of Very Smart Brothas. He's pretty fly for a light guy. You can find him at your mama's mama's house drinking all her brown liquors.


Vanity in Peril

Is this the Atlanta recap?

I feel like you should never give up on your dreams. Unless your dreams are hurting your kids. Then you gotta recalibrate.

We should also have folks in our lives that love us enough to not let us give up on our dreams while leveling with us when that ish is ridiculous. Like, "you not fitna be a 47 yr old gymnast, Theresa! Simone is a girl. Go on and get that sturdy arsed phlebotomy certification so you can keep your house, boo boo!"

Like that.

Also, is this the Atlanta recap?