This year’s Met Gala theme inspired questionable choices by the celebrities in attendance. Is the reason why because non-observant celebrities are blind to the many parallels between the Gilded Age and the 2020s? Fortunately, some rap artists are paying enough attention to accurately comment on the gilded nature of today. Here are some modern-day hip-hop songs that reflect the shared values of the Gilded Age.
1. “A Tale of 2 Citiez” by J. Cole
“The world’s a lot bigger ever since/Picked up the paper/And they say my n**** Eddie caught a body, I’m convinced/Anybody is a killer, all you gotta do is push ’em to the limits/F*ck being timid in the Civic!” According to Genius Annotation on genius.com, this line references the famous 2pac quote, “I ain’t a killer but don’t push me.” The protagonist of J. Cole’s song learns to stop wasting his time dreaming of cars and riches once he realizes to what extent his peers have been corrupted.
2. “Money Trees” by Kendrick Lamar ft. Jay Rock
“Two bullets in my uncle Tony[‘s] head/He said one day I’d be on tour, ya bish”. Kendrick Lamar comments on how he has been blessed with the same opportunities as “easy come up[s]”. He shares these opportunities despite the “war” he sees around him in the form of street violence. Like everyone else, both good and bad things have happened to Kendrick.
3. “Oceans” by JAY-Z ft. Frank Ocean
“Democrat? Nope, I sell dope.” JAY-Z is known for his social activism, but he also knows that money is one of the most influential forces of all. It is difficult for the government to view its citizens as a populace when they might be more profitable as commodities. Money, unlike politics, is a necessity.
4. “Expensive Pain” by Meek Mill
“And this expensive pain/When you ridin’ through the trenches, bulletproof all on the Range.” Meek Mill’s lyrics beautifully articulate what he describes as “expensive pain”. He survives for another day because of the bulletproof nature of his luxury vehicle. Shallow as it may seem, a Range Rover’s actually not a bad place to start healing.
5. “No Role Modelz” by J. Cole
“Rest in peace, Uncle Phil!/For real, you the only father that I ever knew!” This reference to sitcom royalty reinforces that it’s often the simple things in life that carry the heaviest weight. J. Cole knows that all of the material-traps he witnesses his peers fall into in Hollywood are worthless. This is especially true when he compares the superficial frivolity to the acute need he feels to be a positive role model for his family and for the community.
Which of these rap songs best depict the realities of the Gilded Age?