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Best 'Old School' Rapper
Schooly D 18%
Biz Markie 27%
Doug E Fresh 18%
Roxanne Shante 0%
Pumpkin 9%
Lovebug Starski 9%
Mantronix 0%
Just Ice 9%
T La Rock 0%

Votes: 11

 The Democratization of Status. Rap music is to blame.

 Author:  Topic:  Posted:
Sep 09, 2001
In this article I am going to talk about a disturbing recent trend that has been sweeping the globe. A trend that threatens our social order. A trend which, if left unchecked, could be very damaging to the American way of life we have enjoyed in the past.

What is this trend ?

Is it the proliferation of drugs in our inner cities ?

Is it the inability of our politicians to count ?

Is it perhaps the worrying problem of suitcase bombs and biological warfare ?

The trend is even more insidious that any of the aforementioned. The problem is what I shall refer to as the "Democratization of Status". Read on to find out more about this new threat to our society, and what can be done about it.


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All societies need a social order. We need to know who is the boss. We need to know whom to listen to and whom to ignore, who is an expert in his field and who is a charlatan. Whose opinions are worthwhile, and who is talking junk.

The modern trend toward the democratization of status leaves us with no cultural clues, blurring the distinction between people of quality and breeding and barely-educated pond scum, making it harder and harder to assess an individual's worth (both intellectual and monetary). In scientific terms, we are left with no "socio-sartorial" cues to assist us in forming a judgement about an individual.

Before examining this further, I will explain what is meant by the "Democratization of Status".

Picture the scene. A trailer park near Kramer Junction, California. Joe Sixpack is slumped in front of the TV, brew in hand, watching the game. Its a scene repeated all over this great country of ours, and can be thought of as the quintissential American passtime.

"There's nothing wrong with that", you might say. But you would be wrong. So so wrong.

Take a closer look at Joe. In bygone days, Joe would have been happy to relax in the privacy of his home wearing little more than his soup-stained wife-beater vest and shorts. The cold beer he enjoyed would be an American brew (A Budweiser, or a Miller). And the game he watched would be Football. (Or possibly Basketball if the Joe in question was an African American).

Now, as a direct result of the democratization of status, Joe is watching Golf (a European, upper class game) on an imported TV set, drinking an imported bottle-conditioned ale, wearing 'Timberland' boots, a pair of 'G H Bass' pants and 'Polo Ralph Lauren' shirt.

Are you beginning to see the problem here ? A beer-swilling piece of trailer-trash is successfully passing himself off as a sophisticated East-coast ivy-league preppie. If you met Joe in the street, you would immediately judge him to be a man worthy of respect. His clothing is a sartorial shorthand that screams 'quality'. And yet, Joe is a loser who lives in a trailer, and has never held down a job for more than two weeks in a row. He is addicted to amphetamines, and thinks of little else than where his next 'hit' is coming from.

In days gone by, Joe's posturing would have earned him a well deserved beating from his close friends, or at the very least he would have been accused of being a 'pansy' for liking golf and drinking imported ale. He would have learned his place in the community, and he would not be sending out confusing status signals to all and sundry. Now due to the onward march of globalization, once-proud, exclusive, upscale brands are now marketed to any scumbag with a few dollars burning a hole in his pocket, with the end result that it is no longer possible to easily identify who is worth talking to, and who isn't. We are living in what John Seabrook called a nobrow culture.

Now let's change the scene. Its the height of presidential election fever in the USA. The candidates are doing their level best to convince us that their policies are best for America. But how do these world-class politicians choose to demonstrate their position and status in society ? Not by showing the public some respect, and dressing in a manner which befits their status. Rather they crudely insult the voting public by dressing in a wholly inappropriate manner, which can be seen here, by following these links first to G.W. Bush and then to Bill Clinton.

Now, some people will argue that it is good that the lower members of society can now have access to the same brands as the higher class people. But I ask you, where will it end ? How can we know who it is safe to talk to if anyone can dress like a well-respected member of the community ? How can we be sure we are treating people with the correct amount of respect if professionals like teachers and librarians are dressing like gang-bangers ?

In a topsy-turvy world where our leaders ape the lowest members of society, and the lowest members of society dress like the aristocracy, how can we make any judgements about the people we see from day to day ? Like it or not, appearence is one of the key tools humans utilize in order to classify other humans. With this tool gone, we are all in trouble.

Now, its easy to look for a scapegoat and blame the democratization process on the mega corporations in cahoots with the discount clothing stores. But this would be too simplistic. For many years people were content to dress within their class and not attempt to affect a higher class appearance. That was the good old days, when everyone was certain about their status. You physician did not dress like a plumber, and likewise your garbage man did not dress like the maitre-d of an upscale British restaurant. But something happened. Something which upset our collective psyches and sent both rich and poor alike on a quest to destroy their identities.

That something was rap music.

It is message of Rap that has corrupted our dress sense and led us into this no-man's land of uncertainty where any janitor could look like the Chief Executive Officer of a Fortune 500 corporation, and any CEO could look like a breakdancing graffiti artist. Rap is to blame. (Rap is also to blame for many other of society's ills, such as drugs, gang violence, the dumbing down of America and mysogeny toward women but we will let that slide for the moment).

Consider some random samples of rap lyrics.

  • Big Egos - Dr Dre.

    Dedicated to all of those with big egos
    Never fakin, we get the dough and live legal
    Haters hate this, we sip the Mo' and yank the heezos
    Bitches play this in they Benzes Jeeps and

    Here, "Dr" Dre talks about high status vehicles such as Benzes (Mercedes Benz an upscale vehicle favoured by world leaders) and Jeeps. Vehicles which were once the preserve of the middle and upper classes. 'Sip the Mo' refers to imbibing the alcoholic beverage 'Moet et Chandon' (a brand of Champagne percieved by some to be upmarket in the USA).

  • The Show - Doug E Fresh and the Get Fresh Crew

    R: A-yo, Doug
    D: What?
    R: Put ya Bally's on
    D: Yo, Rick, I was about to but I need a shoehorn
    R: Why?
    D: Because these shoes always hurt my corns
    R: Six minutes...six minutes...six minutes Doug E Fresh, you're on

    *note R = Slick Rick, D = Doug E Fresh
    Here, Doug E Fresh (Old Skool Rapper, original Human Beat Box, and prominent Scientologist) glamourizes the Bally brand to homies on the street. The upmarket Swiss products of Bally are more often seen on the feet of international financiers and are worn by legal professionals such as attorneys and judges. Scientologist Fresh irresponsably plants the idea of wearing high-status footwear in the minds of his impressionable young listeners, more often than not young kids with low incomes, without the means to support a luxury branded lifestyle. Fresh also makes reference to a shoehorn - an article normally found only in middle and upper class homes. I'm guessing that this track was probably recorded before Fresh's conversion to Scientology, as the lyrics to this track suggest he has had a change of heart.

  • I'm Bad - LL Cool J
    Calling all cars, calling all cars...
    Be on the lookout for a tall light-skinned brother with dimples
    Wearing a black kangol, sweatsuit, gold chain, and sneakers
    Last seen on Farmers Boulevard headed east
    Alias L.L. Cool J
    He's bad...
    .... lyrics deleted in the interest of brevity ....
    Never ever no never
    Never wearin' no Levis battle me why try
    I'll treat you like a stepchild so tell mommy bye bye
    Sparrin' MC's and I'm a never get with
    When I retire I'll get worship like a old battleship

    Here, another famous rapper LL Cool J, extolls the virtues of his Kangol headwear (more often seen on the heads of British soldiers) while at the same time, "dissing" the very working class denims that would have been the appropriate dress for his listeners, before the cultural meltdown took place.

    The Notorious BIG put it best in his track Playa Hater:

    You see, there are two kind of people in the world today
    We have, the playaz, and we have, the playa haters

    My problem is, its hard to know who is a playa, and who is a playa hater, when they don't wear the appropriate attire.

    As you can see, I have identified the source of the problem. The difficult question is, what can we do about it ? I am reluctant to advocate censorship since I support the constitution of the USA. However I do think that we need to take some steps to ensure that the lines don't become any more blurred than they are already.

    I am having trouble thinking how we might address this problem, but I think a start would be for more jobs to require uniform. The current state of US officewear is in disarray and as such is unsustainable. Dress-down Fridays and in some cases permanent dress-down policies are in effect. These policies need to be reversed. Office workers must go back to wearing a suit and tie. This would be a great first step back toward some kind of useful indicator of status.

    I'm interested to hear what you think. Have you been influenced by Rap music into living a lifestyle that is more upmarket or more downmarket than the one you would normally participate in ?

    What brands do you think have lost the most cachet via their association with Rap ? I'm guessing its Louis Vuitton but I want to hear YOUR opinions.


    Controversial Website (0.50 / 2) (#4)
    by Anonymous Reader on Mon Sep 10th, 2001 at 12:36:12 AM PST
    You guys need to try harder. is way more controversial than you could ever hope to be. Examples:

    "On September 9, Belarus will go to the polls to elect a president, either the incumbent, Alexander Lukashenko, or one of his U.S.-sponsored challengers. In the Western media, at least, the decision has already been made: Mr. Lukashenko must go."

    In what is a shame for the British National Health Service, a man has sold his home to buy an operation in South Africa because of the long waiting lists in the United Kingdom."

    "Pravda.Ru contacts working in Iraq inform that the people are proud of their leader and that Saddam Hussein has generalised popular support. These contacts, present in Baghdad during the Gulf War, tell of 14-year-old Iraqi boys volunteering to go to the front to fight the Americans, such was the hatred aroused by the scam involving Kuwait.

    This scam is a story which has been badly told, or not told at all. Iraq, pumped full of weapons by western governments, as a tampon against Iran, was becoming dangerously powerful. The need to clip Saddam Hussein?s wings was so great that Kuweit was instigated to lower its petroleum prices, virtually ruinous to Iraq."

    As you can see, the subject matter is brilliant, the delivery truly inspired. The poor translation only enhances the effect. Please, spend some time learning from the masters.

    What are you saying ? (none / 0) (#5)
    by Anonymous Reader on Mon Sep 10th, 2001 at 12:40:10 AM PST
    Pravda is known to be full of KGB. It is only controversial if you ignore that fact.

    I would suggest humbly that the adequacy editors have nothing to learn from a bunch of (ex)communists.

    Or not. (none / 0) (#10)
    by elenchos on Mon Sep 10th, 2001 at 12:20:37 PM PST
    I suppose those stories would be shocking to find reported on "Good Morning America," but outside of that context they look a bit dull to me. You seem so assured that they are controversial that you don't explain what is so controversial about them. Maybe you could try again... Why do you think that stuff is "brilliant", "inspired", and the work of "masters", compared to Adequacy? I'm just not seeing it I guess.

    I do, I do, I do
    --Bikini Kill

    Linguistic Cues are the Power Ties of the Future (5.00 / 4) (#6)
    by yami on Mon Sep 10th, 2001 at 03:59:30 AM PST
    While I believe you are correct about the origins and perhaps even some of the cultural implications of this disturbing trend in couture, your analysis ignores a very fundamental point: in the age of the printing press, e-mail office memoranda and other technological advances, personal grooming is no longer the fundamental method by which one ascertains another's social standing.

    A person's use of language, whether written or spoken, contains ample evidence of his or her breeding and education. Correct use of obscure grammatical features such as the who/whom distinction, the subjunctive mood, and the semicolon is an almost infallible indication of an expensive prep school education, whearas improper use of the lowly apostrophe points to someone who has allowed himself to be ruined by the public school system. Then there is that distinguished, transatlantic accent that only money can buy.

    To a well-trained ear, the presence of a nearby designer factory outlet should be no barrier to fast and accurate social condemnation. Further, strongly codified language barriers will only encourage ignorant swine to keep their mouths shut in the presence of their betters, while the increasing accessibility of proper clothes will make them less of an eyesore. The lower class, like children, should be seen and not heard.

    Why should we plant when there are so many mongongo nuts in the world?

    Sprawl of the Middle Classes (3.00 / 2) (#8)
    by Anonymous Reader on Mon Sep 10th, 2001 at 08:12:19 AM PST
    *sigh* ... here we go again.

    The reason why you are seeing rap artists and world leaders dress like each other, is because civilisation is finally normalising, and we are all merging into one broad middle class.

    It has nothing to do with rap lyrics. They are merely a relfection of the world around them.

    Anyway, I would have thought that a man with nothing being able to possess clothes that are much in demand without selling out to slavery was all part of the 'American Dream' - whatever that is.

    ridiculous notion of the purpose of dress codes (5.00 / 1) (#11)
    by alprazolam on Mon Sep 10th, 2001 at 02:17:42 PM PST
    Are you a stockholder for any companies of which you advocate a suit and tie dress code? The dress down policies of most companies are merely a reflection of economics my friend, and as we all know increased productivity of the average worker is far more imporatant that class divisions. By using business casual to attract the top job candidates companies improve their bottom line, as they do when the absence of ties increase the productivity of workers who spend 30 minutes a day working that would normally be spent fidgeting.

    what a weird idea (3.66 / 3) (#12)
    by jsm on Mon Sep 10th, 2001 at 02:27:59 PM PST
    I'd never really thought of the kind of person who has to fidget for thirty minutes to get a necktie round his neck as a "top job candidate" before.

    Perhaps we could have the best of both worlds by getting the mothers of these "top job candidates" to dress them in the morning?

    ... the worst tempered and least consistent of the editors
    ... now also Legal department and general counsel,

    not getting dressed (5.00 / 1) (#13)
    by alprazolam on Mon Sep 10th, 2001 at 03:19:16 PM PST
    but fidgeting through the course of the day. Remember here I am talking about people that do real work here, such as engineers and scientists, not marketing or sales people who mainly going about life trying to get whatever the latest "look" is down.

    Sales is the most important department... (3.00 / 2) (#15)
    by Anonymous Reader on Mon Sep 10th, 2001 at 04:47:48 PM PST
    Any product can be sold. It doesn't even have to work well. It all depends on the strength of the sales team. If your sales department is no good, your company is no good. A good product won't sell itself.

    Engineers like to tell themselves that because they design the product, they are the most central part of the company. This is a delusion. Engineering exists to support sales.

    Salesmen work the hardest, have the least secure jobs, the most stress, and get paid more than anyone, because the company knows who makes the money. In any other field, your salary depends on the proximity of your job to sales.

    Actually a good product can sell itself... (5.00 / 1) (#16)
    by Anonymous Reader on Tue Sep 11th, 2001 at 03:19:11 AM PST
    Its the crappy products which need the most help from the sales team. Duh. :)

    there are clip-on ties (5.00 / 1) (#14)
    by Anonymous Reader on Mon Sep 10th, 2001 at 03:22:14 PM PST
    What he means is time fidgeting because the ties are so damn akward and uncomfortable.

    Status unchecked (none / 0) (#17)
    by Anonymous Reader on Wed Sep 12th, 2001 at 03:45:40 AM PST
    As old status symbols have been democratised, new ones have arisen istead.

    But because you are a dimwitted prole, you havent realised it yet.

    I mean - Mercedes - they've been crass and vulgar for nigh on twenty years.

    Oh really ? (none / 0) (#18)
    by Anonymous Reader on Wed Sep 12th, 2001 at 04:55:30 PM PST
    Not where I come from. So pray tell me, what has taken the place of the Mercedes-Benz ?

    dont wanna merc (none / 0) (#19)
    by Anonymous Reader on Wed Sep 19th, 2001 at 01:44:06 AM PST
    people of taste would drive a classic

    if forced to buy new, the true gentleman would buy a Bristol

    mercedes are expensive cars for people who dont actaully even like cars


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