Oftentimes there is a misunderstanding of hip hop culture because it in many ways is a cultural unicorn. Hip Hop culture is a cultural unicorn because it is a culture belonging to a specific group of people that is consumed globally by all people. For example, Somali culture is not often consumed by the Japanese, nor by the global majority so the confines and context of their cultural norms and practices are clearly defined. Ethiopian culture is hardly consumed by those in the Maldives, the two different nations are able to see their distinct differences as a result. African American cultural food, fashions, and music are consumed globally. Nations around the world have grown up on or with hip hop in their lives and often times have trouble finding where their customs end and hip hop begins.
Torey Lanez: A Lesson in Cultural Appropriation
Vigilant gatekeeping of Hip Hop culture has arisen among African American millennials and members of gen z in fear of seeing hip-hop usurped. This fear is justified based on the American musical past of Black Americans. Gospel music, jazz, the blues, rock & roll, etc. They were all once an African American art form culturally appropriated away from its roots. A google image search of the terms rock & roll and jazz will hardly yield results featuring African Americans. This informs the alarming feelings of the progenitors of hip-hop culture. Especially in light of genres like Korean Hip Hop whose fan’s believe k-pop-inspired Normani’s new music video when in fact, Normani is a descendant of the culture that created theirs. This is as offensive to hip hop culture natives as it would be to sit at the dinner table with a conservative Muslim family and eat with your left (the dishonored) hand.
Torey Lanes & Cassidy
A Bastardization of rap and hip-hop is underway that puts all non-bloodline inheritors of the culture, on trial.
The case of Torey Lanez and Cassidy calls into question what it means to be a culture vulture. Yesterday, the I’m a hustla rapper Barry Adrian Reese, professionally known by his stage name Cassidy released a diss track against Torey Lanez called Perjury. The appropriately named diss track was aimed at Torey Lanez for using several bars authored by Cassidy himself as well as other rappers. While Lanez maintained he was paying homage to the Hotel hitmaker, Cassidy insisted that this bastardization of his original content was the height of disrespect.
Torey Lanez: Tried for Perjury
Lanez shot back with claims of jealousy and bitterness against Cassidy but according to the confines of hip-hop culture, Cassidy is correct. Lanez is a Canadian, who did not grow up among creators of the culture in stark contrast to someone like Marshall “Eminem” Mathers, who did. Cassidy is an African American from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, an authentic cultural hub of Hip Hop. In every culture, it is the natives that hold the weight of authority when it comes to defining cultural norms.
Torey Lanez: A Non-native to Hip-hop culture
In the event that Lanez is being honest in his claim that he only meant to pay homage to Cassidy when he used his tracks and several of his older bars that would seem new to Gen Z who are less familiar with Cassidy in comparison to Millenials, then we can conclude that this is an inauthentic member of hip hop culture. According to the culture, when you are an intimate companion of another rapper, using Lil’ Kim and Biggie Smalls as an example, it is acceptable to borrow a bar or two as homage. People who consistently break bread together are expected to speak and sound-alike in hip hop. However, when this level of intimacy is not the case, it is an offense of the highest order. Nate Dogg once said in a legendary hip-hop hook, “For the n*gg*s who be claiming my hood And really ain’t from my gang, better lay low.”
Torey Lanez is missing hip-hop cultural fundamentals
The song’s reception reiterated how egregious of an offense it is in hip-hop culture to claim that which is not yours. So much so, that there are mortal implications; “lay low” as in protecting yourself from physical retaliation. African Americans who do not rap understand this without being asked, however, Torey Lanez is confused. This is a failure on his part to understand the culture.
When it comes to rap one of the most admirable qualities is that of quick and prolific wit. Having a mind that can wax poetic to a beat with divine rhyming and timing thrills hip hop’s natives as is evidenced in battle rap. When creativity is plagiarized, it is disdained; an action held in contempt.
Torey Lanez: Putting Respect on Cassidy’s name
How could a rapper not know this? Paying homage to someone who inspired you within the hip-hop culture is direct action, not a roundabout one that leaves room for interpretation. Citing your sources is of the utmost importance because plagiarism is a hip-hop sin. Again, natives of the culture know this whether they rap or not. To miss this and continue as a rapper is to benefit from a culture that you do not fully understand, accept, or respect.
Proper etiquette is to be observed in every cultural transaction.
Torey Lanez should take a page out of Jay-Z’s Book
An example can be found in Shawn “Jay-Z” Carter’s visit to Jamaica. When Jay-Z visited Damian “Jr. Gong”, The son of Bob Marley in Jamaica; his first mode of action was a personally requested tour. A culturally-specific tour. A tour of what created their unique musical expression. A guided tour that would aid him in properly regarding the culture considering that his wife Beyonce’ has created many a dance hall hit on reggae and reggaeton beats. It was important to establish proper knowledge to ensure proper respect. Not respect according to what Jay-Z would call respect, but according to the culture of the people, he was being hosted by.
Torey Lanez goes Iggy Azalea
For Lanez to miss this, then double down by firing back with accusations of jealousy, is to display an expression akin to Iggy Azalea firing back with enmity at Q-TIP and Azealia Banks.
In America you can be sued for plagiarism or in other words, passing off someone else’s intellectual property as your own. In Hip-Hop culture, the offense is much more personal because the genre emerged from a marginalized group of people who are regularly disenfranchised, routinely swindled by a much larger culture that occupies them.
Torey Lanez and the gatekeeping of Hip-Hop culture from Culture Vultures
Any person performing hip-hop should be well versed in the legacy of cultural appropriation African Americans have suffered when it comes to the music industry in America. This gives natives of the culture a particular sensitivity to more of the same bastardization of the roots of its music. Participating in someone else’s culture is not cultural appropriation. Indeed, this can be flattering. To pass it off as your own, denying its roots, is what makes you a culture vulture. An examination of the work of Torey Lanez, a Canadian who shot African American native to the culture, Meg thee stallion twice, proves that the crime of cultural appropriation has been committed as far as the confines of Hip Hop culture are concerned.