Rappers’ glorification of pimps deserves disdain

San Francisco Bay View
September 3, 2003
By DeWayne Wickham

This fall, not too long after kids go back to school, a new animated movie will appear in theaters across the country. It is the latest in a genre of films that use the voices of well-known actors to bring life to a series of drawings. Labeled a comedy, this movie is nothing to laugh about.

It is the story of a 9-year-old pimp. That’s right. I said pimp - as in one of those degenerates who peddle female flesh for a living. "Lil’ Pimp," as this film is called, is the cinematic manifestation of a pop-cultural attempt to glamorize this repugnant lifestyle.

In the twisted world of this movie’s story line, the young pimp is a good guy, and the mayor of its imaginary city is sleazy. Not surprisingly, the voices of several of the characters belong to some of rap music’s raunchiest acts.

Rap music has a love affair with pimps. And it is the broad appeal of rap artists who glorify pimping that has likely convinced Hollywood that there’s a profit to be made in a movie about a pre-pubescent boy "who hustles his ho’s around the neighborhood."

For years, rap artists have spiked their salacious lyrics with talk of these bottom feeders. But recently some have gone from talking about pimps to acting like them. In their latest video titled "P.I.M.P.," rappers 50 Cent and Snoop Dogg prance before the camera in the flashy, gaudy attire of a pimp.

Video just the latest

Their video is just the latest in what has become a steady stream of rap songs that celebrate pimps as hot-dressing, slick-talking, women-running men and ignore both the cruelty and criminality of the profession.

"I think it (rap artists’ infatuation with pimps) has sort of dumbed down rap music and its constituency," said DeVone Holt, whose book, "Hip-Hop Slop: The Impact of a Dysfunctional Culture," will be published next month. "They’ve surrendered their authentic artistic traits and settled for the less demanding challenge of selling sex. That probably takes the least amount of talent when you’re selling sex, because you’re just appealing to folks’ natural desires."

Holt, 30, who grew up on a steady diet of rap music, said that it’s not what it used to be. "The traits that drew me to hip-hop are the same ones that are drawing kids today," Holt said. "Hip-hop and rap music are a rebellious music, a rebellious culture. But in the days when I grew up listening to it, hip-hop and rap rebelled against oppressive institutions. Today, they just rebel against traditional values."

Redefining culture

More to the point, a growing number of rap performers are trying to redefine the culture by turning one of society’s dregs, the pimp, into an acceptable lifestyle. In his recent music video titled "Pimp Juice," rapper Nelly gave cameo roles to Max Julien, an aging actor who played a pimp in the 1973 movie, "The Mack," and a one-time, real-life pimp named Bishop Don 'Magic" Juan.

Snoop Dogg not only sings about pimping, he said he wants to be a pimp. A former Los Angeles-area gang member, Snoop says he has given up his gang-bangin’ days for pimping because pimps live longer.

Now that’s dysfunctional. Like too many rappers, Snoop has a big bankroll and low self-esteem. Rather than aspire to be something more than his great musical skills helped him to escape, Snoop wants to emulate the high-living style of a lowlife.

While Snoop’s immense talent has lifted him out of the ghetto, it hasn’t taken the ghetto out of him.

"If it’s wrong to call a woman a b with $2 in your pocket," Holt said of the language pimps regularly use to describe women, "it’s wrong to call a woman a b with $2 million in your pocket."

He’s right. Rap stars who glamorize the pimp lifestyle deserve our disdain. And movie producers who try to profit, hopefully, will lose their shirts.

San Francisco Bay View National Black Newspaper of the Year


Nelly taking heat for new Pimp Juice energy drink

(9/4/03, 7 a.m. ET) -- Rapper Nelly launched his new energy drink, Pimp Juice, on September 1, but the rapper is already coming under fire from a North Carolina minister who believes that the drink popularizes the pimp lifestyle.

Reverend Paul Scott, founder of the Messianic Afrikan Nation in Durham, North Carolina, took exception to a statement on the product's website which quotes Nelly's company, Team Lunatics, as saying the new energy drink mixes well with vodka. Scott also disliked a statement on the website urging the consumer to be "the first P.I.M.P. on the block to try Nelly's new premium energy drink."

Scott shared his concerns in a recent e-mail that said, "The black community is in danger, right now. As black men we should be building a nation of strong black leaders, not a nation of super energized, drunk pimps."

Nelly named the energy drink after his hit song "Pimp Juice" from his 2002 multi-platinum album, Nellyville. At the time, the rapper explained that the term refers to whatever attribute that you have going for you that allows you to come out on top. "Pimp juice is anything that attract the opposite sex," Nelly said. "You know, of course, you heard the song--money, fame, or intellect. It don't matter. Whatever you using to get ahead or whatever you think people are really taking to you for, that's kinda like your juice. Whatever you using to win with right now, that's your juice--that's your pimp juice, so keep pimping."