Hip hop explores so much more than we realise on the surface. Often unfairly labelled as the shallowest and most superficial of music genres, it nonetheless manages to chart a whole range of human experiences, from love to loss to everything in-between.
But let’s not pretend its greatest stars don’t love to lyricise about one topic above all: we’re talking about dollar and its pursuit. From Addicted to Money by Lil Scrappy and Ludacris to Wiz Kalifa’s This Plane, it’s as much a part of the scene as beautiful women, big-ass cars, and a trademark pair of black shades.
And if we’re going to be more specific, there’s a certain obsession with Lady Luck and the role she plays. But where exactly does this stem from?
A celebration of triumph against the odds
If there’s one thing that hip hop’s greatest stars share in common, it’s the arguable implausibility of their success. The likelihood of not only making a living from music, but literal mega-millions, is such a triumph over every law of probability, that it must be hard to believe in its reality even when you’re the one living that life.
Think about a few cases in point: Tupac was raised between Brooklyn and the Bronx by a drug-addicted mother, Trinidad and Tobago native Nicki Minaj was brought up by a struggling father, Drake clawed his way up from one of the poorest neighbourhoods in Toronto…
The list goes on and on, but the overarching theme is the same: almost all of those at the top of their game fought their way up from the bottom, transforming their stories from ones of poverty and hardship to unimaginable wealth and fortune.
Little wonder, then, that their music is a celebration of the lives they’ve fought so hard to win.
Gambling with fate
If there is one other thing that hip hops most notorious names have in common, it’s their bravery in throwing the dice and seeing what future fate will send the way of those who dare to risk it all.
Like those who visit casinos to tip the hand of fortune in their favour, they’re risk-takers, gamblers, libertines, and chancers, and if they want to sing about that in their songs, who on earth would blame them? Their grit and determination are the very reasons they got where they are in the first place.
More than that, like the world so many of their songs embody, these artists are unapologetic when it comes to money: making it, enjoying it, splashing it. The two worlds – casino and hip-hop – overlap in their shared attitudes that luxury and hedonism are something to be celebrated. Neither differentiate between garishness and glamour: they simply let us know that we can have anything we want so long as we’re bold enough to make our move.
This is the idea we buy into when we listen to such songs, and it explains, in large part, the near perfect correlation between the rise in popularity of hip-hop, and the ever-growing numbers of online gamblers. At the same time as we listen to I’m So Paid, more and more of us are logging onto bonus sites like Oddschecker, before using those no-deposit bonuses and making our moves. Sometimes we succeed, but even when we don’t, the dream remains, with Akon and co ever there to remind us that anything is possible.
Seven songs that will make you feel like a big-roller too:
Bag of Money by Wale ft. Rick Ross, T Pain & Meek Mill
Addicted to Money by Lil Scrappy Ft. Ludacris
This Plane by Wiz Khalifa
Mo Money Mo Problems by The Notorious B.I.G ft. Puff Daddy and Ma$e
All About the Benjamins by Did ft. The Notorious B.I.G., Lil Kim & The Lox
I’m So Paid by Akon ft. Lil Wayne and Young Jeezy
I Got Cash by Brooklyn Funk Essentials