Bragging in Hip Hop

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Hip Hop’s culture has long been immersed in what seems like a masquerade of rappers parading around making outlandish claims about their swagger, money, or general ability to make things happen in the world. Most people that don’t listen to rap/hip-hop name this the number one suspect for the reason they dislike the genre and/or art, and stick religiously by the claim. They most times forget to mention the Eminem songs in their libraries, but that’s another story.


Is it really okay to classify these antics as just bragging? Let’s take a look at how and why this classic element of the average Hip Hop song has thrived for so long.

Before there was Hip-Hop, there was the Civil Rights movement. Along with this, came the adoption of a culture among blacks known as Zoot-Suiting. Zoot-Suting wasn’t always a black thing, but we’ll understand why they associated themselves with it in a minute.

  • During the late 1940’s and early ‘50’s when black oppression was at it’s darkest, negros were finding all kinds of ways to lash out, act out, and straight up defy “Whitey."They dressed differently, talked differently, and began defining their own cultural lingo and dress code. That’s not as significant as what they were actually saying, and what it signified. This is where Zoot-Suiting among blacks becomes important. Putting on the weird heavily padded suits, and big pants, they started calling themselves man, (during low teen years, mind you) in direct defiance to their white oppressors calling them 'boy.’ A recent read, “Race Rebels” by Robin D. G. Kelley, dives into these very years, shedding light on a young Malcolm X, then Malcolm Little, or Detroit Red very much engaged in this culture.

The main motif of the book draws attention on some of the ways and reasons blacks developed what is now “stereotypical” behavioral characteristics. And one of those is bragging, or over-condfidence. Decades of oppression led to decades of the same behavior, and…

Fast-forward.

1970s. Another culture has planted its seeds among the oppressed people of America. That culture will have become known to the rest of the world as Hip-Hop. Early practictioners and trend-setters, including a young Robin Kelley, were involved in a very specific kind of activity. This activity involved never before seen variations in the way one dressed, spoke, or carried themself. They spoke quite highly of themselves, and eventually this tradition trickled (flooded) into the budding lyricism. Rhymes were soon peppered with such phrases that likened the lyricist to a great king of the past, or their flow to that of cobra venom. It quickly evoled into a contest of who could season their rhymes with the highest form of braggadicio.

Time-skip.

It’s 2012, and the genre itself is heavily saturated with rappers constantly succumbing to the urge to tell us why and how we’re the best thing to ever walk the planet. Even humble rappers outside of a mixtape or album fall victim. So why, do we ask? Is it possible that rappers are simply paying homage to the roots of this phenomenon? Some of my favorite rappers have used the “brag” angle to depict rising from less than humble backgrounds into praise-worthy cinemas for us all to watch unfold.


In short — before Hip-Hop, during Hip-Hop, and probably after it, if the world decides it should no longer exist, oppressed people (whether as a whole or on a personal level) will use this kind of behavior to give themselves a sense of self-worth. From being told one would never amount to nothing, to claiming one owns or controls any grand amount is an obvious act of defying the odds.

Not as cool as this, though.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r4C3xS8wN3k

So, reader. Tell us, why does your favorite rapper brag?