Thugnificent : The Last Chapter of African American Music

Disclaimer: This page contains explicit lyrics used for the purpose of demonstrating important concepts in modern rap. Explicit content was only used if there was no alternative.

P.S. Dr. Johnson I emailed you and asked you for permission, but you didn’t answer and I felt this project had a meaningful and creative approach to hip-hop that out weighed the “bad”. 

"The Boondocks"

To know what Thugnificent represents one must first know the purpose of “The Boondocks”, the show he appears on. “The Boondocks” is a cartoon with a predominantly black cast that comments on controversial social and political events and topics. The most important part is that the commentary in the show is not only unapologetic but it’s from the perspective of the black community. Although one must note, this is not a show by blacks for blacks. The intended audience is definitely white America. The clips below, are perfect demonstrations of the controversy that the show thrives off of. 

In this episode an alternate reality is presented where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr survives his shooting but goes into a coma for 32 years. When he wakes up in 2000, in time for the presidential election. He is disgusted by the black community and what it has become.

This hilarious clips comments on the difference between the way white and black people raise their children. In it grandad… well just watch it for yourself. 

In June of 2002, R Kelly was charged for child pornography, 21 counts might I add. This episode is a comment on the refusal of the black community to acknowledge evidence presented in the case. 

Okay But Who is Thugnificent?!

Now that we know the show better we can get to know who he is and what the hip-hop sensation known as Thugnificent represents. Thugnificent a.k.a Otis Jenkins was introduced to the world through the hit TV show “The Boondocks” on November 5, 2007. He is a rapper in his 30s to 40s from a small town in Georgia. The town is named Terra-Belle, get it? Terrible… Terra-Belle, yeah you get it. But this town is so poor that the residents cannot eat often times and the murder rate is in the extremes. He is confident to the point of cockiness after making it out of Terra-Belle and never passes up an opportunity to talk about how great he is. He is a mainstream rapper that becomes populaar from music downloads and radio plays.At the same time he is a part of “The Lethal Interjection Crew” whom live with him as he moves out of the hood and into white suburbia. Overall, Thugnificent is a popular mainstream rapper that has the traditional rags to riches story.

Thugnificent as a Symbol

Thugnificent and his journey is a symbol of the evolution of commercialized hip-hop and the politics involved in this corner of the music world. He starts of poor, then becomes extremely rich. He wears huge diamond chains and rolls with a crew, the things that he raps about are in no way profound nor do they tell any type of story but they are catchy and wildly popular. Sound familar yet? Thugnificent represents rap artists that are pushed by these large music corporations to make quick money while the rapper is popular.

In a later episode Thugnificent realizes the reaction the Obama campaign is getting and uses it to further his career. He makes an auto-tuned  pro-Obama song but get this, he has changed completly to “fit” the poiltical activist mold. In the music video for the song, he is wearing a button down shirt, a sweatervest, bowtie, simple watch with a leather strap, and jeans… WITH A BELT. This is a drastic change from “iced out” chains, huge t-shirts, and saggy pants. In this same music video he is seen dancing with white Hollywood actors. He has seemed to completely cross over. This chapter of thugnificent’s life symbolizes the use of  “movements” in corporate rap. Hip-hop is a multibillion dollar industry and there are corporations dedicated to the revune that this culture brings in while not caring about the actual culture. It is representative of the people that get to degrees to study a culture that blacks live, to study that culture and profit from it.

After this Thugnificent decides that he is above rap music and puts out an all autotuned album which completely fails. In an attempt to revive his career he starts beef with populaar rappers younger than him. At this same time we find out that he actually has a bachelors degree in communication and that he was never a drug dealer, that he just used the facade to get popular. If this isn’t clear symbolism I don’t know what is. It is parallel to the fall of many popular rappers that no longer have the backing of record labels. It also demonstrates the stererotype present in a lot of rap, that the face presented to the public is not real life.

The rise and fall of Thugnificent’s career is repredentative of the viscious, commercial rap cycle that began to develop in the 90s and was carried to completion in the 2000s. It is rpresentative of the politics that go into rap now and the culture that was turned into a spectacle for the entire world to use for entertainment. It makes a comment on the people within our own culture that use their “inside” knowledge to exploit entire communities. It is a way to laugh at the terrible direction that we are going in.

Symbols in His Music

The lyrics present in Thugnificent’s music are very repetetive, sometime autotuned, and often meaningless. As much as I hate to say it, his lyrics are representative of the big hits pushed by music corporations in order to make quick cash. 

Remember that music video that caused Nelly to get into trouble with Spelman? Yeah that one, these are the type of videos that Thugnificent excels at. His videos are representative of the videos often present throughout hip-hop beginning in the 2000s. The formula for these videos? Girls (although Thugnificent would most likely have different word choice), demonstrations of wealth, a crew, and more girls.

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Social Implications

Thugnificent’s character is one that needs to be displayed on television. It shows what the rap industry is coming to in a direct and unapologetic manner. Hip-hop used to contribute to the community, allow the community to be heard, and give black people the ability to express themselves as the creative beings that they are. Hip-hop has now transformed into a weapon used against the black community. It is profitting off of the downsfalls of every ghetto and every black woman that gives birth to a young black boy. It is drenched in pure materialism and the manipulation of black people’s true movements and politics. Hip-hop is being morphed and thugnificent accurately displays that transformation.

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