Pitbull's "Don't Stop the Party" and the Culture of Gatsby-ism in Hip-Hop
January 29, 2013 at 4:04 pm #27881
I’m old enough to remember the more “socially aware” days of hip-hop, when Public Enemy and NWA addressed concerns of the black community all while confronted with the fact that more pop-oriented acts like Boyz II Men and MC Hammer ruled the airwaves. In the late Eighties and early Nineties, hip-hop had the chance to embrace one of two divergent paths: the protest music of black America, or a crude embrace of minstlry and “good times” in which conspicuous consumption and materialism were celebrated. It seems safe to say that most of hip-hop embraced the latter course.
Now fast-forward to Pitbull, a Cuban-American rapper whose latest song, “Don’t Stop the Party,” is yet another song about partying. Key & Peele did a great sketch about how no one can actually spend all that time partying, yet in hip-hop the concept of “non-stop partying” is attractive and a signifier that one’s dreams of American success are only real if there’s a constant party going on. Is it just me, or has hip-hop inadvertantly embraced the viewpoint of Jay Gatsby?
In “The Great Gatsby,” of course, F. Scott Fitzgerald was trying to make the point that the “new money” of the 1920s was corrupted by its exposure to the old money faction of the country (i.e., those families that could trace their fortunes back to the Mayflower and pre-colonial days). In order to lure his object of affection to him, Gatsby threw lavish parties at great expense, but when he ultimately did lure Daisy away, his world crumbled under the pressure of achieving what he thought he wanted. In some way, I wonder if the constant celebration of a non-stop partying lifestyle could be an unconscious cry for help on the part of rappers, because I certainly don’t think Jay-Z worries that he will be “corrupted” by all the money he has. Materialism has always had an appeal to people who didn’t have material, and while it’s racist to assume that every rapper grew up in the projects of some major city without even the clothes on their back, the myth of the young, hungry rapper is a hard one to dispute.
I feel like, while hip-hop is enjoyable in the way that its “new money” approach attacks the old-money establishment for its obvious discrimination over the centuries, it can easily be corrupted into buying into the very same prejudices and views of the old-money set. It’s a slippery slope, and I think a lot of the party anthem songs might reflect more fear and dread of becoming the very thing they (the rappers) don’t necessarily want to become.
I reserve the right to be full of shit, however…January 30, 2013 at 8:49 am #27886
Peter Fenzel OTI Staff
In East Egg they go crazy…. In West Egg they go crazy…. the eyeglasses go crazy… the ash piles they go crazy… the car they go crazy… the mansion they go crazy… the pool they go crazy… the green light they go crazy…January 30, 2013 at 1:08 pm #27887
DeanMoriarty Well Actually
I don’t have an intelligent response to this, but I am adopting the phrase “I reserve the right to be full of shit” as my own personal motto.January 30, 2013 at 11:54 pm #27895
Well, DeanMoriarty, maybe that’s why Jay-Z is doing the soundtrack to the upcoming film adaptation of Gatsby.
I don’t really think the book lets either old or new money look good in the end. As Fenzel pointed out, they go crazy in both Eggs. As in the old money people are boring, self-centered, and lifeless. The new money are reckless. Now, you could say there’s great sacrifice on the part of Jay for taking the fall for Daisy’s bad driving, but then what happens? Dude gets shot in his pool…
… the pool he never used.
That’s the thing. Gatsby himself didn’t actually party. He was only putting on the persona because he needed to create an environment in which he could be near Daisy. Or he at least felt that was the best way to do it. He threw parties because that’s the image he saw of old money and assumed that’s all their lifestyle entailed.
Cut now to Jay-Z. He actually did live in bad situations and work his way up and such. If you listen to his older albums, they’re certainly more “Hard Knock Life” than “Big Pimpin'”-esque with respect to themes and tropes. Jay-Z jumps back and forth nowadays between rapping/crooning about oppression versus chicks and Crist(al). He’s established himself and earned the right to party sometimes, but he’s disciplined enough to not do it all the time. He’s self-made, sure, but he was around early enough “in this rap game” to behave more like an elder statesman than a junior Senator.
That makes him kind of perfect for the soundtrack. If it’s anything like the one he did for American Gangster (a phenomenal album in its own right, btw, imo), it will sort of tell the story on its own. So the songs will jump around from dark to near comical to fit the different moments in the script. Perhaps not in the specific order they occur onscreen, but parsing out what song would represent what moment would probably be fairly straight-forward and delightful. And it’d be much more believable coming from him than the newer folk.
(I’ve considered writing an article for the sight discussing this very topic, though, the oldschool versus newschool rap and how the artists that have stuck around sort of straddle the line between fighting to survive and partying all the time. Snoop Dogg is one of my favorite examples, because his songs often leave (me with) the impression that they’re parodies of the genre. Always too busy to do it, though.)January 31, 2013 at 4:46 pm #27900
I admit to be rushed by the time limit on the computer I was using at the public library that I was at (one of the reasons I haven’t done any articles for the site is because my computer died last year and I usually don’t have the time to develop a well-thought-out idea on the library’s time), and I accept Mr. Moriarty’s adoption of my phrase ;-).
Gab, you’re absolutely right: Gatsby himself is not the partier so much as the facilitator. he creates the scene to lure Daisy to (what he thinks) is the beginning of their beautiful, wonderful lives together, and a lot of people who remember the book only for the “romance” think that’s awesome. What they forget is how, once he’s got the money to throw such parties, Gatsby falls prey to the whims of Daisy and her fellow rich snobs, and how his death, while tragic to us, has absolutely no effect on the way that they live. I think it’s fitting that the “Golden Boy of the Roaring Twenties” could write such a damning indictment of the mentality that ultimately led to the Great Depression while himself enjoying the privilges of the noveau riche and never really learning the lesson that Nick does.
Jay-Z did work his way up to fame and success, and like you say, he knows when to party and when to get down to business. I just wonder how many rappers, thrust into fame, can do that, or any entertainers for that matter.February 2, 2013 at 11:17 am #27916
I think some try but just aren’t all that convincing. And others don’t bother- they just go for the T&A and that’s it.
What do you think of Kanye West? He’s one I can’t figure out. I’ve seriously sat and thought about him quite deliberately, and I can’t put a finger on how to describe him justly.February 2, 2013 at 11:20 am #27917
Also… Jay Gatsby… Jay-Z. I just noticed that, holy poop!February 24, 2013 at 4:03 pm #28147
Kanye is one of those guys who I thought of as being hope for hip-hop. Then he became big and the fame monster ate him whole and spit out a copy of him that is even more arrogant and unlikable (kinda like how the alien works in “The Thing”). Add to that his recent hook-up with Kim Kardashian (if they’re faking a relationship, a pregnancy sure is committing to the role), and he’s beginning to look more and more ridiculous as time goes on.
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