Hip Hop, you don’t stop with the clichés

On the American TV series Portlandia, Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein incarnated the clichés of West Coast hipster culture: the feminist bookstore clerk who knows more than you, restaurant clients who want to know the name of the chicken they are about to order, the cyclist whistling his way through traffic.

This fall, Marc Labrèche and Anne Dorval starred in Télé-Québec’s Les Bobos, another sketch-based show, which plays on the stereotypes of the Plateau’s bohemian bourgeoisie.

Programs such as these made me wonder how easy it would be to fill a series with all of the “real hip hop” clichés on full display at all of the many rap shows I attend throughout the year.

It would definitely start with the pat-down. Standing in line before getting your junk shaken by security, you would hear people complain about how unfair it is that rap fans have to go through metal detectors based solely on the fact that the artists on stage reference guns, drug trafficking and cartoonish virility. And they wouldn’t be wrong — until a fight breaks out a few metres in front of you because someone stepped on someone else’s Jordans.

Once you make it into the venue unscathed, you always feel proud — especially if you’ve smuggled in weed or a small bottle of Hennessy cognac, another “real hip hop” classic. The paying spectator would then proceed directly to the stage. The unfortunate (friend, journalist, guest) who has his name on a list will have to confront “the girl.” It’s always someone’s friend, hired for a panoply of reasons, efficiency and rapidity not being among them. Obviously, your name is never there. There’s not much she can do. But usually, if you wait long enough, and look mad/disappointed enough, she’ll let you in. (This trick is very well known among “real hip hop” regulars, many of whom haven’t bothered to be legitimately on the list for years.)

All that time spent waiting at the guest-list booth doesn’t really matter in the end, because there is no chance you’ll miss the show. Every dedicated rap fan has traumatic memories of spending seven hours in a venue for a performance that lasted only one. Rap shows are so late, they use their own “real hip hop” time frame. Typically, the act you really want to see will go onstage four to five hours after the doors opened.

But while you wait, you will have plenty of time to fill out your checklist of clichés.

Do you know what a mortuary has in common with a local rap show? You only ever go when you know someone there. Artists tend to overdo it a bit with their on-site representation. It’s always awkward when your girlfriend, her mama and all your cousins are your most visible fan base at a “real hip hop” show, all wearing your face on a T-shirt.

And don’t be surprised if the sound is a bit sketchy. Rap promoters prefer getting people inside early, way before most of the artists’ arrival. One of the most comical outcomes of this is another “real hip hop” tradition: the sound check in front of an audience. It usually finishes with an artist shouting at the soundman because, for the fifth time, he will not turn up the hype man’s microphone.

Also, if you happen to be close to the stage, never light up a joint. I have seen way too many inexperienced smokers offering a puff of their prized cannabis to a “real hip hop” performer. What I have never seen, though, is the guy on stage giving back the spliff.

Then, just when you think it’s all over, an army of flyer boys will swarm you as you exit the venue. In seconds, you’ll have your hands and pockets full of promo cards for upcoming shows — just in case you want to experience some “real hip hop” again soon.

*Paru originellement dans The Gazette le 3 décembre 2012.