Just as hot trends meet their death when discovered by The Times Style Section – see Trucker Hats – emerging cultural themes usually go mainstream after a close-up in the paper’s Week in Review. Now, after years of skirmishing below the radar, The Times has taken notice of the nexus between conservative talk radio and hip hop.
In "The Kinship Between Talk Radio and Rap," David Segal celebrates the "uncanny… similarities between talk radio and gangsta rap."
First, pardon his jargon – Segal actually focuses on hip hop at large, not gangsta rap, a subgenre that began in the 80s and is now virtually extinct. The article suggests four shared obsessions of rappers and radio hosts: Ego, haters, intramural feuds and "verbal skills." Surveying America’s fractured media culture, Segal argues that these seemingly divergent loudmouths actually serve similar markets. "Rappers and conservative talkers both speak for a demographic that believes its interests and problems have been slighted and both offer stories that have allegedly been ignored."
For conservatives, the Obama era has clearly heightened the appetite for victimization. The Right’s new heros tell the same story, from Frank Ricci to Sgt. Crowley to Glenn Beck. It’s hard out there for white men. That may sound odd coming from the party of business elites and racial majorities, yet as the critic Leon Wieseltier once observed, American conservatives, and especially the Christian Right, delight in combining "the power of a majority with the pity of a minority." Segal flags this "paradox" of overexposed, under-appreciated radio personalities. He notes that Michael Savage "is forever describing himself as an underdog, marginalized by the media" — even though his show is carried on over 300 stations.
In hip hop, poverty, struggle and hustle are central to many rappers’ personal narratives, even as success turns those experiences to distant memories. "How does Lil Wayne complain in song about the legions who seek his ruin," Segal wonders, "even as he dominates the charts?" To be sure, few other modern musical genres place as much emphasis on whether an artist keeps it real in his personal life. Jadakiss once insulted 50 Cent by noting that the rapper had moved to Connecticut — a comment that simply doesn’t translate for most musicians — and echoes the bizarro populist narratives of multimillionaires like Bill O’Reilly.