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Framing Lil Wayne

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In one of today’s class discussions on representations and stereotypes, I mentioned reading an article about Lil Wayne’s recent guilty plea on gun possession charges, and how it showed me once again that words, images and stories don’t work in isolation – they link up with, re-create, and reinforce certain relevant frames of reference.  It happens all the time; we can’t really avoid it.

Here’s the article, from a hip-hop music site.

And here’s the specific part that leaps out at me.

A rapper since he was a teen, Lil Wayne exploded in popularity thanks to his voluminous output on the mixtape circuit and collaborations with other artists. He currently has the No. 1 song in the country with Jay Sean, “Down.”

While his lyrics sometimes are laced with violence, he’s more known for clever wordplay and risque material.

The relationship between chronicling crime and living it has long been an issue in rap. Some of the genre’s big names — including Tupac Shakur, Lil’ Kim, Beanie Sigel, Shyne, Mystikal and C-Murder — have done a few months to several years behind bars for crimes committed after they became famous.

T.I., another of rap’s top sellers, reported to a federal prison in May for his conviction on weapons charges. He’s expected to serve a year and a day.

While some rappers haven’t regained their chart status after prison or jail, Shakur became even more popular, and T.I. remains popular on the radio.

Think about what we’ve talked about regarding “frames,” meaning the words and ideas that help us understand events and issues.  The bare fact that a man got caught with a loaded gun on his bus a couple years ago, and now faces jail time, is given meaning by the additional details of the story and the frames that they fit in.  That he is a black man, a rapper, that he and his image are associated with “the streets,” that other black rappers with similar profiles have gone through similar episodes (as this highlighted part of the article tells us) are all key parts of this process.

Whether Lil Wayne is in fact like – or not at all like – Tupac or T.I. or anyone else referred to in this piece doesn’t matter too much.  This news involving him is only understood through this framework.  This story also continues and develops that framework, potentially affecting the way we think about him, about the nature of hip-hop, and so on – for better or worse.

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Written by michaelhkoch

October 29, 2009 at 1:09 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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