Freestyle of the Week Review: Rick Ross, “Don’t Kill My Vibe”

To fulfill the titular obligations of this column, let us address Rick Ross’ freestyle upon Kendrick Lamar’s “Bitch, Don’t Kill My Vibe”:

 
True to Teflon Don form, i.e., Ross’ best form, the “Don’t Kill My Vibe” freestyle is equal parts confessional and cocksure, a balance of vainglorious visuals (“I’m feeling pretty good right now; Grammy nominated …”; “I might be drunk on the couch/ But I’m raising the bar,” are two examples, never mind the literal vainglorious images, of Rozay, dressed in all white, so that the effect is one of a living snowbank, surrounded by preternaturally beautiful women and environs) and Teflon-esque admissions of weakness (“Used to call me dyslexic/ It was a challenge to read”) all while managing to slip in some more-astute-than-it-may-seem social commentary as well (“When the liquor endorsements/ Worth more than you’re masters”). The beat is slight and soulful, bass driven, and unlike Lamar’s butterfly with bladed wings style, Ross prefers to smother the cut in the same manner as he does his other tracks; he will never be one to dazzle with flow, but that sheer Jovian mastery, that dominance by submission that he employs, more than tides one over between the truly insightful bars he peppers his verses with.

 
(Now, nominal mission behind us, we can focus on Freestyle of the Week’s other focus, namely, as past entries have shown, providing me an opening within which I can squeeze my bully pulpit; really, Ross’ freestyle-cum-commercial is more valuable to us as a jumping off point than a song, although it is an agreeable enough little song.)

 
That aforementioned dominance, those bars and verses, have become something of a lightning rod as of late. At cause is a line from Ross’ verse on Rocko’s “U.O.E.N.O.”, which goes as follows: “Put molly all in her champagne/ She ain’t even know it/ Took her home and enjoyed that/ She ain’t even know it.”

 
Now, it is quite difficult to read that as anything but a less than tacit endorsement of date rape, which of course is no different from rape rape. The ensuing conflagration caught everyone from Rozay to Reebok within its righteous fury, and Rocko dropped the verse from the record. It was seemingly a straight forward dust up over an incredibly stupid artistic decision, similar to Lil Wayne’s Emmett Till line controversy. 

 
What makes this incident worth revisiting, however, is what it reveals in our culture’s relationship with important figures. Normally, one can separate the sins of whatever athlete/artist/politician/Great Person from the actions that made them Great; OJ Simpson’s alleged crimes or LT’s drug use are somewhat easy to compartmentalize from their performances on the field, and one can consider them in mutually exclusive terms, e.g., Simpson’s alleged murder does not alter his excellence as a football player (of course, one may completely choose to let one aspect of a person tarnish another, if they so choose; I am merely maintaing that they do not have to). 

 
Similarly, the transgressions of Bill Clinton outside of the public service arena have not stopped him from becoming widely admired and acknowledged today for his works inside the walls, and we, as a society, are ready and willing to embrace any number of horrible people/excellent Great People, with Michael Jordan, Bob Knight, Malcolm X, and others all triumphing over personal hardships, terrible attitudes, and criminal pasts by the virtue of the greater good they bestowed upon society.

 
Ross and Wayne, on the other hand, fell into something far tricker: They have made it impossible to separate the transgression from the art. One may forgive Ross’ past as a CO and reconcile it with his drug czar on-mic identity by virtue of the life/art split; it is impossible to reconcile art endorsing rape. But why?

 
Why is it simple enough to disconnect the man from the mafioso–perhaps this is because in Ross’ case it seems to be patently untrue, and he is so fucking good at playing the part that we sit back and watch, disbelief suspended, as we would a marvelous actor (which Ross is)–but tough to swallow that the Teflon Don Ross has carefully cultivated may, in fact, be a date raping piece of shit? He is, after all, a drug kingpin; it would not seem to be a stretch of the imagination that said kingpin would be perhaps not the nicest fellow.

 
The answer is most likely a simple one: The performance had simply gone too far. Outlandish tales of cocaine fueled, luxurious hedonism are one thing, but to actively support an all too real rape culture is another. In the end, the “U.O.E.N.O.” incident is an important one, both for the fact that it helped draw a dividing line between what is obviously intended to provoke–see Eminem or Tyler, The Creator, who have both done far worse things to women in their bars than Ross, but, by the very virtue of their graphicness, come off more as slasher movie porn schlock–and what could so easily befall a person that one should not even joke about it.

 
For what it is worth, and to be perfectly clear, while I find the lyrics offensive at worst and in poor taste at best (this has more to do with the offhandedness and ease with which the rape reference is dropped, and the unartistic delivery itself, than any belief in the moral obligations of art, of which I believe it has none, being of the Aestheticism school myself (Which of course does not mean I condone rape culture; I vehemently oppose it. I merely do not believe that art has any obligation to do so as well.)) I do not believe Ross actually endorses the drugging and raping of women; more likely, he was in character, and Mr. Hyde got a touch too wild even for him. But the fast and effective push back against Rozay, Reebok, and the bars themselves does more than underscore and illuminate one of society’s most troubling problems; it also opens up conversations on Aestheticism and provocation, boundaries and the interplay between life and art, no matter what said art is depicting. And as anti-rape activists will tell you, an open discourse is an important step. 

 

Watch “Don’t Kill My Vibe” freestyle here.

 

“Don’t Kill My Vibe” receives a PAR

Rating:
P…Horrible
PA…Tolerable
PAR…Good
PARL…Kinda Great
PARLÉ… Classic

 

 

Also Check Out:
When Rappers Go Over The Line… The Emmett Till Line
Freestyle of the Week Review: Trey Songz, “Fu*ckin’ Problem Freestyle”
Freestyle of the Week Review: Jim Jones, “Harlem Shake Freestyle”
Mindless Behavior – Matured, Motivated, But Still Mindless
NCAA Scandals Outweigh The Product

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