When I was a kid, rap was (in my opinion) at its very best. It was kind of funny that I liked rappers like Ice Cube, Eazy-E, Ice T, and their crews. I couldn’t have been more separated from the worlds they were rapping about, and I certainly was not keen to become a gangsta myself. Ice Cube in particular seemed to be from a world that was scary yet kind of daring and exciting. I wondered how a guy named O’Shea Jackson could be so darned angry.
Of course, right around the same time, John Mellencamp (who had a cougar in his name) was also huge. His message was…well…slightly different from that of Ice Cube. John sang little diddies about Jack and Diane and I’m pretty sure that he bled red, white, and blue. He was the Midwest personified, but a bit less corny. He wore white t-shirts, blue jeans, and seemed like he was the kind of person you could run up to to get an autograph.
Twenty years later…
Time has passed, as it tends to do. Boy how the times have changed for Ice Cube though. Beginning with some gritty acting roles, Cube went on to act in a Disney movie called Are We There Yet. I had to rub my eyes the first time I saw the preview. Was this the angry gangsta rapper in a Disney movie? About annoying kids? Eh? Now he’s on TBS with a show of the same name. He still seems kind of angry, but most people watching his show probably don’t recall that most of his earlier work would have made Tipper Gore break out into hives.
As for John Mellencamp, he’s still singing diddies, still bleeding red, white, and blue, and while he might seem a bit more cynical than he was back in the day, he’s still pretty much doing his thing.
So what does this mean to you?
It’s just a question, really. Where do you see yourself in twenty years? Will you still pretty much be doing your thing, or will you have totally remade yourself into something new? Will you try to carry your audience with you when you remake yourself, or will you just completely start from scratch?
It takes courage to follow the path of Ice Cube, and it takes courage to follow the path of John Mellencamp. In the case of Ice Cube, you are separating yourself by a wide margin from everything that made you who you were. You have to be resistant to ridicule and criticism. Whether you make this change because it will make you more money or because it just makes you feel better, you have to keep on keeping on.
By the same token, it takes a certain kind of courage to do what John Mellencamp has done. He has stayed pretty much the same while groups like the Spice Girls, ‘N Sync, Justin Bieber, Britney Spears, and Lady Gaga have come and gone. He might seem old-fashioned now, yet he doesn’t seem stale. How does he do that? How does he remain relevant? Maybe his audience has stayed a consistent size while Ice Cube has added a whole new branch to his potential consumers. Is that a bad thing? Is a loyal core crowd better than a diverse, spread out crowd?
What do you think?