Nothing to Shmile About

by Chris Burton


Bobby Shmurda makes me feel like shutting my blinds and telling everybody to get off my lawn.

Not everything is for everybody. I get that. I try to follow the new waves in the culture without chasing it. Rap is a fountain of youth that often doubles as an HD mirror. You see what’s in and can’t help sometimes but to feel old and out of it.

There’s a bunch of interviews and articles covering Bobby Shmurda and the energy around the “Shmoney Dance.” The conversation on Hot 97 really stuck out to me.

I’m watching this brother with several lenses.

  1. The inner teenager living vicariously through the tough talk on my playlist.
  2. The emcee parsing every bar and remaining unimpressed by the lyrics but can’t front on the presentation.
  3. The activist is going upstream to find out who’s responsible for this.
  4. The minister who knows the reach of redemption and counts nobody out.

My first impression is that this brother is young but has seen some stuff in his lifetime. Selling crack in the 5th grade?! The Brooklyn he describes has had no parts of gentrification. He makes East Flatbush sound like District 12.

His partner Rowdy Rebel talked about his father’s raps and why he never felt his father’s music. Yeah, a lot of people aren’t with the “lyrical miracle” rappity raps but it shook me when Ebro essentially told him that young cats don’t care about lyrics.

Music gotta be more than catharsis. Feeling good is important but it ain’t like you have to give up substance for style.

I went down a mini rabbit hole on youtube yesterday watching video clips and interviews. I keep waiting to see Aaron McGruder’s name in the credits after the videos to no avail. He’s equal parts boogeyman and catnip. It doesn’t surprise me that his music is getting so much attention. He’s lyrically simplistic and doesn’t seem too interested in punchlines but his charisma is undeniable. I went to school with brothers like him, taught kids like him, shook my head at kids on the train just like him.

I get mad at how basic the message in his music seems but then part of me is like “Yo he’s talking his experience? Hell else you want him to chat bout?!”

I’m looking for growth even though he’s just getting started. I see a lot of artists and industry types embracing Shmurda but I hope people aren’t just playing parasite hoping to benefit from the energy.

Young rappers need mentors. I have no doubt that he won’t always rhyme about what he sees on his block everyday but he doesn’t need to join the league of rappers robbing poor people of dignity. Keep it real, suffer from success and all that, but be about uplift.