Hub Telegram: In 1979, when the Sugarhill Gang’s Big Bank Hank bragged, in the iconic hip-hop song “Rapper’s Delight,” that he had “a color TV, so I can see / the Knicks play basketball,” it was the start of a 35-year love affair between rappers and technology.
Ever since, hip-hop artists have periodically dipped into the lexicon of gadget blogs to write their lyrics. Rapping about the latest technology on the market is a smart move commercially; it indicates that you can afford these things, and that, presumably, you know how to use them. It’s a signifier of both status and savvy.
At first, the rap world’s references to technology were practical and subtle; they referred to quotidian acts like placing a call, sending a message, or checking a voicemail. In 1992, Ice Cube invoked the popular technology of the time: a pager. (“Had to stop at a red light/ Looking in my mirror and not a jacker in sight/ And everything is alright/ I got a beep from Kim, and she can f*ck all night.”)
But in recent years, technology has taken the foreground in popular hip-hop songs. Now, it’s not enough to refer to a gadget casually, as a mode of communication between friends or lovers. Today, rappers make songs about technology. Specific brand names are included, often with no real purpose other than signaling to listeners: I’m young, I’m with it. It’s audio sponsored content, basically. And a lot of the time, it’s incredibly corny.
Earlier this month, the video for “Double Tap,” a song by Jordin Sparks featuring 2 Chainz was released, with a chorus that went, “Bet you won’t double tap that h*e.” It’s a reference, of course, to the double-tapping act of liking a photo on Instagram; when I heard it, I cringed almost as much as I did when I heard Fat Joe’s song from three years ago, “Instagram That H*e.” Nicki Minaj has also used the double-tap entendre. A line in her song “Four Door Adventure,” goes: “I’mma a keep a linebacker, tell ’em tackle for me/ Yo, you seen my last pic, go double-tap that for me”.
Instagram is a particularly popular reference point for rappers. Trinidad James’ song “All Gold Everything” has the line: “This one for them colleges, them bad h*es at Spelman/ Shout out to them freshmen/ On Instagram straight flexin’.” IamSu!’s “Hipster Girls” shouts out not just Instagram, but Tumblr:
“This for all of my hipster girls, on Instagram straight flexin’ (x3)
I said this for all of my hipster girls, on Tumblr straight flexin’ (x3)”
Rick Ross’s “Ashamed” also contains a twofer: a reference to Instagram and Twitter. (“Silence, but they follow your Twitters / These the games that they play, they study your Instagram pictures.”)
It makes sense that rappers are leaning more on technology; tech is central to every facet of modern life and communication. In 2015, you can’t talk honestly about the world around you if you’re unwilling to name-drop a tech company or two. But the gratuitous overuse of these brand names, especially as the titles of songs, is a step too far.
Consider G-Eazy’s “Tumblr Girls,” which opens with the lines: “Cause I’m in love with these Tumblr girls, with skinny waists and drug habits.” Or Mistah Fab’s track from 2009, “Hit me on Twitter,” which repeats that line over and over, and then ends with a self-aware note: “There’s some people that’ll say ‘that’s corny, ‘look at what hip-hop’s coming to’.” (Later in the song, apparently unperturbed by corniness, Mistah Fab gives a shoutout to Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey.)