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Ask a Rapper: Summertime Johnny on Why Gangster Rap Is a Cop-Out

The hip-hop world is a less than sensible place -lots of times, you're even required to clarify when bad means bad and when bad means good- so once a week we're going to get with a rapper and ask them to explain things. Have something you always wanted to ask a rapper? Email it to [email protected].

This Week's Rapper: Summertime Johnny

This Week's Subject(s): Lil Boosie's brush with the law; the credibility of a prison hitch; gangster rap and real gangsters

Ask A Rapper: Last week Lil' Boosie got sentenced to two years for fooling around with guns and drugs and whatnot. Why does stuff like that consistently happen? Like, obviously this doesn't apply to all rappers, but it seems like more than any other genre, people involved in the rap industry get caught up in things like that.

Summertime Johnny: It's an interesting story to read about and watch. Money doesn't fix all your problems, though, and apparently doesn't grant you intelligence. I imagine these things keep happening because there's nobody around them to tell them to chill out with that kind of stuff.

Why didn't he just pay somebody he knows to "handle his lightweight," like we say from where I'm from. I mean, and why is it always a rapper in the news? Of course rappers are the ones all over the media. [sarcastically] It's obvious rappers are becoming extinct and they have to carry a gun to ensure their survival.

A lot of these rappers have identity issues. I mean, they make all this money so they can be in a better position, but then bring drama on theirselves. I figure the only reason these rappers keep on getting these criminal records once they "make it" is simply because they don't know how to use their fame to make money; they got the game all backwards.

[jump] AAR: Does it really boost someone's credibility once they've done a stint in prison? What kind of backwards sense does that make? It seems to be the same as saying you're having a lot of sex and then bragging on all of the STDs you have as proof.

SJ: Hell no. It does nothing for your "credibility" if you go to jail. The only thing it proves is that you are the dumbest SOB to have a record deal. I mean, you rap cause you got some "game" to sale, right? So how do I look buying your album? It makes no sense to jeopardize your family's livelihood just to live a lifestyle that's only temporary and fake.

Some of these cats are acting, some are real, but through it all jail time isn't fly. You could say that bragging about jail time is similar to bragging about STDs 'cause whether you like it or not, both are byproducts of bad decisions. That's what it all boils down to.

AAR: Let's say someone is involved in the gangster rap genre. Do they really need to have lived that life to successfully rap about it? Ultimately, aren't musicians similar to actors? Rick Ross is an obvious example. He got big time busted for not actually living the stuff he rapped about, but he's better at trap-rapping than 80 percent of the people that do it, save for that one aspect. Shouldn't that be okay?

SJ: Gangster rap is a joke to me. I know dudes that grew in my neighborhood, never had gun or drug issues, both parents at home with jobs, and these dudes act like the most thugged-out gangsters ever; by the way, they are gangster rappers. Gangster rap is a cop out.

Well, let me clarify that. These pop gangster rappers are a joke. There are real cats like Lil' Keke, Z-Ro or J Relentless that's real street dudes, but they don't go around trying to catch cases. They just get there grind on.

On the other hand, we got a few fake gangster rappers in Houston that have had major record deals, but what can you do. All I can say is real recognize real. I can't knock a man for trying to get out the hood if you're from the hoo", but why so gangster all the time? Stop hiding behind these facades because of your insecurities. Just do you.

If you're gonna rap about the gangster life, fine. I mean, hell all you got to do is watch Scarface, Goodfellas, Casino, New Jack City and a few other choice gangster movies and there goes your "life" right there.

I guess you can say some are actors. I reflect on Ja Rule and his career. He got blasted for sing-rapping only to be replaced by the same hook-singing gangster that ruined his career [50 Cent]. I think it's lame. So I've got to go with no, you don't need a gangster past to rap successfully about that lifestyle. Rap is music, and music is an art and art is made to be subjective.

Give Summertime Johnny's music a go at

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Shea Serrano