Wine, Coffee, and A$AP Rocky: The Transformative Power of Hip-Hop Music (a piece by Chris Carson)

April 19, 2013 at 7:59 am

Wine, Coffee, and A$AP Rocky: The Transformative Power of Hip-Hop Music

Roland Barthes wrote in Mythologies that wine “is above all a converting substance, capable of reversing situations and states, and of extracting from objects their opposites- for instance making a weak man strong or a silent one talkative.”

The American equivalent of France’s “totem-drink” is drip coffee. The kind working Americans make in the morning with breakfast and drink throughout the day at the office or on the construction site and the French sarcastically call jus de chausettes.

Like wine, our coffee is transformative. It sends resting bodies whirling into motion, turns ideas into actions, fuels the market economy. Coffee has the powers of inversion, as well, making a slow man fast, a lazy man ambitious, and according to legend, a poor man rich. Coffee is emblematic of the American drive to work and earn and, like wine for the French, has become part of America’s mythology.

So perhaps the dissolution of traditional drip coffee from cafés and homes is symbolic of the dissolution of the American Dream.

Who could have guessed? When unemployment spikes and the wall separating haves from have-nots looks unbreachable, that’s when we see decadent trends of coffee drinking, like Japanese style cold dripping towers and Nespresso machines.

If Americans no longer believe the good life can be had by hard work, they no longer believe in Mr. Coffee.

I felt desperate for a cup of black coffee as my girlfriend and I drove down to San Jose’s HP Pavilion to see Rihanna a little more than a week ago. The concert would be long, I knew, so I wanted to stay awake. I also wanted to be alert during the opening act.

I had seen A$AP Rocky on Pitchfork, in Paper, on Jimmy Fallon, but never fully engaged his music, or the music of the other viral names swirling around as the answers to hip-hop’s future. Was I missing out on something?

I grew up listening to hip hop music. The first CD I can remembering seeing was Ready to Die, by The Notorious B.I.G., with the afro headed baby. Then there was the Pharaoh’s head on the cover of Nas’ I Am. 2pac, Jay-Z, D.M.X., Big L, Big Punisher, The Wu-Tang Clan, Redman, Three 6 Mafia; the list goes on. Hip-hop music became very important to me when I was younger. As I’ve grown, however, I’ve abandoned the genre for other types of music.

Diving back into hip-hop after seeing A$AP Rocky has taught me two things. First, I was missing out on some things; mostly Frank Ocean’s channel ORANGE and Kendrick Lamar’s Good Kidd, M.A.A.D City.

And second, hip-hop is a far more powerful transformative element then both wine and coffee. While all music allows you to tap into different aspects of yourself, be it your angry side, your romantic side, or your sexuality, other music doesn’t allow you to do it the way hip-hop does; wearing a vizard.

For the fans of A$AP Rocky at HP Pavilion this included baggy flannel shirts, thick chains usually seen securing bikes to telephone poles, and thick black beanies with the words A$AP Mob, or A$AP Worldwide covering their predominately straight hair.

After weeks of listening to Rocky and others, myself, I’ve noticed my body feels like it has slacked, taken on a new feeling of elasticity. In many ways I feel more confident and I found myself, alone in the apartment emptying the dish washer or doing some other chore, singing “pussy, money, weed, pussy, money, weed.”

Hip-hop offers its listeners a way into a world they are unable to otherwise access and has had the power to transform almost every aspect of our culture. This is far from a new or unique idea, I know. Just look at this Three 6 Mafia video.


hope the day is well ; )