Nuthin' but a "G" Thang: The Culture and Commerce of Gangsta Rap

By Eithne Quinn | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 6 Who's the Mack?
RAP PERFORMANCE AND TRICKSTER TALES

“MACK,” AS these definitions attest, is synonymous with “pimp” and was so deployed in gangsta rap as both a noun and a verb. From this denotative meaning, the term “mack” assumed secondary resonances: to persuade, to “rap,” or, as Ice-T says, “to talk someone into something.” The “mack” came to mean the persuader, the trickster, the rapper. This semantic drift strikes at the center of the equivalencies between rap artist and pimp (or “player”). As music critic S. H. Fernando says, “the one specific quality that pimps and rappers share is their way with words.”1 If a broad parallel can be drawn between pimp talk and rap rhymes, what is distinctive about gangsta is that it was the first rap subgenre to literalize these connections. Thus, while many artists adopted badman personas, many others assumed the role of pimp, fashioning rhymes that fulfilled both literal and metaphoric meanings of the word “mack.”

Some artists portrayed smooth street players: Seattle's Sir Mix-A-Lot is the “Mack Daddy” (“I don't want to hit ’em, just stick ’em”); and Ice-T's star image has been predicated on macking ever since his early track “Somebody's Gotta Do It! (Pimpin' Ain't Easy!!!)” in 1987. Others dramatized the occupational side of macking: Too Short is Shorty the Pimp (1992) (“If I ever go broke I just break

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