Candy coated paint jobs, rims, and exotic interior upholstery come by the hundreds in hip hop. The long and storied relationship between MCs and their vehicles dates back to the days of the Sugarhill Gang, when they rapped about their Lincoln Continental and sunroof Cadillac. Men and their cars, it really breaks down quite easily into an alpha male display of power. In hip hop though, it also stands as a sign of social status. You can’t be the top dog without the top car. It is a rare occasion on which a hip hop video or album cover goes without the image of a brand new car decked out in luxury. The ride, the whip, the new joint, the wife. All of these are terms of endearment between a man and his car. Chevy, Cadillac, Lincoln, Mercedes, BMW, and the ever exclusive Bentley have all been immortalized in hip hop. Just about every trend in cars has hit hip hop at one point or another, and many were even born from hip hop. So, just how far does the influence of cars reach in hip hop? For that, you would have to look at all the aspects, like music, culture, television, and publications. Slide back the seat, lean like a G, and grip the wheel as we cruise for a look at MCs and their rides.
Fans of the golden gangsta rap era can remember a lot of the iconic imagery used in videos during the early 90’s. None was more prevalent, perhaps, than the legendary lowrider. The lowrider trend began in the mid 1930’s among the Latino community on the West Coast. Decades later, it became the ultimate ride for gangstas of any color. The appeal of a lowrider was the driver’s ability to change its height by literally flicking a switch. The idea was to cruise as slow as possible and drive with a whole lot of swagger. Dr. Dre’s “Nuttin But A G Thang” music video featured a whole fleet of these cars. Coupled with The Chronic’s success, lowriders became synonymous with West Coast hip hop. To this day, even MCs like Ice Cube can be seen hitting switches down the block. Adding another notch to the West’s love affair with cars, the Hyphy movement from the Bay area brought national attention to the ghost riding trend. The controversial and sometimes foolish behavior became a sensation with imitators all over the country showing off their skills on YouTube. The ghost riding act consisted of a driver putting his ride into gear and then dancing alongside the car or , at times, even on the roof. Artists like E-40 and Mistah Fab popularized ghost riding with several hit singles, including “Tell Me When To Go” and “Ghost Ride It”.
While the West Coast kept it rolling with a lean, the East Coast opted for luxury. Artists like Notorious B.I.G., Jay-Z, and Diddy popularized class and expensive taste. BMW, Ferrari, Maybach, and Lamborghini all became a part of the hip hop lexicon. These artists taught us that real bosses kept it flashy, but clean. In Notorious B.I.G.’s action packed “Hypnotized” video, he and Diddy can be seen speeding backwards in a brand new BMW convertible. Yes, you read that right. They were driving backwards. Absolutely ridiculous, and yet so unbelievably boss. Ever the face of wealth and high society, Jay -Z pushes the envelope of what it means to roll in style. As the years pass, it seems like the price tags just keep going up. Jay has graduated from Bentleys to Maybachs and brand new Aston Martins. With little to no modification, these rides are for the real hustlers. As flashy as it may be to coast through in a brand new million dollar ride, many artists prefer the old school. MCs like Strange Music’s Kutt Calhoun have laid claim to the vintage vehicles of yesteryear. Kutt’s albums are riddled with rhymes about his obsession with classic Chevy cars. With tracks like “Get Kutt” and “J’s On My Feet”, Kutt Calhoun throws the spotlight on these gleaming beauties. The American made rides are long sought after by collector’s and can carry a hefty price tag depending on the condition.
In 2004, MTV began airing Pimp My Ride hosted by West Coast veteran Xzibit. The show brought hip hop’s relationship with cars to the masses and became a pop culture phenomenon. Suddenly, it wasn’t just rappers who wanted to customize their cars. From music videos, album covers, photo shoots, and even sponsorships, major auto companies have learned that they’re cooperation with hip hop is quite the lucrative partnership. During SuperBowl XLV, Chrysler aired one its most powerful ads featuring Detroit icon Eminem. While the ad may have been a tribute to Detroit’s motor vehicle industry, it was also a strong reminder of what hip hop could do when properly utilized in conjunction with auto companies.
As the auto industry grows, so does hip hop. For every new model vehicle rolled out at car shows, there is an eager new MC willing to drop the big money on it. Hip hop loves cars. The grandeur behind the wheel of the most expensive whip on the block is too much to resist. Bosses dress in style, but even more importantly, they drive with style.
-Victor Sandoval, Asst. Editor Strange Music Blogs
Follow Victor on Twitter: @VicMSandoval