Hip-Hop Through ‘The Wire’ (Article)

Posted on March 6, 2011

Whilst watching Greys’ Anatomy with my girlfriend I came across an epiphany. This article is in no way an attempt to justify the reason I love Hip-Hop or the reasons I now love Greys Anatomy, but more a discussion about how The Wire managed to crack and dig through people’s perceptions and prejudices and got us all thinking about humans being human and nothing else.

Getting sucked in by the drama of Grey’s Anatomy is very easily done despite the detailed and continuous subject and setting of medical surgery.  Viewers find themes of Egotism, Trust, Self Doubt, Defiance, Struggle, Recognition appealing in any form – it why we read, it’s why we go to the theatre, it’s why we double our ticket value on cinema popcorn and it’s why we listen to music. No one can tell me that the themes listed above, which were found a million miles away in a glossy hospital for models, aren’t prevalent in the fiction, the expression and the characters we hear in Hip-Hop.

In Decoded, Jay-Z talked about the influence of his ‘street life’ on his approach to expression, about how common stories of struggle and triumph resonate through his music and through the radio to ‘the common man’. So when I describe the ‘fiction’ and ‘characters’ of Hip-Hop I fully appreciate that such subject matter and themes was and is real life for many people, but in the same breath I would point out that I can never truly relate personally, professionally or sociologically to the more specific details of Hip-Hop; no more than my girlfriend can to the heroic surgery being performed on Grey’s Anatomy. We can only respond to, find solace in, and learn from the more general themes.

The Wire was able to do this on a mass scale. With the thorough and insightful accuracy of the programmes writers and creators The Wire nailed the details down – allowing the human interest stories, on both sides of the law,  to shine through and captivate a much wider audience than any media production about ‘the ghetto’ or ‘the police’ would ever be able to achieve on its’ own. The parallels pointed and poked holes in each other’s sense of morality; they found and exposed familiarity in values in supposed opposite worlds; and they melted barriers of status and authority until all we were left with was a group of people living, working and surviving in their circumstances.

Snoop The Wire Cashmere Thoughts Hip-HopMy Dad was swept clean off his feet by the character of Snoop –  a female assassin for Marlo Stanfield’s drug and violence powered organisation. For a man who had possibly long struggled with his son’s fascination with Hip-Hop and the subject matter this was a breakthrough. Whether his prejudices, if he had any, about hip-Hop music were altered by The Wire remains to be seen, but his love for the The Wire spoke of the show’s success in engaging audiences in themes of Egotism, Trust, Self Doubt, Defiance, Struggle, Recognition without straying from some of the most startlingly authentic drama Television has ever seen.

I appreciate that this is not a lot to do with music. But if bewilderingly attractive actors are a vehicle for the human drama on Greys’ Anatomy; then isn’t the music (sampling, 2 decks and a mic) a vehicle for the expression of stories and themes of Egotism, Trust, Self-Doubt, Defiance, Struggle and Recognition found in the good Hip-Hop we listen to. Isn’t that what it was invented for?
The Wire, for me, has allowed a wider audience to reconsider it’s stance on the struggles in the environment that Hip-Hop was birthed, leading new listeners into a world with great rewards for everyone; regardless of age, race, beliefs or gender.