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Column: T.I. Is The Obama Of Hip-hop

This story was written by Lewis Lehe, The Pitt News


If you havent seen it, I urge you not to miss the cultural event of the season. The music video for Whatever You Like is available for viewing on a Web site called YouTube.

The Whatever You Like video is awesome for a number of reasons. First and foremost, T.I. buys a diamond necklace by pouring out a briefcase full of $100 bills right in the department store.

The girl in the video who Ill call ATL Shawty is not unbelievably hot. Dont get me wrong. If I saw her at a party, Id say, That is a very good-looking girl. But I wouldnt wonder, What is that girl doing at this party that I am at? like I would with Rihanna, as featured in T.I.s Live Your Life video. ATL Shawty is very curvy, more so than the typical eye candy you see in a rap music video. Those girls are chosen for male audiences to enjoy. ATL Shawty was chosen for the ladies.

The Whatever You Like video is the ultimate Cinderella story. ATL Shawty starts out working a lousy job. Though she doesnt have an awful stepmother who makes her do chores, she does have a lame boyfriend who makes her braid his dreads. There is even a scene where T.I., a.k.a KING, has her fitted for shoes.

But what good is a Cinderella whose glass slipper only fits bombshells? ATL Shawty is desirable but not unattainable. Most girls watching probably have at least one girlfriend, with whom they sympathize and relate every day, who is as hot as ATL Shawty. Every time the Whatever You Like video plays on TV, millions of girls are transported to right there in the private jet, right there by the pool, right there eating fine fusion cuisine on an immaculate white tablecloth.

There is no sex in the Whatever You Like video. She might provoke, but ATL Shawty maintains a wholesome distance the whole time. In the scene where T.I. and ATL Shawty flirt by the swimming pool, she is wearing a modest, white, one-piece swimsuit, one of the only one-pieces in all of rap video history.

Rather than using her for sex, in the Whatever You Like video T.I. sets himself up as a benevolent, deistic provider-figure. Youre too pretty to be working here, he tells ATL Shawty in the first scene, and he literally means just that: T.I.s interest seems to be in providing ATL Shawty with what she deserves, more than getting anything out of her.

All this awesomeness relates to T.I. capitalizing on what Ill call Obama cool, which I predict will be a new trend in our pop culture. Gangsterism and doing horrible things to people are lame now. Its all about being triumphant, keeping a positive attitude and exhibiting a spirit of refined professionalism.

Consider these lines from T.I.s other hit, Live Your Life:

Im the opposite of moderate, immaculately polished with the spirit of hustler and the swagger of a college kid. Allergic to the counterfeit, impartial to the politics. Articulate ...

If you gave me these lines and told me, Guess whether these rap lyrics are written in the voice of the guy who did Dope Boyz, or in the voice of Barack Obama, I would definitely go with the latter. Its almost eerie once you think about it, and if I told you right off that the lyrics were about Barack Obama, youd find it impossible to believe it was actually about anything else.

As an aside, if you pretend that the part of Whatever You Like where T.I. says, Need yo body, want yo body, actually says, Need Joe Biden, want Joe Biden, its impossible to hear it any other way forever afterward.

Who knew a rapper could brag about having the swagger of a college kid? Kanye bragged about being a college dropout. Who knew a rapper could make a video where he gets his ass beat and walks away from the game? Who knew a rapper could diss someone for being piss-poor morally?

In todays economy, T.I. is so cool because many Americans feel just like ATL Shawty: underemployed, getting less than what their talent and effort deserve and unsatisfied with whom theyve chosen in the past. Sick of violence and tough-guy grandstanding, Americans want a man who can assure them and provide whatever they like. Reserve, foresight, intelligence, execution, generosity these are the characteristics that will define cool as long as Obama is popular. And like ATL Shawty in the video, Americans are not out to get screwed.

T.I. is awaiting trial for felony weapons charges. He could lose his right to vote about the same time Obama takes the oath of office. But T.I.s reformed persona might represent the change many pundits predicted an Obama election would create in our culture.

At the end of the video, it turns out ATL Shawty was just daydreaming. Its up to Obama whether our video ends any differently.

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