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'The midlife crisis in hip-hop'

WYCLEF JEAN: Overcompensating?

A STARTLING pattern has recently started to emerge. The R&B and hip hop stars we all grew up with and adore, are beginning to display some very peculiar behaviours, which also seem to coincide with the 40-plus mark.

Stars like Wyclef Jean, Brian McKnight, Snoop Dogg and R. Kelly have all at one time or another done some very questionable things, whether it is changing their name or abandoning R&B for a sexually explicit mix tape, these men have had us shaking our heads and wondering ‘why?’

Of course, this isn’t a new thing. The male midlife crisis has always been here. However, watching your favourite rapper have a middle age meltdown via social media is a hard pill for a lot of us to swallow.

BRIAN MCKNIGHT: Stopped singing love songs and released an explicit mixtape about sex

Midlife crisis in general isn’t treated as seriously as it should be. Throw in a popular celebrity and the internet and the tendency to laugh, or just pity these men, is all the more amplified. We seem to totally gloss over the fact that this behaviour, in many ways, is a clear indication that a person is usually very unsatisfied, or unhappy with life.

Media psychologist, Dr Funke Baffour, is all too familiar with this type of expression.

Having worked on various TV programmes such as Celebrity Big Brother, her professional opinion on celebrity psychological behaviours is often sought by various media outlets. This week she helps L&S to unravel this current conundrum.

“The male midlife crisis can happen at any time,” Dr. Funke explains. “We call it a crisis, but it is more of a transition; a case of trying to find yourself. Some people find themselves and are ok, but some people get lost, which is what we are seeing with these artists.”

We asked Dr Funke to take a look at three of the most recent 40-plus cases and give her opinion on the trend whereby established artistes are appearing to cheapen their music, in order to appeal to the younger generation.

Case study No. 1: Snoop Dogg

Snoop Dogg, more recently known as Snoop Lion, streamed a live press conference in July this year to announce his conversion to Rastafarianism and told his fans that he was in the process of making a reggae album.

He also said that he was Bob Marley reincarnated - in front of Bob Marley’s son, Rohan - and that guns should be banned. Dr. Funke has put Snoop’s sudden and dramatic change down to having a weak personality.


“Snoop is a very interesting character. His identity isn’t as strong as some of the other rappers, so he is attaching himself to something that will make him stand out. I think Snoop finds it hard to stand out. If you look through his career, you will see that he has always displayed this type of pattern. All of his biggest songs outside of the Dr. Dre era have been collaborations. Who is Snoop Dogg? Think about it. I think he finds it hard to fit in to the hip hop world and this is why he is always attaching himself to other people.”

In all fairness there is nothing wrong with becoming a Rastafarian. Snoop has set up a charity in one of Jamaica’s roughest neighbourhoods and the messages he intends to promote with his new music are very positive, which can only be a good thing. There is just one issue Snoop Lion may have overlooked; the reggae music he has released thus far really isn’t that great.

“I think Snoop really wants to make a change,” said the doctor. “He wants to have an impact. He seems to be the type of person who will attach himself to something that will highlight him and put him where he wants to be.”

Case study No. 2: Wyclef Jean

On his 43rd birthday, rapper, singer and producer, Wyclef Jean treated us to a semi nude photograph of himself, posing on a motorbike, in just Speedos and baby oil – he had brought Speedos to match the bike – and posted it on social networking site Twitter.

Many concluded that the photograph was far more desperate than anything else and several hours of social media ridicule followed. But was this an act of desperation or an innocent, but ill advised birthday celebration? According to the behavioural psychologist, it was Jean’s cry for help.

“Wyclef has been dealing with a lot of rejection lately and I think this is where this outburst has come from. He recently had to relive the rejection he faced from Lauryn Hill, through the writing of his autobiography and he also got rejected from his native Haiti, when running for president. He may be going through that kind of transition where he feels like he wants to express himself. When someone tries to be something they’re not, there comes a point when that person has to break free in which ever way they so wish. In this case, Wyclef has chosen Speedos and baby oil.”

So how can these midlife breakdowns be curbed? The answer is they can’t, the crisis is sometimes natural and often in the case of celebrities, for commercial advantage.

“When you are an artist you want to be relevant and you want to be current. We can be critical and say they are cheapening themselves, but they have to pay their bills. If you’re not current in the music industry you get lost. People forget who you are, so you have to do something dramatic or different, or whatever makes you current or relevant.”

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