Written by H.L. of Lattisaw Tapes.
The American bow-chika-bow-wow barter industry has always traditionally been defined as a triangle offense helmed by flesh-peddlers, prostitutes, and whoremongers. Rappers have been sponging pimp culture for decades, but initially, the tricks that funded sex rackets were rarely acknowledged by rappers outside of disparaging contexts. In his introspective memoir, My Infamous Life, gangster rap legend Albert “Prodigy” Johnson reflects on his aversion and disgust for those willing to pay for play back in the mid-90’s. “My niggas and I were never into giving our money to strippers or getting lap dances,” Mobb Deep’s former frontman explains. “I always looked at dudes who did that like they were herbs, suckers, or cornballs.”
Prodigy’s narrow minded money-over-bitches ideology was once almost universally accepted as hip-hop doctrine. But a succession of groundbreaking trick anthems – most notably T-Pain’s ‘I’m In Love With a Stripper’ and T.I.’s ‘Whatever You Like’ – have prompted several recording artists to portray johns as power players flexing their financial leverage rather than inherently weak-minded individuals.
Cleopatra Armstrong, a 27-year-old seasoned hooker working out of an extended stay lodge in one of Maryland’s wealthiest counties, is weary of Prodigy’s unflattering depiction of her consumer base. “My clientele comes from all walks of life,” she assures. “It’s not about being a cornball, or whatever. Men want pussy and they’re willing to pay for it. Bottom line. I mean, what’s so lame about that?!”
Cleo springs from the edge of the mattress and slumps back on a mountain of pillows shrouding the headboard. Her breasts are immoderately rotund in proportion to her delicate frame, rendering the loose satin gown dangling from her narrow shoulders practically useless. She reaches toward the nightstand for a stubby bottle of sparkling water and washes down a pill before resuming her rant. “Technically, I really don’t know any of the guys that [filter] through here. There are no [reoccurring] faces. And it damn sure ain’t no pillow talk like you see in the movies. That’s not what they’re paying for.”
Cleo’s sentiment is echoed throughout Lil B’s ‘Pay 4 Pussy’ – easily one of the more brazen examples of unabashed trickery in rap history. Brandon makes no qualms about his obsession with vaginal commerce. “I just want to buy a bitch with no strings attached,” he raps over the Bitch Mob paean. Lil B makes a convincing argument for his vice. More importantly, he draws a very clear distinction between simply exchanging money for sex and the conventional tricking lauded by the likes of T.I. and T-Pain. “I don’t trick off, but I’ll pay to fuck a bitch. No love is needed.” Lil B is effectively redefining the parameters of sexual deviance. He feels that paying “$30,000 for some head” is worth the convenience of not having to sacrifice time and concentration that would otherwise be devoted to churning out his unprecedented streak of bimonthly mixtapes.
After hearing Lil B’s aggressive elicitation for the first time, Cleo bears a sly grin. While appreciative of Based God’s honesty, she has a hard time believing his five-figure payouts are rooted in reality. “The going rate for quality bearded clam is anywhere between two and three hundred,” she affirms. “A bitch could retire off [Lil B’s] generosity.”
Action Bronson is another up-and-coming artist that frequently glorifies his exploits in the red light district. His writing usually leans on empty non sequitors of little to no consequence, but occasionally Bronson buckles down and musters a focused narrative. On Blue Chips, a collaborative album with fellow Queens-bred producer Party Supplies, he delivers the rough-hewn ‘Hookers At The Point’. The song captures a day in the life of the merchant, the merchandise, and the patron. Bronson’s budget is far more modest than his bay area counterpart, as he suggests that Danno, the protagonist in his third verse, scores an all-inclusive ticket to the “pussy safari” for thirty measly bucks. In the lead up to Danno’s transaction, Bronson tells of an impressionable teenager being abused and exploited by her pimp in an attempt to avenge her father’s missteps. According to Cleo, Bronson’s clichéd characterization is an outdated business model. “Pimps no longer exist in my world,” she says. “The internet killed the track star.”
While she obviously speaks from personal experience, the cold hard numbers appear to support Cleo’s theory as well. A recent independent study conducted by Dillard University has confirmed that the national pimp populous has collapsed nearly 70% since the dot-com bubble at the turn of the century. Due to the sheer convenience of the internet, street walkers have migrated indoors to escape inclement weather and perilous law enforcement. Once thriving strips have been reduced to barren tumbleweed depots. Cleo solicits her own services on an all-encompassing classified advertisement forum known as Backpage. “HI GUYS,” her profile reads. “LOTS OF FUN. SILKY SOFT SKIN. I’M READY WHEN YOU ARE!”
DJ Forreal (biological son and business partner of legendary producer Prince Paul) takes a comedic approach to the digital beaver bizarre on ‘Craigslist’, the standout from his erroneously titled Negroes On Ice album. The song finds Paul Junior scrolling through adult escort profiles in search of the ideal playmate. Cleo believes the truth is often said in jest. “This is an accurate description of most of the tricks I’ve come across,” she says while attempting to tame her oscillating bosom. “They’re harmless, decent people looking for love. Until they get dressed and go home. Buyers remorse we call it.” As rappers continue to find new and inventive ways to chronicle their trips to Harlotville that forgo self-deprecation, one could only hope it quells society’s judgmental side-eye toward prostitution.