The Problem With Lorde’s “Royals” and Hip Hop Embracing It

While doing laundry today, I heard Lorde’s  “Royals” remix featuring Rick Ross on New York’s Power 105. I’d never expect much from Ross or Power 105, but it’s baffling as to why any station that’s supposed to be Hip Hop would support a track that’s a direct snide critique of Hip Hop, black and urban culture, coming from a 16-year-old New Zealand girl who is clearly not about that life.

“But every song’s like gold teeth, grey goose, trippin’ in the bathroom.Blood stains, ball gowns, trashin’ the hotel room.We don’t care, we’re driving Cadillacs in our dreams. But everybody’s like Cristal*, Maybach, diamonds on your timepiece. Jet planes, islands, tigers on a gold leash,” she sings.

When the singer and songwriter born as Ella Maria Lani Yelich-O’Connor referred to Cadillacs, Cristal, Grey Goose and gold grills, she wasn’t referring to Prince Charles and his friends. She was directly referring to black Hip Hop artists and an era that has clearly passed. I don’t think I’ve heard a rapper big up Cristal since Biggie (he was murdered in 1997) and the last reference to Grey Goose that I can remember was T.I.’s 2004 track “Get Loose” featuring Nelly. 

Some have claimed that Lorde wasn’t singing about Hip Hop and that “Royals” is about consumerism in general, but I disagree. Daughter of a poet, the high schooler is smart. During an interview with the Huffington Post, she revealed that she initially began writing short fiction and she understands the importance of being concise. “I like short fiction because you have to tell a story in a condensed format. You can’t screw around with what you’re saying. Everything has to count. Everything has to matter. And that’s what I like about songwriting: You don’t have time for filler. Potency is important in that setting,” she told Huff Post. With that being said, Lorde specifically chose to vastly critique and stereotype Hip Hop in her song. To further validate that Hip Hop was the culprit, Lorde also stated in an interview that she was referring to what’s portrayed in “Hip Hop and Top 40”.

There’s nothing wrong with any culture being examined and critiqued, but it’s problematic when the messenger isn’t hardly qualified. Hence Lorde making the highlight of her single about stereotypes that were flourishing a decade and a half ago. By the way, Lauryn Hill released “Neurotic Society (Compulsory Mix),” earlier this year, which touches on consumerism and she was demonized for it. The success of “Royals” is just another example of white artists being praised for being “socially conscious”, while scolding black artists and using our culture as a vehicle to do so. It’s what I like to call the Macklemore Syndrome or better yet, simply whitewashing.

Hip Hop needs to do better. It’s so quick to give a pass to others who approve of our lifestyle or people who seem to be down ( Kreayshawn, Miley Cyrus, Riff Raff and more) , meanwhile being blind to appropriation, thievery, racism and stereotyping. It would take another blog post to break it down, but this is also an example of what Kanye has recently been talking about. Yet he’s been written off as a crazy egotistical black man. Mainstream and others love sucking the life out of our culture, capitalizing off of it, repackaging it and re-selling it to us, while eliminating and cutting out the source.

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