What is your definition of “e-thuggin’”? You will get a wide array of descriptions, depending on whom you ask. But the universal association is consistent with a man spewing his abhorrence behind an impenetrable, indomitable partition where he can only be heard, and never seen: a computer.
What makes e-thuggin’ so asinine is the digital shield, the power of virtual invisibility that it provides to the human behind the screen. The person behind the screen sits there, puffing their chest in fearlessness, tapping the keys in fervid and outlandish bouts of slander. No one can see it, but the E-thug is smirking and enjoying the spectacle that they, like a puppet master, manipulate with just a single flex of the fingertips.
This computerized safeguard creates an avenue for anyone to voice what they really think and feel because they wouldn’t dare utter these very things to the face of their adversary—all the while seeking comfort in that they’ll probably never cross paths with the person they’re condemning so as long as they consciously avoid it. They’re inside the protective walls of their own homes, or perhaps thousands of miles away from the individual that they’re denouncing. But when the pressure intensifies and apprehension rises—empowered mostly by the thousands of instigating fans and other social media vultures, and in part by their opponent—there’s always a way out.
E-thuggin’ enables the “I’ve been hacked” scapegoat that we’ve all seen several times when it comes to rappers—note the difference between social media disparagement and an actual diss record. 40 Glocc, after his brief Instagram war with The Game, took the “it wasn’t me” route. Havoc once pointed a finger at a “mysterious force” that accessed his Twitter account after his vilifying rant about Prodigy. The list goes on. Some of it is all in fun, but the majority of it is not, and the prevalence of this is too far and wide.
It’s commonly known that most rappers are the opposite of the hard-core thugs that they portray to the public. And Snoop Dogg—gangsta image not to be taken too seriously anymore—is no exception. But picture him in 1994, decked out in his black and blue—a bandana around his head and all—sitting behind a computer the size of a nightstand and engaging in brute exchanges with an Australian rapper with a fake American accent. This is the cartoon version of the actual Twitter stupidity that took place between himself and Iggy just last week. But the fact of the matter is that, back then, partaking in a dispute with a weakling opponent was far from customary. This isn’t KRS-ONE briefly calling Roxanne Shante a freebie gang-bang in “The Bridge is Over.” This is a “gangsta” rapper smacking around a caricature of a ratchet Southerner whom he knows is vulnerable under the already-existing scrutiny and controversy surrounding her. Let this scenario play out 20 years ago and Snoop would be a laughingstock, a walking farce, a comedic punching bag à la Vanilla Ice.
But it’s okay for Snoop to do it now, because since social media’s skyrocket in popularity, the frequency of this type of behavior has doubled—or tripled—within hip-hop’s culture. These rappers and singers crack each other’s heads online, embrace the media firestorm that follows, and then they apologize. They involve each other’s children, issue digital death threats, and then they recant, placing blame on a “hacker.” The presence of electronic slander has become as much part of hip-hop culture as the common urban model—two things that are glaring, and yet typical.
Hop offline, man up, show your face, and state your name.