This is from an interview with Q-Tip, formerly of A Tribe Called Quest.
Q: You hear two things all the time on the internet. One is that, whenever a rapper is up for a role in a movie, people get up in arms about that casting. The other is when someone, like Jadakiss, speaks out, people say “Why should I listen to a rapper?” Hip hop has been around over twenty years. Why is it not getting the respect that rock n’ roll got? Q-Tip: There’s a couple of reasons. I would be na├»ve to say that it had nothing to do with the fact that the rappers are African-American males and the majority of this country is white. If you can hear the music and not see the face, if you can just hear the message you can have empathy, but sometimes if you see the face it becomes a different thing. We all unfortunately have a bit of racism in us, I think the other part of is the things we endow ourselves with. Jay Z is quick to call himself a pimp. Tupac was quick to call himself a thug. L’il Kim is quick to call herself a bitch. When you start saying these things about yourself that are clearly negative, it’s going to be like a magnet. You attract those things to you. You’re going to bring all that commentary to you and what you do. Being that those images are probably the most prevalent in the form – the hustler, the pimp – it’s going to bring all the commentary. What’s going to happen is that when cats don’t get to first base, they’re going to be disgruntled. “Why is motherfuckers hatin’ on us? Knowhuyahmean? You just lucky I ain’t out robbin’ you all.” I speak on that because I’m from the same situation. I grew up right in it, watching my uncle and them squeeze off and mainline and shit, seeing hypodermic needles and hearing gunshots. I grew up in the same New York City that a lot of us did, but I just knew that I was better than all of that. I didn’t want to project any of that. I think that those things are relevant, and they are important, but there’s a tact, and there’s a creative way that you approach it
He's dead right. I think there's definitely a degree to which these personae that rappers have taken on have severely limited their ability to effectively speak on certain issues. Right now I'm thinking specifically of when Jay-Z couldn't move into that apartment building because the other residents were concerned about what might happen. On the one hand, that reaction is foul. At that time, and probably even moreso now, Jigga could probably buy the building if it came down to it. Nevertheless, it's his own fault. If Q-Tip had had that type of money, I don't think there would have been as big a problem (although there may have been. Who knows?) because he has never projected that hustler/pimp image. And the truth is, Jigga may not even have that much going on in his life; certainly he did at one time, but this is Jigga we're talking about, not Beanie. I'm thinking that Hov is smarter than that. The thing is, it's not just about the substance, it's about the presentation. (This is partially the appeal of Obama. I'll get to him a little later.)