“I get to represent somebody I don’t think is getting represented right now,” says West. “The regular dude: the guy who believes in God but still likes pussy. You know what I mean? The person that would spend his last [dollar] to try to get a hot car, not the person who says ‘Oh, we don’t buy, we just lease’ or the person who’s like ‘Oh, I have so many cars I could crash a car every day’ and shit.”
Although there are theists rich and poor who adore a good fuck, West’s second example better shows where he’s rhyming from—in his mind the “regular dude” is out car shopping. A bourgeois background is nothing new in hip-hop, of course. The music’s secret history is the way in which the middle class has pumped out gangs of tough-talking rappers and thus, as these things go, steered the fate of the music itself. What distinguishes West is not even that he’s openly admitting these values. West is distinct because he’s claiming the middle class as his own and rapping from that perspective, about that life, and directly to those listeners in myriad ways: a formula that propelled the huge success of Lauryn Hill’s Miseducation in ’98.