Rihanna’s ‘Rock Star 101’ Extends The Urban ‘Rock Star’ Tradition

By Sean Lee

Rihanna’s latest attempt at summer song domination is “Rock Star 101,” and she’s got the obligatory Travis Barker cameo to prove it. As you may have noticed, she’s hardly the first hip-hop/R&B artist to have this brilliant crossover idea. Recent years have given us Juelz Santana’s “Rock Star,” Shop Boyz’ “Party Like A Rock Star” (all the girls with “tramp stamps,” stand up!), N.E.R.D.’s “Rock Star” (the standard bearer of faux-rock excellence), Young Jeezy’s “Rockstar,” R. Kelly and Ludacris’ “Rockstar” (which added Kid Rock for extra cred), Chamillionaire’s “Rock Star,” Eminem’s “We Made You (Rockstar)” and Pink’s “Rockstar” (she’ll always be urban to those of us who remember her first album).

In addition, Gucci Mane’s big hit “Wasted” may as well be called “Rock Star,” as it famously kicks in with the lyric “Rock star lifestyle/ Might don’t make it.” That one even manages to rock without a single piece of live instrumentation.

Putting aside whether Rih Rih’s borderline spoof of rock will actually catch fire at cookouts this summer, what’s most interesting is that her “Rock Star 101” and these other songs all reference a hard partying, debauched rebel archetype that hasn’t really been prominent in rock in years. Which I guess is okay, since the simplistic, on-the-nose use of “Rock Star” as a title and topic shows that, by and large, these artists don’t really listen to rock. They’re just saying “we own/represent the old rock star aesthetic now.” Or as Jay-Z has pointed out in numerous interviews, “rap stars are the new rock stars.” (As if rap sales weren’t already declining enough.) In the end, at least Chuck Berry and Little Richard are somewhere smiling and saying “motherf–k him and John Wayne.” (A real rock star lyric — Google it!)

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