Photo by Dyllyn Greenwood

With ‘Don’t Settle,’ Seattle Rapper Raz Simone Expands Hip-Hop’s Language for Intimacy

In his newest, Simone makes a sincere, reasoned case for polyamory and the pitfalls of monogamy.

Though it’s one of the most socially progressive art forms in terms of examining life on the short end of racial and economic privilege, hip-hop is sometimes maddeningly conservative when it comes to sexuality. Atlanta’s Young Thug has been redefining the genre’s musical and sartorial boundaries for a few years now, but some fans are still unwilling to approach his music because he regularly wears women’s clothing. Kevin Gates, a sex-positive rising star from Baton Rouge, La., famously rapped about offering rim jobs to ladies, sparking lively (and frankly absurd) debate throughout the rap world about whether or not the practice of analingus on a woman is a roundabout expression of homosexuality.

Swashing around somewhere is a wide undercurrent of sexuality confined to the fringes, including but not limited to the booming subculture of openly LGBTQ rappers. Polyamory is another subject explored without measurable depth in hip-hop, generally referenced only when rappers want to emphasize either their sexual prowess or open up about infidelity, both through the conceptual conduit of the side-piece. Last week Seattle native Raz Simone released “Don’t Settle,” an emotional rumination on identifying as polyamorous.

A track which could sit comfortably among Gates’ more pop-friendly offerings, “Don’t Settle” opens with Simone gesturing toward a traditional upbringing, where it was insinuated that he’d meet a fate of hellfire and brimstone if he didn’t stick with one woman and put a piece of shiny jewelry on her ring finger. The same message was revealed before the end credits of movies he watched and in the impatient tone of lovers waiting for the day he pops the question. The societal result of cuffing season is the expectation that one day you’ll finally throw away the key.

Simone admits to following this line of reasoning without much question before finally realizing the process was unnatural for him and others whose families were torn apart by infidelity and deceit. In the first verse, he laments, “Husbands being cheaters, whole family feeling grief from the natural animalistic need for him to spread his seed, but he still has a ring on.” Throughout the song he is progressively stifled by this ideal, frustrated by finding yet another woman he likes who believes a person gets only one soulmate. So much of our lives are spent chafing against what society expects from us. In this aspect of his existence, Simone experiences the trials of wanting something different than the standard, and it’s apparent in every crevice of his voice.

Polyamory is often viewed by monogamists as a selfish stance or a cop-out employed by people with a phobia of commitment. But how many relationships are ground into dust because of the lack of honesty which leads to infidelity? This is not to say monogamy is a false construct, but it’s not for everybody. “Don’t Settle” is just one of many possible perspectives on polyamory, but it opens a necessary dialogue in a genre used to discussing intimacy in only a handful of ways.

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