WHY IS THAT ? PART ONE
edited: Sunday, May 18, 2008
By Lenard M Pugh
Not "rated" by the Author.
Posted: Thursday, May 08, 2008
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This is the beginning of a series of articles I wrote originally for Original Thought Metazine on the state of hip-hop as an art form and means to cultural change.
Why Is That? (Part One)
By 9 You Allah ( a.k.a Pucali Raw)
I refuse to be a stereotype in yo box
Never, ever claimed to be something I’m not…
stic.man of dead prez, from the song “Turn Off The Radio”
It has been said by many “conscious” rap artists, most notably Chuck D of Public Enemy, that there is a conspiracy within, or beyond the industry to keep “black men”, in the mentality of “black boys”. I agree, …I also add on, that it isn’t just the music and/or entertainment industry involved in this conspiracy…anything that our people ‘like’ that is controlled by a corporation or financial institution overseen by the powerful, rich and ruthless is used against our growth and development-not for it.
Examples ? Choose any Rap, or R and B video/song that is in rotation on your favorite cable channel or radio station. If it is spinning every ten minutes-that means there is big money behind it. And which artists get the most money behind them? 50 Cent, Jay Z, Eminem, Snoop Dogg…those are just a few…a lot of southern artists are getting monetary love too, great marketing…artists like T-Pain, Lil’ Jon, Young Joc, Lil’ Boosie, Gucci Mane…and last but not least –T.I. and Lil’ Wayne.
Don’t get me wrong- these cats got crazy hustle too, and ill skills, esp. T-Pain and Lil’ Wayne who have put in major time to get their names known in the past few years. Work ethic and styles are not the issues in question here-the type of work that gets the most shine is-and why.
Where is the balance…the equality within the genre?
Talib Kweli, Dead Prez, The Coup, Paris, Lord Jamar, KRS-ONE ( who can still freestyle circles around vets and newcomers alike) work hard too…work hard at shining and giving their culture, communities and it’s seeds some love… ‘honest love’. Not only through words they say either, but by delivering messages and solutions to the people outside the cipher of rap ( -and yes, I know that Jay, Nelly, LL, and other artisits who are not ‘conscious’ on wax do things for their communities too- but not with as much vigor and consistency). Is the elevation of their people more important than the elevation of the numbers in their bank accounts? …Truly?
To me, being ‘honest’ is sometimes more important than ‘keeping it real’: refer to The Dave Chappelle Show episodes of “When Keeping It Real Goes Really Wrong”. Honestly speaking, The above ‘conscious’ artists, regardless of their current individual industry situations, are neglected on the grand scale of things. I ‘honestly’ think it is because their ‘images’ are unpopular to the mostly urban and suburban crowd that consumes CDs and mixtape at the speed Mickey Dee’s serves burgers ,fries and plastic.
You know, the fans that started listening to rap when they heard N.W.A. Not that I don’t like N.W.A- I did, a lot, b.u.t I also listened to De La Soul and Public Enemy. Of course, some would say, that was “The Golden Age” . Whatever, to me, dead prez is being treated by the industry the same way N.W.A, or even Ice T was back in the day…blackballed. Dead Prez is a revolutionary rap act-for real. This makes them a ‘real’ threat. It would be beautiful to see them acquire the same level of fame N.W.A once had. I can just imagine what that would do to the game…,b.u.t the powers that be would much rather make more Black Mafias, than Black Panthers. Mafia crime families can be controlled easier because they exist through vice and corruption.
Dare I say the same energies and methods used by COINTELPRO to stomp out the revolutionary leaders and groups in our communities are being used to stomp out the“music with a message for the people”.
Why do powerhouses like Jimmy Iovine ( Interscope Records), L.A. Reid ( Def Jam), and even artist/label owners like 50, Dre and Eminem continue to sign market and promote the same type of artists? Sell the same type of songs and images? Usually the “gangsta”, the “hustler” , or the “pimp”. Where is the blue collar dude or sista…the average working person? When does the man or woman who wants to be the next black leader get a chance to get some shine…some ‘real’ shine?
The proof is in the pudding. I mean, all one needs to do is observe the fact that the “revolutionary”, or even “the working class hero” is absent from the above list of proto-stereotypes to see clearly that they are images that the owners and financers of the music industry don’t believe are important to our existence as a people. I think this is evident in all of their business decisions…starting with artists they sign and ending with the artist they choose to pamper and promote the most. I think there is subconscious evidence existing too…, mostly in the decisions made on who to sign.
Eminem changed the game when he stepped in. And he was from the working class, but he was-what?
…A Caucasian. Hmmmm…
And then,...why won’t Eminem sign a conscious rap group, or at least something new, fresh and different, to his imprint? At least as ‘different’ as he was when he stepped on the scene.
Say what you wanna say about him-but when Em stepped on the scene, his lyrical content was bizarre and his patterns and ways of saying things, unprecedented. To do this requires a lot of studying and analyzing..., but Em also had a work ethic. He spent hours and hours preparing, practicing, learning , etc.
I am sure his motivation was cash and success-but not just to “be ballin’” , but to get his baby and her mother out of poverty. He was hungry when he started…like most black males in most black families in most ghettoes.
When Tupac came in to the game back in the early nineties, his work ethic blew the minds of a lot of top figures in the industry. He could easily knock out 6-10 songs in a day and more than half of them would be hits…if not radio hits, hits in the heart of those who lived in the hood.
Some would say that he wrote so much because he had a lot to say, some would say he knew as he said in one of his songs on ‘Me Against The World’, that he could see ‘Death Around the Corner’, the hustler would say it was mostly about money…he was slinging them raps like drugs…regardless of the content. To me, that is probably Jay Z’s way more so than Pac’s, but like Pac, Jay will go down in history as a hard worker and an artist with an ill catalog for years to come.
I enjoy Jay Z, Eminem and Tupac –equally, for different reasons. I admire them not only as emcees, but as businessmen, or more appropriately “workers”. I do not always like the content of their work, however, and think, esp. in the case of Shawn Carter –it could be more uplifting to more than just “the hustler” at this point in his career. I still have that respect though.
What bothers me about the entire situation is that there are artists out there who work just as hard , or harder…and that also have something important to say to their communities…something that may save a seeds life…change a thug’s thinking…not alienate black women…who can’t get the proper amount of money behind them to compete on the field with the big boys. And like KRS-ONE asked on his jam back in the day,…
“Why is that?”
To be continued...