Posts Tagged ‘hip hop’

Irish stepping and hip-hopping for unity

January 16, 2012

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Summary: Today’s MLK holiday is about peace and unity. It got me thinking of an event I saw in Boston. In this video, you’ll see some of Boston’s most talented youth coming together to celebrate their unique dance styles. No racism. No disrespect. Just kids having fun and being proud of who they are. We adults have much to learn from our youth.

Rapper Common (and hip-hop) will lose in a battle with Drake

January 15, 2012

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Summary: While Common is lyrically skilled enough to handle Drake in a battle, Common is at a level in his career where he doesn’t need to be battling anyone

Oprah! Hate of the term “nigga” is NOT generational!

September 25, 2009

This is in response to a conversation Jay-Z & Oprah had about the word “nigga” (or “N-word”) on her show.

While I am fans of both Jay-Z and Oprah, I am so sick of people saying the “N-word” is generational. I’m 33. I’m a rapper , motivational speaker, and diversity educator. Most of my black friends hate the n-word and none of my non-black friends use it. Furthermore, most of the teens I speak to across the country are still uncomfortable with it. To say it’s generational is a cop out. As much as I really love Oprah, I’ve noticed that, even though she disagrees with the “n-word” in rap, all the rappers she has ever had on the show still use the term. Will Smith was there as an actor so I don’t count that. It’s easy to believe that my generation has embraced the term because no one wants to give us positive rappers a shot in the spotlight. We can’t get record deals, and can’t get on shows from Oprah to O’Reilly, etc. We’re making music kids can listen to, but most of us are balancing making music versus working a 9-5, living with our parents even though we have our own families, and some have given up on being positive and have gone back to selling drugs to get by.

I believe the whole movement for clean music was a lie. Us clean, non-“n-word” using artists are alive and kicking but you’d never know it when you turn on the radio or TV. We have been the ones practicing what Oprah has preached and we have been staunch defenders of Oprah in her hip-hop wars. I feel like it was all in vein. Don’t know if we’ve lost yet, but we’re definitely losing. All we want is a shot, and I don’t mean with a gun.

Oprah & Gayle King: hypocritical on hip-hop

August 16, 2009

I listened to a recent radio interview with Gayle King and Oprah Winfrey (listen here). In the interview, Oprah was speaking about how she feels like she made a new best friend in Jay-Z. They argued over who had a bigger crush on him as well. As usual, Oprah stated that she disagrees with some of his lyrics, but that obviously means that she can still talk with him. No disagreements here. The problem came when Gayle King stated emphatically that she “loves Jay-Z’s lyrics.” Oprah asked if she meant the beats or some of the songs and Gayle King clearly said she loves the lyrics. This is hypocrisy at its best and truly unfortunate for us positive rappers.

Oprah and Gayle have arguably done more to raise the self esteem of girls around the world than anyone. Whether it’s Oprah’s school for girls in South Africa or the countless projects they have going on across this country like “O Magazine”, they have been consistent in their mission to give girls a positive view of themselves. So why does Gayle love Jay-Z’s lyrics? I have a great deal of respect for Jay-Z as a businessman and humanitarian. As a rapper myself, I obviously respect the way he puts his words together. He’s the best at that in my eyes. But how can I love lyrics like:

I came in your Betley back seat, skeeted (ejaculated) in your jeep
Left condoms on your baby seat
And since you infatuated with sayin’ that gay shit
Guess you was kissin’ my dick when you was kissin’ that bitch

Is this the embodiment of Jay’s work? Of course not. He’s also dropped classic lines like:

See Martin, see Malcolm
See Biggie, see Pac, see success and its outcome
See Jesus, See Judas
See Caesar, see Brutus
See success is like suicide, suicide, it’s a suicide
If you succeed, prepare to be crucified

Like any artist or even any individual, Jay’s work reflects a range of emotion. However for people like Gayle to say she loves his lyrics wholeheartedly is not only a complete endorsement of all of his music to young girls (and boys), but it is also a smack in the face of those of us who practiced what Oprah preached. Everyone from Oprah to Bill O’Reilly has preached that we should have cleaner music but they never endorse artists whose music is clean. Every rapper from Common to Diddy who Oprah has had on her show or in her magazine has used misogynistic lyrics at some point. Conversely, so many positive rappers I know have to work second jobs or are forced to move back in with their parents because of the economy. Oprah can singlehandedly change the direction of some of this by helping to celebrate these artists. Just as her book club has helped the careers of others, a positive music club could do the same thing.

As a positive rapper myself, I was saddened by Gayle’s comments for two reasons. One reason is that it’s rappers like me and others who have been actively out there supporting Oprah when many in the hip-hop community attacked her for asking for clean music. You can read one of my blogs on this written 3 years ago right here. Despite this fact, she still sees it fit to bring on people who have dismissed her or her message. That’s her prerogative but when will we get our shot? When will those of us who actually do what she asked for get our say on her show? Many of us positive musicians are active parents, pursuing academic degrees, and are avoiding trouble with the law. We don’t rap about sex, drugs, or violence. These are all the things she claims she wants to see but does not actively support.

Lastly, it is we positive rappers who are going into schools, community centers, and even prisons to combat the negative music that is shown to youth around the globe on a daily basis. We are doing the groundwork on this. Much of what we may try to accomplish gets shot down in a 3-minute video on BET or MTV. The messages we try to spread will now get quicker dismissal from our youth with Oprah giving these artists more validation. It’s like in her earlier days when she decided to stop having racists on her show because she felt she was helping them grow their audience. She then focused more on people who were race healers and not race haters. Is it not the same with only having rappers on who have a history of misogyny? Why not support those who uplift women as opposed to condemn them? Who’s next to appear on the show or in the magazine? Lil’ Wayne? What about those of us who got it right the first time?

At the end of the day, I am glad that I listened to people like Oprah and became a positive artist. I like the fact that my music does not disgrace my sisters, my mother, my wife, or my daughters. I enjoy the fact that though some may not agree with my messages on social issues, they at least don’t feel like they have to go home and detoxify their daughters of the negative words I used to describe them. Whether people like Oprah choose to acknowledge or even support guys like us who are not going to get record deals or mass exposure is now irrelevant to me. I can’t wait for that. I’ve learned that this whole movement for clean music was a lie. I’ve learned that many in the media can make their careers talking about what they are against as opposed to what they’re for. This is not entirely true for Oprah, but I just wish she would stop making our job harder.

An open letter to Amb. Andrew Young: why did you support rapper TI but not Obama?

April 1, 2009

So rapper TI (born Clifford Harris) has been sentenced to a year and a day in prison for gun possession and other charges. At his sentencing Ambassador Andrew Young, you among many other prominent African American community members came out to voice your support for him. You praised TI’s visit with you to a clinic for paraplegics as one reason as to why TI is a credit to the community. You then evoked the Civil Rights Movement and offered comparisons of white-on-black then to black-on-black violence now. According to CNN, you even stated that you regarded working with Harris not so much as a chance to help him but more as “an opportunity for him to help” you. This is profound on many levels.

First Ambassador Young, what is it exactly that TI taught you that no black male student at Morris Brown, Morehouse, Emory, Georgia State, or any school that has a black male student who got it right the first time teach you? Outside of us lowly students who are irrelevant unless we get into trouble then redeem ourselves as celebrities who find Jesus at just that right moment, were there not any other celebrities like NBA Hawks player Joe Johnson who are not convicted felons with whom you could have traveled? Though you may have learned from TI, many of us, especially the youth, are learning the wrong lesson from you and other members of your generation who choose to “identify with” these celebrities at opportune times. Are there any other rappers you will reach out to or must they catch a case first?

Let’s all be clear. I am all about forgiveness and I am all about 2nd chances. However, I am focusing on the bigger picture Ambassador Young. Though TI may have spoken to (the term “mentor” requires a longer commitment than a TV season) many students about guns and violence, his lyrics since his first album in 2001 have done more to denigrate the black community as opposed to uplift it. It’s great to talk to students now, but what about the thousands of boys and girls, men and women across this country who went to jail or died trying to copy what they heard in TI’s songs? Of course TI is not solely responsible for the ills of our community, but do we have to make him a bigger celebrity because he broke the law?

The truth of the matter Ambassador Young is that TI performed his community service in order to reduce his sentence. He was still granted a reality show and released a multiplatinum selling CD entitled “Paper Trail.” All of this while working to reduce his sentence to a prison that has yet to be determined because the court wants to make sure he’s close to his family. So basically TI’s celebrity status reduced his sentence, kept him in the television spotlight, will get him a prison at Club-Fed close to his family, helped get him a multiplatinum album, and will probably be allowed to release another album while incarcerated. Where exactly is the penalty for the crime Ambassador Young? What message are we sending to our youth exactly?

What baffles me most Mr. Ambassador is how you could support TI in this nonsense but not support President Obama during his presidential campaign. It was fine to support your friend Senator Clinton because you knew her and I didn’t expect you to support Obama because he’s black. What I did not understand is why you chose to measure his blackness to the amount of black women he slept with vs. Bill Clinton—ultimately declaring Bill the winner because he jokingly slept with more. I guess when it comes to views on black women, you and TI do have something in common. Even after Obama clinched the DNC nomination, you were still nowhere to be found but we can find you in court supporting TI?

Ambassador Young, you have an extremely distinguished career of service not only to the black community but to the globe. I truly appreciate what your generation has done to make my life better. You have also obviously been committed to young people over the years but your support of TI sends the wrong message. Though TI is indeed capable of redemption, you send the world the wrong message by expressing support for a convicted felon whose body of work represents everything you have been against for you entire career, particularly that whole non-violence thing. You should be using your time and influence with the youth to uplift those who don’t have to be convicted of a crime before they dedicate themselves to service. I am interested to see your response if TI is released and goes back to his old ways. Until then, come back to us.

Oprah Winfrey and Hip-Hop

February 13, 2009

May 23, 2006

Oprah Winfrey has come under attack from some members of the hip-hop community for not supporting hip-hop in favor of her majority white, older female audience. Ludacris believed that when he was on Oprah as a cast member for the Oscar-winning film Crash, Oprah should have dealt with him as the actor and not the rapper. He also asserted that the show was edited to remove some of his comments in response to Oprah and Sandra Bullock’s comments concerning pejorative misogynistic lyrics in hip-hop. 50 Cent stated that Oprah pretty much caters to older white women and so it is actually in his best interest to be at odds with Oprah.

The only issue that was more annoying to me than the comments of these two rappers was the response from Oprah Winfrey. More or less, Oprah stated that she listens to Jay-Z, 50, Kanye West and others and that she loves hip-hop. That would have been fine. But she went the extra mile to state that she has 50 Cent’s In Da Club playing on her I-pod. This was entirely necessary.

As far as I see it, Oprah owes no explanation to the hip-hop community. She should not have gone out of her way to state that she actually listens to rappers with misogynistic lyrics. She would not have had artists like Kanye, Luda, and Jay-Z on her show if she did not support hip-hop in some way, shape, or form. How many heavy metal acts do you see on her show?

Rather, Oprah should have used this opportunity to give praise to rappers who do represent positivity. Why not use the platform she has constructed to express support for artists in hip-hop who are not misogynistic or vile with their lyrics? Even one of her favorite artists, Kanye West stated in his lyrics: “If I can go through all of this and still be breathin’/bitch bend over I’m here for a reason.” Oprah, who just had her magnificent Legend’s Ball honoring black women, does not have to express her support solely for hip-hop artists who put this type of work out.

Given that hip-hop is primarily purchased by the sons and daughters of Oprah’s audience, Oprah could single-handedly change the direction of hip-hop if she said for example, “I’m also a fan of Will Smith, Mos Def, Talib Kweli, and Omékongo.” Forgive me for the selfish plug, but honestly, I am one of thousands of MCs and poets who are intentionally choosing not to spew lyrics that condemn our women, and celebrate drugs and violence. A move like this could have the same effect on music that Oprah has had on literature. Instead of telling Luda that he is smart enough not use foul language in his work, why not support the artists who are smart enough to not degrade their people and actually do not degrade their people. How hard would that be?

At the end of the day, I will obviously stand with Oprah. No single person alive has worked harder to show images of positive black people. She is a woman of action. No one could have put together the Legend’s Ball quite like she did. I look forward to see who will organize something similar for black male icons. Her humanitarian heart pumps life into communities globally and locally. I really cannot imagine a world without Oprah. In all reality, the hip-hop community needs to do more to honor her and not vise versa.