Half these rap lyrics aint thought-provoked/
Just a lot of beef till they get caught and smoked/
GZA, Illusory Protection, Grandmasters.
If I rhyme about home and got descriptive/
Id make 50 Cent look like Limp Bizkit/
KNaan, Whats Hardcore?, The Dusty Foot Philosopher.
Nowadays, nothing seems to annoy this
writer more than the fecklessness and sheer acquiescence of those whom, for
lack of a perceptive fan-base, are considered Gangsta or Hardcore. This
topic is no new one. For years, the Studio Gangsta has hollered tales of past
crime exploits on wax, and for years, those same personalities have escaped
through back doors, snitched on comrades, and softened-up faster than rotten
bananas, when confronted by incidents they previously claimed to have casually partook
inrobberies, stick-ups, chain-snatchings, gun-battles etc.
But my greater gripe is less about the
foolishness of these fictional characters, and more involved with the
normalized nature of cowardice growing among the Hip-Hop artist community.
To be sure, the last 10 years have
produced a great deal of commercialized jargon passing for Rap music; but this
fact takes nothing away from the reality that a good deal of quality music was
also made during that time-period. Unfortunately, a sizeable portion of it was
either never released to the public, or stalled for too long, thereby loosing
the appeal it once had.
Enter: Major Record Labels.
From Raekwons Only Built 4 Cuban Linx 2, to Saigons The Greatest Story Never Told, to Papooses The Nacirema Dream, to The Clipses Hell Hath No Fury, many Hip-Hop fans have hopelessly awaited the
release of these highly anticipated projects. Their wait has been long and in
The only project, out of that
collection, to be released was Hell Hath
No Fury, the follow-up to The Clipses strong 2002 debut, Lord Willin. And after a two-year waiting
period, which consisted of lawsuits filed against their label (at the time,
Jive Records), considerable fury had taken form in the duos minds. On the
first single of their 2006 release, Mr. Me Too, Pusha T let it all hang out: These are the days of our lifes/ And Im
sorry to the fans, but the crackers weren’t playing fair at Jive/. Their
frustration with the crackers at Jive was reprised in a September 2006 Rolling
Stone Magazine interview, in which Pusha T said the following: I hate
Jive. I hate them motherfuckers. With all my heart and all the passion and my
soul I hate these bitches. Its about the lynching of every staff member up in
The reason behind his explosive rant was
soon revealed: You could ask anyone in here to give you a marketing plan on
Clipse and they could never do it. Its like damn, What do you understand
about hip-hop? You aint had nobody since Spice 1! You dont know the fucking
formula. Everybody in heres like 50 years old! His plea to Jive was simple:
Just drop us. His wish was granted shortly thereafter.
It was painful to witness that ordeal,
and watch the drama unfold, but the bravery employed by The Clipse should not
simply be shelved and forgotten, flung to the basement of our memories. They
understood the costs involved in striking such a defiant pose at the crackers
who define, design, and decide the fates of most mainstream Hip-Hop artists.
Evidently, they had been pushed to the edge of the cliff, and didnt mind jumping
from it. That is admirable on every level. And if more Rap artists put such
audacity to work in their professional lives, perhaps radio might sound differently today.
The problem? Most refuse to simply serenade
* * *
The 18-year-old Atlanta Rapper Soulja
Boy is an easy target. Im not too caught-up
on easy-targets. Politicians, bureaucrats, capitalists, colonialists, conservatives,
racists, sexists, xenophobes, and extremists feast upon them. But this
character is fascinating. The fact that he originally hails from Chicagoa city
which has produced such luminaries as Common, Twista, Rhymefest, No I.D., Kanye
West, GLC, Jasiri X, Da Brat, Lupe Fiasco, etc.baffles the mind. I hate to imagine
what these esteemed lyricists think of their fellow Chicagoan.
Nonetheless, I invoke Mr. Crank Dat, not
to lend my name to his most-wanted list, but because I think his recent antics
dovetail with the theme of this articletesticular fortitude. About a couple of weeks or so ago, Soulja Boy
surprised his 1,000,000+ Twitter followers with a series of posts. Appeared to
be aggravated by some requests made of him, he wrote: Water down my music and
my appearance and make me look like something i’m not THESE CRACKERS DONT KNOW
WHO THE F*CK I REALLY AM!!! Then I get signed. this is where my dream slowly
died… these crackaz wanna criticize a n*gga. take REAL SH*t and turn it to
trash. Like why? Like really. My music dream was THE SH*t 2 years ago before I
was signed. It was everything I could ever imagine.
The next morning, however, those
messages were deleted. For one who shot to international prominence at age 16,
through a song which expressed, in explicit terms, crass sexual escapades
(Superman dat ho, Supesoak dat ho), he seemed fine with watering-down his image and music. In fact, I assumed that the same young man who, last year, took
special time out to Shout out the slave masters, because without them
wed still be in Africa, hence deprived of ice and tattoos, would be the
last to lament the death of his music dream. (Welcome to reality, partna!)
Still, I enjoyed his soliloquy, expecting
to hear more about this new found conviction.
What I got in return was an article,
titled Money F*cks You Up…, written a couple of days after the incident, in which he tried to make
amends for his remarks by placing them in proper
context. In his short essay, he affirmed the age-old truth: Money f*cks you
up. The fortune, fame, and felicities of success got him twisted, he
explained. And just to ensure his cracker anecdotes werent misinterpreted,
he concluded with the following: sorry to all my white peeps out there. I’m
not racist :) But I guess time will heal all wounds
So, there you have it: A young man
speaks his soul, and tries to come to terms with the notoriously nefarious
nature of the music industry, but is reminded that Black self-expression is
limited in the context of White supremacy. The Hip-Hop artist will never be
faulted for championing Black-on-Black violence or Misogyny or Materialism or
Minstrelsy; but the moment rich White folks, especially those at the helm of
the industrys engine, are complemented with equal amounts of attention for the
damage their actions have wrought on Hip-Hop music, wounds must be healed through public apologies and
wonder how many apologies and retractions it would take to remedy the countless
lives lost in gun-battles stemming from glorified violence in commercial Rap
jinglesfunded by the crackers Soulja Boy and The Clipse are displeased with.
* * *
Canadian Rapper Drake might not have
been shot 9 times, but his ascent is being compared to one Curtis Jacksons.
The attention he has seized amongst Hip-Hops elites, surrenders his name in
the pages of importance. This former Degrassi: The Next Generation (Canadian
sitcom) actors rise to Rap prominence has been helped by female fans who would
swear Drake was referring to themand them onlyin his latest single, Best I
While he remains popular among the
ladies, and theres certainly no wrong in that, most of his fans might do well
to also know that the sexually-charged content his music is today dominated by,
was nowhere to be found three years ago.
for Improvement, a mixtape released late 2006, the young Drake is disgruntled
with the world, refusing to settle for the lackluster values being promoted
through society, culture, and music. He is poignant but not preachy, casual but
not caustic. Room for Improvement is
poetic, philosophical and, even, didactic. Somehow, Drake finds a way to minister
to the emotions of the listener, without engaging in the sophomoric banter many
Rappers his age (22) think amusing. In plain terms, it is enjoyable. Southern legend DJ Smallz is comfortable in the
background, unsuppressed by the need to declare his name every 15 secondsunlike
In fact, I venture to say that this
mixtape, if released as an album, would have had no trouble being qualified as
a 4-star project, perhaps even a near-classic. The lyrical richness of Room for Improvement takes on a new
context, considering that it came from the mouth of a 19-year-old.
On Do What You Do, a humble Drake is
satisfied with a little, why you haters want it all/. In addition, he is cutting
his records without getting weededwhich might confuse those whove heard Ransom,
a song featured on his 2008 mixtape, Heartbreak
Drake Mixtape (The Best Of Drake).
Make Things Right establishes Drake at
his finest and most sincere. To all the girls with the aspirations/ Of being
in the background with your assess shaking/ Hittin clubs and skipping out on
the class youre taking, he asks you to have some patience.
Get in my Slick Rick mode Ima tell
yall a story real quick, he says, as guitar riffs fall under the impression
of a gentle drum loop. Video Girl has begun playing. Drake crafts a narrative
of a Video Vixen, and avoids playing into the simplicity Compton rapper The
Game was unable to discharge himself from in Wouldnt Get Far, the third
single from his sophomore project, The
He, instead, is perceptive enough to
submerge himself in the problems many Video Vixens are faced with; doing so, he
urges that each Respect yourself/ Dont be convinced that these tricks will/,
though adding that his cousin who cant speak know the lyrics to tip drill/.
Drake doesnt want to generalize all Video Vixens. His call to better
themselves is rooted in love to see my Black women strong, single,
independent, doing their thingwithout
popping their booty in some Rappers video.
Its sad to report that the eloquence
and candor put forth in his official mixtape debut has unsuccessfully made its
way into recent projects. The same rapper whose social commentary on S.t.r.e.s.s.
and Try Harder is nearly unmatched for its wit and wisdom, can now be heard
wishing to f**k every girl in the world. How ironic is it that a mere two
years after Room For Improvement, the
hook of his second most popular song goes as follows: I want the money, money and the cars/ Cars and the clothes, the hoes,
I suppose/ I just wanna be, I just wanna be successful/ I just wanna be, I just
wanna be successful/.
Im not sure Drake fans are any aware of
these circumstances, but it would do them well to pay closer notice. The lad is
still young, and only recently did he sign
a recording contract (an unwise move for one who had managed his
independent career so successfully hitherto), so all hope remains recoverable;
but if he refuses to stand up to the suits and soothsayers of the music
industry, two years from now his music will be in worse shape that it currently
* * *
For all their posing and posturing,
rappers sure rival marshmallows in battle of the softest. Its not a word to be claiming just cuz it sound
cool/The game so twisted today for lack of ground rules/
Dead Prez Feat. Styles P, Gangsta Gangster, Pulse of the People.
Tolu Olorunda is a cultural critic and a Columnist for BlackCommentator.com. He can be reached at Tolu.Olorunda@gmail.com.