Kanye West

Free Kanye: Are Rappers Political Prisoners?


“I’m locked inside a cell in me, I know that there’s a jail in you”

                                                                  “Words I Never Said” – Lupe Fiasco

 People from across the country traveled for hours to attend the December rally in Chicago to demand the freedom of their beloved comrade in struggle. For hours, speaker after speaker pounded on the podium demanding that their brother be released so that he could, once again, be free to speak truth to power as the crowd chanted wildly.  They weren’t chanting “Free Mumia” or “Free Mutulu.” Nah, they were chanting “Free Kanye!”

Despite the title of Kanye West’s 2004 cd “College Dropout” and the follow up “Late Registration,” both were hailed, by many , as the return of politically conscious lyrics to the mainstream. With songs like “All Falls Down” and “Diamonds from Sierra Leone,” if Kanye  wasn’t the second coming of Chuck D,  in a rap world dominated by the Ying Yang Twins, he was close enough. Expectations were lifted even higher when he made the infamous post Hurricane Katrina observation that “George Bush don’t like black people.” But then something strange happened on the Road to Revolution, Kanye’s lyrics were suddenly depoliticized and dumb downed. Nowadays, Kanye is more known for corny catch phrases and snatchin’ mics from lil country girls at award shows than political wit.
Of course, Kanye isn’t the only one. After all, Common’s latest song isn’t exactly droppin’ science, either. But Kanye is killing the game,right now, as he is leading the pack in Grammy nominations, making him the biggest waste of talent at the moment.
While some may argue that West and the others just had creative changes of direction, others say that they are victims of the same political repression that has plagued radical thinkers for centuries. History books are full of examples of people who were imprisoned, exiled or assassinated for their ideas.
Historically, oppressive, ideological societies have hated free thinkers. Even Galileo was locked down in 17th century Italy  for teaching Heliocentrism (the sun is the center of the Universe). So, free thinkers have always been a threat to the status quo because of their potential to free the minds others.

In America, the persecution was no different.

According to Dr. Charsee McIntyre, in “Criminalizing the Race,” the colonization movement to deport free blacks to Africa was started because free blacks “served as models of Freedom to enslaved blacks and inspired resurrections. “

It must be noted that the threat of radical idealists within the music industry has also been a thorn in the side of the establishment.

In his book “The Covert War Against Rock” Alex Constantine alleges that the deaths of singers such as Peter Tosh, John Lennon and Bob Marley were really well orchestrated, politically motivated assassinations to silence them.

Perhaps the greatest threat to the social order has been Hip Hop. John Potash, in his book, “The FBI War on Tupac Shakur and Black Leaders”  gives a rundown of artists who experienced government repression not because of club jams but because of their political activities. The book raises the issue that Tupac Shakur’s gangsta turn after being sentenced to life on Death Row Records after his release from prison may not have been a coincidence. Perhaps it was just a plot to render one of the most potentially, powerful voices to ever pick up a mic, politically impotent and socially irrelevant.

We must understand that even while in the slammer, freedom fighters such as  Dr. Martin Luther King (Letter From the Birmingham Jail) and George Jackson (Soledad Brothers) still managed to get their words to the masses. Also, Mumia Abu-Jamal has still been able to smuggle information to the people by reporting “Live From Death Row.” The difference is, unlike many Hip Hop artists, they would not allow their minds to become incarcerated.

Although, some may consider comparing Hip Hop artists like Kanye West  to political prisoners like Mumia and Mutulu Shakur ,blasphemous, when we consider that political incarceration is about locking down themind more so than the body the connection is clear. While many acts of political repression have been carried out with guns and chains, in Hip Hop, it has been done by a signature on a contract. There is little difference between someone sentenced to a 10 year prison bid and someone being confined to a 10 year recording deal that restricts their freedom of speech in terms of their relevance to oppressed communities.

This idea is not without precedence. Lupe Fiasco has been outspoken about the industry’s attempt to “dumb em down.” Also, it was once rumored that former G Unit soldier, Young Buck had to remove a song about police brutality from his cd because of pressure from a mysterious “lyric committee.”

Unfortunately, it is not just the artists that are in mental prisons but fans as well. As every time a rapper enters into a mental prison, he carries a legion of followers with him.

So, the question is how do we free Hip Hop artists and consequently, free the minds of their fans.

According to Peter Doggett, in his work, “There’s a Riot Going On,” back in the 60’s, activists formed  the Dylan Liberation Front (later the Rock Liberation Front) to “liberate” artists, like Bob Dylan, who they felt had turned their backs on the struggle and “sold out to the man.”

Maybe, in 2011, we need a Kanye Hip Hop Liberation Front to do the same.

After all, if Jadakiss and his crew could stage a successful “Free the Lox” campaign back in the day to get released from Bad Boy , why can’t we politicize it and start a “Free Kanye Campaign” to free him from Roc-a-fella.

Something has to be done to free incarcerated minds and it has to be done now.

As Bob Marley once sang “Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery, none but ourselves can free our minds.

TRUTH Minista Paul Scott represents the Militant Mind Militia. He can be reached at militantmindmilitia@gmail.com website http://www.militantmindmilitia.com @truthminista

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  • junioray

    Or did you think about this is the music kanye want to make? Every artist isnt about creating or leading a movement. Some artists just want to make music. I am more than sure that if he wants to leave the Roc, he can, thats what GOOD music is for.
    But he who he is, he is killing the game because he is being creative, not trying to lead a movement. Lets not forget that music is entertainment, thats what i get out of it.

    • you need to hear these guys rap in local clubs!!! Completely different style!!! 

      • That’s his point…Club = More Freedom than official release.

        Industry dictates official release sound / image / brand.

      • chicagoone

        kanye have not changed his rhetoric but he is still very much a artist and thats the difference.instead of people(particularly black people)jumping on white peoples side acting like we dont know or understand why he did what he did for example with taylor swift.We should be backing him behind that type stuff.Black people just scared to take a stand these days.When kanye did what he did that day or night with taylor,white people sized it down to him just being a asshole and a jerk.This show how serious black importance is really takin by white people.We need to support a man like that in this day and time.This guy is far from stupid despite what some people may say.Far as the music,kanye is also the most innovative creative artist in hip hop today period,but he is also a game player.

      • I respect your opinion , & agree to disagree.

        Like the Big Daddy Kane song : Ain’t No Half Steppin “.
        Either in or out!

        No such thing as 1/2 way crooks.

        Gonna be about uplifting the people & contributing to the betterment of Hip Hop , that’s a good look for the culture.

        Gonna be about cooning & hollaring , that’s a bad look.

        The Taylor Swift incident?

        Please Explain that , cuz it looks like wack juice from where I’m sitting , for several reasons.

        Hip Hop Liberation?
        Maybe

    • Yeah , definitely crossed my mind that this dude is a cornball.

      He finally hits it big & his mom’s die getting breast implants with the $$$.
      Vanity?
      Cosmetic surgery? Something wrong internally there. Mentally. Socially.
      Mom’s had a DR’s degree.  Gr8 catch for any man , with or without D+ cups.

      Mentally? Low self esteem.

  • IT IS SHOW BIZ, RAPPERS ARE ALL ENTERTAINERS NOTHING MORE AND NOTHING LESS! I GET SO SICK AND TIRED OF PEOPLE SEARCHING FOR SOME KIND OF SUBSTANCE OUT OF THE MUSIC WHEN THE MUSIC IS ONLY MEANT TO ENTERTAIN YOU! IF YOU TRULY WANT SUBSTANCE FROM SOMETHING YOU SHOULD READ A BOOK INSTEAD LISTENING TO RAP MUSIC FOR SOME KIND OF DIRECTION!

    • Maybe , but if you gonna rap , in 2011 , & not offering any substance , an instrumental will suffice , with a freestyle from a local artist …whose idea of the “BLUES / HARD TIMES ” isn’t loose diamond that fell out a pair of Versace shades.

      Just entertainment? Not at / on this stage. 2011

      • I THINK SUBSTANCE IS OVERRATED! WHEN YOU START MIXING RELIGION AND POLITICS INTO MUSIC YOU MESS UP EVERYTHING. THE LAST THING WE NEED IS SOME RADICAL ASS FAN KILLING SOMEBODY OVER THE MUSIC THEY DO OR THE MUSIC THEY LISTEN TO!

      • Might be the last thing we need, but right now , we got plenty of fans killing someone over the music they listen to or do. They not radical…unless you ask their victims or judges, but there was non of that back in the 90’s.  

        Religion & Politics via Chuck D : Public Enemy didn’t result in 1 death  , but did result in millions of listeners gaining awareness of Black america’s Holocaust….even some Black Americans had their eyes opened to it.

        Education & Substance vs Spending Savings like a custom?

        I’d rather my kid listen to education & substance….especially if they too young to decide for themselves….or their mind / perceptions / sense of values is still forming!

        Average kid out here will blast you…or claim too. Probably couldn’t name 1 book he ever read on his own…cover to cover.

      • PLEASE DO NOT TAKE THIS THE WRONG WAY, BUT IN MY OPINION I THINK THAT YOU AND PEOPLE LIKE YOU ARE VERY SLACK AS PARENTS TO WANT MUSIC TO GUIDE YOUR CHILDREN IN SOME KIND OF EDUCATIONAL, RELIGION, OR POLITICAL WAY. MUSIC IS STRICTLY FOR THE PURPOSE OF ENTERTAINING YOU, TO TRY AND SUBSTITUTE MUSIC FOR YOUR LACK OF PARENTING IS PATHETIC BUT THIS IS JUST MY PERSONAL OPINION.

      • It’s cool , no offense taken , cuz you reaching ( & Missing by a mile. )

        “I THINK SUBSTANCE IS OVERRATED!” ..Kotti

        That statement , no offense / disrespect , but in my opinion , makes your parenting skills pathetic , borderline negligent & is grounds for forced sterilization for perpetual coonery genes that you may transmit to your offspring.

        While you consider substance over rated , & think being stupid is the new cool , I think style is over rated compared to substance & strive to make being stupid…UNcool.

        Style ove substance? That’s like all sizzle….& no steak!
        Gravy & no Mashed Potatoes. 

        Just a difference of Opinion.
        In 2011 , there is no time , as a whole, black or white , etc., to be stupid. 

      • DON’T TAKE OFFENSE TO THIS, BUT THE ONLY THING I THINK THAT IS STUPID IS PEOPLE WHO LOOK TO RAP MUSIC FOR THEIR SUBSTANCE! I GO TO CONCERTS, CLUBS, AND BARS TO DANCE AND LISTEN TO RAP MUSIC TO HAVE A GOOD TIME. I DON’T CARE ABOUT WHAT TYPE OF MESSAGE IS IN THE MUSIC BECAUSE I’M TRYING TO HAVE A GOOD TIME! IF RAP MUSIC WAS THIS POWERFUL THING THAT NEEDED TO BE FULL OF SUBSTANCE THEY WOULD BE TEACHING IT IN SCHOOLS AND UNIVERSITIES.
        PLEASE DON’T TAKE THE RAP MUSIC THAT SERIOUS IT’S JUST MUSIC!

  • craig

    Lyrically, Kanye is a truly honest and open rapper. If he has anything to say, political or otherwise, he says it. To suggest that he is in some way censored is ridiculous. Kanye raps from the heart about what currently matters to him. Requiring his songs to carry some sort of a political message would only handicap the range and style of his music. He is an entertainer, who also has political views, not a political leader who is also an entertainer. Every time he grabs the mic I don’t want him to pick a cause and preach about it, because that would be fake. He does and always has made “real” music, that is what sets him apart.

    PS: Kanye is definitely addressing some issues in “Murder To Excellence” from “Watch the Throne”; evidence that he is still capable of doing so when he wants to.

    • Haven’t heard it.
      Seen the Occupy Wallstreet Photo op…unless he down there everyday? or has been back….it’s a photo op.

      Will check it though on the strength of your mention.

      • junioray

        Are you serious? You havent heard the WTT album, but you have a reply to Ye’s profession? Listen to the album, or at least murder to excellence.

      • That track is Fiyah! No Doubt about it.

        Ye is the type that can make some one feel guilty about liking his music , because of how he acts.

        MTE >>>> Ni99az in Paris

        Agreed?

        Why MTE not released b4 NIP? Why doesn’t it get the NIP hype?

        Hot track , but on some “Decoding Jay Z” type $hyt Jay Z never mentioned being Born on the Day Fred Hampton died , until ILLSEED? or Truth Minista Paul Scott dropped it on his last B Day? ** That I know of )

        Maybe 1 b4 last.

        Mentioning Maybachs & associating that with Black Excellence.

        Subliminal Conscious.

        5 Types Of Conscious

        Conscious
        Un-Conscious
        Sub-Conscious
        Semi-Conscious
        Subliminal-Conscious
        *********

        Subliminal conscious is the place where you store things you know…but don’t know that you know them.

        Maybach = Black Excellence?

        Did Malcolm X drive an exotic car? Did he drive the Best domestic? Newest model?

        He didn’t floss with a nice car or the biggest chain , he flossed with the biggest brain.

        If the IRS , Finance company , etc., takes the Lambo like they did Jermaine Dupri , MC Hammer, Redd Foxx, Joe Louis, Mike Tyson , TLC , Master P , Bow Wow, etc., etc., they have to fail back on their brain , with it’s only claim to fame , being that it is slightly / barely used.

        How many MTE’s on the WTT?
        ( WTT was hot too , not my preference , but they rocked it! )

        MTE was / is deep…..no disputing that , but check out:

        Immortal Technique’s : “Civil War” feat..Chuck D , Killer Mike & Brother Ali

        MTE was deep , but offered no solution.

  • Some of these comments are a tragedy. Hip-Hop is social commentary and Kanye has been a social commentator on a number of his tracks before MBDTF. You guys talk like 
    your happy to accept “dumb down” music which is dissappointing and shows a lack of knowledge. Yes, kanye wants to make good music but he always wants to say whatever is on his mind but that can’t happen anymore because of the backlash from one incident. America was ready to throw him under a bus. His lyrics have become more ambigious. But to the avg. listener thats fine, because they wanna spout meaningless lyrics. However, his production no less entertaining than it was before. Thats dumming down folks!  Its not about leading a movement, its about contributing to one. 

    • Kinda agree , artist have a social duty to their community. The worst of their community.
      Jesus didn’t come to the flossers or hi-cappers of the day.

      Neglecting that duty = selling out in the eyes of some.

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  • ” Your singers are spineless, as they sing their sensless songs to the mindless”..Chuck D
    ( Old Skool )

    The title of this article had me hyped!
    I was like “WTF!”
    Saw Truth Minista wrote it & was like WTF! even more.

    The more I read it , the more I agreed.

    “Although, some may consider comparing Hip Hop artists like Kanye West  to political prisoners like Mumia and Mutulu Shakur ,blasphemous, ” ….. ( Yeah! I was definitely feeling like that…b4 reading the article! ) …”when we consider that political incarceration is about locking down the mind more so than the body the connection is clear.”…. Then I had to co-sign this %1,000,000

    Would I put on a pair of skinny’s or Genie pants on & coon for 1/2 of what Kanye is making? ( Whatever it is )
    I would have to say “YES” , until I actually turned the $$$ down , if I even did.

    Mental Prisons are worse.
    The difference between the African / America’s Ongoing Black Holocaust & the Jewish One , is that the Jews died whole.

    Blacks died as Ni99az!
    Floss to death…& then die , leaving our families the bill.

    Mentacide?  Mental Colonization? Culturcide? Mental suicide?
    We victims of all of that!
    Overview: 1960’s #1 Jam was ” Say It LOUD! I’m Black & I’m proud!”…James Brown
    Ni99az tore $hyt up!
    Newark! Watts! Detroit! etc.
    When you feel good about yourself….your less likely to let someone violate you.
    Then the dope , smoke , smack & crack got pushed in!

    Chuck D said ” Fight The Power! ” & the industry responded , with a slow , but steady , exponentially growing number of drug dealer rap artist! Let’s be honest , they really don’t give a fugg ( INDUSTRY ) if you have talent or not , as long as you glorify cultural or financial coonery …or a path str8 to jail ( if your lucky ) or graveyard ( if your not. ) , the industry will accept & promote you….maybe even make you #1 , if you the type that to be:

     “chasing the charts up & down like suckerz , totally ignoring your sisters & brothers , we’re that one’s that make you #1 , not chart position , so pick up the drum & HuMMMMM , sing along , it’s a poetry session , mathematically applied , no guessing “..KRS-1

    Like television “PROGRAMMING ” , music is a form of programming , & like with training a dog , your training him one way or the other …..good or bad ….even if you don’t realize it.

    If a kid listens to the fake drug lord rap of Dik Fawlse growing up , he’s more likely to get locked up , than if he read wall street journal….& if the wall street journal kid got locked up , it would be on some Bernie Madoff / Michael Milken / Politician type ‘ish….as opposed to doing 20yrs over a $20 sale…cuz he already got caught for separate: $5 ,$10 & $20 sales.

    Music can inspire you:
    Like Whitney Houston’s ” Greatest Love Of ALL “…getting play at graduations , generations after leaving the charts. Inspiring kids to love themselves!

    If their is an Illuminati / They / Them / secret power conspiring for world domination, etc….I’m sure they would rather have us bombarded with songs about shooting each over for stepping on our Jordans , than Whitney Houston singing to us since Kindergarten , that : ” Learning to love yourself , is the greatest gift of ALLLLLLLlllllll!” ( Is easy to….. AchieeVVVVVEEEEeeee ) 

    On Lyric Committee:

    Poor Righteous Teachers ( PRT ) in the 90’s ( Golden Age of Hip Hop & here’s one of the reasons / climates why )…Wise Intelligent ( Newark? NJ ) made a song about killing a corrupt? Racist? Brutal cop. He was called into the office & told he had to remove Track #14 ( The Cop Track )

    He protested & explained that the other 13 tracks were about killing ni99az & were allowed….to no avail.
    Instead of removing the track …..he retired. This was b4 Prince changed his name to a symbol? ( The Artist Formerly Known As ..TAFKA ) because he didn’t even own his own name. ( It was reported to be eccentric, Prince being crazy , weird , etc ) , but it was actually a very shrewd , thought out process.

    Politically? Prince makes Kanye look like Bryant Gumble.
    Prince is deep. Kanye is shallow …..or made to appear to be?

    Kanye may make more $$$ than Chuck D , Immortal Technique , KRS One , combined , & if $$$ is all that matters ….Kanye wins , but if living right , head up , according to GOD / Yourself / Inner Spirit  etc….matters , you can have le$$ & feel better about yourself than some one who has more.

    >>>>Not contraindicating getting $$$ , just advocating having another way to make it , besides / along with your art…..to prevent selling out.

    • Allright.  Amen.

      I work with an African griot – musician, oral historian.  There’s an understanding in Africa (where rap comes from) about the POWER of the music.  Rap music has been used there for thousands of years to maintain and CREATE cultural identity.  There’s nothing more potent as a teaching tool than rhyme set to music (isn’t that what lullabies are? – the ABC song for instance?)  Rap is just a teaching tool for teenagers and adults.

      So, the wealthy elite control the music that CREATES black cultural identity?!@twitter-386187141:disqus   WTF! They need free or low cost labor to continue their reign of supremacy, so they restrict rappers to music that teaches boys that the way to be a man is to sag your pants, carry a gun, commit a crime and go to jail. Then the elite get free labor from those in jail (modern day slavery – duh) and low-wage labor from those out of jail (modern day Jim Crow) and low-wage labor from everyone who dresses like a rapper or speaks like a rapper cause they control the stereotypes in the movies and tv too!

      A man from Ghana told me how in his home town there’s a clear chain of respect – kids have to respect their parents, adults have to respect their leaders.  EXCEPT – once a year everyone gets a chance to say what would usually be considered disrespectful. The teenagers get to tell their parents what they don’t like, the community gets to tell the school organizers and politicians what they don’t like. And the elders are required to listen. But there’s a catch – THEY HAVE TO SAY IT RAPPING! and in front of the whole town!  It’s a holiday to make the community better by RAPPING YOUR DISSATISFACTION.

      That’s how far the wealthy elite are twisting the music.  The African rappers (raised there) would not consider taking $$$ to create a poison for their own community.  But we’re told here that the music is just entertainment. BS. That’s a lie that lets the elite continue controlling our society and keeping their profits up.

      • WOW!

        Good look!
        This was DEEEeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeppPPPPPPPPPPPPP!

  • Big Ice Bastardman ✓ᵛᵉʳᶦᶠᶦᵉᵈ

    So are you saying Kanye’s fashion raps are because of an oppressive system?
    It’s more likely that he just likes pants and shiny things. 
    He’s also an idiot so… there’s that.

  • Matthew Morrison

    This seems to be quite a stretch here. Much of your discussion of Kanye’s lyrics and current songs as “dumbed down” is just plain wrong. The lyrical content of “Watch the Throne” is more directly political than many of his past albums–even if the sounds (to most consumers) sound more “popular” and “mainstream” than his previous styles. Seems to be as though one would want to be a little more thoughtful before making such a huge claim on such a huge artist on such a huge site. But everyone has their opinion, I guess. It just seems to be that the opinions of those who write articles for sites such as these should be more critically informed than this one is. 

  • rep87

    kanye west went from walking with jesus to wearing women clothes and super tight pants and stated i get fashion tips from gay men oh yeah he is being control alright / if he came out and said the industry force me 2 dress this way and hold up santic symbols i would be convince. CHUCK D said it best who stole the soul ?