“Sophisticated ignorance/ write my curses in cursive” – “Otis”, Kanye West and Jay-Z
When the controversial rap superstar, “2 Shackles,” granted an interview to an investigative journalist at the New Jersey Times, he agreed that it would be no holds barred. When the reporter grilled him on everything from his recent baby mama drama to his beefs with rival rappers, he addressed each question without flinching. Even when she pulled out a copy of the mugshot from his most recent arrest, he just smiled and autographed it for her. But when she asked him about the allegations that he had an extremely high IQ and graduated from college magna cum laude, he stormed out of the office, knockin’ over chairs and mumblin’ something about “birthdays and big booty guhs…..”
If you go strictly by what you hear on the radio, nowadays, you would swear that Hip-Hop was made up of people with low IQs and short attention spans. The music that once prided itself on being the “Black CNN” now sounds more like a pornographic version of Sesame Street. Sad thing is that some of today’s rappers are, actually, intelligent. Now, I’m not claimin’ that they are rocket scientists but they aren’t the bumblin’ buffoons, that you hear on the radio either.
So the question becomes, why do the smartest rappers make the dumbest raps?
Malcolm X once said the difference between a clown and a wise man is “the clown never imitates the wise man but the wise man can imitate the clown.” However, on a three-minute song on the radio, it’s kinda hard to tell the difference.
Case in point is the hottest rapper in the game right now, 2 Chainz. Some may find it hard to believe that the rapper who gave us such songs as “Birthday Song” and “No Lie” is actually Tauheed Epps , a gifted high school student who, in 1996, got an athletic scholarship to play basketball at Alabama State University; thus, putting him in the company of such athletic, scholar entertainers as Paul Robeson.
However, it would be easier to find your favorite rapper’s Illuminati membership card than it would be to find an actual record of 2 Chainz’s academic prowess. So the story goes that he was either an academic genius who graduated in three years with honors, or a college dropout who only attended a couple of semesters at an institution of higher learning. However, the fact remains that he is far more intelligent than the music that he makes. If you ever listen to an interview when 2 Chainz briefly breaks out of character and reverts back to Tauheed Epps, you can tell that you’re not dealing with a dummy.
So why the charade?
One can make the argument that the rappers of today were not the first to make dumb music. Back in Hip-Hop’s early years , there were songs by The Rappin’ Duke and Bobby Jimmy and the Critters. But raps by artists like Biz Markie were seen for what they were – comedy. The songs were just an occasional break from the more lyrically complex Hip-Hop of the time. No no one in his right mind wanted to hear “Pickin’ Boogers” all day, everyday on the radio. But today the airwaves are flooded with mentally-challenged music that has dumbed down the culture.
The defenders of commercial rap are always quick to point out how Hip-Hop is the most influential art form to ever grace the planet, and how it has impacted countries around the world, socially and economically. However, when you hit them with a socio-economic analysis of the music, they accuse you of “thinking too deep,” and all of a sudden, the great culture of Hip-Hop becomes merely “entertainment for kids,” like some Saturday morning cartoon. But the critique must be done.
If we break down the meaning of “2 Chainz, “ we will see that in order to enslave a people it takes two chains – one physical and one mental. Of the two, the most powerful is the mental chain as taught by scholars such as Dr. Na’im Akbar, author of the book, Breaking the Psychological Chains of Mental Slavery. Because even when the physical chain around the wrist is broken, the mental chain around the brain remains.
The emancipation from mental slavery has always been the hardest task for those trying to free a people who have been, as the scripture teaches, “destroyed for a lack of knowledge.” This is made more difficult when those who “reject knowledge” and dumb themselves down are portrayed to the youth as models of success.
However, all youth are not going for the okie doke. Recently, the group Watoto from the Nile released a video called “Letter to Nicki Minaj”, which features a powerful scene where “Harriet Tubman” removes the chains from Minaj’s wrists, symbolically meaning that the chains will eventually drop from her brain. (Good luck with that one.)
It is no accident that the deeper we entered into the information age, the dumber the music became. It was once said that ‘if you want to hide something from a Black man, put it in a book.’ But today, you don’t even have to take the bus to the library, as the information is literally at the tip of your fingers. So, the mental chains had to become reinforced. The music industry has been involved in a “brain drain” where they take our best and brightest artists and turn them into ratchet rappers.
While it may be argued that teenage rappers like Chief Keef are too young to know any better, that’s no excuse for rappers like 2 Chainz who are old enough to be their fathers. They have made a mockery out of the saying “with age comes wisdom.”
It’s time for us to break the chains. Hip-Hop artists must be pressured to stop the musical mumbo jumbo.
Like KRS said on “Still #1”:
“Many of you are educated/open your mouths and speak…”
TRUTH Minista Paul Scott’s weekly column is “This Ain’t Hip Hop,” a column for intelligent Hip Hop headz. For more information on the No Warning Shots Fired lecture series, contact firstname.lastname@example.org, visit NoWarningShotsFired.com, or on Twitter (@truthminista).