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  • 10 Essential Hip-Hop Films

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    The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of AllHipHop.com

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    I was watching Paid in Full for the approximately 200th time when a thought occurred to me: They don’t make “hip-hop/hood”  movies any more do they?

    When it comes to “black” movies in today’s market place there’s pretty much Tyler Perry and that’s it. And yes, I’m aware of Ice Cube and all of his works but he hasn’t made a “hip-hop” movie in awhile. And by hip-hop I don’t mean a movie about hip-hop music. This isn’t Krush Groove or Russell Simmon’s The Show or Rhyme and Reason I’m talking about. I also don’t mean those vanity projects designed specifically to sell CD’s. So that excludes Cash Money’s Baller Blockin, Death Row’s Murder Was The Case, Rocafella’s Streets is Watching and State Property.  I mean an actual viable movie that just happens to be marketed to the hip-hop nation with an accompanying epic soundtrack. Hollywood inundated us with these movies in the 90’s and early 2000’s and while all of these movies weren’t classic there’s something to be said for a time when movies were made for black people. Because outside of Tyler Perry and some art house stuff that will never see wide release. We just don’t see young black voices in our movie theaters anymore.  So while they all aren’t cinematic masterpieces here are 10 movies (in no particular order) that embody what is missing in today’s theaters.

    Juice

    This movie needs no introduction. For the five people who haven’t seen it and don’t understand why it’s great I urge you to take a look. Many of the cameos would probably be lost on the younger generation from Queen Latifah dissing Flex’s mix to Special Ed stealing Raheim’s girl. But nobody can deny the Oscar-worthy performance of Samuel L. Jackson as aspiring pedophile/ high-school age speakeasy proprietor Sweets. Bonus Fact: This is the movie that made me want to be a DJ.

    Boyz N The Hood

    I confess every time I see Morris Chestnut in a movie I’m secretly afraid that just when something great is about to happen to him a car full of gang members will pull up and shoot him in the back. Based on the way his agent picks scripts though that scenario would probably improve most of the movies he’s starred in recently. But this is the movie that had Lawrence Fishbourne, Angela Basset, Cuba Gooding Jr, Nia Long, and Ice Cube. Sometimes you look at a cast of a movie and you’re amazed at all the talent combined. Also remember when John Singleton was relevant?

    New Jack City

    Nino Brown and G-Money are the most iconic crime duo in the history of black film.  This movie was released in 1991 and tells a cartoonish and simplistic version of the story of crack.  It’s a great movie that helped launch Wesley Snipes and Ice-T into stardom. (There was a time when putting Ice-T in your movie as streetwise cop was not a no-brainer).   And while over the top by today’s standards, Mario Van Peebles never completely veers into the Blaxploitation turf that his father helped establish. If anything this movie reminds us  of a time when crack was super scary.

    Paid In Full

    The only film in this list that wasn’t released in the 90’s. This is like the unofficial sequel of New Jack City telling the story of Harlem’s crack trade in the 80’s and the legendary story of Rich Porter, Alpo and AZ (here rechristened as Mitch, Rico, and Ace). Some details have been changed to protect the innocent. This is one of those movies that was bootlegged years before it’s official release and it’s easy to understand the streets impatience. The quality of this low-budget film and the performances of everyone involved make me wonder if Roc-A—Fella could have become as big a name in movies as it was in music. Hell Cam’ron wasn’t just passable in this film he was a bonafide actor.

    Menace II Society

    Speaking of classic movie characters. Kaine and O-Dog are two you can’t forget. The ending of this movie was my first “Sixth Sense” moment. Before this the idea that a movie could have a “bad” ending was foreign to me.  In retrospect Kaine was a degenerate who probably wasn’t bound for greater things. But his chances for redemption were cut short regardless.  The Hughes Brothers made you feel compassion for characters that moments earlier had committed a robbery/murder.

    South Central

    O.G. Bobby Johnson and Ray-Ray yes the trend of classic characters continue. This movie had more than a few shades of Boyz N The Hood as O.G. Bobby Johnson fights for the soul of his son. Watching it again recently and seeing the desperate situation of the characters involved makes me wonder about how little progress is being made. Why are there still so many poor people in America and why are minorities still relegated to second class citizen status?

    Above The Rim

    You forgot about Pac’s only truly gangsta role? Yeah I know he was a little crazy in Juice. But Roland Bishop was just a crazy confused kid who was probably in the beginning stages of becoming a thug. Birdy the character that Pac played in this film was an actual thug and I believe the basis for the post-prison version of Tupac that he presented to the world until his tragic demise. But I could spend days deconstructing Tupac I’ve had 17 years to think about it.

    Tales From The Hood

    You might think I’m  bugging by putting this movie on the list of essential cinema for the hip-hop generation. But you have to look at what this is. It’s probably the most exploitative film on the list. The one that cares the least about the plight of black people in America. And yet it’s horror/comedy vibe makes it entertaining and certainly less cheesy than other lame attempts like Leprechaun In The Hood. What this movie does though isn’t really a mockery of our culture. It’s social commentary disguised as pulp horror comic schtick. And Clarence Williams III’s black interpretation of the Crypt-keeper from Tales From The Crypt is more than worth the price of admission.

    Friday

    Finally a comedy. I’ll probably be crucified for saying this but the very first Friday probably isn’t the funniest one in the series. But it’s still the best one. The other movies in the Friday series take the original concept and pervert in ways to shamelessly milk the laughter out of the audience. This Friday in it’s pacing and characters that feel genuine with just a touch of the comedic effect was a lot more believable. A character like “Money Mike” could never exist in the universe of the first Friday Film he would stick out like sore thumb. And Chris Tucker’s role as Smokey is a lot more endearing than the obtusely crass Mike Epps in his portrayal of Day-Day. Go rewatch all three films in the series if you don’t know what I’m talking about.

    New Jersey Drive

    Probably the least recognizable name on this list New Jersey Drive is probably remembered more by hip-hop heads than any other group of people because of it’s epic two volume soundtrack. Featuring songs from Lost Boyz, Outkast, and Redman to name a few. I didn’t see the movie for years after it’s release. But one day I was up at like 3 in the morning and it was on TV. I watched it and enjoyed it. It’s a small movie and sometimes small movies are the best. It tells a very simple story of some misguided youth who live in North Jersey and steal cars. That’s it. It doesn’t turn into Fast and The Furious. It doesn’t turn into a convoluted social studies exercise. It stays in its lane (pun intended) and you ultimately feel satisfied with the story it tells.

    Those are my 10 essential hood movies. But of course there are more. If you want to get at me for not including your favorites remember the criteria. No straight to dvd rapper vanity projects. No documentaries. No movies that don’t directly deal with people in the hood.  Dis-Honorable Mentions: Dead Presidents (more of a Vietnam movie), Love Jones ( black women love this movie like black men love Scarface), Soul Food (I’ve grown to hate that movie though), Sunset Park (I forgot what the movie is even about), and that movie where Usher and Fredro from Onyx hold their school hostage (actually that movie sucked).

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    E. Knight lives in Philadelphia. Check out his blog boxingwithgod.com. Read more of his AHH Blogs HERE.

    If you would like to write for AHH here’s how.

  • Are Mixtapes Making Hip-Hop Music Too Disposable?

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    The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of AllHipHop.com

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    In the calendar year 2013 Gucci Mane has released six mixtapes. Well let me be more accurate… “six mixtapes that I personally know of”  and there might be more. In the last few years artists like Tyga, Wiz Khalifa,  The Weeknd, Smoke Dza, Mac Miller, and The Game have released multiple album length projects of original music (that’s songs with original production not just jacking an existing instrumental) and called these creations “mixtapes”.

    These are basically free albums but their ubiquity in the genre and the frequency with which they’re released lead one to question the amount of effort the artist puts into the tracks. Way back in the pre 50 Cent era artists driven mixtapes were rare and usually comprised by DJ’s based on b-sides, remixes, and material that was never intended to see the light of day.  But now the frustrating process of relying on a label’s marketing department/ street team to keep your name relevant between proper budgeted releases can be avoided by savvy emcees looking to keep their fanbases interested. So the mixtape model flourishes. And we continue to listen because sometimes these mixtapes are genius. But the risks associated with a mediocre or wack effort are little. In 2013 after all it’s not like anyone actually pays for mixtapes.

    [ALSO READ: Hip-Hop Rumors: Gucci Mane And Marilyn Mansion: Best Friends?]

    So emcees check into the studio daily and turn making music into something akin to a 9-5. The result can vary depending on an emcee’s creative process. Some have a cadre of frequent collaborators at the ready to offer support. Some prefer to work in solitude brooding over even the most insignificant ad lib and some can walk into the study at 3am on a Monday morning and have the mixtape on datpiff by 3PM Monday afternoon.  What this leads to inevitably though is disposable raps. Some rappers can reach their creative peak before the first album even drops. Some can have very inspired moments on these mixtapes where they are basically workshopping ideas for their main releases like a comedian building up their set  before an HBO special. Rick Ross for instance had a mixtape called “The Albert Anastasia EP” that was basically a rough draft of what the album “Teflon Don” became. (It also was the first place to hear massive hit single “BMF”).

    But when an artist drops a mixtape every quarter, or sometimes even more than that, it can be hard to distinguish what makes their proper releases special. Two artists in the past that have fallen victim to this in recent memory have been Big K.R.I.T. and Currensy. Both of whom dropped major label debuts that failed to distinguish themselves quality wise from any of their “Street Albums”. While consistency can be great it begs the question is the money I’m paying for this actual CD or am I just rewarding the artist because of their entire body of work?

    In the greater scheme of things great emcees or even halfway decent ones know that creating a great body of work and making timeless music is important. Other emcees rush the market to stay relevant and can sometimes inundate us with throwaway raps. When this bleeds over from their mixtapes into their proper releases (I’m looking at you Lil Wayne) it can severely damage an emcee’s creative reputation. Maybe in 2013 those artists with the proper work ethic are the ones who use these mixtapes to promote their touring efforts. After all albums were originally meant to promote performances not the other way around.

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    E. Knight lives in Philadelphia. Check out his blog boxingwithgod.com. Read more of his AHH Blogs HERE.

    If you would like to write for AHH here’s how.

  • My Last Biggie Tribute Post…Ever

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    The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of AllHipHop.com

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    In a fickle world it’s nice that when fans choose to continuously honor someone. Some artists transcend their beginnings and become icons. What this means is that someone like Prince or Madonna could drop a horrible album and lose absolutely no traction with their fans. Other artists leave this world too soon and become so revered in death that the qualities of the work they created while they were alive become heightened by the fact they’ll never be able to produce more material. John Lennon,  Jimi Hendrix, and Janis Joplin come to mind.  Recently hip-hop has matured to the point where we now have those types of artists. Eminem, Jay-Z or Nas could put out horrible albums their fans would shrug and say give us more. And as far as the artist who died too soon and became an infallible saint of the genre, is there a better example of this than Notorious B.I.G.

    [ALSO WATCH: DJ Premier Tells A Story of Him and Notorious B.I.G. Sharing An Intimate Moment {VIDEO}]

    It’s totally understandable why we love Biggie. His presence on the mic was unparalleled. The narrative of “Ready To Die” telling the story of a street thug with a callous jaded view of society was the classic tale of the American Dream turned Nightmare that we have since heard retold over and over again. And although the Kool G. Rap comparisons weren’t that obvious then,  in retrospect the Juice Crew emcee had an all too similar persona to the one that Christopher Wallace would adopt in his creation of the Biggie Smalls character.

    Biggie had everything you wanted from an emcee, he had Jay-Z’s mirth, Nas’s artistry and viscous attitude that was uniquely his own. He played the part of someone who would inspire fear had he choose to pursue crime the way he pursued rap. In so much as rapping is as much performance art as it is music he was a master thespian. The things implied by his lyrics were almost as unsettling as the things he spelled out explicitly. Ready To Die in retrospect is one of the darkest albums of the early 90’s and paints a bleak picture that turns Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn into the dystopian wasteland that we all feared. But the character Biggie Smalls assembles on that first album doesn’t just survive that chaos, he thrives in it.  Life After  Death while having some smoother moments and being more commercially palatable at times still continues the dark themes expounded upon in his first release and in some ways shows a much improved emcee still charismatic but with that sick twisted edge that could take lyrics that would sound sophomoric coming from another emcee and make them sound menacing. ( A prime example would be that line about kidnapping kids, anal raping them and then disposing of their bodies by throwing them off of bridges).

    [ALSO READ: Notorious B.I.G.’s Childhood Home For Sale]

    Obviously I am a Biggie fan and I will concede that all of the wonderful things said about his music are mostly true. But what I want to ask is one question. Aren’t you kind of sick about hearing about Biggie? After 16 years of Endless tribute after tribute to the notorious one are we over saturated with praises for his greatness as an emcee. This year we got tributes on the anniversary of his death and a new round of tributes on his born day. He’s been quoted, referenced and name dropped by ever rapper who’s touched a mic since 98. I can’t lie and say I’m not guilty I have a Notorious B.I.G. action figure on my desk as I type this.  Again his greatness is not in question here. I’m questioning at what point do we need to stop constantly speaking about how great he was.

    Trust me when I say I understand the irony of giving Biggie massive props to say we should stop giving him so many props. Imagine if we treated Biggie like we treated Bob Marley. The genre of music Bob Marley performed didn’t occupy the same place in our culture that hip-hop currently does. Hip-Hop feels the need to proclaim kings constantly and consistently. Bob Marley’s greatness cannot be challenged because there is no imaginary throne upon which he sat while living. No one would dare to question Bob Marley’s impact both to those within the sphere of his cultural influence and those adjacent to it. At this point I think it’s safe to put B.I.G. in that category. We don’t have to evangelize his greatness. The influence he left on the culture is unquestionable. The mature thing to do with B.I.G. would be to let his legacy rest with the satisfaction that he helped saved New York Rap in the 90’s.  Indeed he changed hip-hop forever.

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    E. Knight lives in Philadelphia. Check out his blog boxingwithgod.com. Read more of his AHH Blogs HERE.

    If you would like to write for AHH here’s how.

  • Lil Wayne: Not Allowed To Be A Human Being II

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    The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of AllHipHop.com

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    Another week, another rapper apology. Lil Wayne finally apologized to Emmet Till’s family for doing what rappers do. But let me stop myself. If you’ve paid attention to previous posts you know how much disdain I have for the lyric police and these trumped up scandals over rapper verses.  But let me address one thing that concerns me much more. The authorship of said apology. Because if Lil Wayne wrote this apology it’s the best verse he’s dropped since The Carter II.

    Dear Till Family:

    As a recording artist, I have always been interested in word play. My lyrics often reference people, places and events in my music, as well as the music that I create for or alongside other artists.

    It has come to my attention that lyrics from my contribution to a fellow artist’s song has deeply offended your family. As a father myself, I cannot imagine the pain that your family has had to endure. I would like to take a moment to acknowledge your hurt, as well as the letter you sent to me via your attorneys.

    Moving forward, I will not use or reference Emmett Till or the Till family in my music, especially in an inappropriate manner. I fully support Epic Record’s decision to take down the unauthorized version of the song and to not include the reference in the version that went to retail. I will not be performing the lyrics that contain that reference live and have removed them from my catalogue.

    I have tremendous respect for those who paved the way for the liberty and opportunities that African-Americans currently enjoy. As a business owner who employs several African-American employees and gives philanthropically to organizations that help youth to pursue their dreams my ultimate intention is to uplift rather than degrade our community.

    Best,

    Dwayne Michael Carter, Jr.
    Lil Wayne

    Anyone who’s seen HBO’s Entourage knows that PR agencies are supposed to save their clients from themselves. But then again Entourage took place before Twitter was TWITTER. And Hip-Hop artists are far from typical celebrities. Rappers more than any other profession other than politicians and reality TV stars (which they sometimes becomes) sell people exaggerated versions of themselves. To put it short hip –hop fans expect more truth from our artists not less. Even if that truth is based on ignorance. We sanction foolishness every day. By letting the politically correct cleansed world of Hollywood image consultants, record label marketing departments, corporate sponsorships, and outraged people who don’t even listen to the music control the discussion we compromise what makes hip-hop important.

    All emcees have their detractors. I’m not particularly fond of that Lil Wayne verse and yes I did think the line was crude. And maybe a simple “I’m sorry for disrespecting Emmet Till” would have been cool. So a PR firm writes the apology that Emmet Till’s family had been clamoring for? And what was accomplished exactly? Now there are sacred cows in hip-hop. What used to be no holds barred, take it or leave it, I am what I am, I say what I want, the last frontier for unsanitized, unsynthesized, unhomogenized talk in American Pop Culture has been destroyed within the space of a month. Hip-Hop went from 1970’s Time Square to the Walt Disney Corporation Presents Time Square that fast.

    [ALSO READ: Emmett Till’s Family Rejects Lil Wayne’s “Apology”]

    And I understand that the bigger the paychecks get the more people pay attention. But this utter and total defeat still saddens me. Lil Wayne is no free speech Martyr and SHOULD he have said that line, no I concede he probably shouldn’t. Hip-hop history is littered with lines, verses, hell even whole albums worth of songs that shouldn’t have been made. But everybody did what they were “supposed” to do hip-hop wouldn’t exist in the first place.

    The ironic thing about this all is that the civil rights movement didn’t completely succeed, certainly not in the part of the world that Lil Wayne comes from. His crude line on the Karate Chop remix is frozen in time. No matter how well ghost written this apology was it doesn’t change the fact that he was searching for a “clever” metaphor that could be used to illustrated just how forcefully he invaded a groupie’s lady parts and he chose to call back an image of the brutal horrors of the murder of an innocent teen during the height of the civil rights struggle. And that was wrong. And that’s where the story ends for me.

    It’s a peculiar thing the apology. Ultimately a meaningless gesture. Either what’s been done can be undone or it can’t. In the case of harmful words they can not be undone. What an apology does for the person being apologized to is the greatest magic of all. You have to grapple with the irrational belief that this person has actually had a change of heart. You have to believe that this person not only acknowledges that he or she is wrong but they care about how their wrongness affected you. Because if  you don’t accept that belief and you DEMANDED an apology and actually received it than what was all your bleating about in the first place?

    Yet Emmett Till’s family rejected Lil Wayne’s PR staff’s beautifully written apology. Why? Because the whole time this controversy has been about finger-wagging and self-righteousness.  No expression of remorse whether genuine or a piece of PR fluff will ever be enough to satisfy the naysayers and the lyric police. I don’t know anything about Emmett Till’s family and their tireless campaign for civil rights because …..well have they been campaigning tirelessly for civil rights? Just a question, I haven’t googled or wikipedia’d any of them so honestly I don’t know. Their status as the family of a civil rights icon has given them a megaphone to speak out about the most pressing issues facing the black community… Lil Wayne’s lyrics.

    [ALSO READ: EXCLUSIVE: Emmett Till’s Family Plans To Relentlessly Pursue Lil Wayne’s Sponsors]

    At the end of the day I think Lil Wayne probably should apologize for a lot of things. The reckless impregnation of D-list black celebrities, his last two albums, helping to popularize wanton drug abuse. But hip-hop fans would never ask that of him. I don’t think we should. I don’t think the civil rights movement should be a sacred cow. Hell if it had succeeded Hip-Hop might not exist. The conditions that produced Lil Wayne might not exist. And that disrespectful verse might not exist.  Oh well I guess God Forgives, Emmett Till’s Family Don’t.

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    E. Knight lives in Philadelphia. Check out his blog boxingwithgod.com. Read more of his AHH Blogs HERE.

    If you would like to write for AHH here’s how.

  • A Tale Of Two Rookies: Jay-Z and Allen Iverson

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    The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of AllHipHop.com

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    With the first pick in the 1996 NBA Draft the Philadelphia 76’ers selected a controversial 5’11 Guard from Georgetown and forever changed the face of the NBA. Before Allen Iverson, Shaquille O’Neal was the closest the NBA came to representing the true spirit of Hip-Hop. But just as a new era of Hip-Hop was emerging, a new Hip-Hop athlete would have to emerge and A.I. didn’t disappoint. The cornrows, the diminutive frame, the tattoos, the attitude, the gangsta rap demo, the entourage, the extravagant spending, the abandoning of the V.I.P. set,  the preference to party  in clubs with other black people his age regardless of the fact that he was a millionaire and we were broke. All of those things made Allen Iverson our hero. The soundtrack for this era was provided by……

    Jay-Z burst onto the scene in 1996 with Reasonable Doubt. The album was such an accomplishment that all these years later some hardcore fans argue that it’s his finest work and that even his best album since then doesn’t match the wordplay on display here. Prior to 1996 not many outside of New York had given much consideration to Jay-Z. His song “In My Lifetime” wasn’t considered a major hit but did get some play on the Friday night mixshow circuit. And super knowledgeable fans remembered him from his connection to Big Jaz (as Jaz-O was referred to on the D&D Project compilation album that dropped in 94).

    [ALSO READ: The Three Jay’s: Jay-Z Throughout The Years In His Own Words]

    Though both emerged in the year of 1996 Jay-Z has proven to be the far more successful more transcendent figure. Iverson heralded the full arrival of the Hip-Hop culture in the NBA. The old guard, the Tim Robinsons, Scottie Pippens, Michael Jordans and Karl Malones of the world were beginning their final descent. The players who weren’t particularly fond of rap and grew up in the pre-Hip-Hop world were getting ready to hang up their shoes. Allen Iverson’s crossover of MJ didn’t do anything to tarnish Jordan’s legacy but it meant a lot to us kids barely younger than Iverson. When he was booed by the crowd at the all star game for winning the MVP of the rookie game it solidified it for us. This was our guy and we had to circle the wagons. We absolutely tolerated no Iverson slander, about his game, about his image, about his off court problems, troubled past, or ratchet mother. A.I. was our guy. And the players that followed breathed a little bit easier knowing somebody had already taken the slings and arrows from those who lamented the Hip-Hopification of the NBA.  Sadly his personal demons overwhelmed his talent and ultimately led to a career that will always be debated about in terms of what could have been.

    The myth perpetuated by the media during the best of A.I.’s years was that Sixers team President Pat Croce and coach Larry Brown argued over keeping A.I. on the team after the 2000 season with Larry on the side of “no way”. And while they auditioned and traded many sidekicks for A.I.’s one man show none ever had any traction. His ultimate achievement on the basketball court may be the sheer force of will that he summoned to elevate a team consisting of him, Dikembe Mutombo and 10 role players to the NBA Finals during the 01’ playoffs to take on Shaq in his prime and Kobe during his ascendance.

    Jay-Z on the other hand while being an insider in the Hip-Hop world began getting his school of hard knocks MBA under the tutelage of some of the greatest executives in entertainment history. I’m sure Harvard Business School doesn’t offer a better education than watching Dame Dash and Kevin Liles scream at each other in a Def Jam Boardroom in 1998. What I wouldn’t give to be a fly on a wall during those years. Is there any wonder Jay-Z is a business, man and not just a businessman.  Thus Jay-Z is fully prepared and well positioned for a life “after rap” the opposite of the way that A.I. isn’t fully prepared for a life after basketball.

    Some have argued that Jay-Z’s artistic achievements post ’06 (the year of his comeback from his first retirement) have been inconsistent. And a few will assert that his tenure as President of Def Jam was negligible at best. And the way Roc-A-Fella Records ended never sat well with fans. Similarly Allen Iverson’s production on actual basketball court post ’06 was never that great. And the way he left his original team definitely doesn’t sit well with fans.

    Jay-Z hasn’t really truly failed his fans though. I mean never. There have been low moments in a career of mostly highs. There was the disappointment of Blueprint 3. But the most hardcore Jay-Z stans (myself included) could argue that Blueprint 3 has some great moments. Some of us weren’t happy with the luxury brand rap of “Watch The Throne”. Some of us were less than thrilled when we bought a ticket to see him and Kanye perform “N—– in Paris” eleven times back to back to back.

    [ALSO READ: President Obama Gets Funny With Jay-Z and DJ Khaled At Correspondence Dinner]

    But Jay-Z has accomplished so much. He basically destroyed the Roc-A-Fella brand and created the upstart label/management conglomerate  Roc Nation. He helped bring the Nets to Brooklyn. He dissed the Yankees so well in that New York song that they didn’t even take it as a diss and invited him to perform it… at YANKEE STADIUM.  And when it was time to take his brand to the next level he displayed zero fux about dropping his ownership stake and turning Roc Nation Sports into the Roc Nation of sports. (See how deceptively simple that is).

    Allen Iverson has had a rough time of it. His alcoholism, his gambling, his ugly home life, his horrendous divorce, his money issues, his failed stints in Memphis, Philly, and….Turkey!!!. All of those things have us looking at our childhood hero s’ing our mfh’s . Washington Post articles and other recent profiles show us a tattered soul. It makes us sad to know that sometimes even money can’t save us from the ghettos in our mind. While Jay-Z continues to surprise us by innovating and reinventing himself, Iverson meekly  accepts that he may never play basketball again and continues to dress like he did 10 years ago when super baggy jeans and throwback jerseys were the height of urban couture.

    So while we are forced to look back to the early 2000’s and late 90’s to relieve the A.I.’s greatness, we can almost certainly look forward to great things from Jay-Z and his movie scoring, athlete contract negotiating, Hip-Hop, rock and pop management company/record label. All that and he still had time to thug out Beyonce. Meanwhile until Time puts out a list of the world’s 100 most tragic figures we won’t see A.I. on any magazine covers anytime soon.

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    E. Knight lives in Philadelphia. Check out his blog boxingwithgod.com. Read more of his AHH Blogs HERE.

    If you would like to write for AHH here’s how.

  • JoJo Simmons And The Return of LOLZ

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    The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of AllHipHop.com

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    The thing about the internet in general and twitter in particular is that it turns us all into amateur comedians. And rightfully so. Can you imagine a twitter TL or a blog that treated every single subject with somberness and gravitas.  In hip-hop lately though there has been a serious lack of LOLz. That Rick Ross controversy on the heels of Lil Wayne’s hospitalization have dominated the headlines and brought out all the humorless, dour naysayers, that rear their ugly heads to declare hip-hop dead every two or three years. Nobody wants to stand next to “that guy” at a party seriously. So when something obviously hilarious happens. It gets tweeted, retweeted, instagrammed, blogged and meme’d to death.

    Comedy, like hip-hop, is an artform that many amateurs are now attempting because of stunning advances in technology that are destroying the barriers for entry. You don’t even have to know photoshop to create a meme.  JoJo Simmons is now the butt of the jokes. It’s extremely easy to laugh at him though. We’ve been doing it for years. I’m not saying it’s fair. I’m not saying its right. But its true. When your father is a hip-hop legend your struggle raps are bound to be met with derision. With the exception of Cory Gunz we don’t really like the kids of rappers when they rap. That’s just the way it is.

    What adds to the humor for many people is that JoJo’s little brother Diggy Simmons, whose hip-hop aspirations weren’t really chronicled on the reality show Run’s House the same way JoJo’s were,  became a successful artist in his own right last year (albeit for the teeny bopper set). Diggy’s career only revived the sneers of those who point at JoJo and laugh. Those people may properly be referred to as haters. (Someone on twitter remarked that JoJo was the black Meg Griffin) They probably can’t even fully articulate what they don’t like about JoJo they just know they don’t like him.

    While I’ve never personally been able to tolerate JoJo’s music long enough to determine if he’s posturing about things we know he never experienced I do have a retort for people who don’t like him based on that. We don’t begrudge Run of Run-DMC his success so why should we begrudge his son who is the by-product of that success. Imagine yourself in a situation where you work yourself into multi-millionaire status. You can afford to give your kids everything you had to struggle for. You can shield them from the horrors of the hood without completely disconnecting them from their roots. Why wouldn’t you? Sure your kids might be a little “cornier” than those who came up poor, hungry, and desperate. He may not have the same street sensibilities as those kids who had to navigate the concrete jungle with a latch key while pops was absent and mom’s pulled a double shift cleaning toilets at the old folks home just to keep food on the table. But those situations while “character building” are not the ideal we should be striving towards.

    photoJoJo and his family have all been extremely blessed.  Rev Run and his brother Russell Simmons both became titans in hip-hop.  JoJo probably will never be taken seriously as a rapper. And maybe someone should have sat him down and explained the harsh reality. As long as you are the child of Rev Run and the nephew of Russell Simmons any moves you make in hip-hop will ultimately be compared to those twin pillars of innovation. And those shadows are almost impossible to emerge from. Diggy’s ascent was largely due to his target market and the posture he assumed. (And a little talent certainly didn’t hurt).  Nobody wants to quit or admit defeat. But it’s hard to fight a battle you’ve already won by default. So what as a Rich Kid does JoJo do? Disses Juelz Santana.

    Rapper Kids who Rap have this extra burden. Hip-hop more than anything else treats respect like currency to be banked, spent, or stolen.  Run’s House turned the Simmons children into celebrities. Hip-hop artists love to use celebrity names in their rhymes as punchlines. How many Miley Cyrus, Nene Leakes, or Paris Hilton references have you heard today? It’s getting close to the thousands. JoJo Simmons by virtue of reality TV has become no more significant or worthy or respect than a pre- Kanye West Kim Kardashian.  ( Watch the Kardashian references dry up from those emcees hoping for a G.O.O.D. music deal).  So when an emcee like say.. Juelz Santana uses JoJo Simmons name in a verse how does JoJo react. It’s a Catch-22 for him because he aspires to be respected within the world of hip-hop. Would any emcee worth his salt tolerate a negative name reference or thinly veiled diss aimed at them on wax? Certainly not. JoJo’s status as Rich Kid doesn’t protect him from those standards if he truly aspires to rhyme. So he thinks he has to retaliate and records a diss record.

    But a wise man once said “Take twice as much choosing your enemies as you do your friends”. (or did I just make that up). You see JoJo was under the false impression that he was playing the same game as Juelz Santana. I for one would never make that assumption for this simple fact. Juelz hasn’t dropped an album since 2005. So A) He’s Still Good after an 8 year hiatus and thus gets money in ways that can’t be publicized or B) He’s hungry as hell and will destroy you to avoid being the guy who got dissed by JoJo Simmons and didn’t smack the shit out of him.

    When JoJo grows up a little he’ll realize this whole incident, the diss records, the instagramming, that damnable youtube clip he just released, could have been and should have been avoided. There are plenty of fields that require no street cred. As a rich kid uniquely positioned to take advantage of life’s opportunities JoJo could have went to Yale got straight C’s and been the George W. Bush of Black Presidents. (We won’t truly  arrive until mediocre Blacks succeed).  Instead we get this double dose of insult. Whereby we root for a bully and laugh at a square, making us look like the equivalent of the kids in an 80′s movie laughing at the nerd when the captain of the football team knocks the lunch tray out of his hand.

    I’m going to try to change that. While I won’t promise that I’ll stop laughing immediately. I am going to wish much success to all the black men involved in this debacle. I hope Juelz Santana’s music is great enough to make us forget this. And I hope that JoJo reinvents himself in a way that allows him to shine without cashing in on his family name.

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    E. Knight lives in Philadelphia. Check out his blog boxingwithgod.com. Read more of his AHH Blogs HERE. If you would like to write for AHH here’s how.

     

  • Tyler’s Ugly Dark Twisted Reality

    ty4

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    The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of AllHipHop.com

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    Equating rap albums to movies isn’t always a perfect fit. Some artists’ albums aren’t cohesive and there was a low point where every mainstream album used the same call list of 8 producers and 10 guest artists to make glorified compilations. But a few classics do invite the comparison to the cinematic masterpieces. Only Built 4 Cuban Linx for example is Hip-Hop’s Scarface.

    Kendrick Lamar dropped good kid, m.a.a.d City last October to rave reviews.  I think one of the things that people liked most about the album was the connecting narrative woven throughout the songs and skits of an aimless youth on the streets of Compton. It evoked the flavor and feel of the classic 90’s hood flicks we all grew up watching. Whether it be the camaraderie of Juice, the reckless abandon of Menace II Society, the redemption of South Central or the heartbreak of Boyz N The Hood. What Kendrick Lamar delivered was the quintessential coming of age story of black youth in the hood. Even more fitting on the album cover you can see the subtitle “A Short Film By Kendrick Lamar”

    Tyler The Creator’s recently released Wolf also tells a story through interconnecting skits between the tracks on the album. And also just like Kendrick’s album the lyrics paint a picture more vivid than anything offered on the skits. But unlike Kendrick this is far from the hood movies that we grew up with in the 90’s. This album is more Clockwork Orange than anything else.

    [ALSO READ: 10 Rap Lines that Make You Say ‘WTF!’]

    A Clockwork Orange is a Stanley Kubrick flick that is considered a cult classic. The movie was rated NC-17 because of its shocking (for its time) depiction of violence and anarchy.  In the film Alex (portrayed by British Actor Malcolm McDowell) goes on a rampage with his squad of Droogs. They are basically a gang inclined to drugs, violence, sex and rape. You are initially repulsed and frightened by the Droogs behavior but even as they take delight in their debauchery you can’t help but watch as they assault all the values that you hold dear. But there is a brief moment in the film where you see the failure of Alex’s parents (who in the novel upon which the film is based are described as timid and fearful) and the tide starts to turn once he is institutionalized and tortured to the point of bland conformity by the authorities.

    Tyler and his Odd Future brethren become analogous to the droogs when discussing their place within today’s hip-hop culture. A lot of the young stars in the game today come in already indoctrinated to hip-hop’s business and style model. They are basically bootlegs of the rappers we all grew up loving. Odd Future and specifically Tyler are the brash youth that these other rappers pretend to be. But paradoxically the bravado isn’t hiding or concealing the isolation and pain of Tyler’s lyrics. His latest album Wolf expands on the themes of a fatherless child who feels ostracized and abandoned. His disregard for social norms manifest themselves as homophobic slurs and shocking bars about rap. His need to belong to something/anything manifest itself in the subpar struggle bars of some his less talented droogs on the bloated posse cuts that interrupt the flow of what was unfolding as very personal album up until that point.

    For me though the most telling and shocking bars on Tyler’s Wolf aren’t truly about violence or mayhem. They are about the casualties of the war on black families. (aka the war on drugs, the war on poverty, etc etc). When Tyler refers to his father as a “faggot” I don’t blink at the slur. I’m more moved at the tragedy of the disintegration of the family unit in our communities that could lead to a young man having no respect for their father. And the fact that this situation is way more common than it should be. Tyler is truly a product of this disruption, and the pain behind the verbal assault on his father is the condition that fuels his “f*ck everybody” fire.

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    E. Knight lives in Philadelphia. Check out his blog boxingwithgod.com. Read more of his AHH Blogs HERE

  • BEWARE: The Lyric Police

    Hip-Hop has a long history of controversial statements. Back in the late 80’s when it started to permeate the mainstream from time to time certain emcees and rappers would get called out for these statements. In those days N.W.A. was called out for “Fuck The Police”, Ice -T (technically his rock group Body Count) was called out for “Cop Killa” and gangsta rap’s overt violence and sexual imagery was called out by the likes of civil rights activist C.Delores Tucker.

    In the late 80’s and early 90’s when Uncle Luke and 2 Live Crew were facing serious legal ramifications for performing their vulgar hits, we hip-hop fans hated censorship. We were young and rebellious. Our attitude was understandably contrary to those values which the mainstream of American society aspired to. After all this was the tail end of the Reagan/Bush I era and even though America “prospered” under Clinton the windfall was largely absent from our communities. The American Dream had left us behind.

    [ALSO READ: Uncle Luke Questions Rick Ross’ Gangster; Tells Rick Ross “Squash Your Beef”]

    There may have been an agenda with the press’s coverage of Hip-Hop as well. The majority of the 80′s were spent painting black teens as public enemy #1 and  Hip-Hop was the soundtrack of those black teens. Both sides of the political spectrum took their shots at hip-hop. From Dan Qualye to Tipper Gore chances are if a politician uttered the name of a rapper it was to condemn their lyrical content.

    The main thing about those days though was that there was very little self policing. The hip-hop press (admittedly in it’s infancy) did not pass judgement on the contents of an emcee’s lyrics, it was judged by us merely on  its technical merits. Meaning an emcee could rap about murder, misogyny, and mayhem as long as he was “nice”.  Tupac Shakur had us all disrespecting C. Delores Tucker. Ironically many of us only knew her as the dingbat who had it in for Gangsta Rap. And even if we had known who she was in our eyes her movement had failed us. I mean who wouldn’t be bitter knowing that the civil rights era and the black power movements gave way to the Reagan Era. These were desperate times and hip-hop was the hood’s CNN. Where else were you going to hear about police brutality, poverty, and the crack and AIDS epidemics? So those faux American Dreams and Family Values were tossed to the wayside. Because our community knew better than any the hypocrisy of a nation of people who supposedly love freedom, equality and Christ enacting policies to lock us up, keep us down and take away from those that already had the least.

    The only problem with throwing out those values is tossing the good away with the bad. So hip-hop was allowed to become a verbal skid row. I don’t begrudge any emcee their freedom of expression but for every “Ain’t No Fun” we had a “By The Time I Get To Arizona” for every 2 Live Crew there was a Boogie Down Productions. There was an attempt to elevate. But “gangsta rap” and other crime influenced tales became the standard archetype for the most successful rappers. This is where some hip-hop historians differ. Some say the dearth of positivity among today’s mainstream audience is a direct reflection of what the hip-hop audience demanded. Other says that the powers that be have no interest in promoting positive images to blacks. Either way today hip-hop has become monolithic in its disregard for people’s basic moral standards.

    When criticism was lobbed at our favorite emcees however, it most likely came from an outsider. And we very rightly dismissed it. Rappers basically said whatever they wanted especially in a genre that encouraged the artists to give their music directly to the people via mixtapes. What right did some old suburban mother or some politician or some failed civil rights leader have to comment on the state of OUR music? It wasn’t for them it was for us. Treach from Naughty By Nature said it the best “If you ain’t ever been to the Ghetto, don’t ever come to the ghetto, cause you wouldn’t understand the ghetto….”.

    Well it’s been about twenty years since that era and my have things changed. Hip-hop has become a billion dollar industry. In some ways although blacks in America are still not on equal footing, still fighting the good fight progress has been made. You know Black President and everything. And Today a lot of those rebellious teens that made hip-hop what it is today are raising teens of their own. And today when a hip-hop artist is called out for his lyric it’s more likely to be by a fan of hip-hop. Someone who supposedly understands the cultural significance of the music, the movement and the moment.

    This has happened three times just in the past month and a half. Lil Wayne’s comparison of a groupie’s lady parts to the face of Civil Rights Martyr Emmet Till was met with disgust by the bloggerati. Ditto for Rick Ross’s flirtation with date rape on Rocko’s U.O.E.N.O. where he infamously attempts to use molly like its GHB. And the less said about the furor over Beyonce’s Bow Down Bitches (I know the song is called something else but you can google that if you really care).

    When I see someone from within the culture taking that step towards naggy lyric policing it irks me. We are doing to these rappers and their fans what was done to us and that’s so very hypocritical. I’m not discussing the artistic merits of these rappers. But when a radio station says they are not going to play any song by Rick Ross or Lil Wayne I am truly sad for hip-hop. That radio station should comb through their playlists and remove every song from any artist whoever said anything violent, homophobic, or demeaning towards women. It should ban any artist that ever said the “n-word” or had the gall to suggest that getting an education wasn’t the best way to get riches. They should stop playing records from artists who advocate infidelity, dishonesty, crime or drug use. That would hardly be a hip-hop station, hell it wouldn’t be much of a country music station either.

    Hip-hop is largely about identity. Rap fans identify with their favorite artists. So when you criticize said artists some can take it as a slap in the face. Let’s not do to these kids what was done to us. You start attacking their culture (yes it’s their culture too) and they withdraw from you. You have a generation of parents who listen to a lot of the same music as their kids. This might fool some kids into thinking you can understand their struggle. Take advantage of that.

    Lil Wayne’s Emmet Till line sparked a discussion about who Emmett Till was and what he meant. We don’t have to reach that far for a silver lining because I imagine that most of Lil Wayne’s fans had no clue until they read about it from an outraged mommy blogger the next day. Rick Ross’s line sparked a discussion about the creepy rapey practice of drink spiking. So maybe the next girl in VIP thinks twice about putting down her champagne lest there be a molly in it and she don’t even know it. Back when hip-hop was no holds barred, when it was honest, when it was take it or leave it or kiss my ass which ever you prefer we wouldn’t expect any apologies. Which is good because you’re more likely to get Tupac doing a double middle finger salute and spitting at the camera than what you got from Rick Ross the other day. Ross went on the radio and really tried his best to be a class act. Numerous times he referred to the black woman as a beautiful queen and the most precious thing on Earth. He said the molly champagne lyric wasn’t advocating rape. I feel him. The line was creepy. But I knew it didn’t mean he thought rape was cool. But what Ross has to understand is that those condemning him are the lyric police. And they won’t ever hear his apology. And even if they do it won’t convince them.

    Today’s lyric police are confusing to me. I wonder if they’ll start picking out artists back catalogs and chastising them for the lyrics to some of THEIR favorite songs. Yeah but that probably won’t happen. Righteous indignation is usually a short term thing.

  • Lupe Fiasco: The Last Conscious Rapper

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    The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of AllHipHop.com

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    Recently, Lupe Fiasco took to Twitter to (what else) rant about a few things. “Violent music (and all violent media) effectively says its ‘OK’ to be violent. It provides positive reinforcement for negative actions,” Lupe said in a tweet. “If you rap and make violent music then own up to it. Stop hiding behind ‘art imitating life’ as a way to evade the guilt.” Lupe is one of hip-hop’s greatest Rant Artists so at this point nobody is shocked by what he’s saying. His tweets this time may even give you a little déjà vu because he went off on a similar tangent during a live performance a few weeks ago.

    Lupe always has a lot on his mind. I did a search for his name on three different hip-hop related websites and each came back with dozens of hits. Oh so Lupe is beefing with his label. Lupe is retiring. Lupe is pushing his album back. Lupe is beefing with Pete Rock. Lupe doesn’t like “Birthday Song”. Lupe squashed the beef with Pete Rock. Lupe is scared of Chief Keef. Lupe is so scared of Chief Keef that he backed off of earlier comments saying Chief Keef was scary. Lupe is dissing on Obama on a record. Now Lupe is ranting against Obama on stage. Lupe says 97% of rap is weak. Lupe changed the name of his album again.

    [ALSO READ: Lupe Fiasco Takes To Twitter To Address Violence In Rap Music]

    Nope I didn’t make any of the previous paragraph up. All of those are ripped from real headlines. Some of you have been fooled. Some of you don’t realize what is going on. Lupe Fiasco is an evil genius. We might be fooled into thinking that Mr. Fiasco has some guiding principles that the rest of the hip-hop community doesn’t possess. Isn’t he the last bastion of conscious rap? He’s reinvented himself as some tortured militant soul, a provocateur of Sinead O’Connor proportions (I would love to see him rip up a picture of the pope on SNL). When he first came out though he was the nerd with the song about skateboarders who liked obscure Japanese denim and handheld Nintendo gaming consoles. I have to be honest I kind of miss the nerd.

    But let’s not take anything away from Lupe. No other emcee understands his place in the game better. If you saw the one area of hip-hop that was under-served and they gave you a platform to serve it why wouldn’t you. There was a time when mainstream hip-hop was more diverse. Today all the major artists have pretty much taken the same position. By painting himself as the antithesis of this he can appease those who are fed up with the status quo. Sorry to say but among mainstream hip-hop the status quo is drugs, violence, and misogyny. How Lupe actually feels about the things he says is irrelevant. It’s important for him to say those things for the simple fact that nobody else with as high a profile as he has is saying it.

    [ALSO READ: Hip-Hop Rumors: Chief Keef Threatens Lupe And Lupe Replies!]

    I definitely don’t agree with everything that comes out of his mouth. And yes I don’t think his motives are 100 percent altruistic. He cares about his fans sure. But Rick Ross cares about his fans too. He rants against violence but doesn’t think twice about collaborating with the emcees that espouse that lifestyle. He saw the way hip-hop elevated Obama to Sainthood and decided to do the opposite. So props for being a great self-promoter are in order.

    I would say the only problem with ranting is the limited appeal of a rant. When Lupe goes off on Twitter or on stage or in an interview there are certain subset of people that are going to agree with him wholeheartedly. But as I’ve learned from experience you don’t win any new people with a rant no matter how right you are. There’s a reason why someone like Killer Mike who raps about politics, history and religious themes can be seen as “one of us” by those associated with the street culture and Lupe is seen as a loud mouth blowhard. But then again Lupe sells more records and at the end of the day that’s all he’s really trying to do.

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    E. Knight lives in Philadelphia. Check out his blog boxingwithgod.com. Read more of his AHH Blogs HERE

     

  • Is Beyoncé Bad For Women?

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    The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of AllHipHop.com

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    B. Carter released a new track this week that set the twitterverse a tizzy. The song “Bow Down” was somewhat of a departure from the noble female empowerment image that has been a staple of her career in recent years. Her frequent and liberal use of the word “bitch” offended some. Also many felt the aggressive nature of the track and the message of basically “All Hail Queen Beyoncé”. Now everyone from Keyshia Cole (who admittedly has her own ax to grind with B) to Rush Limbaugh has an opinion.

    But can we validate the premise of the argument of her detractors for a second? Beyoncé has become a pop phenomenon. And she has many many hits throughout her storied career dating back to Destiny Child’s ‘Bills, Bills, Bills” ( a song by four teenage girls mocking a man for trying to date them without being able to support them financially), to “Crazy in Love” to “Irreplaceable”. There’s probably too many to name. The argument that “Bow Down” is a deviation from her pro woman agenda is “technically” valid. If you want to assert that the content of her songs was the driving force of her image.

    “Bow Down” is offensive to some because it implies that she is somehow above other women. It’s not a particularly positive message from that perspective. And of course if I saw things from that perspective I wouldn’t be wasting my time writing this because you have all heard that argument since Monday. The honest truth is this: Beyoncé is as much of an icon as her husband. Jay-Z’s lyrical content full of unrepentant criminal violence, unchecked egotism, blatant materialism, misogyny and debauchery do absolutely nothing to damage his status as an icon. So why should Beyoncé stating her true beliefs that she is above and beyond others in her field damage her image at all?

    [ALSO READ: WOW! Rush Limbaugh Puts Beyoncé Down Over “Bow Down"]

    When you are an icon the content of your work matters less and less. Want proof? How many of you have actually watched an Elizabeth Taylor movie or listened to a Cher album? But they’re icons right. When was the last time you sat down to watch an episode of The Simpsons? (Sometime in the late 90’s right) Still the show is iconic. Beyoncé is such a great singer, dancer and entertainer that we instantly forgive her failures. No one talks about her god awful acting in that Austin Powers movie. Clips of her or any of her Destiny’s Child’s sisters tripping and falling on stage are viewed once or twice (or sometimes for hours in a continuous loop), laughed at and instantly dismissed. Being an Icon doesn’t mean being infallible. It does mean being loved and accepted by an extremely passionate fan base “Flaws and All” (see what I did there).

    Honestly, I don’t find anything particularly feminist about the content of her music in the first place. It’s mostly standard chick R&B stuff, relationship crap and some dance music thrown in for good measure. Her iconic status has always been about her ability to do what she does well. Not just well…. extremely well. The only people who have a legitimate gripe in this “Bow Down” situation are people like me who don’t like the quality of the song. If you think the execution of the track is weak, technical stuff like the beat, the lyrics, the tone etc etc. that’s different than saying “She shouldn’t say things like that”. Most R&B singers, indeed most women aren’t feminists. And in that regard Beyoncé is no different. Her telling “bitches” to bow down isn’t as hypocritical to me as the false humility her image consultants tried to sell us. So just to be clear on this icon yes, feminist no.

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    E. Knight lives in Philadelphia. Check out his blog boxingwithgod.com. Read more of his AHH Blogs HERE

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