The Politics of “Gettin’ Money”

Jasiri X is one of the most vocal rappers making Hip-hop with an overt message in the spirit of Public Enemy, X-Clan and Boogie Down Productions. The Pittsburgh emcee tells AllHipHop.com and the Ill Community how such a Hip-Hop artist can make politically-minded music and still get to the money.

When I wrote the song “Free the Jena 6” I wasn’t looking for fame or

fortune or to “get on.” I simply wanted to tell a story I felt, at the

time, was largely being ignored by mainstream media.  I wanted to record my

frustration with the lack of response from the Hip-Hop artists from

Louisiana. I had no idea

the song would touch the nerve that it did, nor did I ever think it

would be

posted on AllHipHop.com, played by Michael Baisden

When the jury delivered a not guilty verdict in the Sean Bell case, I

was

flooded with emails from fans asking me to address this injustice.

Although I

struggled with the decision, for fear of becoming the “tragedy rapper”,

I felt like other artists would be afraid to truly address the situation

in a

strong way.  My response was a song and video (directed by NYOIL) called

“Enough is Enough”. The day the video dropped, I booked my

first show in NYC and was contacted by BET to record a spot on Rap City

called “Spit Ya Game”. It was once again verification that people

want to hear music that speaks to our hurt and pain as a people. While

so

many other artists were scared to rock the boat, I was shaking the hell

out of

it and beginning to have more and more success. But, inevitably when it came to

“getting a deal” the argument was always the same, no one wants to

hear music with a message. I needed a way to show there was a demand for

quality Hip-Hop that spoke about more than just “gettin money” while at the same time

continue to build a fan base. The idea for “This Week With Jasiri X” was

born.“This Week With Jasiri X” came out of a desire to not only create a rhyme

and

video every week, but music that would talk about topics going

on in

our communities, as well as, all over the world, far more important than the

average

mindless rap song. It seems the industry has this idea that every hip-hop fan is a

superficial 17 year old with little to no intelligence, so it encourages

artists

to “dumb it down”. I decided to take the opposite approach, and

knowing that the average radio station that claims to be the “home of

hip-hop” probably wouldn’t play it, I uploaded it to Youtube. (That’s

what

so beautiful about the new technology available to artists like me. We

can

bypass the traditional gatekeepers, who are often wrong about what’s

good

music, and take it directly to the fans.) I just happened to rap about

the news at a time when now President Barack Obama began his historic run to the White House. People

everywhere, young and old, were tuning in to stations like CNN to watch

the

drama unfold. Obama, Sarah Palin, John McCain and the collapsing economy

provided more than enough subject manner to address on a weekly basis

and the

crazier the news got, the more views I received.  Once again going

against the

grain and providing good intelligent music lead to more recognition. and by DJs all over

the

country. I never dreamed the song would help mobilize thousands of

people to go

to Jena and

that I too would be there, being thanked personally by the young

brothers and

their families.  The outpouring of love received from Hip-Hop fans of

all

ages reaffirmed my commitment to making music with a purpose – other than

just

“gettin money.” But, I also learned the power of being part of a truth

that is bigger than you. With no manager, publicist, record label, or

team I

was being interviewed and my music played by some of the largest radio stations

in the

country. With no booking agent, I began traveling and doing shows. People

demanded a

CD, so I pressed them up myself and sold thousands – The Power of Political Poetry.

 I know, I know, it’s the music BUSINESS at the end

of the day…even “conscious” artists wanna get paid doing what they do. And since I

took a

non traditional approach to the music I wasn’t afraid to take a non

traditional

approach to “gettin money”. As the success of “This Week With Jasiri X”

began to

grow, I found myself getting more and more messages from teachers saying

they

were using my video’s in the classroom. I had already gotten a few bucks

talking

to educators about the power of Hip-Hop, logically, I thought, what about putting together a

program

of my own? So, with the help of my wife, we submitted a grant request

about

teaching teens how to use media and got our first check. Next, we applied

for a

fellowship with the August

Wilson Center

for African American Culture. Not only did I become one of the first

fellows, I

was the only Hip-Hop artist. The financial support from the August

Wilson Center allowed us to step the

game up for Season 3 of “This Week With Jasiri X”, which was directed by

Paradise the Arkitech of X-Clan, and also put out the CD “American

History X”

for free. Early in Season 3, I got a call from a friend that works for

the Heinz

FoundationWandering Worx Entertainment, a media

company based out of Canada, for my album “The Ascension” produced by

Rel!g!on, which drops in August.

  (the largest in Western PA)

suggesting I send something to them, and guess what? We got that grant

too! Not

only were we able to get even better equipment for Season 4, but also get

paid

per episode. Not stressing on the money part of it also allowed me to take

my time

when choosing a label for my next project, before ultimately deciding on

I typed all that to say this, the writing is on the

record company

wall. Especially for new rappers trying to get a deal. If you do get

signed, it’s

a terrible 360 deal where you’ll make even less money. Plus, the

dissatisfaction

with what the radio deems as rap music is at an all time high. Fans are

looking

for something fresh and new. Don’t think you gotta be some carbon copy

of

what’s “hot” to make money in this industry. Don’t ever think you can’t

speak

truth to power and be successful. Our latest video “Just A Minstrel”

just

became our most watched video in a few days. Hip-Hop fans were so happy

that we

articulated what everybody’s thinking about, which is how ignorant the music has

gotten.

I can’t imagine what the response is gonna be to the Season Premiere of  “This

Week With Jasiri X”, called “What if the Tea Party was Black?” which

drops June

23rd. So, instead of tryin to “get on” get up, get out and get

involved in your community and speak out on the issues that affect them.

You

might actually find a faster path to achieving your dreams…and “gettin

money”.

You can see watch the groundbreaking series “This Week With Jasiri X” at www.youtube.com/jasirix

and make sure to tune in for the Season Premiere of  Season 4 “What if

the Tea Party was Black” on June 23rd.

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