The Black Jewish Entertainment Alliance hosted a panel at the Recording Academy in Santa Monica, California on Thursday night (September 14). Moderated by culture critic Justin Hunte, the panel featured We Working and the Lobel Music Group CEO Steve Lobel, Bone Thugs-n-Harmony MC Layzie Bone, Loud Records’ Steve Rifkind, Xzibit and Blood of Abraham’s Mazik. The spirited conversation was intended to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Hip-Hop—which it did. Hunte began the panel by asking each participant about the moment they fell in love with the culture.
For Xzibit, it was an act of defiance as a kid. His parents were adamantly against rap, which only intensified his desire to do it. For Lobel, it was hearing the Sugarhill Gang’s “Rapper’s Delight” at a rollerskating rink in New York City; same with Layzie Bone, who discovered the song in 1984. Rifkind, meanwhile, was intrigued by The Fatback Band’s “King Tim III” in 1979. Naturally, the discussion splintered off into several directions throughout the event, but there seemed to be at least one common theme: the mainstream rap landscape needs an overhaul. At one point, a young woman asked each panelist their opinions on female rappers.
“When we were crushing it, Lady of Rage was the only reference point that we have for female West Coast MCs,” Xzibit said. “There is room for different female rap. I think the shock value and the sexualized way that females are presenting Hip-Hop right now is like one note. We’ve heard that note, we’ve seen it. I’m not saying anything’s wrong with it because we talked about all kinds of s### in our records. But you have an opportunity to do something really different and stand out. It may feel like you trying to move a mountain, but when you move that mountain, it’s gonna feel a lot better because we shift the whole energy of the of the conversation, so that’s what I’m saying. Dare to be different.”
Layzie Bone stood up and offered his own advice, saying, “As a lady, be a lady. Like, I’m not even impressed with these b###### on the internet. Have respect for yourself and you will make the world respect you.”
The discussion continued to wander through each participants’ respective careers but kept returning to where Hip-Hop stands as a culture. With the focus so heavily on the “50th,” the topic has been on the tip of everyone’s tongues. The overall consensus was painfully clear—something needs to change.
As Xzibit so eloquently stated, “Everything sounds the same. Listen, there’s two factors that I believe are stifling music. Because Hip-Hop is so huge and it made so many people so much money, they think anybody can do it. For example, if you go and say, ‘I love football,’ but you won’t take your ass down there, suit up and get on the field when it’s time, you won’t do that. Everyone feels that Hip-Hop is so accessible that anybody can do it. It’s become a mockery of itself. That’s one.
“Number two, I think it’s become too accessible. Back in the day, there was a time that you had to go into somebody’s office and get an investment into your career. Now, if you have a laptop and WiFi, you can be an artist, which just crowds the whole lane. You’re doing yourself a disservice by participating in that.”
Layzie Bone chimed in with, “It just f##### the whole game up,” to which Xzibit said, “First of all, we should have unionized. We should have had some kind of union and a board and organized ourself. Right now, 50 years later, we still don’t own s###. Until we own it, until we control it, until we have a say on who gets to f###ng call themselves this and call themselves that like everybody else, it’s going to continue to spiral out of control. That’s why we aren’t on Billboard because nobody is in the pilot seat, guiding us where we’re supposed to go. We went to thousand to millions to billions—this is a billion-dollar industry—but until we take the focus and clean up our own backyard, then it’s not going to have the same respect that it’s garnered in the past.”
Layzie Bone (appropriately) stressed the importance of “harmony.” He said, “Teamwork makes the dream work. You do right by the people you love, stuff like that will rule everything. I’m trying to be on some family sh#t. If you ain’t harmonizing with each other, it’s just a bunch of noise in this muthafucka, and me and X gonna go do what we do any g####### way.”
Check back with AllHipHop.com soon for Part II. Until then, watch the clip below.