Who is our generation's Chuck D/Ice Cube/2Pac?
Andrew "DaBoyAG" Barnett
Where are the black leaders in hip hop? A question that has been asked repeatedly within the last few months, and many still have no answer for. We all are aware of the recent incidents that have resulted in riots and protests around the country due to blatant injustice involving black men. This has left many people and Hip Hop fans to wonder, "Where are our heroes?", while in desperate search for a voice to speak out against injustice--especially within the black community. Rappers Chuck D, Ice Cube, and 2Pac are known not only for their great contributions to hip hop, but also for their militant, anti-government, upfront lyrics. These rappers took risks in their music to directly attack government officials, and public figures for their negligence to blacks and disrespect to hip hop. None of these guys had the smallest amount of fear in them at anytime to say what was on their minds and make sure that you knew exactly how they felt. They didn't hide the lyrics within their albums, they made singles and videos with these messages clear for everyone to hear. In today's Hip Hop there are a few rappers that actually have some of these same qualities, such as Killer Mike, David Banner, Lupe Fiasco and others. I am fully aware that there are many others that can also be mentioned but to avoid this article from turning into a book, I have condensed it to focus on those three. In this article I will provide examples from Chuck D, Ice Cube, and 2Pac. Then I’ll show examples of the current rappers who do the same.
Starting with Ice Cube, whose radical ways date back to his years with NWA in the late 80s. Coming out of the gates firing with songs like "F*ck The Police" and a solo debut album titled "AmeriKKKas Most Wanted." Cube had no fear in his heart and it showed heavily in his harsh, unfiltered lyrics. In all of his first three albums Cube continuously attacked and called out many people by name, caring less what anyone felt about it. A strong example can be found in his verse on Scarface's song "Hand of The Dead Body." and also on his song “A Bird In The Hand”
"Fresh out of school cause I was a high school grad
Gots to get a job cuz I was a high school dad
Wish I got paid by rappin' to the nation
But thats not likely, so here's my application
Pass it to the man at AT&T
Cause when I was in school I got the A.E.E
But there's no S.C. for this youngsta
I didn't have no money, so now I got to punch the
Clock, gotta slave, and be half a man
But whitey says there's no room for the African
Always knew that I would clock G's
But welcome to McDonalds may I take your order please
Gotta serve ya food that might give you cancer
Cuz my son doesn't take no for an answer
Now I pay taxes that you never give me back
What about diapers, bottles, and similac
Do I have to sell me a whole lotta crack
For decent shelter and clothes on my back?
Or should I just wait for help from Bush
Or Jesse Jackson, and Operation PUSH
If you ask me the whole thing needs a douche
A Massengill what the hell crack will sell in the neighborhood
To the corner house bitches
Miss Parker, little Joe and Todd Bridges
Or anybody that he know
So I copped me a bird, better known as a kilo
Now everybody know I went from po' to a nigga that got dough
So now you put the feds against me
Cause I couldn't follow the plan of the presidency
I never get love again
But blacks are too f*ckin' broke to be republican
Now I remember I used to be cool
Till I stopped fillin' out my W-2
Now senators are gettin' high
And your plan against the ghetto backfired
So now you got a pep talk
But sorry, this is our only room to walk
Cause we don't want a drug push
But a bird in the hand is worth more than the bush"
Chuck D, with Flavor Flav as his right hand man, also took the radical approach when addressing public figures and government officials. Public Enemy's "It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back" and "Fear of a Black Planet" are both undeniable classics and viewed as significant milestones in black music. Chuck D's strong tone and straight to the point lyrics proved to be a force to be reckoned with. Both of those albums are laced with passion driven lyrics about the wrongdoings of many in power. His 3rd verse on "Fight The Power" definitely ruffled the feathers of white society.
Excerpt from 3rd verse from “Fight The Power”
“Elvis was a hero to most, But he never meant sh*t to me you see
Straight out racist that sucker was Simple and plain
Mother f*ck him and John Wayne
Cause I'm Black and I'm proud I'm ready I’m hyped plus I'm amped
Most of my heroes don't appear on no stamps
Sample a look back you look and find
Nothing but rednecks for 400 years if you check”
2Pac, rightfully considered one of the greatest hip hop artists of all time, had this same mentality. His first album 2Pacalypse Now was full of political songs where he addressed numerous issues within black culture. 2Pac had a "Don't Give A F*ck" attitude and everyone knew it. He had no problem directly attacking his foes, and not just his fellow rappers either. 2Pac's mentality is what made him so popular in the 90s. His song “I Don’t Give a F*ck” is an all-out attack on police brutality, racism, and all the evils that go against the black race. He even took the 2nd verse on one of his biggest radio singles "How Do You Want It" as an opportunity to attack some public figures that he didn't think too fondly of.
Excerpt from “How Do You Want It”
“Delores Tucker, you's a motherf*cker
Instead of trying to help a n*gga you destroy a brother
Worse than the others; Bill Clinton, Mr. Bob Dole
You're too old to understand the way the game's told
You're lame so I gotta hit you with the hot facts
Once I'm released, I'm making millions, n*gga, top that
They wanna censor me; they'd rather see me in a cell
Living in hell - only a few of us'll live to tell
Now everybody talking about us I could give a f*ck
I'd be the first one to bomb and cuss”
Lupe Fiasco is praised for being one of the best lyricists in hip hop, but it’s not all about being witty in his music. Coming from the tough streets of Chicago, Lupe often paints vivid pictures of the government's negligence of the black community. He also attacks America for the wrongdoings they have done to other nationalities and countries. All of these things are expressed in the first verse of his song “Words I Never Said”
“I really think the war on terror is a bunch of bullsh*t
Just a poor excuse for you to use up all your bullets
How much money does it take to really make a full clip?
9/11, building 7, did they really pull it?
Uh, And a bunch of other coverups
Your child's future was the first to go with budget cuts
If you think that hurts, then wait, here comes the uppercut
The school was garbage in the first place, that's on the up and up
Keep you at the bottom but tease you with the upper crust
You get it, then they move it, so you never keeping up enough
If you turn on TV, all you see's a bunch of "what the f*cks"
Dude is dating so and so, blabbering 'bout such and such
And that ain't Jersey Shore, homey, that's the news
And these the same people supposedly telling us the truth
Limbaugh is a racist, Glenn Beck is a racist
Gaza strip was getting bombed, Obama didn’t say sh*t
That's why I ain't vote for him, next one either
I’m a part of the problem, my problem is I’m peaceful
And I believe in the people”
David Banner is another strong example of a black man determined to make a difference. He often goes outside of the music to make his presence felt. He has been involved in racial discussions on CNN, and recently contributed to the documentary “Hidden Colors 3.” In 2014, he dropped a song titled “Evil Knievil” aimed directly at the injustices that have been going on. It addresses the situations about as directly as he could.
“They gave us Obama like
It was gonna stop the fight
Like it was gonna stop the cause
Folks still scraping
Trying to find them some socks and drawers
And something to eat
The IRS is coming so I'm back on these beats
Barack pushed hope
Reagan pushed dope
Clinton pushed something down a young gal's throat
Yah, and since we talking about throats
White folks, what you know about ropes?
Yah, what you know about trees
And men swinging from them that look like me?
How you say that don't affect us?
Tuskegee, how you let them infect us?
It's fear of the black semen
Putting sage on a page to eradicate these demons
This for Tulsa Oklahoma, this for Rosewood
This for Philly when the cops bombed the whole hood
This for Harlem when the pigs stop and frisk
All my folks from the Congo tell Belgium suck a
Boy wonder? Nope, meant Dick Grayson
I'm essential like the Moors with the Masons
The kush, the black push
Aborigines I love you, take back the bush
Oh, we back on presidents
George was so irrelevant
But he did send the country to hell
And a lot of black folks to jail
If we blind, that's fine, I don't mind and I'll spit it in braille
Drop an F-bomb in cursive, put that ho in the mail
P.O.s they about to shut down
I was on my way to heaven then I stopped and turned around
The government, yeah, did shut down
I was on my way to heaven but I stopped and turned around for my people
I'll try to never leave you
This is a war against evil
But out of all of these examples Killer Mike is probably the biggest, most accurate comparison that I can make. On every album he drops, Mike always has a song directed at the crooked doings of the government and how they do not value a black person’s life. He is the most like Ice Cube because of the harsh and brutal ways that he expresses himself. Killer Mike also is about progress and change within the black community. He owns a barbershop in Atlanta and has been chosen to speak at different colleges because of his impactful delivery and words. Killer Mike has had interviews on CNN expressing his disappointment with America’s government and the pain that it causes within him He comes from Atlanta’s own Dungeon Family so it is no coincidence that he has such a strong view on the world’s problems. Most people know about Goodie Mob’s political lyrics and especially the standout song “Cell Therapy.” Killer Mike has many songs that I can pull from like “Pressure”, “Burn”, “That’s Life 2”, “Reagan”, and more. His video for “Burn” was actually banned from BET, then the ban was lifted due to an outcry from fans. His video for Reagan was another attention grabbing piece, with over a million views on Youtube. He always issues challenges to black leaders to step out from their comfort zone and let their voice be heard, because he knows it makes a profound difference. I’ll leave you with the first verse from his song “That’s Life 2” and three videos.
“Ms. Oprah, Mr. Cosby, I am right back at your ass
With all honor, Mr. Obama, please don't walk out so fast
I got a question, got a question, got a question for you all
Why when Oscar Grant got murdered, we didn't hear a peep from y'all?
We appreciate the way you delegate for Henry Gates
But what about your people slaving in these fields everyday?
We know that House got air conditioning and the sweetest lemonade
But don't forget your color, brother, we still motherf*cking slaves
And that even go for Puffy who so motherf*cking paid
That he's richer than these White folks or at least that's what he say
That's what he say, that's what he say, and them petty n*ggas love it
Think about it, what's a rapper standing next to Warren Buffett?
Ha ha ha, now you niggas are properly enlightened
You can disregard that sell-out sh*t that Jason Whitlock writing
You can disregard that racist sh*t that Glenn Beck is reciting
I'm the leader of the gang, tell them to get a mike”