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Racism comes in many forms. Sometimes it’s blatant and in-your-face, other times, it’s nuanced and cloaked in sarcasm, like ValleyWag’s latest article taking subtle shots at Venture Capitalist Ben Horowitz’s friendship with underground rapper Divine. It isn’t the first time that the tech-gossip blog (yes, there’s such a thing, courtesy of Gawker Media) has mocked Horowitz’s passion for Hip Hop culture. Editor Sam Biddle has practically made it his personal mission to attack Ben every chance he gets. However, RapRehab’s recent article, “How an Underground Rapper Befriended a Billionaire Venture Capitalist”, featuring Divine who shares his incredible journey from running Brooklyn streets with criminals to dining with Ben in Silicon Valley, seems to have rekindled ValleyWag’s penchant for ridiculing the billionaire rap fan.

Blog co-editor Nitasha Tiku bases her entire piece, “Why Does Andreessen Horowitz Have an Official Rapper”, on but a mere fragment of Divine’s uplifting story. Whereas she could have written a stirring article about the unlikely but inspirational tale of how the formerly incarcerated young artist turned his life around, Ms. Tiku opted to focus on a minor chapter in the rapper’s amazing journey: a song Divine wrote for Andreessen Horowitz’s company podcast. Drenched in condescending undertones, Tiku extracts quotes from various online interviews and strategically manages to only include the rapper’s most colloquial expressions in a cheap and obvious attempt at trivializing the nature of Ben and Divine’s relationship. Painting the artist in a negative light, Tiku excludes the majority of Divine’s heartfelt words, in favor of exploiting typical rap stereotypes and playing to an elitist readership who already buys into the “rappers-are-idiots” mentality. Just check the comment section for confirmation.

Throughout the article, Tiku incorporates pictures of Ben and Divine, including one of the pair both sporting shirts that read “VC Life – Inspired by Ben Horowitz”, a slogan created by Divine. This also appears to be fodder for jokes as the author and commenters imply, directly and indirectly, that Divine is a kiss-ass and Ben has found a new pet in the rapper. The implications here reek of classism and a healthy dose of good old racism. But from the looks of it, Tiku’s veiled jabs parrot her editor’s obsessive hatred for Horowitz as well as her readers’ sycophantic sentiments. Birds of a feather really do flock together.

Is it just too uncomfortable for some to see a Black man on his rise to success? Does it go against the narrative that ValleyWag writers and readers subscribe to? The fact that Ben is being scoffed at for his love of Hip Hop and association with rappers says a lot about the general public’s notion that Black and White, rich and poor, hood and suburbs, just shouldn’t mix. This form of “harmless” mockery conceals the belief that the disenfranchised and disadvantaged should stay in their place, unable to dream, unable to hope, unable to taste success. It says that the idea of a Black man, a rapper, socializing with a wealthy White man is so bizarre and in contrast with popular perception that it is worthy of belittlement and a disparaging article on a blog whose very popularity is predicated on sensationalism, unsubstantiated reporting, and the notorious click-baiting tactics of its otherwise mediocre writers. Ms. Tiku can poke fun at Divine and Ben all she wants. At the end of the day, she’s just a blogger who gets underpaid to write about billionaires. Oh, the irony.

Here’s Divine’s open letter to ValleyWag and Nitasha Tiku:

Ms. Tiku:

Peace Queen! Great morning.

This is Divine. I just recently came across an article you wrote where I was a co-subject.

I was trying to figure out the angle of the article and purpose you had in writing it…I felt the undertones of it were based in sarcasm and an attempt to undermine the positive essence of my story relative to Ben Horowitz beyond the mere trivial aspect of me being told by Ben that I was now the official a16z rapper once I co-wrote a song for the firm’s podcast.

My real life story of my criminal past and life struggles to eventually get the opportunity to be amongst a man of Ben’s stature is much more deeper than simply Andreessen Horowitz having an official rapper. To highlight that minimal and irrelevant point of a mere statement Ben made to me is ridiculous.

I’m not an employee of Andreessen Horowitz, nor am I a paid in-house rapper. I’m simply a friend of Ben’s and a friend of the firm, a real life flesh and blood human being who had an unfortunate life that put me on a negative path and who used spirituality and the love of Hip-Hop music as a means to persevere through a lengthy federal prison sentence while still a teenager, who only completed the 8th grade and got my GED to become self-taught, and so many other positive accomplishments I’ve made against the odds and won.

I’m a true and living inspiration and my relationship with Ben serves as a reminder that some of the greatest gifts of the human spirit are that of faith, hope, kindness, forgiveness and compassion. My life is no joking matter to be undermined and presented in media as mere sensational gossip with no deeper value beyond entertainment.

There are so many positive stories and social ills that can be addressed and brought out for dialog from my story. This isn’t about Ben having billions of dollars and what that can afford him like he “bought” himself a rapper.  This is about the dynamics of life on a higher level where the authentic love of Hip-Hop brought two totally different individuals together who would have never crossed paths otherwise, who were from two different walks of life and ends of the socio-economic spectrum.

And let’s not forget that Ben is self-made. He worked and leveraged his intelligence, education and opportunities to be where he is today.  Nothing was handed to him. He wasn’t born rich. He understands poverty and furthermore the plight of black people, their culture and history, etc. and it’s not because his wife is black either. He’s authentic in who he is. He doesn’t have to reach for acceptance.  He naturally embraces the black experience ’cause that’s what he naturally feels. To be criticized for being successful and true to oneself is insanity on the part of the critical. Why? Because it’s unfounded…but that’s just what haters do. The written and spoken word affect and direct the people who affect the world around ‘em.  It’s wise to be ever mindful of the ideas we manifest to give life in the written and/or spoken word and in deed.

No ill feelings, I just wanted to share some deeper insight on your article since I was a co-subject and my story was the foundation of it. I close how I opened.

Bless! Peace!

Welcome to the August edition of my “Top 5 Hip Hop Picks of the Month”. Every month, I’ll be picking my top 5 favorite Hip Hop related items. This could include artists, videos, songs, events, books, shows or anything else that represents the best in Hip Hop culture for that month. Keep in mind that my picks are strictly a matter of opinion. In no particular order, this list is just my way of celebrating what’s right with Hip Hop. Readers are free to agree or disagree. Don’t hesitate to share your feedback. Enjoy! Peace.

1. Priest – “Street Corners” (Produced by Phoniks)
Over a soulful, melancholic sample and 90’s era drums, Priest chronicles the story of a man who allows life to slip away from him. This song has been on repeat since I first hit play!

 

2. Rah Digga – “Storm Comin’ Remix” Featuring Chuck D and Jon Connor
It’s been a minute since Rah Digga blessed us with her voice. On the Storm Comin’ remix, she’s joined by Chuck D and Jon Connors to round out this trio of hard-hitting MC’s, rockin’ a signature Marco Polo track.

3. Rahzel Jr. aka Razah Rahz – “The Culture”
The son of beatbox legend Rahzel releases a passionate ode to Hip Hop culture over an epic !llmind track. Also, check him out break down the lyrics in a video titled “The Culture Decoded”.

 

4. Afrika Bambaataa’s Vinyl Collection
Fuse TV digs in the crate with the great Afrika Bambaataa, one of the architects of Hip Hop culture.

5. Hip Hop Protests the Murder of Michael Brown
Moved by the murder of Michael Brown, various rappers including Talib Kweli, J. Cole and Prince EA, visit Ferguson to stand side by side with the people and support protesters. Killer Mike expresses his pain and frustration through a heartfelt Op-Ed in Billboard.com and an appearance on CNN.

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In light of Michael Brown’s cold-blooded murder, law enforcement’s military-like response to Ferguson’s peaceful protests, and the troubling increase in police killings taking place across the nation, many in the Hip Hop community have been wondering why most popular rappers, besides a handful, have remained silent about the tragedy that has captured the world’s attention. Of course, we’re not talking about indie and underground Hip Hop artists who regularly address a wide range of social concerns, including police brutality, in their music. We’re not talking about folks like J.Cole and Young Jeezy who visited Ferguson and met with the people. We’re talking mainstream artists like Jay Z, Kanye, Drake, Wiz Khalifa, Lil Wayne, or Nicki Minaj. The belief is that these household names could effectively use their influence and international platform to lend support to such cause and inspire fans to get involved in making a difference in their communities. Are these rappers cowards for not speaking up or are we just expecting too much of them?

Am I supposed to believe that an artist who raps about growing up in the hood and starting “from the bottom” can’t find a damn thing to say about the almost weekly reports of murders by police officers? Aren’t a lot of these rappers always screaming about how “hood” and “real” they are? Strange how they never seem to have a problem publicly beefing with other artists, instigating corny Twitter wars, or flexing their gangsta persona…but when it’s time to put that “tough guy” talk to good use – crickets.

Many pioneering artists like Harry Belafonte, Nina Simone, Ossie Davis, and Ruby Dee, used their voices to uplift society, willing to sacrifice their successful careers, because they understood the power of their influence and truly loved the people. Fearlessly, they pursued their mission and became legends in the process. In Hip Hop, groups like Public Enemy, X-Clan, and Poor Righteous Teachers were unafraid to speak truth to power, whether it was popular or not. They too are legends. But with all the money and so-called power today’s big name rappers brag about having, the truth is that they lack any power at all to do anything truly significant. Buying cars, jewelry, houses, clothes, and other material things doesn’t prove you have power; it proves you’re a consumer, nothing more, nothing less. How many of these so-called artists will go down in history for doing anything except rapping about everything they have and everything you don’t? God forbid they deviate from the program and upset their label or risk their endorsement deals for growing some balls and rapping about something meaningful for once.

On the other hand, should we really expect these artists to suddenly become socially conscious when their music has never been? It’s foolish of us to bash rappers for not standing up like men and women when their music only demonstrates how absolutely buffoonish they are. Do we really expect these “entertainers” to magically become the voice of reason? Am I not an idiot for waiting on Nicki Minaj’s words of wisdom regarding the growing militarization of America’s police force? Isn’t it slightly delusional of me to expect Nelly to openly challenge Ferguson PD’s attack on peaceful protestors when Honey Nut Cheerios pays his bills?

Then again, these artists may be involved in various acts of social activism that the public knows nothing about. After all, I’ve never been in a position to risk hurting my career for simply sharing my opinions in public. I’ve never had million dollar endorsements on the line for speaking up about social problems. I don’t know what it’s like to be forced to hold my tongue because my family’s financial security depends on my passiveness or silence.

And for that, I’m thankful. I’d hate to be bought out, used when needed, and silenced when convenient…kind of like a prostitute.

This article can also be found at http://raprehab.com/are-todays-rappers-cowards/

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Another day, another Black man becomes a victim of police brutality. And as usual, the message is clear: Black lives don’t matter.

While the recent murder of 18 year-old Michael Brown took me on a rollercoaster ride of anger, sadness, outrage, and hopelessness, I couldn’t help thinking that the entertainment industry’s on-going “campaign” of criminalizing Black people through commercial rap contributes to how cops perceive Black youth, specifically Black males. Of course, the problem started way before rap was around. Rap didn’t exist in the 50′s and 60′s but that didn’t stop the police from savagely attacking Black men and women. Still, couldn’t years of mainstream music that de-values Black life have a serious psychological effect on today’s police officers, and anyone else for that matter, many of whom probably already deal with deep rooted racism to begin with?

I believe the murder of Michael Brown and all other forms of unprovoked attacks against Black people have a lot to do with the kind of negative images the entertainment industry promotes. Last month’s article, “The Music Industry Hates Black People” reiterates this idea in more details.

Rightfully so, our hearts are broken…again. The problems are so deeply ingrained that no quick-fix solution will solve hundreds of years of systemic inequalities and institutionalized racism. But for the love of God and Black people, if there’s even a slight chance that the following suggestions may improve the current state we’re in, can we please stop supporting music and entertainment that trivialize Black life? Can we turn off radio stations that tell us Black people ain’t shit? Can we stop watching reality TV shows that try to make us believe that all Black women are petty and materialistic? Can we stop making excuses for artists who glorify the worst of the worst by saying that it’s ok because they’re making money? Can we stop dancing to songs that celebrate dysfunction? Can we stop spending money on an industry that sells poison? Can we stop singing or rapping along to songs that brainwash us to hate ourselves?

None of these suggestions require us to march, protest, spend money we don’t have, or risk our well-being. They’re easy to implement. Today, I’m not asking record companies, radio stations, and TV networks to change their ways. We already know what they’re about. I’m not calling on mainstream artists to use their voices and influence to speak on these issues publicly. It would be great but most popular artists are either uninterested or scared of jeopardizing their precious little careers. I’m asking us, everyday people, the common man, you and I who have so much to lose and everything to gain, to look within ourselves and make a conscious choice. If there’s even a remote possibility that turning off this form of toxic entertainment can make a difference and affirm that Black life matters, isn’t it worth it?

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While watching the video for “Hot N****” by  Epic Records’ newest artist Bobby Shmurda, I could hear a voice in my head repeatedly cry out, “the music industry hates Black people.”

Out of countless amazingly talented unsigned artists waiting for their big break, why would a record company sign yet another half-ass artist whose message is all about death, murder, guns, and more death? It couldn’t possibly be about all the money they project making off this Youtube one-hit wonder since the past couple of years have shown us that viral video stars like Trinidad James and Chief Keef don’t necessarily translate to real-world superstardom.

Why would music industry executives who are supposedly astute businessmen invest in the type of artists other labels don’t seem to have been very successful with? While these rappers may achieve short-term popularity, the amount of free mixtapes, guest appearances, and YouTube-to-MP3 music they put out can’t be profitable for the companies.

Why would someone like Bobby Shmurda get a major label deal on the strength of one poorly-produced video?  Is it because Beyonce did the Shmoney Dance (Bobby’s signature move) during one of her shows? Is it because Jay Z shouted out the dance in a freestyle at a concert? Is it because Drake, Meek Mill, Raekwon (WTF Rae?) and Busta Rhymes co-signed Shmurda?

Why would a label invest in a mediocre rapper who may be “hot” for a minute but will undoubtedly fade into oblivion like so many of his forgettable predecessors? Is it because Bobby Shmurda is an underground sensation who kids in NY have been listening to for the past few months so Epic Records jumped on who they felt might be rap’s next flavor-of-the-moment before someone else does?

Or is it simply because the music industry’s agenda to promote death and dysfunction to Black youth is bigger than its desire to make money?

Yes, I’m a conspiracy theorist. I don’t care how many people ridicule me. I don’t care how many “real street cats” call me an out-of-touch Hip Hop purist who doesn’t know what today’s kids are into. I don’t care how many industry execs mock my extreme views and so-called lack of music business knowledge. I don’t care how many idiots call me a race-baiter. I don’t care how many call me a hater for criticizing a kid I don’t personally know without even giving him a chance to shine. I don’t care how many dumb asses try to convince me that if he didn’t get a record deal, he’d be out shooting or robbing folks (that seems to be a popular opinion on the internet right now). I don’t care how many tell me that Hip Hop can’t always be positive or that I need to leave the days of De La Soul and Public Enemy behind. I don’t care how many fools try to sell me on the idea that the labels are just giving the fans the kind of music they want. I don’t care how many of you tell me that a record company’s goal is to make money, not save lives. I don’t care how many major artists co-sign this misled kid. And I don’t care how many of his fans insult me.

Nothing you can say negates the fact that Bobby Shmurda and other similar rappers are promoting the worst kind of images and messages. Nothing you can argue negates the fact that what these labels are marketing is toxic, criminal, and racist. No other form of entertainment, be it pop, rock, country, electronic, video games, movies, or TV, glorifies the blatant death and destruction of Black people while passing it off as entertainment you can do a trendy dance to. Mainstream rap is the only form of entertainment that prides itself on depicting reality yet ends up only promoting the ugliest part of that “reality”, often resulting in real-life drama, murder, arrests, and jail sentences. Why does the music industry keep promoting something that any other industry would consider a poor investment and a huge liability? What kind of business can you think of, beyond the field of entertainment, that would knowingly employ someone who glorifies crime and all other forms of disturbing behavior…unless there was a damn good reason?
So what are the music industry’s reasons? Does it have anything to do with “the commercial rap to prison pipeline“? Is it about selling a lifestyle that will send impressionable youth to the private prisons media conglomerates invest in?
I know most of you hate conspiracy theories and will accuse me of spreading baseless allegations. However, how many of you can provide a perfectly ethical answer as to why promoting Black death has become “business as usual”?  Please don’t tell me that it’s based on the age-old business model of  “supply and demand” when we know that the social and financial cons of signing an artist like Bobby Shmurda outweigh the pros.
However, don’t let the Beyonces and Pharells of the world fool you. These pop artists exist because their mass appeal generates millions for the industry. Their success doesn’t take away from the fact that the worst kind of messages and images are still filtered through many Black artists who, despite never achieving megastar status, become popular enough to have a huge influence on fragile young minds, even if their limited success isn’t profitable for their label. These are the artists in question here.

If it really just came down to the argument that sex and violence in music sells, we’d see it equally produced by all ethnic groups and equally targeting all ethnic groups. However, besides Black people, I can’t think of another group, be it White, Asian, Latino, Christian, Jewish, etc, that the music industry feels as comfortable overtly disparaging without a second thought.

Shame on Sha Money XL, who got Shmurda signed, and shame on L.A. Reid, Epic Records’ CEO, for contributing to the perception of Black people as criminals at a time when so many police officers around the nation already see them as a threat for no other reason than being Black. I’m sure the money and accolades make it all worth it. I can’t help but wonder if L.A. Reid would’ve been as open to Shmurda’s “talent” during his time as a judge on X Factor.

Ultimately, once Bobby Shmurda’s 15 minutes of fame are up, record labels will quickly move on to the next “shoot-em-up rapper” and the industry’s big decision makers (Jimmy Iovine, The Lipmans, Barry Weiss, Doug Morris, etc) who market this poison will continue to remain silent and unseen, just like Klansmen protected by the anonymity of their hooded sheets. In the meantime, the deaf, dumb, and blind co-signers will keep making excuses for an industry that celebrates the death and destruction of Black people.
This article can also be found on RapRehab at http://raprehab.com/the-music-industry-hates-black-people/
Every month, I’ll be picking my top 5 favorite Hip Hop related items.  This could include artists, videos, songs, events, books, shows or anything else that represents the best in Hip Hop culture for that month.  Keep in mind that my picks are strictly a matter of opinion.  In no particular order, this list is just my way of celebrating what’s right with Hip Hop.  Readers are free to agree or disagree. Don’t hesitate to share your feedback. Enjoy! Peace.
 
1. The Masters of Ceremony Hip Hop Reunion

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When was the last time you got to see EPMD, Slick Rick, Doug E. Fresh, Big Daddy Kane, Rakim, Biz Markie, Naughty By Nature, DMX, and more together on stage? Kicking off this July, the show will hopefully make its way to your city soon.

2. Chuck D Interview on the Combat Show

This is possibly one of the best interviews I’ve heard in a long time. Listen to Chuck and Keith Shocklee from the Bomb Squad share insight about Hip Hop culture, the origins of Public Enemy, the music industry, their work with other artists, and everything else you’d imagine the perfect 3 1/2 hour Chuck D interview to sound like!

 

3. Interview with Bob Power, the man behind the sound of A Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul, The Roots, Erykah Badu, and more.

Legendary recording engineer Bob Power talks about how he helped create the sound that some of Hip Hop’s most iconic artists are known for. If you’re into what goes on behind the scenes, this interview is a must!

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4. Sa-Roc’s new album, “Nebuchadnezzar”

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Craving conscious Hip Hop? The Goddess Sa-Roc doesn’t disappoint with a full-length offering featuring the likes of Wise Intelligent and David Banner. Can’t think of too many other MC’s who can touch her right now! Stream it and buy it here.

5. Jay Electronica at The Brooklyn Hip Hop Festival

The always anticipated Brooklyn Hip Hop Festival celebrated its 10th anniversary with many performers including Jay Electronica who repped the Nation of Islam to the fullest and surprised the audience by bringing Jay Z on stage to do an almost 15-minute set. I wasn’t there but here’s the video.

You can also find this on RapRehab at http://raprehab.com/the-top-5-hip-hop-picks/

Madd Mary, the L.A. based MC wanted for the lyrical assassination of Billboard chart topper Iggy Azalea has taken to Youtube with a graphic video of her last moments with the Australian pop/rap star. Investigators were able to locate the house where the gruesome verbal slaying occurred but were unable to find any clues which could lead to Madd Mary’s arrest.  However, scrawled in blood at the scene of the crime were the following four phrases:
“Hip-Hop is ruled by a White, Blonde, Australian woman ?” Not on my watch.
 What’s going on in Hip-Hop is tantamount to cultural genocide.
 I will not co-sign a fraud.
 Iggy Azalea needs to be called out as the degrading stereotype that she is.
The FBI and the LAPD are asking media and the general public to share the following video on Facebook and Twitter as well as all popular blogs in hopes of locating Ms. Mary.
 
Additionally, anyone with information regarding Madd Mary’s whereabouts is strongly encouraged to contact lead detective (and publicist/creative consultant) Sebastien Elkouby at SebastienElkouby@gmail.com.
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