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On my way to pick up my son from school, emotionally paralyzed, my mind in a fog, I’m trying to figure out how I’m going to tell him that, once again, a Black man’s life wasn’t important enough to charge the officers who savagely killed him, even when the murder was caught on video for the world to see. How will my teenage son respond to this news, only a few days after darren wilson’s tragic non-indictment?  What kind of psychological effect will society’s blatant disregard for Black life have on his self-esteem?

My wife and I have raised our son to be socially-conscious and culturally-aware. We’ve had “the talk” more times than I can count. But is that enough to stop the world from labeling him a “thug” just because he’s Black? He knows how to interact with police to minimize any possible friction, should he ever be randomly stopped. But it’s clear that the police doesn’t always know how to interact with citizens, no matter how harmless they are. But it’s bigger than the cops. My son is painfully aware that the people who make up the grand juries that declined to indict Mike Brown and Eric Garner’s killers aren’t cops but everyday people like teachers, doctors, bus drivers, grocery store workers, housewives, moms, dads, and other common folk. Is his life worth less in the eyes of those ordinary people he interacts with on a daily basis….the same ordinary people whose decision absolved the killers of Black men?

My son watches the news and hears police chiefs, judges, commentators, legal experts, lawyers, and other pundits tell him to trust the judicial process, even when we know that those who are in charge of this process are often liars who manipulate the truth to fit their agenda. He listens to these so-called experts nonchalantly explain why the cops are justified in their actions while millions around the world protest a broken system. My son’s coming of age during the era of Trayvon Martin, Ezell Ford, Aiyana Jones, John Crawford, Tarika Wilson, Rekia Boyd, Jordan Davis, and so many more. He’s part of the #blacklifematters generation because that statement is as true today as it was centuries ago. He’s seen the system fail repeatedly and knows that this country has a long history of racial injustices it’s never honestly dealt with. He’s seen the stats and knows that every 28 hours, a Black man is killed by a police officer or vigilante, or that Black men are 21 times more likely to be killed by police than white men. Should he be blamed for having little faith in this brand of justice?

My younger daughter, albeit too young to grasp the severity of what is unfolding, clearly sees that something is wrong. While watching Bob McCullouch announce wilson’s non-indictement a few days ago, she stomped her feet and punched the couch. She was hurt. She thought about her older brother. I probably should have sent her out of the room to shield her heart and mind from this madness but she lives in a world where this is a reality that can’t be ignored…even in elementary school where her peers discuss the news regularly.

My son’s a good kid. He does well in school, has a sharp sense of humor, likes video games, and loves animals. In many ways, he’s a typical teen. He also possesses a deep understanding of his ancestral roots, something my wife and I know is absolutely crucial to a child’s healthy development and well-being. Sadly, no amount of “good” parenting can prevent self-proclaimed vigilantes, like Zimmerman, or cops who are judged unfit for duty, as is the case with the officer who killed 12 year old Tamir Rice, from their deep-seated racism and trigger-happy inclinations. And as a parent, that scares me to death.

You can also find this article at http://raprehab.com/tell-son-value-life/

Welcome to the first episode of Take No Prisoners Radio hosted by Camille H & myself. In this episode, we discuss Ferguson, Police Brutality, misogyny, white supremacy and racism, and the state of Hip Hop. For the Hot Seat segment, we’re joined by an anonymous music industry executive who believes that the music industry should NOT be held accountable for the type of rap music it promotes. The conversation gets pretty heated! Also, check out music from J Cole, Pharoahe Monch, Rah Digga, ZotheJerk, and Rapsody. For info or feedback email SebastienElkouby@gmail.com. Peace.

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I’ve spent the past few years tirelessly writing about the music industry’s deplorable portrayal of Black people. I’ve verbally attacked record companies, radio stations, TV networks, and executives who profit from Black death and dysfunction. I’ve harshly criticized rappers like Nicki Minaj, 2 Chainz, YG, and Rick Ross for glorifying crime, sex, drugs, violence, and general ignorance. I’ve gone after clueless bloggers and hipsters for praising the very worst that rap has to offer. I’ve watched an industry blossom from the exploitation of the most vile and obscene racial stereotypes imaginable and openly accused it of promoting a covert white supremacist agenda. I’ve called out media conglomerates for their proven connection to the private prison industrial complex. I’ve been vocal and unapologetically determined to expose the industry for what I’m convinced is a deliberate attempt to dumb down generations of unsuspecting listeners. I’ve gained friends, supporters, and allies but also made a few foes in the process.  And although it’s become increasingly difficult to say something I haven’t already said in past articles or interviews, as long as the industry keeps pushing its propaganda, I’ll continue speaking out against it. For every person who’s heard my arguments a hundred times before, there’s someone else hearing it for the first time.

Throughout this amazing journey, I’ve observed how strategically wicked “the enemy” really is. I’ve watched how this industry seduces young impressionable artists at their most vulnerable, builds them up with false hope, manipulates them to think they’re in control, and discards them when they no longer serve a purpose. It happened to Chief Keef and Trinidad James, it’s happening to Bobby Shmurda now, and it will probably happen to Columbia Records’ latest acquisition, 23 year-old female rapper Dej Loaf whose radio hit “Try Me” has her killing entire families and rapping lines like “I really hate n****s, I’m a Nazi”.  After years of indoctrinating the masses to view Black men as criminals and animals, an image that has undoubtedly shaped the George Zimmermans and Darren Wilsons of the world, the music industry has turned it up a notch by promoting this young Black woman as a psychopath and murderer. With co-signs from Drake, E-40, T.I, and Wiz Khalifa who are either blind to the industry’s racial exploitation or mere forgiving beneficiaries, where does an inexperienced artist like Dej Loaf turn to for wisdom and guidance? Besides Erykah Badu who called Dej to offer advice, who will pull this young sister to the side and warn her of what is likely to happen after her short-lived fame fades into oblivion? Who will stand up for her humanity, her soul, and her dignity as a woman…as a Black woman? No one in the industry will…unless it offends white sensibilities. Who can forget how quickly Snoop apologized for making fun of Iggy Azalea after T.I. stepped in to defend the honor of his artist? No such pressure from the industry ever prompted Snoop or his peers to offer this swift of an apology for the way Black women have been portrayed through commercial rap in the last 20 years.

A few days ago, Nicki Minaj released the video for “Only”, an animated short that incorporates what many have called Nazi imagery due to its military theme, swastika-styled Young Money logo, SS-like soldiers, and Nicki playing the role of the ruthless dictator. Although there were no literal mentions of Nazis or Hitler, the sensitive nature of the video elicited countless complaints from fans and a public statement from the Anti Defamation League condemning the video. Nicki immediately issued an apology via Twitter and explained that she would never intentionally promote Nazism. Far from being the first to apologize for offensive content, artists ranging from Micheal Jackson to Kanye West have been censored or pressured to change their lyrics as to not offend various groups including Jews, 9/11 survivors, and white people in general. In the meantime, Bobby Shmurda shares celebratory tales of Black on Black murder via a boardroom performance attended by the mostly white staff of Epic Records and its proud “papa bear”, chairman and CEO, L.A. Reid.

Former BET executive and founder of RapRehab, Paul Porter has a long history of media activism. The outspoken industry veteran has gone head to head with high profile decision-makers and spearheaded many successful initiatives designed to hold media accountable. Rick Ross, Lil’ Wayne, BET, and the Oxygen Network are just a few of those who have succumbed to Paul’s demands. “Programmers and record labels have a bad case of amnesia,” he says. “They want us to believe that content has no effect on the audience they covet. Millions spent on promotion and advertising is common sense evidence that content matters.”  Never one to hold his tongue, Porter concludes, “it’s sad. Even some child molesters admit they’re sick.”

At the end of the day, no matter how many protests, movements, boycotts, and public outrage denouncing the music industry’s depiction of Black people have occurred in the past 2 decades, none of them have made a significant impact. The industry just doesn’t give a shit about Black people unless they’re entertaining the masses.  But can we really expect industry execs to apologize for turning the criminalization of Black people into a billion dollar business when so many artists are willingly dancing to their own demise?

You can also find this article at http://raprehab.com/criminalization-black-people-billion-dollar-industry/

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The great thing about my job is that I get to write about Hip Hop artists I genuinely admire. There’s no editor forcing me to spit out some BS fluff piece about Young this or Lil’ that. At the end of the day, no matter how long I’ve been in this game, I’m a die-hard Hip Hop head who still considers himself a fan of rap music and has the utmost respect for this culture and art form. So when the opportunity presented itself to interview one of my favorite MC’s, I eagerly jumped to it!

Jamla Records’ First Lady, Rapsody is making much noise with her latest EP, Beauty and the Beast. With production from Eric G, Nottz, Khrysis, and Jamla President 9th Wonder, the album packs a punch from start to finish. However, Rapsody’s heartfelt lyrics and intricate wordplay make this project one of the best albums of the year.

Rapsody and I spoke for almost an hour. Despite some minor technical issues that come with the magic of video chats, we managed to cover a lot of ground ranging from her personal journey as an evolving artist to her thoughts on the entertainment industry. So sit back and enjoy. Welcome to Rapsody’s world!

You can also find this story at http://raprehab.com/exclusive-one-one-rapsody/

Welcome to the 3rd edition of Seb’s Top 5 Hip Hop Picks where I pick my top 5 favorite Hip Hop related items for that month. This can include artists, videos, songs, events, books, shows or anything else that represents the best in Hip Hop culture. 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. Rapsody – “Beauty and the Beast”

This gem is a must-have for any legitimate Hip Hop head. This is an amazing follow up to her last two releases, The Idea of Beautiful, and She Got Game.

Stream “Beauty and the Beast” here.

2. Diamond D – “The Diam Piece”

Legendary MC/producer Diamond D drops his long-awaited album “The Diam Piece”, featuring Pharoahe Monch, Talib Kweli, Masta Ace, Grand Daddy IU (yes, you heard that right!) and a host of other guests who deliver the goods over sample-heavy boom bap.

Stream “The Diam Piece” here.

3. Ghostface Killah & BADBADNOTGOOD – “Gunshowers” featuring Elzhi

Ghostface Killah has joined forces with Canadian band BADBADNOTGOOD and released the guitar-laced “Gunshowers” featuring Elzhi. The word is that Ghost and the band are working on a full-length project slated for early 2015. This joint is a hell of a way to build anticipation!

4. Jay Electronica – “Into the Light”

The trailer for “Into the Light, a forthcoming film featuring Jay Electronica, shows the many adventures of the world’s most mysterious MC as he travels the world, hanging out with monks and living amongst the people.  The cinematography looks amazing and I’m looking forward to checking out the full-length film.

5. Dynamic Equilibrium – “Dear Father”

This NY duo recently completed the video for “Dear Father”, a single off the album “Post Crack Era” released earlier this year. Sometimes,we just need to be reminded that you don’t have to be a household name to make quality Hip Hop!

You can also find this Top 5 at http://raprehab.com/sebs-top-5-hip-hop-picks/

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Consisting of Spirituals, Gospel, Blues, Jazz, Rock & Roll, R&B, Hip Hop, House, and so many other genres, Black music birthed most popular music today.  A matter of fact, Black music is so powerful that it has literally changed the world. Enslaved Africans sang Spirituals, not only as a source of strength, but as a way to pass on secret information about the Underground Railroad right under the slave master’s nose. The Blues gave people the means to channel their deepest sorrows. Rhythm & Blues drew from its predecessors to create Rock & Roll as well as the soulful sound of the 60’s and 70’s, epitomized by Motown, Stax, and other iconic labels. Legends like James Brown, Marvin Gaye, Donny Hathaway, Curtis Mayfield, Stevie Wonder, and Aretha Franklin provided the soundtrack of both the Civil Rights Movement and the Black Power Movement.  Hip Hop culture and Rap music evolved from these rich traditions to become the voice of the voiceless and disenfranchised. In the 80’s and early 90’s, the likes of Public Enemy, Rakim, KRS-One, Queen Latifah, Poor Righteous Teachers, and X-Clan inspired teenagers around the world to wear African medallions, learn Black history, and become activists.  The powers-that-be couldn’t possibly risk losing their much-coveted social status to a growing movement of highly-motivated, educated, and empowered young Black Hip Hop fans who stood on the shoulders of those heroes that came before them.  Something had to be done.

The truth is, Black music’s erosion had begun years ago.

In 1972, a Harvard report titled “A Study of the Soul Music Environment” outlined how the music industry could market Black music to a broader, i.e. whiter audience.  As a result, executives with no personal stake or interest in the preservation of Black music’s rich history and social significance were brought in to make decisions about its direction. While the music didn’t transform overnight, the seeds of change had undoubtedly been planted, starting with popularizing the term R&B over Rhythm and Blues to tone down the music’s southern roots and risk alienating white listeners.

In the late 70’s, the term “Black Music” was slowly being replaced with “Urban Music”. Going further, Black Music Departments at various labels across the nation were renamed Urban Music Departments. The industry, focusing on profit over culture, reasoned that this name-change would make Black music easier to market to mainstream audiences. Many suspected that this was done to disassociate Urban music from its African-American roots in order to make white consumers feel more comfortable. Today, it’s almost politically incorrect to use the term Black music for fear of excluding multi-cultural audiences. Ironically, the term Latin Music is embraced wholeheartedly. Could the word “Black” just be too much for mainstream audiences to digest? And what does “Urban” music mean anyway – city music?

Then, Hip Hop culture and Rap music emerged. Bold, groundbreaking, and rebellious, its do-it-yourself ethos shut out the mainstream industry, relying instead on independent and underground channels to grow and blossom. Eventually, major labels weaseled their way in and surprisingly allowed rap to flourish virtually untainted, probably because their inexperience with this new phenomenon had created an opportune moment for rap’s development. However, by the late 80’s/early 90’s, Hip Hop culture’s influence over Black youth had managed to put more fear than ever into the hearts and minds of the so-called “ruling party”. The music industry was no longer going to allow messages of unapologetic Black pride and rebellion to filter through its airwaves and distribution channels. Executive shot callers would make sure of that.

Urban Music, i.e. rap music, was used to sell anything ranging from Chicken McNuggets to Barbie dolls. With advertisers trying to appeal to younger demographics, rap was increasingly associated with branding, marketing, and consumerism, and decreasingly synonymous with culturally-affirming, rebel music. If rap music that celebrates Malcolm X and the Black Panthers was perceived as a threat by the powers-that-be, using rap to sell Fruity Pebbles in commercials would surely weaken the music’s potency in the public eye. Hip Hop’s new generation of critical thinkers couldn’t be allowed to grow and risk challenging the ruling order of the day.

Record labels began aggressively promoting gangsta rap during the peak of Hip Hop’s Afrocentric and Pro-Black era. While acts like NWA, Compton’s Most Wanted, and DJ Quik had comfortably coexisted with culturally-conscious rap, a more celebratory form of gangsta music was about to hit the world by storm. African medallions and X hats were replaced by marijuana chains and logos. Songs about Black Unity and Nubian Queens were being obscured by titles like “Murder Was the Case” and “Bitches Ain’t Shit”. Although such topics had always been part of rap (see Too Short, 2 Live Crew, Schooly D, etc), the climate that had once provided a balance for both messages had now been tipped in favor of guns, weed, sex, and crime. In the 1992 hit “Let Me Ride”, Dre raps, “No medallions, dreadlocks, or Black fists”. It couldn’t have been said any plainer. But Dre, Snoop, and the entire Death Row family were pawns, backed by an industry that had a bigger agenda than just making a few rappers rich.

Gangsta Rap had successfully changed the direction of music, inspiring the East Coast and Down South to become more thugged-out, and even forcing R&B to adopt the rising gangsta trend. 80’s favorites like Anita Baker, Regina Bell, Surface, and Alexander O’Neil couldn’t compete. Although artists like Digable Planets, Toni Braxton, The Fugees, TLC, Gang Starr, and Babyface would go on to experience success in their own right, rap music’s empowering Pro-Black messages and R&B’s clear-cut romance and sophistication had been overshadowed by wannabe pimps, players, boss bitches, and thugs. As long as weed, sex, alcohol, and violence distracted the masses, the powers-that-be no longer felt threatened by the former movement of musically-empowered critical thinkers.  After all, who could possible feel threatened by a Young Thug?

During that time, former R&B artists such as Usher and Beyonce became pop stars, the term Hip Hop went on to include folks like Future and Chris Brown, and Iggy Azalea was crowned princess of rap. Traditional R&B is now considered alternative. Hip Hop music with a message is mostly underground.  Today’s generation couldn’t distinguish Blues and Jazz from Country and Classical.  And the term Black music is seen as offensive, if not flat-out racist.

Someone please tell me – where do we go from here?

This article also appears on RapRehab at http://raprehab.com/bet-awards-black-music-neutralized/

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While “The Choice is Yours” may be Black Sheep’s defining moment, Dres’ latest song is his most important to date. “Propagation”, a tribute to his young son, finds Dres delivering a heartfelt tribute to his son and all young brothers across the world who need guidance and encouragement.
I had a chance to connect with Dres via video chat to speak about his latest project and what fatherhood means to him.
Check out the interview followed by the song “Propagation” .