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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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Hello Usher,

I just heard your brand new single “I Don’t Mind” featuring Juicy J and immediately felt compelled to congratulate you for releasing such a powerful song. While most of today’s mainstream rap and R&B newcomers regularly objectify women in their music, it’s nice to have an artist of your caliber give these young guys a lesson on how to treat a lady.

First things first, I really dig the hook.

Shawty, I don’t mind If you dance on a pole/That don’t make you a ho
Shawty, I don’t mind when you work until three/If you’re leaving with me
Go make that money, money, money/Your money, money, money
Cause I know how it is, go and handle your biz/And get that money, money, money
Your money, money, money/You can take off your clothes
Long as you coming home, girl, I don’t mind

Right off the bat, you let your girl know that trust is not an issue.  Too many artists paint women as shady and untrustworthy, but not you. You even take the time to reassure her that she isn’t a ho, just because she’s taking her clothes off for money. Trust is key to a healthy relationship and you don’t have a problem letting the object of your affection know that no matter who she strips for, you’re confident that she’s coming home to you, even if it’s really late at night…or very early in the morning depending on how you look at it.  I also like how you make it a point to reinforce the fact that her money is her money.  With so many songs generalizing all women as gold diggers, you’re quick to distance yourself from such narrow-minded foolishness.  I hope these young artists are taking notes to learn how the mind of a real man works.

Ok, on to the first verse.

The ballers in here tonight, they gon’ buy a hundred bottles
As soon as you shake it I know they gon’ make it colossal in here
Cause shawty you thinkin’ them tricks that you do with your body
Got all of these niggas they crowding around you like they seen Beyonce in here
You want your own and you need your own, baby, who am I to judge?
Cause how could I ever trip about it when I met you in the club?
I make enough for the both of us, but you dance anyway
You know I was raised in the A

Here, you prove how secure you are in your manhood. While most men wouldn’t feel comfortable with their girlfriends/wives sharing their special “bedroom” tricks with random dudes, you acknowledge the fact that since you met your girl at the club, judging her for the very thing which attracted you to her in the first place wouldn’t be right. Being nonjudgmental is a sign of wisdom and maturity.  Again, you’re showing these youngins how an adult thinks.  And even though you’re making millions upon millions, and she’s most likely not, you wouldn’t dare stop her from doing something she loves and that she’s obviously good at.  After all, the ballers wouldn’t be making it “colossal” if she didn’t have a reputation for being great at her craft.  That’s important…especially in the A.

Second verse.

When you get off of work I’ll be ready to go in the ‘Rari
And when we get home we’ll have us our own private party in here
So I don’t worry at all about the things they do or say
I love you anyway
You can twerk it while in a split, you racking up them tips
Your body rock and your booty poppin’, I’m proud to call you my bitch
They be lookin’, but they can’t touch you, shawty, I’m the only one to get it
So just go ahead and keep doing what you do, do it

After a hard day at work, even if it’s 3 in the morning, you’re right there for your girl, making sure she gets home safe in the comfort of your beautiful sports car.  That should make any woman feel good. Today’s rappers and singers are too scared to display any hint of chivalry and simply end up looking like jerks. You turn that notion around unapologetically. And you’re even willing to cater to her needs in the bedroom once you get home, because you know that the only thing she really wants after getting off work at 3 in the morning following a very busy night on her feet dealing with demanding customers, is her very own private party. There’s obviously nothing you wouldn’t do for the girl you’re proud enough to call your bitch. That’s real love, man.

Now, allow me to offer a little bit of criticism here.  I don’t mean to offend you in any way but I don’t think Juicy J is a good fit. His verse kinda kills the vibe.

I’m just tryna cut her up, tryna bust a nut
Tryna take somebody bitch, turn her to a slut
Tryna fill my cup, tryna live it up
Throw some hundreds on that ass, walk her out the club
(Yeah, ho) Lap dance for the first date
Bet I threw a few bands, that’s third base
It’s okay if you work late, we can still party like it’s your birthday
We can still party hard in your birthday suit
Knock that pussy out the park like my name Babe Ruth
Shawty she just want a tip, I just want to see her strip
If you fuck me like you love me shawty you might get rich
Have her own cake, her own place, blow her own gas, no role’
When we in the bed she like to roleplay, tell her friend to join in both ways

I know Juicy J is the go-to rapper of the moment but his lyrics just don’t capture the spirit of your song.  Whereas you go out of your way to be compassionate, understanding, and caring to your bitch, Juicy J is just coming off crass.  I know he’s trying to show these sluts some love, albeit in his own clumsy way, but I think he did a much better job displaying his sensitive side on the verse he did off Katy Perry’s “Dark Horse”. I don’t know if he intentionally toned down his sexually explicit content for Katy’s pop audience but I think strippers deserve the same consideration Ms. Perry does. If anyone knows anything about how hard it is for strippers or pimps, it should be Juicy J.  Thankfully, the song ends with your hook and everything is right again.

By the time you read this letter, I’m sure your song will be dominating the airwaves from NY to Cali and everywhere in between, which is great because kids need to hear examples of what loving and supportive relationships are all about.  I’m sure the children of Usher’s New Look, your organization dedicated to providing positive role models, leadership, and career opportunities to disadvantaged youth, are proud of their big brother/mentor for going against the grain of today’s misogynist music.  If you were a contestant on the Voice, I’d definitely turn my chair around.

Not to end on a sad note, but following the unfortunate passing of the iconic Bobby Womack, I’m glad that we still have artists like you to carry on his legacy.

Sincerely,

A fan

You can also find this article at http://raprehab.com/an-open-letter-to-usher/

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When I wrote “Notice to Black Artists: Your Services Are No Longer Needed” back in February 2014, Iggy Azalea hadn’t yet hitnumber 1 on the charts, Hot 97′s Rosenberg hadn’t yet insulted a Hip Hop legend, Damon Dash hadn’t repopularized the term “culture vulture”, and hipsters hadn’t become the target of my wrath. But here we are, four months later, and the issue of Black music’s cultural misappropriation is back on the table…or maybe it never left.

Are white artists really taking over rap and R&B or are we just acting like narrow-minded paranoids? Back in May, the Billboard Music Awards awarded Justin Timberlake as best R&B artist, Eminem as best rapper, Robin Thicke with best R&B song, and Macklemore for best rap song. There were no Black winners. Just look at who dominates Rock & Roll, Blues, and Jazz today. Is history repeating itself?

The truth is, white artists have been part of the R&B and Hip Hop landscape for a long time.  Acts like Teena Marie, the Doobie Brothers, the Average White Band, and Hall & Oates are often referred to as blue-eyed soul singers. The legendary 60′s musicians from Muscle Shoals, Alabama were behind some of the greatest R&B songs of all times. In Hip Hop, some of the world’s most loved rap songs were created by white artists including Planet Rock co-produced by Arthur Baker and Keith LeBlanc, T-La Rock and LL Cool J’s early work with Rick Rubin, the Beastie Boys iconic first album, and a number of Golden Age classics from Rakim, Ultramagnetic MC’s, Organized Konfusion, and Main Source produced by Paul C (RIP). While questions regarding rap and R&B’s white takeover have been raised over the last few decades, for the most part, these white artists have been judged on their talents and creative output.

It wasn’t until Vanilla Ice came into the picture that the idea of rap’s misappropriation became a “major” issue in the world of Hip Hop. However, his color wasn’t as big of a problem as him being a fraud was. And the real culprit wasn’t even Vanilla Ice, who was too naive and inexperienced to understand how he was being manipulated; it was the music industry who pumped millions into making Mr. Robert Van Winkle the king of rap. Their investment proved successful as rap’s Elvis became a multi-platinum selling artist. Years later, he realized how he had been played and distanced himself from his former rap alter-ego.

Although the Iggys, Mileys, and Riff Raffs of the world are definite examples of cultural misappropriation, there are many talented white rappers and singers like R.A. The Rugged Man or Daley who, although lesser known than a Robin Thicke or Macklemore, are generally accepted for their art. With watered-down rap and R&B appealing to pop culture sensibilities, or teenage white girls who make up the majority of the buying public, the issue now is more about how the music industry positions these white commercial artists to become the new face of Hip Hop and R&B.  Twelve year old Katelynn from middle America’s suburbs doesn’t know anything about cultural appropriation or the long history of the exploitation of Black artists.  She just thinks Justin Bieber is cute and likes to dance to his music in front of the mirror. The industry knows this and profits from Katelynn and her peers, not Hip Hop and R&B purists. And in the meantime, publications like the NY Daily News celebrate the rise of white rappers like it’s all good.
Although the music industry should be held accountable for its part in lowering the standards for quality R&B and rap and allowing subpar artists to become superstars, let’s not forget the co-signers and easily-impressed consumers who give mediocre artists a pass. I remember watching Amateur Night on Showtime at the Apollo and being upset whenever a white artist with average talent received a standing ovation while better or equally talented Black artists garnered a lukewarm response. Just because a white artist can “kinda” rap or sing doesn’t make them special.
I’m no fan of Robin, JT, or Macklemore. However, I won’t deny the fact that they are no doubt talented in their own rights. My problem is with the cornballs performing the latest minstrel show who couldn’t care less about their role in the whitewashing of rap and R&B. Let’s stop allowing generic artists to become stars just because they’re white and can carry a half-ass tune.  Novelty acts need to stick to karaoke night at their local bars, not redefine an entire genre.