Posts Tagged ‘rapper’


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


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 and an appearance on CNN.


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

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
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.