My Take on Drake-Have All of Us Reached Our Potential? (A Response to Marc Lamont Hill’s Article)


Do we hate Drake? My boy Professor Marc Lamont Hill does and he explains why in a recently penned article featured on TheLoop21.com. Here, I can understand many of Hill’s sentiments including; Drake being talented but overhyped, him being used as a slick marketing tool for a corporate backed music industry which I should add, is in rapid decline and him taking up precious space in the urban sound scape to the exclusion of ‘more talented’ emcees. But, with all that being said, I think Hill misses a couple of fundamental points about Hip Hop.

First, and foremost, Hip Hop, in particular the art of emceeing, at the end of the day is a form of communication where the only questions that matters are;  ‘Do you connect with your audience’ and ‘Did you move the crowd’. Drake has clearly done this-like it or not. We shouldn’t begrudge him.

Now, we can argue and assert Drake is lacking in rhyme skillz or he’s not that good of a singer. We can as Hill did, equate him to being a one man ‘boy band’. We can say all that and any number of negative things, but last I checked there’s a significant number of people residing in our respective hoods all across the country who are checking for this cat. They view him differently. Everywhere I go I’m hearing folks bump his music. I’m seeing his shows sell out and in general I’m seeing him generate a type of excitement that I haven’t seen in a very long time. In 2010 Drake is ‘that guy‘.

As far as Drake’s fans are concerned his rhymes and singing are just fine. His audience finds him compelling, entertaining, inspiring and more importantly relevant. The question before us all is ‘Are we relevant?‘ Are we relevant to Drake’s audience? And if not why not? and should we be? And if we wanna connect what’s it gonna take to be so?

This brings me to my second point…Hip Hop is not a spectator sport. If someone feels Drake is undeserving of his audience and he’s taking up valuable space and is a big waste of time, from a Hip Hop perspective there’s only one thing you can really do..step into the arena, show & prove’ and win that audience back.

Rick Rock-Create paint where there ain't

Now, one may make the excuse about how that’s hard to do because Drake has celebrity endorsements, a million dollar marketing budget and the full weight of the industry pushing him. But this is Hip Hop and we have long prided ourselves as being able to do far more with less. In this space, no obstacle is insurmountable. This a culture that has creativity, resourcefulness and hustling as key building blocks. To quote producer Rick Rock..we create paint where there ain’t or to quote Shock G of Digital Underground, we can make a dollar out of 15 Cent or as they say in church. ‘We can make a way out of no way’.  So in 2010 if we’re finding ourselves battling the commodification of culture, and the dumbing down of audiences with artists and culture being made disposable, we who identify with Hip Hop should be able to effectively battle back and counter this.  Hence anyone who feels Drake is misleading his crowd, in this age of technology where Youtube, Ipads, blogs and twitter are abundant engaging  Drake’s audience should  not be difficult. Winning them over? Well, that’s the hard part.

The bottom line is this.. If Drake is lazy, as Professor Hill pointed out, and not living up to the full potential of his talents as an artist, can the same be said about us? Are we equally as lazy and not reaching our full potential as members of the Hip Hop community? We’re demanding that artist like Drake step up, but collectively speaking what are we doing to be meaningful game changers?

This culture has been around damn near 40 years and with all our entrepreneurial brilliance, insightful punditry, academic scholarship, street savvy and swagger, we still have not created a music business infrastructure that is far superior and eclipses the corporate backed one that has made a superstar out of Drake but at the same time has ruined and exploited a music and culture we hold dear. Where’s our superstar making machine? Why haven’t we created our own industry where artist like; Black Thought, Jean Grae and Lupe Fiasco are everyday un-compromised and un-apologetic occurrences?

After 40 years are we looking for jobs in this industry or creating our own? And when I say create..I mean creating business that are not mere extensions dependent upon a corrosive industry. Are we about the business of creating something that is on our own terms, owned by us and is on par with the potential heights we want artists like Drake to reach?

Finally let’s get to the crux of this issue…If artists like, Pharaoh Monche or Lupe Fiasco who Hill mentions in his piece were the primary ‘go to’ figures that everyone in the hood was clamoring over, then any sort of discussion around Drake would be irrelevant. The concern is this-Drake is getting shine in the community, leaving many to wonder why those who are arguably more skilled and have ‘deeper meanings’ to their songs are not. How is there this disconnect and what do we do to fix it?

Is it as simple as extra airplay? Does it come down to extra marketing dollars?  Does this boil down to us exposing Drake’s audience to what some consider ‘better caliber’ artists in hopes that they will suddenly see the light and find the Drakes of the world  less desireable?

Who’s to say that the Drake fan is not already well aware of the Talibs, Mos Defs, Dead Prezs and other conscious artists? Perhaps they know them but at the end of the day they simply prefer Drake. That’s a nagging reality many of us are not ready to face because we’re left either wondering how we’re out of step with large portions of the  community we speak and rep for.. and more importantly we’re left questioning our influence or lack thereof.  Or we can sum it up and face the fact that we may haven’t reached our full potential at least in the arena of communicating.

That can be a blow to our egos and toss a monkey wrench into our assumptions and expectations..It has to be bothersome when you’re an elder in the community who teaches, counsels or offer leadership and guidance to younger folks, only to find at the end of the day they are pretty much rejecting our musical offerings.  It’s hard not to question what that says about us or to not take it personal when those you help rear let you know ‘they ain’t feeling Public Enemy, Wu or even 2pac.

Wacka Flocka

I recall when I was younger, my mom and older cousins would tell me..’Live long enough and I’ll come to see what they were talking about... Many of us are at that moment in our lives. When I see younger cousins emphatically embracing Gucci Mane and Wacka Flocka and I know they were raised on a steady diet of KRS, PRT and X-Clan, I can now better understand why my elders were so upset when they saw us choosing turntables over ‘musical instruments.

Now I understand why they were perplexed when we said we preferred Grandmaster Flash or Afrika Bambaataa over Earth Wind and Fire, Kool and the Gang and even Marvin Gaye. Many of us as youngsters simply did not see the relevance as to why those who were older held these artists as sacred. To them our rejections were blasphemous. We essentially were dismissing the sound track to their lives and  not building upon a cultural legacy they were a part of and may have even helped lay down.

From our stand point as youngstas, we discovered something that spoke to us and had meaning and were seeking to build our own legacy. When I was younger I didn’t analyze things, this way, but as I got older I’ve come to realize, that there was too much preaching and not enough teaching. The more our elders preached that this ‘Hip Hop’ thing we were into was huge step backwards the more we stuck with it. Perhaps they should’ve sat down and built with us. Perhaps they should’ve  helped nurture our curiosity and passion.  We made lots of mistakes along the way that could’ve been avoided had we had the nurturing, but eventually we come to discover our own worth and brilliance and a perhaps a few of the lessons they were trying to impart on us.

I guess the question at hand that I’m gonna keep coming back to is have we ever reached our full potential? Not just Drake , but all of us.. Have we all come realize and act upon our brilliance? These  humbling questions to answer because on many levels we may sadly discover to the degree that we find Drake to be mediorcre and lacking or brilliant and great, it may in fact be an accurate reflection of who we are as a Hip Hop community. Drake will change when we do. It’s either that or accept the fact we simply can’t see what they can see..

-Something to ponder-

-Davey D-

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J5uqPUZxZHg

I hate Drake. There, I said it.

by Marc Lamont Hill

http://theloop21.com/society/i-hate-drake-there-i-said-it

Dr Marc Lamont Hill

For the past two years, Drake has been one of the hottest acts in hip-hop. From high profile guest appearances to a ubiquitous presence on urban radio, it is nearly impossible to follow hip-hop and not get regular doses of the Toronto-born rapper.

I hate him.

There I said it.

To be clear, I don’t have any personal beef with Drake. While I’ve never met him, I don’t doubt that he’s a decent and well-intentioned person. Still, I hate him. And you can’t stop me. Why? Because he represents several things that I find troublesome about the current mainstream hip-hop scene.

First, there’s the music. While there’s no doubt that Drake is very gifted— even if he too often wastes his talent making radio-friendly confection—he leaves much to be desired as an rapper. Instead of relying on his intellectual and artistic gifts, he too often resorts to tired concepts, lazy punch lines and predictable one-liners. This wouldn’t be such a problem if he weren’t constantly being hailed by the rap world as a dope lyricist rather than what he actually is: a pop song writer.

To call Drake an MC in a world that still includes Black Thought, Lupe Fiasco, Jean Grae, Pharoah Monch, or even Eminem is an insult to people who think. As evidenced by his humiliating Blackberry “freestyle” on Funkmaster Flex’s Hot 97 radio show, Drake has mastered neither the art, science, nor stylistic etiquette of MCing. From his frantic attempts to stay on beat to his inability to improvise even slightly, Drake represents a dangerous historical moment in hip-hop culture where rapping has overshadowed other dimensions of MCing, like freestyling, battling, and moving the crowd.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-uKSeyYFGRo&feature=player_embedded

In addition to his lyrical deficiencies, there is something naggingly inauthentic about Drake. And nope, it’s not because he’s a half-white Canadian named Aubrey whose original claim to fame was playing Jimmy Brooks on the teen drama Degrassi High. While such information does nothing to enhance his street bona fides, it certainly doesn’t merit missing him outright. After all, some of hip-hop’s greatest talents (whether they admit it or not) have come from a variety of privileged race, class, and geographic backgrounds. Also, despite being a running buddy of Lil Wayne, Drake’s raps don’t include drug dealing, poverty, violence, or any of the other stale tropes of ghetto authenticity found in mainstream hip-hop narratives. Still, his persona and music feel like the product of industry cynicism rather than an organic outgrowth of hip-hop culture.

From his faux-Southern accent to his corporate-funded “street buzz,” Drake has been perfectly prepped to become hip-hop’s version of a boy band. Take one look at Drake and you can almost hear the calculations of greedy record execs looking for the next crossover act: Preexisting white fanbase: check. Exotic Ethnic Background: check. Light Skin: check. Celebrity Cosigners: check.

And the list goes on… Sadly, such paint-by-the-numbers thinking not only forces Drake into the public sphere, but also excludes more gifted artists who don’t fit neatly into the prefigured boxes of industry honchos.

While the aforementioned reasons are sufficient to warrant my Drake hate, my biggest issue stems from his decision to sign with Universal Motown in June 2009. At the point that Drake signed the deal, he had already become one of the hottest rappers in the country. In addition to high visibility, Drake already had an independently functioning infrastructure around him for full-fledged marketing, promotion, and distribution of future projects. In other words, as DJ Skee pointed out “Drake had already successfully done everything a major label could by himself.”

Instead of seizing the moment, Drake, in a move that violated the adventurous entrepreneurial spirit of hip-hop, played it safe and went with a traditional deal. Unlike artists of lesser stature, Drake had an opportunity to thumb his nose at a record industry built on the unmitigated exploitation of artists. By running back to the plantation, Drake squandered a critical opportunity to not only build his own empire, but to create new possibilities for an entire generation of artists.

Am I being too hard on Drake? Am I holding him to too high a standard? Am I ignoring the fact that there have been “Drakes” in every generation? Am I a grouchy hip-hop oldschooler still mad that A Tribe Called Quest broke up and Rakim no longer gets radio play? The answer is probably “yes” on all fronts. Still, I maintain my position, as well as my right to hate Drake. And you can’t stop me.

Whew! I feel better now. How about you?

Marc Lamont Hill is Associate Professor of Education at Columbia University. He blogs regularly at MarcLamontHill.com. He can be reached at marc@theloop21.com.

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49 comments on “My Take on Drake-Have All of Us Reached Our Potential? (A Response to Marc Lamont Hill’s Article)

  1. Spot on Davey Dee!
    Marc Lamont Hill was expressing, and thats ok. He aint a hater, thats for sure. If not, i wont follow him on twitter.
    But you have spoken well, the game is changing. And drake may not be the future, but he is a darn impressionable present. we gotta face that.

  2. I agree w/MLH that Drake is boy bandish. But I also agree w/Davey D, that Drake’s an artist that people enjoy.

    Perhaps Drake isn’t the one to hate, it’s what he the record industry for dressing people up and calling them a hip-hop artists when they are not.

    Even my 14 year old niece thinks he’s pop.

  3. Let’s all remember that this is Drake’s ROOKIE campaign. I believe he titled the album “Thank Me Later” to indicate that there is much more to come from him. With all the attention he has gotten, we ought to expect that his second album will not sound much like his debut. I think he will expand on his versatility with time. We can’t be too impatient; we can’t have everything we want all in one sitting with the man. Basically, I’m saying that we should allow ourselves to witness Drake’s growth, or lack thereof, which will take more than a critically acclaimed mixtape and a debut album to determine.

  4. Here’s the main issue though. We (cats my age, mid to late 30’s) came up with a broader variety of stuff to listen to. Plus there was always classic R&B being played somewhere (parents or radio) so most of us gained an appreciation for that too. Nowadays, terrestrial radio has NO outlet for classic Hip Hop and what Hip Hop they do play is extremely limited in its scope. How many of our “urban” radio staions are playing anything from the new Reflection Eternal album now?

    Those of us who claim to love Hip Hop music have to pass the torch by exposing our kids to our classics like classic rock fans do with their kids. Media outlets have no reason to do so because to them Hip Hop is still a disposable culture. Its only purpose is to make money for them. Whether or not what they put out and push has any detrimental effect on young hearts and minds is really of no concern to them.

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  6. I was annoyed by Dr. Hill’s arguments against Drake. He is neither the best nor the worst artist out there, his lyrics aren’t violent, and he doesn’t objectify women as much as other rappers do, so I felt he was not as deserving of the criticism heaped upon him by Dr. Hill as other rappers are and wondered if this was just Dr. Hill’s Ice-T/Soulja Boy moment. I’m glad you responded with this piece. You stated everything much better than I could.

  7. Correction: (I was distracted and didn’t edit)

    Perhaps Drake isn’t the one to hate, it’s what he the record industry for dressing people up and calling them a hip-hop artists when they are not.

    this should read:

    Perhaps Drake isn’t the one to hate. Hip-hop lovers should be pissed off the record industry for dressing people up and calling them hip-hop artists when they are not. (But we know this.)

    IMHO, Mainstream rap has been bad for years.

  8. Great article, Davey, and I agree with many of your sentiments.

    “We essentially were dismissing the sound track to their lives and not building upon a cultural legacy they were a part of and may have even helped lay down.”

    This passage really spoke to me because it perfectly sums up my feeling on this younger generation’s attitude toward the music (and overall values) I hold near and dear.

  9. Hey Anon I think Drake is definitely Hip Hop.. why wouldn’t he be? Bambaataa ghas said time and time again.. there’s room for the bubble gum and the serious because thats who we are at the end of the day..He also never dismissed one for being signed to a label or being played on a radio for not being part of the culture as well

  10. Maybe he just mad because Drake is high yellow and gets the hoes? This other guy, MLH surely isn’t. LOL

  11. I really hate Funk Flex nowadays. jk. I wasn’t really feeling the freestyles. I never liked Wayne though except for one or two songs. Seriously, I don’t like the way all young money group imitates Wayne’s voice. They make money though – Baby the mobster makes the most though.

  12. “Still, his persona and music feel like the product of industry cynicism rather than an organic outgrowth of hip-hop culture.”

    MLH had me at industry cynicism.

    i can kind of see dave’s points too, but i think he bends a little far in giving Drake a pass. anyone over 35 who still listens to rap music should be critical and protective of the art form.

    put it this way: would you go into a sacred Dogon ritual in Mali and tell the tribal percussionists playing a traditional song dating back to the 13th century to put on some Drake? i sure hope the answer is “no.”

  13. … R-Son said it the best “extremely limited” today. When I listen to mainstream, I can’t tell if tits Ray-J, Drake, T-Pain, Jamie Foxx (wow) or that skinny RNB dukes. People still dance to the classics.

  14. No Eric.. anyone over 35 should be working to build institutions that rival the ones ‘dumbing the culture down.. That’s my larger point.. How many Professors do we have teaching at the highest universities? Where’s the sit down and first steps to build a new music industry? I know what I went through when trying to flip a station.. It was hard to get many of my industry peers to opt out and join in..

    Lastly who am I to give Drake a pass? Drake don’t owe me nothing and vice versa.. there’s nothing to protect..Drake ain’t the issue his audience is.. along with the institutions whop speak to that audience..We’re not kids

  15. Great article Davey D! I agree with you wholeheartedly. If there aren’t any outlets playing the Hip Hop music that WE like, then we need to create our own music business infrastructure. Have you seen the videos that has been airing on BET and MTV lately? There’s something sinister that these video directors have been putting in the videos like subliminal messages, babylonian, and baphomet symbols. When we have numerous mainstream artists from Eminem to Jay-Z to 2Pac to Kanye West all rapping in their songs talkin’ ’bout how they’ve sold their soul to the devil for fame & riches..we should pay close attention. They’re not just yellin’ stuff like that out for shock value..it’s the ugly truth. They’re tellin’ us something. The current music industry is satanic whether you believe it or not. The time is now to own our institution.

  16. Drake’s music is catchy, which is something I can’t say with a lot of these current acts. On the point of getting older, I, too, see the wisdom of those before us in regards to how we see younger acts. I suppose it’s pretty much the same as being at that age: if you like it, follow it.

    By the way, that Heavy D joint is classic…

  17. Comparing Pharaohe Monch to Drake is an apples to oranges comparison. It’s like a guy who makes a kick ass micro brew with hand selected ingredients wondering why Bud Light sells more cases of beer. Davey’s argument in that scenario would be that beer is made to get you drunk and since Bud Light get’s more people in the hood drunk it is as relevant to the history and tradition of brewing as the hand crafted micro. I disagree and would prefer to drink good beer and listen to good music whenever I have a choice. The more idiots that can’t tell the difference between the two means more good beer for me. The more people that don’t care about music the easier it is for me to see good music in small venues at affordable ticket prices.

    I think a question to ask is why do we think Drake’s temporary success and non existent legacy are something real artists should be judged against or for some reason deserve? You can’t have it all. You can’t refuse to play the game and expect the exposure the game provides. Conversely you can’t make watered down crap and bitch because the people don’t respect you as an artist.

  18. That’s not my argument Tim.. My point was the people get decide what they like and don’t like.. Even in your beer scenario.. Absolutely.. Some folks prefer Malt liquor over high end beer.. Who are you to say the high end stuff is better? It is technically speaking if we have specific criteria.. But if people don’t like it they don’t like it.. You can’t say one is ‘better’ then the other with respect to what people choose to embrace… Your a guy with a strong opinion that may or may not have any connection to what the larger body of people in your community wants..

    Hip Hop wasn’t born on the high end.. it was born bottom up…. Just because some high end folks get in the mix and decide they wanna change things around doesn’t mean its universally accepted.. This was precisely what happened in the early 80s when there was beef btwn GMF and Run DMC.. I wrote a pretty lengthy account of that debate and was going to include it in this piece, but its shaping up to be a n article onto itself especially after going over details with Paradise who ran LQ and few other heads.. But to sum it up..

    We basically had a street group that soon moved to a downtown scene and began to become ‘high end’ in their looks and style and ‘high end’ in subject matter.. Run DMC came along and returned to a bare bones simplified music that many within the old school claimed was step backwards.. The exact same arguments of about what was ‘technically better was made.. Mele-mel was doing message raps and Run had returned to bragging. The group was wearing costumes and going all out with the showmanship, Run was wearing street clothes which ironically became a costume in itself… They had made the music more accessible to the masses while our high end folks quickly found themselves irrelevant. It didn’t matter that mele-mel was the better rapper.. The masses felt Run DMC more..

    Now in hindsight such an argument and critique against such a landmark group seems ridiculous because we have 25 years of history to look back up on..and the differences are not discernable to most especially if they weren’t there to hear those arguments.. But nevertheless that was the discussion..that found itself being played out on records..

    Drake in 2010 is the most dominant artist in the hood.. all over the country..Time will tell if he’s timeless..or disposable..

  19. Man I was pretty upset with Dr. Hill’s piece. I was very blessed to have been on Drakes tour as part of my job and let me tell you something about Drake that I learned HE IS REAL AND REAL HIP HOP TO THE CORE! The man cares very deeply about his music and his craft. While hes not the best freestyler or lyricist out there the man is a performer. He put on a show every night that made everyone in the house a believer whether it was an audience of 10K or 2K. Not everyone in hip hop has every aspect of it, thats why hip hop is great because some people can battle, some make damn good music, some tell storys, some have a message, some freestyle, some sing, some beatbox, man its all hip hop just different forms.

    Also, he has a vocal coach because hes serious about his singing… his second single was an R&B joint! He is constantly working to get better so he can make the best music possible not just get paid. How many artist out there can we say the same thing about?

    Lastily, I find him to one of the most honest people out there. He’s this 23 yr old who has suddenly burst into stardom, fame, fortunes, and that comes with a lot of pressure and expectations. I think hes telling his story that is true to him and his experiences. Not to mention HE HASNT EVEN COME OUT WITH HIS 1ST ALBUM YET…well kind of now but still. He is already being compared and contrasted against seasoned vets who have been in the game and grown with it. He is 23 and dropping his first love, his reasonable doubt, his illmatic, his college dropout… Why don’t we give the kid an opportunity to show what hes made of and see what he does with his situation.

    Much Love Davey, you are always on point and I always look forward to your pieces

  20. Since when do you read your lyrics off an iPhone when doing a freestyle? Does Drake know what the word “freestyle” even means?

  21. I think there are plenty of outlets to get the non commercial hip hop. Maybe the audience is too lazy or ignorant to seek them out. Sirius radio has quality radio shows with DJ Premier’s Live from Headquaterz show or even Dj Eclipse with Rap is outta control. They are playing the hip hop that terrestrial radio isn’t. It’s simple. If you don’t like what’s on the radio, change the station. There are alternatives. The Internet has made it possible to see any video you want, any time. Sittng and waiting for BET or MTV to play a video is so 1997. Music is no differnt than your diet. You got a lot of obese unhealthy people out there because all they want to eat is what tastes good but is unhealthy be ause it’s easy and cheap. It’s easy to turn on free terrestrial radio and take in what the machine wants to feed you for free. If that’s what people want to do, that’s cool. The paradigm of radio play and label deals and video rotation is played but it’s the easiest way. I expend a little more energy to get hip hop music I am more than happy with. It can’t stay 1988 forever. GMF had to move aside for Run DMC. Run DMC had to move aside for EPMD. EPMD had to move aside for Pac/Biggie/Nas/Wu Tang. They gotta step aside for somebody… They got some big shoes to fill.

  22. Davey, I’m from your generation of Hip Hop. Although I don’t like all the youngsters new music, I respect it b/c it’s their voice and not mine. I agree with you so much. My parents didn’t like me playing RUN DMC, Whodini, Fat Boys, LL, or whatever. They actually asked me why I wasn’t putting on my church suit when I went to the King of Rock tour. We older Hip Hoppers need to make ourselves pertinent to the youngsters. BTW, most music has always been marketed and pushed toward no matter the times or trends. One love and keep us thinking Davey.

  23. Your stomach the next day tells you what’s good beer. It’s not subjective when you’re talking about quality.

    Your Run DMC comparison isn’t full proof. We have decades of hip hop precedents since then on which to make sound judgements. Also the street’s love of Run DMC was real grassroots not corporate promoted astro turf. The streets forced radio to play Run DMC while now the streets are forced to listen to the Drakes of the world by radio. Drake isn’t Mr.Lif, he’s not dressing like and talking about the shit real people go thru.

    New artists should have to prove themselves to their elders as well as their piers. The alternative is to let 16-20 year old focus groups and media campaigns dictate. Just because Hip Hop came from the streets doesn’t mean everything the streets ever produce is automatically in the discussion with hip hop. It just doesn’t make sense. Hip Hop was the exception to the shit life that is the American ghetto, not the rule.

    Instead of giving the final word to elders who have seen these types of rappers come and go you are defending the cycle of youth worship that leads to the eternal 20 year olds being created by our culture.

    Drake may be the next NAS but he will have to earn that not be handed it because 106 and park drills his hooks into peoples heads. I’m way more comfortable admitting I was wrong once every few years than admitting I was duped by a marketing buzz every 3 months.

  24. Great article Davey D,

    I think you hit the nail on the head w/ this one. I thought Dr. Hill judged Drake a little to hard. We have to realize that Drake is not Jay-Z or Nas… he’s Drake, a rapper from Canada with pop appeal… is he the best lyricist in the game? Not by a long shot. But he does make catchy songs and there’s no doubt that he is talented. We have to realize that hip-hop is changing and what the kids like is just a reflection of what society likes. I even talked about that in an article on 99problems.org: http://99problems.org/2010/05/the-message-of-the-music/

    I especially liked when you said, “If Drake is lazy… can the same be said about us? Are we equally as lazy and not reaching our full potential as members of the Hip Hop community?”

    Thats a question that we all need to ask

  25. ” anyone over 35 should be working to build institutions that rival the ones ‘dumbing the culture down.. That’s my larger point.. How many Professors do we have teaching at the highest universities? Where’s the sit down and first steps to build a new music industry?”

    i’m not convinced that building a new music industry is the solution. i’m also not convinced that academia is the solution. the institutions you mention are in fact in the process of being built; in some cases they already exist. these are community-based organizations which use hip-hop as a tool for learning and education for young people, along with job, skill and career training.

    Why even go on and on about Drake when we can talk about the Green Youth Media Arts Center? or Youth UpRising? or Youth Movement–whose students have a 90% graduation rate, much better than kids in public education who arent in the program–?

  26. We’re talking about Drake because hes the thing that everyone is interested in.. There’s more conversation on this topic than any thing I’ve done in rthe past month.. including the BP oil spill .. So as much as I like the Green Youth media Center.there was very little discussion.. even though the topic was building from the ground up..

    We do need a new industry.. one that works for the people it wishes to serve.. disseminating information and having a distribution hub for what we do either as hip hop or an underserved community is paramount. This is not the same as replicating an old model, its creating something new.. Maybe it means building upon those things that are or maybe it means starting from scratch or doing both… Whatever the case, these discussions will go on and on..until enough people in enough places feel they have places to turn to and get what their sorely missing..

  27. B-Lo The streets forced radio to play Run DMC? No not true.. corporate dollars/payola forced the airplay fam… Russell making sure his brothers was featured on the def jam fresh fest tour, Farm Aid etc.. help generate this.. Trust me on many levels it was grassroots in the sense fans really dug the group.. But the promotion behind them was similar.. Trust that..

    As for the elders.. and folks proving themselves… That’s a nice thought, but unless you are an elder that is doing what an elder should than you will be pushed out the way..Right now only elders that Drake is proving himself to are his piers.. i.e Bun B and others who have took him under their wings.. The rest of us either we fans or we’re not.. You and me are not buying Drake records.. we could care less about him and we hold no influencing position that makes him have to step up..

    Sure we may be writers or even on radio.. But not shot calling in the least. Drake proved himself to those that matter including his audience which are not just 16 yr olds..

    As far as 16-20 year old focus groups dictating.. well Tim guess what thats happening on our watch.. and until we do something about it.. then what we see is what we’ll get..
    lastly lets be clear about streets.. Streets im the way I’m using it is another way of identifying cultural expression from oppressed communities who use art and music among other things to cope.. It’s something that takes place all over the world.. And included in that desire to cope are some beautiful things and some ugly things.. beautiful music and dance, ugly drink and drugs etc..

    That group of people tend to set trends in terms of what we like to copy, commodify highlight etc.. They have chosen Drake from coast to coast.. That is a solid truth we cant deny..Drake is not Nas.. He’s Drake who is contending with a cultural of disposability.. that’s his challenge..to over come that obstacle..

    when I came up we were being ignored and invinsible .. our challenege was to be seen and heard.. we had to overcome that.. but now we are set to go to the next level .. while the Drakes of the world face up to the new challenges.. This not about our opinion of Drake.. Its about what we are all embracing for better or for worse.. and organically and forcefed..

  28. “We’re talking about Drake because hes the thing that everyone is interested in.. There’s more conversation on this topic than any thing I’ve done in rthe past month.. including the BP oil spill .. So as much as I like the Green Youth media Center.there was very little discussion.. even though the topic was building from the ground up.. ”

    okay so maybe we need to shift the conversation.

    as far as building a new industry, i think even using that term is problematic.

    we cant even address this issue without taking into account media consolidation and what it has meant.

    i’ll give you an example. i’m working on a story right now on the legacy of Prop 21.

    10 years ago, folks were able to build coalitions, support conscious hip-hop through youth organizing, and address the criminalization of youth. they were able to spread their message though mainstream channels–most notably, your KMEL show “Street Knowledge”–and press for corporate accountability from the funders of Prop 21: Chevron, PG&E, etc.

    nothing like that exists today.

    just today, i got a press release on KMEL recognizing a “freshman class” of bay area artists. so i’m supposed to get excited about this, just because the station has decided to stop ignoring local artists completely?

    in contrast, i see what Green Youth are doing, which is creating positive alternatives to violence and economic disparity for the youth, but they get no love on KMEL. it’s the same old story. Three years ago, KMEL was a promotional partner of the Silence the Violence campaign, but they wouldnt give an all-star antiviolence track any airplay.

    so maybe we need to take industry out of the conversation. Let’s let Drake be Drake, KMEL be KMEL, and BET be BET.

    we can turn the radio off as well as the TV, if it isnt broadcasting content which is relevant to our community.

    we do have other options these days which are accessible. they may not be as popular right now as mainstream outlets, but they are growing in popularity.

    we dont need a new music industry, we need a revolution.

    and you’re 100% correct, Dave, that it all starts with our own awareness. i can excuse a 16 year old who has a Lil Wayne CD, but a 35 year-old? c’mon now.

    but at the same time, not all 16 year olds are ignorant. we can actually learn from our youth.

    the older generation turned its back on hip-hop and left us to our own devices. they could have learned something from us, but instead contributed to a generational divide which ultimately played directly into the hands of the oppressor.

    we have the choice not to replicate that model, but we’re not going to do it by trying to pretend the problem doesnt exist.

  29. Eric..
    No Eric I’m quite precise when I say industry.. it means institution it means structure.. It means resources..it means folks coming together to set up their own.. It means having a viable alternative to what exists..but raising that alternative to be the primary source for those who feel left out..

    With respect to Prop 21 activist.. yes.. they had media help via my show.. but we talked specifically about this and I was an activist who made a lot of behind the scenes sacrifices to make sure things went down.. I had my show cut to an hour.. I had the times switched.. I was told not to have them on..all sorts of stuff much which has never really been shared.. all of it culminating with me being bounced..But all of us were quite clear on how to use Street Knowledge.. I say this to point out the following:

    1-First there was never really space even on KMEL before and after consolidation for Prop 21 activist..It was aware people who tried to make a difference using what resources were available on all sides…with that being said..what was needed then was a Industry.. our own corner our own outlets.. we just never had a full commitment to that.. To prop 21s credit.. Hard Knock Radio came out of that.. They fought to get that even before I was out at KMEL.. so they understood the importance of having platforms..
    What was never really garnered was having that be a full time 24/7 commitment versus the other work that was needed..

    2-Just as folks are not paying attention to Green Youth media they weren’t paying attention to KPOO when I was at KMEL.. too many of us let existing outlets fall to the wayside.. and it was only after seeing our focus groups and research that I came to understand the importance of clusters, networks-industry for those I wanna reach..many want to feel like they are a part of something that is having impact in the places they reside.. The proof in the pudding is seeing how many folks.. that we know who know better were running around trying to get on the bay freshman..list.. If I get one more email or txt on this I’ll scream..These folks were pushing KMEL inspite of being on FNV or Sidehsow or KPOO or being covered by you and me.. They weren’t sending links, talking up and pushing our collective efforts, but they were running around promoting the hell out of KMEL..who never showed them any or minimal love..

    The irony to this is that what the station did was an old trick we always did when ratings were down.. we played the locals with the understanding they would promote the station.It was a concept we sat up and talked about in 1994-95 which was reaffirmed by focus groups and has been done in some shape or form every few years.. Hyphy being the last incarnation.. which as we know they tanked..

    Until we blow ourselves up or create something that folks feel is comparable to what we are asking them to leave.. we’ll be having discussions like this one around Drake 10 years from now..

    It as that understanding that led to what was behind Breakdown FM.. which was initially designed as a cluster of stations-Industry..

  30. The Sign Of The Times

    It’s really not that intellectual. Times have changed. Years ago, any “fake” “milli vanilli” type who have been booed and rejected.

    Once 50 said do anything to “Get Money Or Die Trying”, the game changed.

    Also, real talk. Most real “gangstas” were locked up by then or not trying to return to jail.

    So the era of the “fake” “milli vanilli” types took over.

    So let’s review:

    R Kelley stole from alot of 1970’s artist. But R Kelley was very talented in his own right.

    Prince-what I just wrote about R Kelley goes the same for prince.

    LL Cool J-LL also stole concepts, beats (MC Shan), and ideas from others. Yet LL was also very talented in his own right.

    Jay-Z- Jay Z is one of the biggest “dick riders” and “jackers” of musical history. But he is also very talented and a helluva “hustla” and artist.

    Lil Kim-Come on Man Biggey made Lil Kim. She got her “look” from Queen B-yah heard

    Drake-I personally didn’t like Drake at first. Comeon, this dude is a Canadian actor. He more or less “stole” “your the best” beat from this other writer. If it wasn’t for Kanye or Wayne, Drake would have no “flow” model. But Drake is a talented Mother “F’er”. And it really doesn’t matter that he chose to sign to a record company. What difference does it make. Lamont Hill was just hatin. Hill look like a Hata.

    And last but not least the biggest “milli vanilli” jacka of today

    Rick Ross-CO! CO!-Come on man. This dude jack his own lifestyle from real gangstas. He jacked Biggey’ s mindset, rhymestyle and flow. He jacked Freeway Ricky Ross’ name and MO.

    10 or more years ago, this “I know the real Noreaga” fake “milli vanilli” dude would have been beat down, and laughed off the stage. You know it and I know it.

    But it’s 50’s faught. 50 taught the world to “sell your soul” as long as you get rich.

    50 destroyed Murder Inc on some ole Tupac-Tone fabricated “beef”.

    That’s why it’s so ironic that Rick Ross used 50’s own “techniques” and beat 50 at his own game.

    Karma really is a Mother “F’er”.

    But at the end of the day, it really doesn’t matter. If people want to spend money on or support these artists, then that’s their business.

    If commentators like Davey wanna write about it, then that’s his perogative.

    If Lament Hill wanna hate, well it is America.

    And if real dudes with real facts (like me) wanna tell the TRUTH, then that’s what’s up.

    ~1~

  31. I think Mr. Hill got one point twisted. He said Drake had a business infrastructure that could do everything by itself before he signed a deal, and had the opportunity to thumb his nose at the industry and structure a trailblazing type deal.

    No sir. The industry was behind him from day one. They just hide the fact to make his growth appear to be organic, to appear earned. We don’t like our M.C’s just showing up with Big Deals. You got to pay dues. Drake never really paid dues. he just pretended to.

    So what Universal did is like reverse engineering. Drake was brought and paid for before he got with Cash Money. How do you think he got with Cash Money? Who on Cash Money is claiming to have discovered Drake? This isn’t a 50 Cent being discovered by Eminem situation. Or a Dr. Dre discovering Snoop Dogg.

    For Drake it’s actually is a bum deal. He’s on Young Money that’s under Cash Money, that is under Universal. That’s a lot of hands in his pocket, but he didn’t have a choice when he signed under table at Universal. Universal needed a camp to start him out with. They figured he wasn’t strong enough to just debut like say a DMX or even a T.I. He needed a successful crew to fall under. They put him with their best. Sylvia Rhome was the Universal shot caller.

    Slim from Cash Money ain’t stupid. He stays out of the camera but he’s one of the best hip-hop businessman ever. Baby is just like the A&R and Brand promoter. Slim set up Young Money as a developmental vanity label and negotiated Drake to start out there. His presence boosts the rest of the crew.

    Drake is the Manchurian M.C. His line on the song Successful “nothing was done for me” is the most hypocritical thing to ever come out the mouth of an M.C. His mixtape budget was not a mixtape budget.

    Talent wise. Lyrically compared to Gucci Man and Wacko Flacko he’s brilliant. On the East Coast side of things. I’d say he’s a notch or two under 50 Cents commercial style. I haven’t heard him say anything really clever. Ludacris doesn’t have to worry about being challenged on the punchline tip. Drakes content is strictly R&B themed which makes him one dimensional, but I can see where his fans would appreciate that. Flow wise, he’s basic. His natural M.C voice sounds good. Singing wise, I really don’t know he uses auto tune, E.Q’s and reverbs so much. He’s no Ne-Yo or Usher, I can tell that. He’s sort of like a hybrid. Not great at either rapping or singing, but he writes well enough to blend to the two, so that he’s not overly reliant on either one. Minilli Vanilli wish they was new now. They wouldn’t have to lip sync with auto tune. His stage performance is subpar, for a young dude his very stiff. Moves like he’s 60. I heard him try to play that off and say his content is mature so he can perform sitting. I don’t think he has a choice.

    Best thing going for him is he favors a young Obama and being from Toronto he has a built in Universal appeal. He’s in an era where image shapes sound and money marketing can buy a following. Kids are naturally attracted by what they see and hear the most. You can led them straight to hell if you line the path with candy. Shorty say it’s getting hot. Just say you getting closer to where the candy is cooked. Ohh. Drake is also the first M.C to be an actor first so Universal definitely sees that money in his future.

    Drake won’t be hard to topple. A strong authentic grass roots movement backed with money and power at the appropriate junctures should do the trick. A superior performer will emerge. Hip-hop is to important for one not to.

    Plus guess who got’s a secret.

  32. Finally Mr. Hill, Drake was also paired with Cash Money because Universal wanted to win the all important southern market first which in terms of then garnering national success is more important than the northeastern corridor.

    In my final opinion if Drake was all that he could have done it from Toronto and put his city on the map. Then gone national.

  33. Drake is not talking to old school hip hop heads like MLH or Davey D or me for that matter. He’s talking to the youth, so of course y’all don’t understand him…Duh.

  34. I don’t agree Krista Keating. We aren’t talking a situation where with my parents, they didn’t like hip-hop because it was a whole new genre. Their ears where trained to associate singing with music. They where lost with rap and literally couldn’t understand it.
    Apples and Oranges.

    Now this is apples for apples. I understand everything Drake says very easily. He hasn’t said anything new. and auto tone goes back to 70’s and 80’s. He has a new presence. That’s what the industry is selling to the kids. Newness. That’s not hard for any adult to understand. Is it any good? That’s the question? The kids say it’s popular of “hot”. Okay but is it any good?

  35. I see Drake and rappers like him as an oddity in hip hop. I an era where artist are like a one time used camera from Walmart, with no mentoring, just raw abilities with no guidance, they are a prime crop for corporate America to stir and use for their own purposes. I once said that once white cats got into it and went to college for business, they infiltrated the industry and rewrote the culture and handed it back to us, convincing us that this “Trojan horse” is hip hop and we bought it hook. line, and sinker. I agree that Davey’s idea of us taking it back, restoring it to its wholeness with our own industries like we once had in the 70’s and 80’s before the big takeover with the major labels. I remember the Sleeping Bag records, BDP productions, Next Plateau Records, etc. We need them back!!! We own it then when no one wanted what we had to offer. Drake is the new “corporate MC” along with many others.

    Abstruse is right on what he says: “Have you seen the videos that has been airing on BET and MTV lately? There’s something sinister that these video directors have been putting in the videos like subliminal messages, babylonian, and baphomet symbols. When we have numerous mainstream artists from Eminem to Jay-Z to 2Pac to Kanye West all rapping in their songs talkin’ ’bout how they’ve sold their soul to the devil for fame & riches..we should pay close attention. They’re not just yellin’ stuff like that out for shock value..it’s the ugly truth. They’re tellin’ us something. The current music industry is satanic whether you believe it or not. The time is now to own our institution.”

    The industry is full of Masonic symbols and demonic messages. I was in a group in my teenage years and when we were going to be signed to labels (the issues with southern artists was why we weren’t) we says things like hand signs and homosexuality with drugs rampant then. All corporate backed as well.

    If we want to have hip hop become the “grassroots woman” Common spoke about in I Used To Love HER, we will need to provide leadership, mentorship, ownership, and investment into the culture we claim as ours.

    Lamont Hill and Davey D both are right on many issues. If we hate how the industry is making a minstrel show of us and our culture, let’s get involve and redeem it.

    Keep speaking truth Davey D and Lamont Hill!

  36. correction:
    The industry is full of Masonic symbols and demonic messages. I was in a group in my teenage years and when we were going to be signed to labels (the issues with southern artists was why we weren’t) we saw things like hand signs and homosexuality with drugs rampant then. All corporate backed as well.

  37. the industry is full of bull shit, this aint 1990 when teeny boppers were groovin to bet and mtv and trick 97 radio formats thinking all was good and it would last forever here we are now 20 years later and niggas are still tryin to defend their own dumbness in this shit called the industry.

  38. @flavorblade Hip Hop is talking about the same thing it was talking about in the 70s: Swag, Stuntin, Hollerin, Hustlin all while be held down by the man (in one form or the other.)

    Some rappers focus on some of those topics and some rappers encompass them all. Some rappers are talking to you and some rappers are talking to me.

    “Newness” is a materialistic (whether perceived or in fact) and/or immature (as well as narrow) viewpoint which can easily describe the way youth look at the world: they want new shit to feel good, look good. Adults, more wordly and otherwise, already see past the facade of newness and this is why they are turned off by what Drake says, they no longer relate to this rationale. It doesn’t make Drake a wack MC or even a typical MC.

    I want youth to speak their mind even if I cannot relate anymore, They have a voice and they should use it and hatin ass old school hip hop heads can wave their finger in these kids’ faces all day but that’s exactly what the adults were doing to them when they talking about “I said a a hip hop” even if the reasons were different.

    We often judge, hate, fear what we don’t understand or cannot relate to.

  39. Drake and all these industry so-called mcs are like fast food.Its straight posion, has no redeeming value and easily thrown away in the garbage.Drake isn’t saying anything new and if we as a rap music culture have reached our potential with him , we’re doomed and might as well sell our souls to the devil.Wait, we already have and got pimped and tossed to the curb without a second thought.

  40. I understand what you saying Krista. If I knew back then what I know now….Still basic fact you have some talented young cats out there that ain’t getting play because they aren’t going with the status quo. So their budgets aren’t able to put them on a competitive footing. Hip-hop is like campaign politics now. To be popularly elected you have to have a war chest.

    Back a few years there was room for diversity in commercial radio and video. Plus when a new cat came out, he had to be a little better in some way than what was out; debuts were hot artistically. Now all it takes is a budget and a beat. The music is regressing artistically.

    Not a coincidence the streets aren’t in control anymore. Also I don’t understand the south anymore when they started out they had people like Scarface, Goodie Mob, Outkast; career artist’s. When Juvie came out I was like Yeah, Young Jezzy came out, and I was like yeah. Lil Wayne I understood he was not rapping at me; but still he reminded me of a hip-hop James Brown – not the best at any one thing but he’s going to find a way to win. But now the south just let’s anything pass. Niggaz that can’t even hold a decent conversation all on the mic with big budgets. Stupid.

  41. I can see both of MLH’s and Davey’s points; HOWEVER, to me it points out two main points: When you have a situation when we collectively still don’t know our history, and many of us still don’t give a damn to know it and chastise those of us that do by saying ig’nant-ass statements like, “I don’t wanna hear that Black Stuff!”, and in this case the HISTORY OF HIP HOP, and when collectively we still don’t do enough to pass that knowledge down to young cats like Drake, Souljah Boy, and Gucci Mane, then the young (and some ignorant older folks) will continue following the lead of SOMEONE ELSE (i.e., Viacom, eMpTyV, mainstream media) to educate them on what the music is.

    Mainstream media, especially in relation to OUR CONTRIBUTIONS (and I’d say mainstream ameriKKKan aKKKademia and mainstream society) will always reduce us to a SYNECHDOCHE – using part of something to stand as THE end-all, be-all WHOLE OF IT.

    Sad thing is this: if we were to ask Drake, Gucci Mane, Lil Wayne, Plies and any of these other “hot hip hop artists” questions such as:
    1)Who is AFRIKA BAMBATTAA, COOL HERC, CINDY, PEBBLY POO, GRAND WIZARD THEODORE?
    2)What is TOASTING, what is a GRIOT and what is their past and ANCIENT relationship to Hip Hop?; I bet you’d be hard-pressed to find the answer – yet and still, due to ignorance, these cats (and the fans that follow them) won’t be able to answer them, either. As long as we continue following an industry that is not controlled by us, and does not have our best interest in mine, and as long as we continue expecting someone else to educate us and the world on us, then this ignorance will continue.

    Personally, I, too, don’t care for Drake and can’t stomach alot of these new cats – at the same time, Drake and alot of these young cats could use some guidance, and us older cats should be protective and instructive on accurate knowledge of our culture and history, and should pass it on to them.

  42. “work something, twerk something basis” drake – miss me “first come, first serve basis” rev run of run dmc – sucker mcs no place for biting styles in hip hop

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