5 Videos to Remind Us that Hip Hop is Not Dead #1

October 21 2010

I love this song called Stolen from Rhymefest where he gives us a global perspective of genocide around the world and how many of us play into it.. The lyrics to this song are searing and intense..Makes me not wanna wear a diamonds ever again.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KVdP1aTdZRQ&feature=channel

This is a good song that brings the whole Bishop Eddie Long Prosperity Gospel concept into focus.. Should blessings really be for sale? I like the creativity and the way Rhymefest attacks this..

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ahkyj_0V8sE

This is an incredible song by the Roots.. ‘Dear God’ its a remake of Monster of Folk song of the same title.. You can’t go wrong with these guys..

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=32Qr5oKKP-M&ob=av2e

I had no idea Plies has a poli-sci degree  and was kicking ass in college. I wish he’s do more songs like this-It’s important to let folks know they can address pertinent issues. I give him props for bringing heat on this cut..Why Hate U

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n2Ber4-pfKI&feature=related

I wish Rhymefest had a video to this song..Angry Blackman in an Elevator I like the concept him and Lil Jon cooked up. They said let’s make a Public Enemy type song over Lil Jon beats.. The outcome was something that is potent..Both men are on their game and show you just how powerful rap can be if we decide to use it as a tool for creating awareness and social upliftment.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DkBA7PjbKuU

Return to Davey D’s Hip Hop Corner

An Important Sobering Article: The Decline Of The Conscious MC-Can It Be Stopped?

The Decline Of The Conscious MC: Can It Be Stopped?

by Cedric Muhammad

“This is the way of an artist
a purging, a catharsis
the emerging of a market
a genre on my own…”

– “Water Walker” by Djezuz Djonez
(http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LBXSIan1l8o)

Cedric Muhammad

As many AllHipHop.com readers know I have been promising to write about what I have loosely described as the death or demise of the conscious MC. Last week, I received the final bit of inspiration I needed to pull the trigger – a thoughtful email from a regular and very careful reader who always makes great points, challenging me. Here is what I received in reaction to “Movement Music: From Coke Rap To Community Development” (http://allhiphop.com/stories/editorial/archive/2010/07/27/22311557.aspx) from “V W”:

“Do you really believe that some artists i.e. Rick Ross are truly thinking on that level of intellect? Are they really trying to start a movement? Or is it just a marketing tactic to sell more records and ringtones? You can say I am “profiling” but Ross just doesn’t come across as that type. If Jay Electronica or Lupe did a track like “B.M.F.” I’d be more inclined to think so. Even his “Free Mason” track with Jay-Z didn’t sit well with me. I’m waiting on an article about that (wink wink).”

Here is my response to “VW” which is a great place to start my critique of what is wrong with the current corps of ‘conscious MCs’:

“I believe your e-mail indirectly frames the challenge quite well – the balance between an artist’s personal intellect and a marketing strategy. ‘Movement’ potentially is a catch-all for both.

A street artist doesn’t have to have intellect to accept a righteous movement. And a conscious artist doesn’t necessarily understand how to market a righteous movement.

I wonder why the street artist is held to a standard of EFFECTIVENESS that the conscious artist is not.”
This is the first of five reasons why the American-based conscious MC of today continues to be irrelevant, while continuing to long for the golden era – (loosely identified as 1986-1992).

No Movement Energy (Conscious Artists Hustle The Struggle Too). In my response to ‘VW” I was responding to an important and common criticism of the more street-oriented mainstream rappers for shouting out crime figures and gang leaders and glorifying negative or destructive behavior. In their eyes, Rick Ross is the latest artist to ride this practice into commercial success. But what I have always felt is that conscious artists are hustling hard too. They shout out influential leaders and revolutionary icons like Che Guevara, Patrice Lumumba, Brother Malcolm X, Minister Farrakhan, and Fidel Castro; and cite Teachings, Lessons, and quote books for their personal commercial benefit. Yet, just as I don’t see street rappers doing much in the streets – even the minimum good that real gangsters have done; neither do I see conscious MCs doing the good works or taking the real-life stances of the icons they celebrate on wax (or mp3). With the exception of Dead Prez and Immortal Technique – and David Banner in a different sense –

I have felt no movement energy from any of the artists who have emerged over the last 10-12 years who were categorized or style themselves as ‘political’ or conscious. And certainly nothing like X-Clan, Public Enemy, KRS-One, Big Daddy Kane, Eric B. & Rakim and Poor Righteous Teachers whom I believe all realized it was as important to inspire and make people feel the urgency of the moment, as it was to just share information. My point to “VW” was that you don’t start movements just based upon an artist’s intellectual development. The vast majority of conscious artists don’t have movement energy – while many street artists do – because they (conscious artists) don’t respect marketing nor do they respect the laws that govern the human mind which revolve around the use of language, symbolism, and how efficient the brain and mind must be in categorizing and classifying information and concepts. And because people really don’t think until they are forced too (see Volume 3 of my book on ‘search behavior’) it is possible to get an ‘ignorant ass street rapper’ to lead a conscious movement, not based upon intellect in terms of the books he or she has read, but because it is an act of creative self-preservation. Remember, the movement energy was so strong in the 80s that even Eminem was rocking African medallions! You weren’t even relevant if you didn’t have some form of pan-African sensibility (or could fake it).

David Banner

So this is more about marketing and understanding mass psychology than it is about making superficial judgments on face value of an artist’s personal level of positivity and negativity. And when the ‘conscious’ artist and activist understands that, she or he will understand the authority and credibility that groups like the Black Panthers once enjoyed and which – on a lesser level – the ‘gang’ approaches today on the street. But finally it is important to accept the fact that most artists no matter what they talk about on a track find it hard to accept a real leadership profile. In fact I have never met a rapper who wanted to be a leader as much as they wanted to be an artist. Not one. The closest was David Banner who I arranged to meet with his Congressman – Bennie Thompson, for a high-powered discussion on community development in his hometown of Jackson and his state of Mississippi. A conscious artist can sincerely desire to be a leader of a movement but unless they surround themselves with individuals who also want that for them and not just great ‘celebrity art’ it will not happen. Lyrical content is not enough. An artist must want to serve the people more than rise the ladder of celebrity status.

The I Have To Be The Smartest Person In The Room Syndrome (Ideology Matters More Than Strategy). If there were one major criticism that I would make of 95% of all conscious artists it is that they make music only for themselves or people who already think like them, or agree with them. Preaching to the choir is one of the best ways to limit your appeal leading to what I call ‘demographic death’ (have you ever noticed how all of the conscious artists in the Northeast are in their 30s and 40s and have no following among teenagers? They could all learn something from the example of Wise Intelligent and his latest ‘Djezuz Djonez’ project:http://www.djezuzdjonez.com/. Another talented artist to watch is the always witty and on message Jasiri Xhttp://www.youtube.com/user/jasirix).

Why did 50 Cent as opposed to a conscious rapper team up with Robert Greene to write a book?

Too many conscious rappers allow their ‘book knowledge’ to overpower their street knowledge, natural grasp of wisdom and common sense. That is why conscious artists aren’t very strategic (even though they shout out and quote great revolutionary warriors), while the more mainstream artists can be (why didn’t a political activist-artist rather than 50 Cent write a book with Robert Greene?). They allow ideological purity to become more important than effectiveness and influence. In my book I write about the Ideologue – a person who is loyal to principle and sincere but who literally can’t think on their feet, make any kind of necessary compromise in negotiation, and who mistakes a change in language with a deviation in core principles of belief or ‘dumbing down.’ In addition we all have insecurities and I find that many of us use book knowledge as a way to keep people from seeing our own imperfections, flaws, and shortcomings. In a sense, ‘being smart’ is a shield that keeps some of us from ‘being real.’ It also is the only way some of us would get attention, admiration or respect, we mistakenly feel. If conscious artists would develop their personalities or let more of it show, their popularity would increase.

And here, again we run into a problem because it appears that the ‘conscious’ audience actually demands that you remain unpopular in order to be authentic. It is crazy – the less people that claim you, the more ‘real’ you are in the eyes of the supposed ‘alternative,’ ‘underground,’ artistic fan base. Many in the underground rap community write to me to tell me I have failed to mention a particular artist they like (but which very few people have heard of). Many of these artists have been around for years and their following has not grown beyond the underground circuit. What I realize more and more each year is that the ‘underground’ wants to be just that – not in the mainstream (and that is fine if they can accept that means their audience will not grow beyond a critical mass) and because of that any ‘conscious’ artist who seeks their constant approval has to accept the marketing limitations that come with the endorsement and association.

A lot of left leaning conscious emcees like to quote Karl Marx but have never actually read him which does a grave disservice to their cause

It’s All Political Now (Eff The Science of Business). This is something I have been building on for years – the influence that mistaken or limited interpretations of Karl Marx (and the terminology he popularized) have had in causing many progressives and socialists to confuse historic and natural economic, business and trade and commercial activity with ‘capitalism.’ My personal litmus test for this continues – out of all of the great communist influenced opinion leaders of our generation in Hip-Hop that I have met or built with not one of them has really read the Das Kapital or Capital book series of Karl Marx. I don’t blame them, it is thousands of pages worth of material and my engagement of Volumes I and III has taken place over months and years, not days and weeks. But I’m sorry, with all due respect to the sincere Leftist – reading the history of the Cuban revolution, watching independently-produced documentaries, listening to progressive talk shows, and having a basic acquaintance with the terminology of the Communist Manifesto is great but it does not automatically make you an economic historian or anthropologist capable of explaining every aspect of reality and human cooperation through the lens of socialism. Entrepreneurial activity and economic pioneering (which is actually what produced Hip-Hop) is rooted in universal order and natural law and has nothing to do with any ‘isms’ – capitalism or socialism. This confusion actually causes conscious artists to disrespect their natural ally – economic understanding which would inform their lyrics and business moves.

As many of you know I have written about this in a controversial piece called ‘The “Consciousness” Of Wu-Tang Clan, Suge Knight and Jay-Z”(http://www.blackelectorate.com/articles.asp?ID=529). Rallies, elections and protests are important, but they don’t substitute for an economic blueprint.

‘They’ Did It To Me (‘So What That I Have No Swagger Or Progressive Business Team …I’m Not Hot Because The ‘Industry’ Is Against Me’). This is the factor that hurts the most to write. But I must be honest. Most conscious artists because they lack a full economic consciousness and disrespect the science of marketing too often blame the corporate industry establishment for their own shortcomings. Don’t get me wrong I know the 10% is real (no one over the last decade has written more about the hidden hand and COINTELPRO-like activity in rap than me), and that there is a ceiling that exists for artists willing to speak certain truths and associate with certain truth-tellers and revolutionaries but anything that you are a reaction to, in fact, controls you. And many conscious artists are ‘controlled’ or limited by their fascination and resentment of the success of ‘mainstream’ corporate America-approved artists.

Take a look at what I wrote about the music industry’s power pyramid and ‘caste system’ (http://www.cedricmuhammad.com/chris-lighty-is-not-a-sell-out-the-music-industry-caste-system-hip-hoppreneur-%E2%84%A2-commentary-november-4-2009/) where I explain that in certain ways conscious artists are unsuccessful not because anyone is stopping them but because their career planning betrays their lyrical content and they fail to build the kind of team infrastructure that will market them in a way that is in harmony and alignment with their marketplace brand-reputation-image as ‘political,’ ‘conscious,’ or ‘positive.’ It is the most backward thing to see so-called revolutionary artists who rail against the industry publicly trying to attract the kind of business team that the mainstream corporate-approved artist has. It is as if the conscious artist lives in a world that only exists in their head. They preach independence but won’t get a lawyer or business manager from outside of the music industry. They claim to have an ‘alternative’ image but won’t hire a publicist who does ‘non-industry’ things. They rap about Africa but have no real on the ground connection in Africa. The street and mainstream artist is partially more successful than the conscious one because their creative work; brand-image-reputation and team infrastructure are in better harmony and alignment.

They preach independence but won’t get a lawyer or business manager from outside of the music industry. They claim to have an ‘alternative’ image but won’t hire a publicist who does ‘non-industry’ things. They rap about Africa but have no real on the ground connection in Africa. The street and mainstream artist is partially more successful than the conscious one because their creative work; brand-image-reputation and team infrastructure are in better harmony and alignment.

Mos def

Made In America. (The U.S.-Based Conscious MC Lacks Music, Message or Model To Attract The World). On a musical level, of the major ‘conscious’ artists, Mos Def is the exception here. Keep your eyes on him as he continues to experiment with new sounds that will expand his appeal abroad. But for the most part, consciousness in rap, from a creative standpoint has become a religion that has not updated its sermons to be equal to the time. Its political message has not been updated. In other words, if I don’t live in America the conscious artist has very little to offer me that I can relate to. This reality is why the most interesting, progressive, radical and innovative political rap is coming from regions of the world outside of the U.S. – Central and South America, Palestine, and Africa – who claim to inherit the legacy of the conscious rap of America from the latter 80s and early 90s. And these artists aren’t just quoting political leaders like we do here – they are influencing them, even entire elections like in places like Senegal. In Palestine rap is resistance. And that’s the difference, much of the conscious rap here is non-threatening and really establishment-oriented, as much as it tries to act like it is not.

When American progressives hear an album like ‘Distant Relatives’ by Nas and Damian Marley they are ‘inspired’ and encouraged and brag about the album on an artistic level but it doesn’t inform or engage any existing movement that they or ‘conscious’ U.S.-based artists are at the vanguard of; while for those who are part of movements pertaining to real issues in Africa, like Brian Chitundu, the Interim National Youth Director, of The Citizens Democratic Party of Zambia [www.thecitizensdemocraticparty.com], ‘Distant Relatives’ is a soundtrack for the work they are already doing to change the political climate of a nation that Britain once colonized. In a sense the American-based political rap community is romanticizing over revolution more than they are doing revolutionary work. It is why I have said that I feel in fact America has colonized rap, and the rest of the world is now liberating it (http://www.cedricmuhammad.com/what%E2%80%99s-next-for-hip-hop-the-end-of-its-american-colonization/). Here the disconnect between the intellectual and scholar whom the American conscious rapper claims and the struggle that the conscious rapper abroad (and even the street rapper based here) lives is apparent. One of my favorite readers from Africa (who also studies entrepreneurship and anthropology) – ‘Dalitso’ – made this point in relation to what I wrote last week regarding Rick Ross:

“One of my biggest critiques with alot of “Hip Hop intellectuals” is they don’t understand that the [street] artist’s message (which like you show in your article) is a [threat or] source of concern for larger America. Just the same way public intellectuals are the voice of “educated society,” artists are the voice for us – the wretched of the earth. There is a difference between an artist struggling to get out the environment and a scholar struggling to graduate. They both rep their alma mater when they ‘graduate’ but neither can understand the other until they suspend their beliefs and critical listening to the realities that they have each endured to become who they are without condescending attitudes, that’s why few artist can cross over or few “hip hop intellectuals” can be taken seriously – neither has a monopoly of truth. But when knowledge from both sides of the spectrum can be pooled together it creates multiple avenues of addressing an issue and most importantly like Jazz its movement music.”

My personal experience shows me that many more of the youth, street artists, gang members and artists from overseas are open to ‘listening to realities’ without ‘condescending attitudes,’ than the American-based ‘conscious’ artists and intellectuals who act like they know it all, and can be very close-minded. And largely because of that attitude and willingness to learn new languages, these other artists are becoming more and more relevant and influential.

My personal experience shows me that many more of the youth, street artists, gang members and artists from overseas are open to ‘listening to realities’ without ‘condescending attitudes,’ than the American-based ‘conscious’ artists and intellectuals who act like they know it all, and can be very close-minded. And largely because of that attitude and willingness to learn new languages, these other artists are becoming more and more relevant and influential.

My experience is that the ‘conscious’ rapper despite their inability to build a mass following, rather than introspectively asking ‘what can I learn and do in order to be more effective?‘ very often arrogantly looks down upon those who may have less information than them (in terms of academic education, political history, and current events) but who are much more effective at reaching the masses through symbolism, music quality, personality, and the creation of caricatures and charachters.

What matters now, in 2010, is not that you are ‘conscious,’ ‘progressive,’ or ‘political’ in terms of knowledge but that you are relevant with a personality that can transcend language, borders, creed, class and color. When progressives criticize President Barack Obama purely on political policy grounds and remain confused as to why he is so popular and appealing around the world, even though he is the American Emperor, it is because they don’t understand that he is reaching people with a personality and cultural identity that is universal and cosmopolitan. It is the same thing that made Muhammad Ali popular and claimed by the world, and what makes Minister Farrakhan a respected international leader. They authentically – through cultural kinship, religion, or careful use of language represent an identity broader than their current place of residence. If political and ‘conscious’ artists would suspend their knee-jerk ideological criticism of the President long enough (again, this is one of their hang-ups – ideology matters more than strategy), they would see that the Personality of Barack Hussein Obama is what the conscious artist needs, from a marketing standpoint.

As I wrote in “Barack Obama: Diasporic Personality, Cultural Entrepreneur, American Emperor” (http://www.cedricmuhammad.com/%E2%80%9Cbarack-obama-diasporic-personality-cultural-entrepreneur-american-emperor%E2%80%9D-remarks-given-by-cedric-muhammad-at-the-george-mason-university-%E2%80%98fall-for-the-book%E2%80%99-fest/):

“He’s mobile, cosmopolitan, sophisticated and a risk-taker. He embraces change – both technological and demographic. He deftly moves in and out of different perspectives and civilizations, which by the way dovetails nicely with the Aloha Spirit (which he absorbed in Hawaii, where he did middle and high school). His socialization skills and ability to adapt to different cultures is uncanny. But this also makes him the ultimate challenge to rigid forms of identity (tribe, race, religion, ethnicity, political ideology, partisanship, and nationalism). He is foremost a universalist. He resists and pushes back any time he is pigeon-holed or stereotyped.”

Here again, Immortal Technique and Dead Prez stand out.

Immortal Technique

Immortal Technique – who is originally from Peru is as capable of building on the block in Harlem, as he is speaking at Saviours’ Day (which he did in 2008) as he is appearing on international channel Russia Today (giving an interview after the flotilla incident which brought Israel and Turkey at odds publicly:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L9WCrIWLKBY). And peep how Immortal does so while rocking his official T-shirt and a Yankees hat! His brand-image-reputation are in alignment.

And who but M1 of Dead Prez could be at the center of something as powerful as the Ni Wakati project (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WVW4cTnpa6I) produced by the brilliant Michael Wanguhu that brought together rappers from East Africa and America for a real on-the-ground connection and collaboration? Although Dead Prez are socialist in political ideology, they respect something that I believe is even more powerful – cultural kinship. And I hope we will never forget the leadership and ‘creative risk’ Dead Prez took in doing a song with Jay-Z (the artist the conscious rap community may love to hate more than any other). I was one of the few willing to publicly praise them for ‘Hell Yeah’ (Pimp The System) remix (http://www.blackelectorate.com/articles.asp?ID=1087) and I still rock the hot ‘Revolutionary But Gangsta’ T-shirt in support.

It will be Diasporic personalities who are political but also marketable, like Queen Yonasda and Ana Tijoux, that will make it hot – in both the states and abroad this decade (http://allhiphop.com/stories/editorial/archive/2010/05/11/22213013.aspx).

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g_9Y-4PaU2U

It is so sad to see, at times, how superficial the conscious rap community can be.
Their/our narrow-mindedness actually repels artists more than it attracts them or influences them to say and do better.

If the decline of the conscious-based MC in America is to be stopped it will begin not with blaming a platinum artist or ‘the system.’

It must start with an honest look in the mirror.

Cedric Muhammad is a business consultant, political strategist, and monetary economist. He’s a former GM of Wu-Tang Management and currently a Member of the African Union’s First Congress of African Economists. Cedric’s the Founder of the economic information service Africa PreBrief (http://africaprebrief.com/) and author of ‘The Entrepreneurial Secret’ (http://theEsecret.com/). He can be contacted via e-mail at: cedric(at)cmcap.com

original story: http://www.cedricmuhammad.com/the-decline-of-the-conscious-mc-can-it-be-stopped/

It’s NO LONGER Smart to be DUMB!

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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