Case in point, when the Geto Boys came out, many did not know but they would often lay out money and pay for legal counsel of those who were locked away in jail and needed to prove their innocence… I remember doing a show with Bushwick Bill and Scarface and them talking in great detail about the prison industrial complex, the horrors of the death penalty and why they had spent well over 200 thousand bucks trying to free those locked away on trumped-up charges…
What impressed me most was the fact that they were doing this without a whole lot of fanfare. This wasn’t a publicity stunt or anything like that. In fact the way we even wound talking about the topic in the first place was I had asked them about the uproar and controversy around the execution of Shaka Sankofa.
I recall when Katrina happened and interviewing Paul Wall and him talking about the work that him and many of his fellow Houstonian artists were doing to help victims. He talked about the clothes they had donated, much of it new. They talked about money they were raising and how they were doing what they could to make folks comfortable. The list of names involved was a who’s who. It was very impressive. I recall my man DJ Zin doing a number of radio shows from the Astrodome highlighting the efforts that many of the Houston artists had undertaken..
Speaking of Paul Wall we got to give him dap for making a trip to Africa, learning about Blood Diamonds and then returning to Houston and firing all his suppliers to his grill shop until they could prove they weren’t using conflict diamonds..This was shown in the documentary Planet Bling.
I recall the 2008 election and getting involved in efforts to register the over one million voters not registered in Houston and radio hosts like Matt Sonzala introducing us to everyone from Slim Thug on down to K-Rino who all spoke passionately and insightfully about the day’s political climate and things they felt needed to be done. Artists after artist came through, donating time, videos, music and their likeness for a Get Out to Vote documentary we put together called ‘Texas is in Play‘ . Even though Barack Obama was making his historic run, many of the artists we ran into spoke about local issues and how folks could impact things. End result was record turn out, all but 4 judges being swept from office and the ouster of a tyrannical sheriff named Tommy Thomas.
We saw other Houston artist like Bun B step up. He attended the Democratic Convention in Denver and weighed in on important issues. We saw him recently get down and put together a successful fund-raiser for victims of the Haiti earthquake. Again Houston’s rap community came out in mass to show support..
Over the years we’ve seen artist like Trae Da Truth step up and do everything from visit juvenile halls to put on a festival to raise money and school supplies for kids. Recently we saw him put the gauntlet down and launch a lawsuit against powerful broadcast company Radio One and their station KBXX. This came about because Radio One decided to ban Trae and anyone associating with him after he responded in a mixtape with verbal jabs to being falsely accused by a station jock of ‘attracting a bad crowd’ to his Trae Day community event. Trae was not allowed himself to get bullied by some big time corporate media outlet..
The list of community events engaged by Houston based artists is a long one. The point being made is that many do step up to the plate, speak their minds and try to do what they think is right.
One of the people garnering a lot of attention is Scarface who recently penned an article for Ozone magazine explaining why he wasn’t gonna be apart of VH1’s Hip Hop Honors. Personally I’m a bit conflicted because I know Fab 5 Freddy who produces the event is my man and he seemed genuinely excited that there was finally an opportunity to honor a region and many of the artists for their accomplishments which he feels are often overlooked.
However, Scarface in his essay lays out some compelling points and left many of us both marveling at his conviction and re-assessing our own place in this culture we call Hip Hop.
Below is Scarface’s article.. Check out Ozone Magazine for more info..
I was nominated [to be honored at the Dirty South Hip Hop Honors] but I declined to accept because I don’t wanna be classified as just “Dirty South.” I’m Hip Hop, man. I’m not going because I feel slighted. Even though it was a nice gesture, I feel like it’s just a pacifier. They’re like, “Let’s give these niggas down there a pacifier so they can stop feeling left out. We’ll make Luke and all these niggas down there look funny,” you know? “Let’s put a plate of fried chicken and some watermelon and let’s just do some nigga-ass shit.” (laughs) Quote, end quote. “Some nigga-ass shit.” Fried chicken and watermelon. “Shit, the faster we get this over with, the better.”
Honoring [Uncle] Luke and James [Prince] and [Master] P and Timbaland and JD and Dungeon Family is a good thing. I don’t wanna fuck their Honors up. They helped lay the foundation. More power to ‘em. I respect what they do and I respect what they’ve done for Hip Hop, but to put us in a category is disrespectful. Why would you categorize us as “Dirty South”? Why can’t you just honor some muthafuckers from down here and leave it like that? You ain’t gotta make us look extra country. We know where we’re from and we know where you’re from. We know where Hip Hop came from, man. We’re cool with that. I’m proud to be from Houston but don’t make a mockery of my accomplishments. We’re not “dirty” down here in the South anyway. This shit down here probably cleaner than the rest of the country, cause we got grandmas down here. Our grandmas don’t play that shit.
I was a part of the Slick Rick and De La Soul and Too $hort and Public Enemy [Hip Hop Honors]. I felt good about being a part of that. I went [to Hip Hop Honors] when they honored Def Jam because I wanted to be a part of that. I felt honored that they would even call me to do it. But this year, I totally disagree with how they’re trying to categorize us. You know how they make us look on TV? Like we live on the front porch with flies and shit flying around us, with our stomachs all big eating watermelon rinds? That ain’t us, man. Don’t fuckin’ make a mockery of us because we come from down here and you have no fuckin’ idea what it looks like. They’re gonna try to put us with some cows and just make us look fucked up, man, like we don’t know what the fuck we doin’ down here. We’re smart, man. Our life is slowed down so we don’t miss nothing. When shit gets moving too fast you miss everything. Shit’s slowed down here so we see it all.
I come from the era when New York and L.A. had the only Hip Hop, and they weren’t fuckin’ with us, at all. If you think I’m lyin’, check the history of Hip Hop. Try to pull up some footage from the 1989/1990 New Music Seminar. That’s what I base my whole fuckin’ life on: the New Music Seminar 1989/1990. They was NOT fuckin’ with us. We sold records all over the fuckin’ country and New York made a mockery of it. They fuckin’ booed the Geto Boys in New York. They sure did.
Back when Luke had Skywalker Records and J had Rap-A-Lot Records, they weren’t tryin’ to do no South shit. “It didn’t come from New York, son, so fuck that.” That was their attitude. Just because a TV was made in Japan, is it a Japanese TV? Or is it just a fucking TV? If a lightbulb was made in China is it a Chinese lightbulb?
It was hard breaking through. It was hard getting respect from the East Coast. We didn’t get no fuckin’ love from nobody. Fab Five Freddy came down here early in our career to see what we were really about, and I respected and appreciated that. But we been having money down here. We been rollin’ fuckin’ Bentleys and Ferraris down here since the 80s. Muthafuckers ain’t just started rockin’ gold and platinum chains. We had that shit in high school. Shit, we just now started running out of money. (laughs) That’s how long we been had money down here.
Everybody throws up a fuckin’ smokescreen to make the picture look how they want it to look, but I know shit stank. I ain’t no goddamn fool. I was there in the beginning. We were fighting the power for real. Our raps were considered negative rap, and we got a lot of fuckin’ flak behind that shit. And we were just telling the truth. We were under immense scrutiny, from politicians to radio stations to the media. Luke got up there talkin’ about “Pop That Pussy” and had naked hoes on the stage; they were going to jail and shit. The Geto Boys were talkin’ this politicially-charged, racist-ass, system-ran, gangsta-ass dope-dealing whoopin’-ass shit, and it wasn’t accepted in New York.
Eventually New York came around and started fuckin’ with us. But for an East Coast-based show to call themselves showing some fuckin’ love by making a Southern watered-down version of what the show is supposed to be or what Hip Hop really is, man, I feel fucked up about that shit. Because we fought harder than a muthafucker. When [Ice] Cube was on Hip Hop Honors, it wasn’t the “Hip Hop West Coast Honors.” Every part of the ghetto is the same mu’fuckin’ story. Hip Hop is one machine, regardless if you come from New York or Bareback, Africa. It’s fuckin’ Hip Hop.
But that’s just [my opinion], and fuck me. I don’t mean nothing. I’m just a nigga who fought harder than a muthafucker to get our records played in New York and on the East Coast period. And now all a nigga needs to do is fart on a record and it gets played. So it’s fine by me. I’m cool with that. I’m not mad about it, I just feel disrespected. Whoever goes [to Hip Hop Honors], it’s fine and dandy by me. But if you wanted to do a Southern-based show you shoulda got a nigga DOWN SOUTH to do it in the South.