You can put a cat in an oven, but that don't make it a biscuit – Sidney Deane

Rhymefest Likens Chief Keef to a Young-Mind-Killing Machine + My Opinion + The Greats’ Conscious Rap Jams

So I found this short Rhymefest piece via my go-to blog (TheHipHopUpdate) about a week ago and I’ve been trying to figure out the best way/words for me to express my feelings here on The Funk. Hopefully you take a few minutes to read my reaction, and then 30 more to listen to hip hop’s response in song. Not much controversy gets by me without my opinion coming out, but I’ll save it until after you read what Rhymefest had to say about some of today’s most popular rap acts….

Chief Keef Is The Bomb

Chief Keef is a “Bomb”,  he represents the senseless savagery that white people see when the news speaks of Chicago violence. A Bomb has no responsibility or blame, it does what it was created to do; DESTROY! Notice, no one is talking about the real culprits, the Bomb maker or the pilot who is deploying this deadly force (Labels, Radio Stations). Its easier to blame the bomb. Bombs are not chosen for their individual talents, they are tools used for collateral damage.

To think of the persona of Chief Keef as a person would be the first mistake, he will more then likely come and go without us knowing much of anything about his personal pains, struggles, great loves and ambitions beyond rap. He is a spokesman for the Prison Industrial Complex. Every corporation is expected to grow at least 4% each quarter, many prisons are privately owned with stock being traded on the open market. If these corporations were to do commercials, jingles and promotions who would they hire? You got it, most of the main stream rappers we salivate over  like Rick Ross the former correctional officer turned Drug Lord Boss rapper. Waka Flocka Flame gang bang “GO HARD IN THE PAINT”  and Chief Keef the newest lottery pick in the “Get paid to destroy young minds, like we destroyed yours” Sweepstakes.

Many people will say “Chief Keef is a young black man making money who wouldn’t have had any other opportunity, why isn’t this a good thing?”. Which brings us back to the question, who is bank rolling this operation and why? This could only be described as an opportunity for this young man if he was recieving artist development, responsible mentorship and counseling for his obvious trauma. By the way, Major Record labels always put million dollar life insurance policies on artist of this nature so that they get paid one way or the other.  My suggestion to the rest of us who would love to see the mushroom cloud from this explosion, BE CAUTIOUS! The affects from this type of Bomb can last for centuries. Lets stop giving our intellectual power resources and admiration to destructive forces while ignoring and starving out the good that is being done,sung and rapped about by artist like Killer Mike, Lupe Fiasco, RhymeFest, Dead Prez, Brother ALI, Maimouna Yusef, Invincible, Jean Grey, Mikkey Halsted etc.

In case you haven’t read anything I’ve ever written, I agree with Rhymefest 100%. Since I’m not black I guess it kinda makes it awkward to talk about the social implications of rap and how it affects those who listen to it. But I still have a point of view, and not only would it be bogus as hell for any black, white, or any other color person to tell me my opinion is worthless in the debate, they’d also be misunderstanding the importance of my particular point of view as it relates to the overall goal.

You see, I enjoy intellectualism in rap (and in basically everything else, but we’re talking about music here). Now, intellectualism could be defined based on many different avenues of thought, but overall, I think it would be safe to say that the most prevalent topic covered by intellectual rappers, or in what most would consider “conscious” rap, is black struggle.

….quick necessary tangent: I love the term “conscious” rap. Did you ever think about the derivation of that term? The word conscious is defined by The First Dictionary That Popped Up On The Google Machine as:

1. aware of one’s own existence, sensations, thoughts, surroundings, etc.
2. fully aware of or sensitive to something
3. having the mental faculties fully active
4. known to oneself; felt
5. aware of what one is doing

I especially like that last one; aware of what one is doing. As if the opposite would be considered unaware, or ignorant, to what one is doing. And that is precisely why I consider the opposite of conscious rap, to be put simply, ignorant rap. So if we make it a point to  classify some rappers as conscious, can’t we rightfully get away with classifying those clearly with the opposite agenda as ignorant? I mean, really classifying. Like when a radio DJ introduces an artist  it would go a little something like this: “next up we have one thee HOTTEST ignorant rappers of 2012….” fill in the blank for your favorite radio artist. End tangent….

Consequently, I have been exposed to a fair amount of material related to the thoughts and feelings and lives of some really smart black dudes. So even though I’m not black, and even though I’m not from an underprivileged urban neighborhood where most of their inspiration stemmed from, I am able get a small glimpse of what that life is like. Ultimately, if you can’t put yourself in someone else’s shoes, if you can’t understand where they’re coming from, or if you can’t empathize with any of their everyday pains, then you’ll forever look at those as different people. But that’s precisely what rap has done for me, as I’m sure many others too. Some say “it’s only entertainment” and it’s not the “artists” problem for the way their music is perceived. But it’s not just music. It’s a bridge. Ice-T was probably accurate in saying the reason Barrack Obama is president is because of rap music.

But as much good as it can do in bridging the gap between what people believe to be, and what really is, it can also maintain and enhance negative attitudes in the minds of listeners. I’m not even talking about the affect to the minds of young black kids. I’m talking about what it does to white people (not ALL white people obviously, but I do know a lot of white people). Not because that’s more important, but because that is the perspective I am able to directly reveal. It just reinforces what some subconsciously, as well as happily, prejudice people already expect/want to hear; something stupid that makes them laugh or something that shows how dangerous and reckless they are in their pursuit of money, fame, or sex. They don’t want to hear about what makes them human (aka the underlying factors and feelings that arouse the majority of those actions which actually translate across all humanity), they want to see that extreme character that is easily distinguishable from them. That’s not totally true; they might not even necessarily want to hear that, but it’s been fed to them from the television and their not-so-racially-inclusive parents for so long that they’ve grown accustom to it and now expect it. Unfortunately, people get paid a lot of money to play that extreme character which only magnifies upon accumulating more money.

But some rappers won’t sell out and let the labels and radio corrupt their music. Some are just so talented and special that they are able to balance making hits and spreading intellectual ideas; all the while avoiding selling their soul to a label that has little concern for the casualties of making money. In my mind, those are the only rappers who deserve the title “Great”.

As promised, here are a few of the greats who’ve helped me close that gap between ignorant and aware. Obviously, not everyone is like me and would automatically be attracted to songs like these. But I gotta believe that if these were in heavier rotation and considered more the norm as opposed to the exception nowadays, American’s views of each other, and themselves, would evolve even more significantly.

This first one could possibly be the most intelligent rap song ever, and it fits almost perfectly with what Rhymefest was alluding to in his op-ed. Nas leaves little mystery to the meaning with his prefacing monologue in this one, but listen to how easily he personifies the weapon. It’s as if he, himself, knows what it’s like to feel like…a bomb?

Nas – I Gave You Power

What’s the word for something with a name that doubles as its literal definition? Or am I just thinking of onomatopoeia where something is named after its literal sound? Anyway, if there is a name for the former, Black Thought is that. The dude was trying to put an end to this nonsense before it even really got rolling. Utmost respect for one of the G.O.A.T.s.

“The principles of true hip hop have been forsaken
It’s all contractual and about money makin’
Pretend-to-be cats don’t seem to know their limitation
exact replication and false representation”

The Roots – What They Do

“Peacocks strut because they can’t fly. Nobody wanna be an Eagle. Why? Because they shoot Eagles.” I love that intro….Here, Fest asks his listeners what type of dramatic life events they’ve been through to see how much that might allow them to empathize with his own. He also asks one of the most important questions in this entire discussion; “What do you know about the power of the subconscious mind?”

Rhymefest – Exodus 5.1

Another Chicago native who Fest actually gives mention to at the end of his piece for leading the way in providing the type of sincere lyricism the game is lacking in the mainstream today. Here, Lupe takes you along his conscious, and sometimes hypocritical, journey through youthful hip hop adoration, while questioning some of the most adored aspects of the genre along the way.

Lupe Fiasco – Hurt Me Soul

It has to be something about this city for producing all this consciousness, right? It’s probably one of the greatest city’s in the world, and I feel like it’s overlooked even in it’s own country. There’s something that makes it its own though. It’s not too cut throat like New York and it’s not so vain like Los Angeles. Located in the outward facing upper left of the country’s body, Chicago has got heart (i.e. Derrick Rose).

Common – Misunderstood

My opinion and views were pretty well set by the time these next two came on the scene, but they undoubtedly represent the promising future for not only a genre, but a generation of kids and up and coming rappers.

Big K.R.I.T. – Another Naive Individual Glorifying Greed and Encouraging Racism

Wale – The Kramer

As close as Nas may have come, there will never be another 2pac. He’s done more for his particular genre than I think any other artists/band can say; even the Beatles. He found that coveted balance in the rap game between intelligent thug and street prophet, having as much an impact socially as he did musically. Revolutionary.

2Pac – Keep Ya Head Up

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