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?
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”
“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?”
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.
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).
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.
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.
Remember when you use to watch music videos for at least 5 hours a day? They were on in the morning before you went to school, every hour after school up until dinner, and then real late when Nelly’s “Tip Drill” came on. I know that wasn’t just me. I don’t really catch music videos on TV anymore but apparently they still exist. Check out the new visuals to some favorites of the FUNK.
(MP3): Common – Blue Sky
Write up on the album’s (Undun) inspiration…
“undun is an existential re-telling of the short life of one Redford Stephens (1974-1999). Through the use of emotives and Redford’s internal dialogues the album seeks to illustrate the intersection of free will and prescribed destiny as it plays out ‘on the corner’. Utilizing a reverse narrative arc, the album begins as the listener finds Redford disoriented–postmortem–and attempting to make sense of his former life. As he moves through its pivotal moments he begins to deconstruct all that has led to his (and our own) coming undun.”
(MP3): Azealia Banks – 212
(MP3): Hoodie Allen – James Franco
The Roots’ upcoming album “undun” has a release date of 12.06.11.
3. One Time
4. Kool On
5. The Jump
8. I Remember
9. Tip The Scale
Occupy Wall Street is meant more as a way of life that spreads through contagion, creates as many questions as it answers, aims to force a reconsideration of the way the nation does business and offers hope to those of us who previously felt alone in our belief that the current economic system is broken. – Douglas Rushkoff
Anyone following this “Occupy Wall Street” movement? So these people, mostly young adults, have been setting up shop in the heart of Wall Street New York protesting anything and everything they think is fucked up about our country. Complaints range from corporate greed and wealth disparity to the bullshit games politicians play with our lives. I’m blocked from anything sport related at work, so I get a good dose of the news each day and this shit is really picking up steam. CNN has been covering it pretty well though, and the editorial above is a must read. Some of the media is quick to downplay the significance of the protests since there is no true leader or stated demand. What there is though are questions, lots of them. Or maybe more like concerns. The youth in America do not have all the answers yet. But we are alive and awake to the reality that we are taking over this country in the next 20 years, and this country is not what we want it to be. Thing is, we don’t need to have all the answers, we just need to continue to express our distaste for the things we believe to make our nation NOT the greatest nation in the world. As naive as we may be, we still hold ideals close to heart. We aren’t all self centered assholes who think America is the center of the earth. We want other countries to respect us, not despise us and plot terror attacks against us. We want politicians to be held accountable to take on the tasks of the people and not the lobbyist. We want banks to be held accountable to do whats right for the people that make the money, and not continue to hand out millions in bonuses when they don’t. We want Americans to be able to work a job and make a healthy living off something other than gambling fictitious money on the stock market, or in the the jobs “trickled down” that don’t actually contribute anything of substance. And if we don’t otherwise make as much money, our hope is that we are still respected. Maybe we don’t ALL want these things, but I do. And while we may not all share the exact same portrait of change, we do know that shit is fucked and we do still have a voice. And it’s clear by the similar demonstrations popping up around the country, that like me, we all want to be heard. Speak up people. Because that is American.
Oh yea, one more thing. Even though “Occupy Wall Street” doesn’t have a specified leader, it could still have a soundtrack. And who better to provide that musical voice than Black Thought and The Roots? Check it.
“Air quality so foul, I gotta try to breath
And we runnin’ out of trees
If I could hold the world in the palm of these
Hands, I would probably do away with these anomalies
Everybody checkin’ for the new award nominee
Wars and atrocities
Look at all the poverty
Ignoring the prophecies
More beef than broccoli
Weak world economy
Stock market topplin’
Mad marijuana oxycotton and klonopin
Everybody out of it?”
(MP3):The Roots – Dear God 2.o
“We got to get it right, it’s not about to be easy
You best pull ya goggles up, it’s about to get greasy
Believe it’s on, long as we can still speak freely
The pages of my life would make it hard to read me
I know my people hearing me, holler if ya’ll need me”
“I know where I’m goin even when it’s dark and being led down that road
You don’t see that somethings wrong, earth’s spinnin outta control
Everything’s for sale even souls, someone get God on the phone
Northside nigga Southside, Shits poppin off Worldwide”
“Now I’m comin at ya next, sick of hearing something wrong with me
Motherfucker something’s wrong with you”
“If you ain’t sayin’ nothin’, you a system’s accomplice
It should play with your conscience, do away with the nonsense
I’m overseeing anything within my circumference
This ain’t a press junket and I ain’t seekin’ responses”
“This for all of my peoples who understand and truly recognize
some wont get it, and for that I won’t apologize”
If I could have any tag team partner, strictly for conversational backup purposes, it would have to be Bill Simmons (who for a time during elementary school, self-imposed a name change to Jabal Abdul Simmons). Like when I have a strong opinion but am just at a loss for words, I could tag him in and let him finish delivering a beautifully spoken, opposition destroying argument defending my idea or view. For instance, every time someone tells me/asks me if I wanna be “black” because of my style and love for Hip Hop music, I want to express why it pisses me off but just can’t ever really put it into words. Let me try now; First of all, “black” is an adjective describing a color, nothing else. While colors make for easily interpreted distinguishing factors to the average human eye, they don’t really carry any other weight. Little known fact, colors don’t actually infiltrate the brain, or any other organ besides the skin for that matter, and make us intrinsically different. To expand on my opinion, I’m gonna tag in a professional wordsmith for this one…
“Socioculturists are forever obsessed with the concept of “The Other” and how it drives thinking; for example, whenever rich suburban kids get interested in hip-hop, it’s reflexively assumed the attraction is based on an obsession with a world unrelated to their own. People try to figure out “what it means,” because it seems like the audience has nothing in common with the artist. Yet — obviously — the gap between any human artist and his audience is significantly less than the gap between James Franco and a chimp. Why do people assume chimps are almost human when we don’t even think that way about other humans?”
Ok, so that wasn’t Bill himself, but it is the conclusion of an article by Chuck Klosterman off Simmons’ website called Grantland. The article is centered around the movie business’s obsession with making movies about trying to make monkeys act like humans, because we obviously view their capabilities close enough to our own that we should be able to accomplish the task of humanizing them. He prefaces the article with the question, “Is Hollywood doing enough to teach us about man’s relationship to monkeys?” Even if you’ve never seen/care to see any of the Planet of The Apes movies, like me, this is a great read (click link above). I actually thought it was Simmons writing the entire time until I finished and saw the credits. Chuck’s writing style is impeccably similar to that of Bill’s. It seems like they share some similar ideological views as well, which is promising for me to expand my list of writers I get excited to read.
But back to people’s harmless curiosity of my style; I’m not trying to be, or wanting to be anything/anyone. I am simply in the present terms, being me. And if it is that hard to imagine someone with similar physical traits, but possibly dissimilar styles/beliefs/interests as you and those you view as acceptable, than I would ask who you are trying to be? Are you really “doing you” or are you being someone or something that someone else told/showed you you should be?
“I was looking forward to a Celtics-Heat playoff series for so many reasons, but mainly because it was a battle for everything I ever believed about basketball. Hell, it was the premise of my entire NBA book: that there was more to basketball than just a bunch of individually talented dudes playing together, that the concept of “team” mattered, that structure beat chaos, that there were ways to evaluate players beyond statistics, that there was a “secret” to all of this. Miami tried to cheat that structure and my Celtics were going to make them pay.
Then, the Perkins trade happened. If the Celtics can’t fend off the Heat, it’s up to …”
This is an excerpt from a Bill Simmons article before the playoffs began. The last sentence was a segue into presenting the Chicago Bulls as his favorite to come out of the East. Obviously for the same reasons he mentioned above, only replace Celtics with Bulls. Me and Jabal Abdul Simmons are almost always on the same page. And I couldn’t agree more on this subject. The Bulls (Gar-Pax) put together a team of high character athletes who have never really cared about the limelight. Yes, Carlos Boozer enjoys being the loudest guy on the court, loves stopping free throw fluidity by touching the ball after every shot, but he also is the first one off the bench when the guy who threatens his overall tick (which translates to stats and recognition for the win) is killing it on the floor (By the way, I told every Bulls fan I know to stop hating on Boozer when he was down because I knew he would pick it up and they should be there in support of him when he does. Well, I think Boozey is finally healthy and will be getting back to his 18 ppg playoff average, and maybe more to really make a difference in this series). The same goes for the rest of the guys. The Heat have the Super Friends, Wade and Lebron. But the Bulls have a full squad of dudes that genuinely like each other. That’s 1-12. Along those lines of top to bottom, the passion, determination, and trust in their coach from those 12 guys out weighs the talent and friendship of just 2.
The Bulls will win because the Heat are soft. We have 5 big men that can come in and contribute big things on any given night. Our interior defense will force the Heat to settle for jumpers night after night. As long as Chalmers, Jones, Miller, or any other guard other than the Super Friends don’t play out of their minds and over their capabilities, the Heat will break. Because not only are the Heat soft down low, they are soft mentally. More specifically, the Bulls will win because of Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah. They are the perfect compliment to each other. One an emotionally vocal leader while the other a quiet, humble, lead by extraordinary example. The one thing they have in common? The fire.
I was gonna put my mac’s movie maker to work before this series started and make my own lil 2010-11 Bulls highlight reel, but time seems to be at a premium these days and just wasn’t able to get it done. What really made me want to do it in the first place was this Roots song. I feel like it fits these Bulls so well, namely their leaders. So just listen to it and imagine Taj running down the court with his arms spread like wings in a state of profound joy, Boozer swinging from the rim with his head shaking back and forth with a galvanizing sense of confidence reminiscent only of D’Lo Brown, Korver coming back to the bench with a spring in his step but still an overwhelmingly calm and focused demeanor as he delivers high fives, Deng while he ferociously waves his arms up and down at mid court as if possessed by some sort of hysteria, Joakim as he nearly pops every vain in his body by letting out the most passionate roar one could ever imagine, and the snarl of our young MVP as he runs up to a frenzied crowd of 23,000 who have been waiting for this time to come for over 12 years as if to say “no one can stop me because no one works harder.” Thankfully, I will be one of those 23,000. Straight madness.
“You came to celebrate, I came to cerebrate. I hate losing I refuse to make the same mistakes”
You like how I started with the Grammys, then took it to The Roots, and finally made it here with Money Making Jam Boys? I thought so. Anyway, Black Thought gives some insight into the group dynamic here outside of some highlights of the dudes doing there thing on stage. By the way, I learned a new way to describe someone with a different sounding voice (without sounding like an idiot), thanks to Thought; vocal texture. I’m still learning everyday. Check out the video, a couple highlights from their first Mixtape release “The Presige,” and link to download below. Did I mention this was mixed by Mick Boogie & Terry Urban?
Vodpod videos no longer available.
Visit here to Download: Money Making Jam Boys – The Prestige
Money Making Jam Boys – Coming Out Hard (right click, save as to download)
Money Making Jam Boys – Tear it Down (right click, save as to download)