Hip Hop


In 1986 Run DMC released the song “My Adidas”.  Run DMC had been heavily criticized for wearing shoes with no laces, and for promoting stereotypes. So the rap group wrote a song called “My Adidas”. The wrote this song because as DMC stated “Yeah, we wear Adidas with no laces, we got gold chains, we got Cazals and all of that, but I go to St. John’s University.

The song meant something to them. The song meant something to the masses who followed Run DMC, and rocked the shelltop Adidas to show their connection with the group. It was a way of saying “don’t judge us by what we have on, or by what we look like.” It was a moment when being a rapper, being a b-boy, being poor, being from the streets didn’t mean you had no hope. It meant that you could wear your Adidas on the stage at “Live Aid” and still have people applaud. Run DMC  showed that you could be who you are and sign million dollar contracts. “My Adidas” was a song that debunked stereotypes and inspired people. I have never wore Adidas in my life, but in 1986 ‘My Adidas’ meant something to me.

Adidas partnered with Run DMC to form a clothing line of their own. It was this song and Run-DMC’s attitude that showed that Hip Hop was not just a form of music, or some lyrics put on a page. Run DMC showed that Hip Hop was a lifestyle. Since 1986, many artist and entertainers have followed the model set by Run DMC. Adidas was the first company to reap the benefits of hip-hop marketing, and hip hop expanded by a partnership with corporate America.
The entire history of Run DMC is a series of firsts…

  • The first rap act to chart in the Top 40 of the Billboard Hot 100 more than once
  • The first rap artist with a Top 10 pop charting rap album
  • The first with a R & B charting album
  • The first rap artist with gold, platinum and multi-platinum albums
  • The first rap act to appear on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine
  • The first rap act to receive a  Grammy Award nomination
  • The first rap act to make a video appearance on MTV
  • The first rap act to perform at a major arena

Fast forward to 2012 and Adidas now sponsors a hip hop artist called Two Chainz, another average rapper, with a major contract, who has just released his first album. Unfortunately this sponsorship seems more like pissing all over hip hop and it’s history, and the struggle of those that came before. Business are smart to look at a fan base and seek to capitalize off of it. These corporations don’t care if an artist has talent,or what they are saying, they just want access to the fan base and the rappers oblige them. Rappers as unproven commodities with lyrics devoid of meaning proudly hawk perfumes, clothes, liquor, colognes, headphones, ect…because they were never told where they came from, so they have no idea of where they should be going. They turned on the television, or went to youtube and saw other people had done and they copied that and become just another produced rapper.

Hip Hop is something you live.

Hip Hop is something you live

There is no struggle, no heart, no art, it’s a business. That’s all it means to them, that’s all their fans mean to them. Hip Hop means nothing to them, you can hear their passionless voices clinging to a hook. You can see it in their videos and the issues they do not speak on. They have taken the money, in exchange for the meaning. They have taken promotion over the substance and this is why these partnerships, no matter how much capital is put into them, mean absolutely nothing. They are all in such a rush to be just another rapper that history will forget.

Is it the partnership with corporate America that has caused the meaning to leave hip hop?

Was it Run DMC’s promotion of materialism, Hip Hip’s ultimately ruination?

Does Hip Hop simply not have any meaning left in it?

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A response to Dr. Boyce Watkins

I was disheartened by the recent passing of Nathaniel Hale, affectionately called “Nate Dogg”, on March 15, 2011.  The morning after his death I read ‘The Death of Nate Dogg is the End of a Very Dark and Creative Era’ an article by Dr. Boyce Watkins. This article suggests that Nate Dogg’s death was in part due to smoking marijuana. Over the last few years there has been a noticeable push to legalized marijuana, but not because gangsta rappers are smoking it, singing about it and not because minorities are smoking it, the force behind this push is middle class soccer moms and affluent whites that are smoking it. Whites who don’t want to have to hide, or get to it from dealers in an alley somewhere. Whites who see marijuana as a business model and cash crop. If smoking weed is what did Nate Dogg in you had better watch those pilots, teachers, business people, bus drivers and grandma. Nate Dogg’s death was not due to his affinity for the leafy green, but more due to his affinity for Soul Food and lack of exercise, just ask the people who know.

Inner-city Los Angeles of the 80’s and 90’s was the most violent place in America to live, but when VIP records had a studio and he was there fighting for studio time, we were there. When Nate Dogg, Snoop Dogg and Warren G formed the group “213”, we were there. When made his debut on Dr. Dre’s ‘The Chronic’ album in 1992, we were there. When his distinctive crooning helped Long Beach explode to a national audience, we were there. When he sung “Summertime in the LBC” we were there. When SWAT was called to his baby momma’s house, only to see Nate Dogg running and stumbling across the lawn with his child… while LAPD officers laughed on television, we were there too. When he dropped lines like “Smoke Weed Every Day”, “Indosmoke”, “Are You High Yet?” and “If you smoke like I smoke, then your high, like every day”, we were there. Yes, Nate Dogg’s songs were filled with smoking marijuana. Many of us could see that the end was near for the big homie due to strokes in 2007 and 2008, yet I still couldn’t help feeling some kind of way about his death. Nate Dogg’s hooks stood above all others in the game, his voice was the emotive side of West Coast Hip Hop and he never really got the ‘props’ he deserved.

Dr. Boyce also said “gangster rap is almost never positive, educational, empowered, politically active or otherwise productive”, this statement I see as problematic. When Gansta rap, put inner-city law enforcement on trial, and introduced itself to the word with this line from NWA’s Ice Cube “Fuck the police, coming straight from the underground. A young nigga’s got it bad because I’m brown.” , there was no more educational, empowered, or politically active statement than that. Is there a criminal element to the music? Yes, and that is why some have refused to listen, yet they listen to the Washington elect who happen to be robbing them every day. I respect Dr. Boyce immensely and I agree that “Gansta” rap, after corporations took over, became less the voice of the streets and a shadow of the power it has once demonstrated. Dr. Boyce it all comes down to perspective whether the negativity comes from a lyric or a Senate bill that claims to be for education, but cuts after school programs and school funding. It is true that Nathaniel Hale could have been doing something else, and you can say the same thing to each all the corrupt congressperson. Violence exists in films and books, but I have never seen anyone condemning Francis Ford Coppola, James Cameron , Stephen King or Stephanie Meyers. What I see is the masses rewarding Charlie ‘7 gram rock” Sheen’s drug usage with more money and prominence. What I see is network television shows rooting for the Lohans, Kardashians,Spears, Aguileras and Downey jr.’s of the world to get back on top after bad behavior, and I see people of color with similar transgressions being vilified, that is what society is embracing. Perhaps it is the perception that Gangsta rap is bad because it’s predominately Black. Case in point, Eminem is the most violent, misogynistic, homophobic, foul-mouthed gangsta rappers on the planet, but he gets 2 nationally televised commercials during the Superbowl and a ’60 minutes’ prime time special.

Today hip hop has blessed us with studio thugs and paper gangsters who rap about little more than partying, drinking and promiscuity, because the shooting deaths of Tupac and Biggie, showed Americans just how real thug life was. The realism of hip hop has been replaced by profit while underground music never gets heard on the radio. For all it’s relevance social realism and hard truth has a limited audience.  Dr. Boyce, Nate Dogg’s music was many things but it spoke to those of us who knew that “Brenda Had a Baby”  and nodded our heads to “Hail Mary” while quietly wondering if there was a “Gangsta’s Paradise” or if  “Heaven had a Ghetto”. He spoke to those of us who knew “Murder Was the Case” and that “911 is a joke”. His music resonated with many of us who lived at “Tha Crossroads” and knew that “It’s Dark and Hell is Hot”. His music became the theme song for the hustlers who knew “That if You Stay Ready” you don’t have to get ready, because sometimes at “Six in the Morning” the police are at your door.  He conversed with the trouble youth who wanted to be “Paid in Full” because he knew all about “C.R.E.A.M” and  “How I Could Just Kill a Man”, when your “Mind is Playin’ Tricks on Me” or when you’re “Insane in the Brain”.  Yes, his music even spoke to those who never wrote a letter to “Stan”,  hit “Rock Bottom”, or ran “8 Mile”s. he spoke to those that heard “The Message” and cried “Gangsta Tears” because they only had “One Mic”.  Nate Dogg knew that “Life is… Too Short” and though he has gone on to “The Next Episode” his impact, his music lives on within those of us who know, because we were there.

Rest In Peace Nate Dogg

 

MG Hardie

Dear Nicki Minaj:

I’m supposed to be mad at you.  Because of the whole Barbie thing.  I don’t know if you know this, but Ruth Handler created Barbie for Mattel about 50 years ago. She was based on Lily, a blond European comic strip character with, shall we say, loose morals.  As a doll, Barbie prostituted herself for the multiple outfits, shoes, cars, houses and other accessories that parents would buy for their daughters.

A woman who compares herself to Barbie is a woman who desires to be purchased.  A black woman who compares herself to Barbie is celebrating white standards of beauty in order to be bought.  It’s objectifying, it supports patriarchy, it’s reminiscent of slavery, it’s problematic, and it’s working for you, ma.

Maybe it’s because no one can make the rumors about you hooking up with Weezy and Drake to get signed actually stick.  Maybe it’s because your glam is hotter than anything designed for Barbie. Maybe it’s because even in your blond wigs, you look black unlike Barbie’s first black friend, Christie. Maybe it’s because you got ass Barbie can only dream of.  Maybe it’s because this Barbie business is your business.

Times are hard. The black unemployment rate is 16%. One in seven Americans live in poverty. Gainful employment that pays a living wage is hard to find. You found it by being a Barbie. Congratulations.  The more complex the package, the more there is to talk about, and people are talking about you, Nicki.  We’ve been checking for your album over a year before it dropped.

Today, November 22, 2010, is your holiday.  You’ve got a lipstick collabo with MAC, a partnership with Susan G. Komen for the Cure, the world’s largest breast cancer .organization, a MTV documentary titled My Time Now, the Pink Friday album, and a pending tour.  You are packaging yourself to be sold because that’s how the game is played.  Men sell themselves all the time. When they’re successful we call them Donald Trump. When women do it, we call them dolls, puppets, pawns.  You’re doing it right, but you’re wrong about one thing. Your time isn’t now.  Your time is in the future. This is the beginning.

Turn hip pop on it’s head. Teach black girls how to be entrepreneurs—how to self promote guerilla style. Share as much as you feel comfortable about your childhood, your immigration, the domestic violence between your parents, your sexuality, your life in the industry with all those boys, and your round-the-way-girl attempts to figure these men out.  How do they do that shit?

Barbie is your business. I understand that. Lil Kim understands that too, and that’s why she’s challenging you. I know you didn’t name any names in “Roman’s Revenge.”  It has some clever lines, but Roman and Shady both hate women so I can’t give you any props on that.  Just don’t go starting any mess. Your Sucka Free cover is Kim. She’s your godmother in the game even if she’s not acting like it. Think of giving everyone who comes at you, an opportunity to eat too. Savvy women parlay hateration into product that profits the major player and all the people on her team.

I listened to your interviews, I heard you rhyme, I read about that 360 deal. I know that your time is coming. What’s next? Your own label, your own school for girls, your own non-profit? I know you can do it, Nicki. The question is will you? I’ll only be mad if you stay a Barbie.

P.S.

By the way Lil Kim’s Pink Friday Mixtape is something you don’t want to mess with, really.

Just don’t pose in any more plastic boxes, okay?

http://twitter.com/#!/mghasspoken

Dr. Ebony Utley

The Woman with Ideas

theutleyexperience.com

Ebony A. Utley, Ph.D. is an expert in hip hop, race, and love relationships. Her forthcoming book, The Gangsta’s God: The Quest for Respectability in Hip Hop (Praeger, forthcoming), blends rap, religion, and urban African American history to reveal how a God-sanctioned gangsta identity empowers young black people facing declining economic opportunities.

Kanye West recently released his new video “Power” from his album ‘Dark Twisted Fantasy”. Some have called it a Video, others have called it Art, at 90 seconds long many are saying that they are waiting on the rest of it. In this video you see a huge gold chain, naked women, violence acts and various vices, but does it push boundaries, does it raise the bar, is the video sexist; as some have suggested. As always the public will search for meaning in the Marco Brambilla produced “Power”.  In this new video, or portrait if you will, Kanye is portrayed as “Damocles”, as the legendary sword hangs above is head.  The video is scattered with ancient and modern day visual representations of the many perils that come with Power. Filled with sharp light and dark visual contrast all the way down the the white and black individuals wielding swords to strike each other down. To fully understand this video, we need to take a look at Kanye West the artist. I didn’t call him a rapper, I said the Artist, but more on that later.

I was just wondering if the MTV staff and security didn’t see Kanye wandering around below the stage before hand

While we are on Mr. West, does anyone still care if Kanye took a mic from Taylor Swift? Especially since she is really not a country artist add to that the fact that MTV was trying to steal the country youth audience by giving her a “throw away” award, (MTV also threw away and award in 2011 to Tyler the Creator, likely due to Kanye not wanting his ex-girlfriend’s (Amber Rose) husband (Wiz Khalifa) to be on stage) Kanye the artist called MTV on the throw away award. President Barack Obama, rightly called Kanye a “jackass” for his actions that night. But then again the President went to an elementary school and told the youth there that they can’t all be the next Lil Wayne…Lil Wayne.  At a Hurricane Katrina telethon, Kanye West said “George Bush doesn’t care about black people”, while it is hard to argue with him on that, but he said it so matter-of-factly, so openly and in front of so many people that his comments from that night still haunt President George W. Bush. Kanye’s words haunted ex-President George W. Bush so much that in his memior “Decision Points” that moment is listed as the lowest of his presidency? Not the Hurricane Katrina response, not 9/11, not the Mission Accomplished statement, not the Vice President’s heart attack, not illegal wire taps, or a mis-guided wars, but Kanye West saying that you don’t care about Black People was your lowest point. When asked about Kanye West’s comments that night the ex-president said “I didn’t appreciate it then, I don’t appreciate it now.”  This is a testament to the power and affect that entertainers could have and use but so very often don’t. In a 4-year period Kanye effectively tied himself to two Presidents and a rising young country star, without rhyming a single lyric.

Factions from all sides have taken swipes at Kanye West ever since he released his debut album “The College Dropout” in 2004.  The Hip Hop community poked fun at Kanye’s “808 & Heartbreak” album. An album which was dedicated to emotions and the heat break of love, but isn’t that what music, dare I say Hip Hop needs? A black man rapping about power shows how hip hop is evolving. Kanye’s power breaks down the paradox of those in the industry that say he can only talk about the hood, what it’s like to be in jail and, what it’s like to get free government cheese.  Kanye isn’t supposed to be rapping about power and he definitely isn’t supposed to be sophisticated enough to use images of Renaissance artwork  to get his point across.

Was posing on the cover of Rolling Stone wearing a crown of thorns a bad idea?

Only if you don’t remember it.

Kanye has even went so far as to suggest that his race is a major factor in why he gets a lot of media flak and is overlooked for some awards, in the words of Kanye “Give a black man a chance…Maybe my skin’s not right”. Does Kanye say things that you don’t agree with? Does he speak ingrandiose term of himself? Does he really need to say “Black”, or “I’ve got the” in order for us to see and hear it?

Hip Hop today is not focused on the Art, but the production. So much so that even the average listener is conditioned to only be concerned with catchy phrases and the formulaic dance-ability of a song. Corporations are riding the music gravy train and squeezing every drop of money out of each stop. Does anyone care that Pop singers can’t sing, or that R & B has become a soulless mosh pit of rap and pop or that Hip Hop is often little more than bad lyrics and violent rhymes? There is no doubt that corporations are pushing explicit wording, overt sexuality and trying to front the genre with White Acceptable rappers. The fact is that Hip Hop has permeated our American lives. Politicians try to relate to our youth by rhyming lines, brushing imaginary dirt off their shoulders or by throwing out a rappers name. Does controversy sell? Does sex sell? They sure do, and when the media trots out people to point fingers at they sell even more.

What do you think?

Kanye’s  lack of humility is the main reason people will always find a reason to not like him, but people also do not like his politics, race or  his grammar, yet he does seem to enjoy his share of critics. When “Dark Twisted Fantasy” was released, many that live on the music industry’s outskirts mistakenly called it a comeback. Even the most respected critics quickly deride the intellectual, or message filled rap, while at time they same time speak in glowing terms of rappers with Dr. Seuss lyrics, or an imaginary violent acumen reminiscent of Al Capone. At the same time radio and television browbeat the populace with this subpar music until they like it. Unknown to many is that the best music every created will never be heard, except for a few select people.

By incorporating spoken word poetry and narration, rappers have made their products more accessible to “the mainstream”. Some rappers have adapted by embedding knowledge into their bars, a few have extended that to their videos. Here is where Kanye West comes into play, he has now branched off into Fine Art. How many times have you or your child went to a museum to appreciate the art? Art is not just sculpture, dance, music and paintings, it also includes wood and metal shop, and he cut that from schools too. Aside from questioning the subversive qualities of power, celebrity, sexuality decadence; what Kanye does is bring the Art to you on your television, powered by images and bass lines.

Jay Z did it in his  video “On to the Next One“, but he did that more so to make fun of the pettiness of people.

Lady GaGa tried it, albeit it in a less artistic fashion with “Telephone“, but that was only to spark controversy and solidify her brand.

These entertainers are creating their own kind of power

Showing that he is a true hip hop student, Kanye’s song nods to Snap’s 1990 hit “The Power”. The hook may not be quite as catchy as “I’ve got the power”, but Kanye’s “Power” shows the power, hope and promise of Hip Hop, especially when you study your craft. The song “Power”, aside from powerful social commentary, is addressed to his many haters. Everyone should seriously take the time and really listen to his lyrics in “Power”, especially the remix. In the remix Kanye West raps in Arabic, I wonder if 20% of Americans will believe that he is a Muslim, like they do President Barack Obama.  You can love Kanye’s vocal samples and instruments or not, he has been a lightening rod for the media and consumers alike and now he is trying to spark an interest in Art, how dare he. So while you are watching Kanye West, recognize that he is so out of touch that he is and has been trying to touch each one of us. There are many followers, and those that play them for that. There are people who will say or do something just because someone else did it, and there is a growing market for that too. Maybe this type of thinking can be traced back to early childhood Art Education, I’m just sayin’.

There will still be those that think that Kanye is ignorant. However, I beg to differ, Kanye seems to know the power of Art. He is aware of the boost in creativity, the focused concentration, the increased eye-hand coordination, the sense of completion you get from it. He also knows that Art promotes thinking outside of the box because that is exactly where he is.