Karrine and Lil Wayne

Dear Karrine Steffans,

I ride for you. I really do. Most people have no idea why. Allow me to introduce myself. I’m Dr. Ebony Utley, a writer and an associate professor of communication at California State University Long Beach. I write and teach about popular culture and relationships. When Confessions of a Video Vixen dropped, I assigned it to my hip hop class and made all my students purchase it.

Confessions was important because it forced readers to contextualize a vixen’s life. After my students exhausted all the different ways they could call you a ho, I pushed them to move past their judgments and critique gendered double standards about sexuality. I demanded that they imagine how it would change them if they were sexually assaulted, abused, and abandoned as a young girl. I encouraged them to consider the conditions that lead to escapism through sex, drugs, alcohol, and hip hop fantasies. Your book was a perfect opportunity to discuss how and why women make choices in a man’s world. I asked them to respect the chutzpah of a woman not that much older than they were who put it all out there—haters be damned.

When it came time to build my brand, I modeled it after yours. Your early websites were my favorites. I learned form you that pink is a power color. You taught me how to be sexy and smart. I subscribe to the newsletter, buy the books, read the damn blog. In fact, The Vixen Manual is kinda like an Our Bodies, Ourselves for the hip hop generation. Okay, that’s an overstatement, but the pictures were a nice touch.

Your newest book How to Make Love to A Martian was a birthday gift to myself and it continues your prosex, prochoice advocacy. It was a brave decision to share your abortion story. It was also an important decision in a world where women’s rights to choose are being systematically stripped away.

Baby News: Fuck!

Four Weeks

And while Martian is a page-tuner, I’ve got to draw a line. The “love” that you and Lil Wayne have is dangerous. I know you have a niche. I know you have a core audience with expectations. I know you need to make that money, but I can’t ride for you and let other people think that your depiction of love is okay with me. Now, I generally don’t make a habit of telling people they love wrong. I’ve been flying around the country collecting definitions of love from women and children for my research, and I know there are as many definitions as there are people.

For my current project Shades of Infidelity, I’m interviewing women about their experiences with infidelity, and I’ve asked all of them to define love. I’ve learned so much about life and love that this isn’t me passing judgment on your open relationship with Lil Wayne. This is me telling you that a relationship that lacks mutual trust, respect, and honest communication isn’t a healthy love. Here come the spoilers. You define love as “the spirit of caring to the maximum level of shared connection.” Fine. Then you describe love with Wayne:

“Wayne didn’t want to know everything or anything at all, except that I loved him.”

“Wayne was loving me the way he wanted to love me, but I was loving him the way he needed to be loved.”

“He was a jealous and possessive man when it came to the women he loved. He never wanted to hear about other men. Ever. Even though all this women had no choice but to hear about all his other women and accept it.”

All bad, Karrine. Per your own definition, you’re coming up short. Is this what the maximum level of connection looks like? More importantly is this what the maximum level of connection looks like?

I know you’re both working and these representations are part of your jobs. I’m certain they fail to accurately reflect the extent of your relationship, but for all the babygirls that are fans of yours, I need them to know that:

  • When you can’t talk to your partner about that time he hurt your feelings when he flew you across the country, holed you up in a hotel, and never showed up to meet you, it’s not okay
  • Sleeping with his friend just to make him jealous instead of telling him that his getting everybody pregnant and you hearing about it on the street was hurtful, is not ideal.
  • Being in a relationship where there is no reciprocity is not a healthy relationship.

If you were just sexing Wayne for pleasure, that would be fine (although I’m not entirely sure what you see in him), but to call what you describe in Martian as love is not fine. Not. At. All.

Raw

I agree. Sometimes a man and a woman have an understanding that even they don’t understand. I have been there. But this is not that. There’s no understanding. He hurts your feelings. You swallow them. You try to move on. Love relationships require communication to achieve that understanding and that maximum level of connection. I need to communicate to you that you deserve better. You’ve been hurt. A lot. But don’t give up on yourself. Learn from your mistakes. Olivia Pope is wrong (but that’s another post). Love is not supposed to hurt more than it heals you. Love yourself first. Tell yourself the truth about this unhealthy relationship. If you can agree not to glamorize the pain anymore, I’ll agree to keep riding for you. Can you and I share that understanding?

Dr. Ebony Utley
The Woman with Ideas
theutleyexperience.com


After the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting in Connecticut where 18 six and seven year-olds were shot and killed by a single armed individual, President Barack Obama took to the airwaves and we all heard his emotional condolences to other affected. Back in 2008, when Candidate Obama was being honest he said that cultural changes will make people “cling to their guns and religion”, he couldn’t have been righter. In fact some would say that the gun is a religion. The United States of America has more guns than any other ‘civilized” country in the world. We have more people in prison than any other civilized country, prison is supposed to be a deterrent–obviously what we have been doing isn’t working. It can even be argued that the violence we do abroad is merely an extension of the violence in our hearts that sometimes spills out at home…

You will hear the terms “Kids killing Kids”, “Boys will be Boys”, “Guns don’t kill people”, these are paid for slogans that turn shooting tragedies, like the one at Sandy Hook Elementary School into nothing more than nursery rhymes. Nursery rhymes right along side other rhymes like “babies having babies”, “Just say no”. Slogans that make you feel better, as if someone has a handle on it enough to craft a catchy slogan for it, while another avoidable shooting becomes nothing more than a parade of faces and a footnote in history. Disregarding the warnings from these events, the media and political framework from these events have become common. They pick sides, cloud the issues only to keep the same ways of thinking in place, year after year, incident after incident, half-measure after half-measure. Why half-measure and promises, because this is the culture of violence that we have created…all of us.

You will also hear words like “troubled”, “problems” and if no on is troubled or has problems. These media slick personalities will cloud the issue by making it a mental health debate. If the individual “snapped” how an examination beforehand reveals that is beyond any psychologist. They will also turn any remedy it into a privacy issues, or a rights issue. One as arbitrary as, at 18 one can smoke and at 21 one can drink alcohol, how is that working out?  They aren’t working, they don’t work. We as a society have not revisited those issues either, but it makes us feel better that we did something, maybe not the right thing, but we did something. “But it’s our right” they’ll scream, but since 9/11 the same screamers have allowed their right to be taken and twisted and their privacy to be intruded upon, without so much as a whimper—why? Because it was for the “Greater Good”. In the case of guns, finger pointing usually follows a shooting like this, but taking money out of the pockets of elected officials can save lives.

This tragedy in Sandy Hook, Connecticut will be tied to false arguments and false conclusions, just as all the tragedies before it were. You hear the questions being asked: What happened to the shooter to make him act in this manner? This can’t be normal, he’s a monster, a monster really–so is America raising monster? This is all done to prevent us from squaring look ourselves in the face. Looking at the society we have created for ourselves and for our children to grow up in. Arbitrarily putting people on a ‘not eligible’ list, stopping the poor for getting guns, preventing minorities from getting guns, ect… none of it will work. We all know it that’s why we pray, we hold vigils, and we debate.

A week after the Sandy Hook shooting the NRA held a national press conference that blamed 1980 and 1990 era video games Splatterhouse, Bulletstorm and Mortal Kombat, and sports for America’s violent culture. The NRA Vice President Wayne LaPierre urged congress to create a national database for the mentally ill, he also blamed the media for being complicity in misinforming people and President Barack Obama for cutting funds. The NRA proposes that every school in America has a police officer. The press conference was so out of touch and so sickening the only thing missing was the Wayne LaPierre brandishing a gun, and metaphorically he was. However, the NRA’s proposal seems like a great solution until the armed protector is the shooter. Make it tougher to get a gun won’t work, because the capitalist will find something else deadly to market and sell to the violence hungry masses. Scenes like the ones at Sandy Hook Elementary School have become as common as law enforcement police shooting unarmed people,and  as normal as the violence from our unmanned drone strikes in other countries. We the so-called educated masses, have lost the clarity and the fortitude to do the right thing.

How many guns does a person need? One for upstairs, one for downstairs, one for the car and one for the white tail deer. I know hunting is a way of life. Yes hunting defenseless animals with high powered weaponry for sport, is a way of life that desensitizes us to the value of life as a whole. We as a society hold the power to take life as our absolute right if someone, anyone offends us, unfortunately the taking of life is in direct conflict with the constitution the evangelist praise so highly, but just as so many religious do with their text, the constitution is left largely unread. Thinking that one right can take another right has to be a mental condition.

Here is what you won’t hear.

There have been 28 mass shootings since Columbine and 19 mass shooting since the 2007 Virginia Tech shooting, 30,000 gun deaths yearly, 100,000 people get shot yearly, 18,000 people commit  gun suicides each year, yet there has been no meaningful change in the gun laws or the gun debate. Unfortunately, American citizens will fork over trillions of dollars and  the wherewith all for wars, but they no longer have the guts to do the right thing here at home. Any of these numbers should have indicated that our culture is in crisis, has been in crisis and every decision we make stems from the bad ones before it. This time, this incident in Connecticut, involved so many children and females in particular involved that the assault weapons ban might get a national tweak, might.  What if the next mass shooter’s are girls would that be enough to make us think? Probably not.

“The issue is not just violence in the media but the construction of violent masculinity as a cultural norm. From rock and rap music and videos, Hollywood action films, professional and college sports, the culture produces a stream of images of violent, abusive men and promotes characteristics such as dominance, power, and control as means of establishing or maintaining manhood.”

For one segment of American society the gun itself is a symbol of honor, human mastery over nature, authority, individual self-sufficiency and history. To that segment by opposing gun control affirm the value of those symbolic meanings and the vision of the good society that the gun helped to construct. However, to the other segment of  society guns perpetuate illicit social hierarchies, the elevation of force over reason, the expression of collective indifference to the well-being of strangers, and the only way the the fearful can sleep at night. To this segment supporting gun control means repudiation these things, meanwhile one sides interest’s are realized at the detriment to the other side. The truth is that injecting partisan cultural values into this debate are inappropriate. People have a tendency to adopt views shared by others of their cultural orientation, this is self-reinforcing. We need a new vocabulary, we need new voices on the matter and no compromise, or middle ground solution will remedy this. We must change our thinking completely.

What would the forefathers think? Where is congress on the matter? Who is paying who? It’s too much for the busy citizenry to deal with, right? So lets put it to a vote, and watch every year as the numbers for a ban grow, but that’s when the real violence will happen. The shooter could have used an SUV and ran down just as many young victims crossing the street to school. Why didn’t he? Because guns and ammunition are far cheaper and more effective ways to kill, when you are killing for power. So why not make guns more costly, but then only the wealthy would have them. We could make it into War on Guns, but how have the wars on Terror, Drugs and Gangs turned out? Why not just ban the firearm and keep the 2nd amendment, which is doable, but the capitalist would never allow that.

The numbers and our actions just don’t add up, what would happen if we as a society were to take firearms out of the equation?

MG Hardie

In the 80’s Hip Hop needed to co-op rock music with songs like, Run DMC’s “Walk this Way” . In the 90’s Hip-Hop co-oped R & B with albums brilliant albums like, “What’s the 411”. Today it is those genres that need Hip Hop and all of its elements just to survive. Whether it’s rock or pop acts who are rapping but saying that they aren’t, or singers who put the latest hip hop star on a track the impact of Hip Hop has been felt in every genre of music and here are the people most responsible for that, they exist beyond regular rap. This list is not solely based on album sales, or lyrics, one of the mot important criteria for this list is impact. So before you hip hop heads go crazy with the WTF’s, just ask yourself ‘Where would Hip Hop be today if none of these rappers existed?’ If you don’t see your favorite rapper on this list it is most likely because they are one dimensional, have lyrics written by other people or perhaps you are the one that is short-sighted.

 

14. Redman There are very few rappers as skilled as Redman. In term of using braggadocios wit and hard hitting beats, he is the most consistent rapper on this list and most underrated. If you have ever used the pop-culture gesture, “Raise the Roof”, then you owe him.  Redman is an elder statesman with distinctive voice and flow who exploded on to the hip-hop scene in 1992 with Whut? Thee Album. (I Be Dat, Let’s Get Dirty, On Da 99, My Zone, Whatever Man, How High, Whateva man, i’ll be dat, Pick it Up, Da Rockwilder)

 

 

13. Nelly: Is it getting hot in herre? In 2000 he blessed us with the 9x Platinum “Country Grammar” he introduced the nation to Mid West rap, or should I say the Dirty South. Skillfully rapping with unforgettable hooks and an unmistakable mid-west twang. Nelly put the Mid West on the rap map, period. Nelly’s Country Grammar opened the door that Ludacris, T.I. and Lil Wayne have walked through and that’s saying a whole lot. In 2004 the video for “Tip Drill” was released, this was a video full of strippers and naked video vixens, Nelly slid a credit card between a naked ass, after which the the lady started to pop her ass for Nelly. This video sparked controversy from black women’s groups and media, who said “Nelly and other rapper were saying that women were only good for one thing…sex.” This controversy not only led to the banning of the video “Tip Drill”, and other staple raunchy rap videos, but by the end of 2005 hip hop videos were forever changed to reflect a more creative, less overtly sexual tone. This controversy almost ruined Nelly. Nelly is also the only other rapper beside Snoop Dog to have a number #1 hit on the Country Charts. Album- Country Grammar, Nellyville (Dilemma, My Place, Country Grammar, Tip Drill, Hot in Herre 2, and Over & Over)

12. DMX His first major-label album “It’s Dark and Hell is Hot”, was released in May 1998 and debuted on the #1 on the Billboard 200. It was this album that began the comparisons to Tupac.  In December of 1998 he released “Flesh of My Flesh and Blood of My Blood”, which also debuts #1. DMX was the second rapper to have two albums released the same year debut at #1, the only other rapper was Tupac Shakur. With dark beats and harsh DMX pushed boundaries of imagery and sanity with lyrics on love, rage, God complete with prayers. Albums- It’s Dark and Hell is Hot, Flesh of My Flesh, Blood of My Blood

11. Nas: With his densely packed flow, he is the best technical rapper of his generation. Nas created a style of rapping that was more conversational, with compound rhymes and words that run into a bar. During a feud with Jay-Z, Nas solidified his stance as rap’s best by releasing a crushing battle track called “Ether.” Though his raps took a more popularized slant in the ‘90s, he has consistently delivered cutting-edge material.  His first album, “Illmatic”, is widely considered the greatest hip-hop debut of all time.  Album: (Illmatic), Songs: (It ain’t hard to tell, If I ruled the world, Ether, One love, Black Girl Lost, Book of Rhymes)

10. Biggie Smalls: A lyrical genius. His song are real life and words add up to something. His skills were untouchable, his flow almost supernatural, and for a fat man his swagger was unmatched. Biggies is credited with changing the game of rap, Biggie was to the East Coast what Tupac was to the West Coast. Biggie released two classic Hip Hop albums “Ready to Die” and “Life After Death” which made him a Hip Hop icon. He changed the way MC’s flow when he blessed “Notorious Thugs” with a verse, using the Bone Thugs style better than they did themselves. He is also one of the great storytellers in Hip Hop, unfortunate he career was cut short with his life. (Hypnotize, Juicy, What’s Beef, Warning, Kick In the Door, Who Shot Ya, Unbelievable)

9. Ice Cube: is an original Member of NWA. He along with Dr. Dre was at the forefront of 90’s gangsta rap era. A gifted storyteller, only his stories usually revolve around illegal acts and retribution. His lyrics were tough and hardcore as he scared Hollywood with his anti-white, misogynist, antisemitic lyrics and Hollywood still gave him movie roles, now that’s gangsta.  He continued to push the gangsta vibe when he created the group, Westside Connection. Westside Connection had two year olds to eighty-two year olds throwing up four fingers with two twisted in the middle. He, Snoop Dog and Too Short are the only mainstream rappers who have used curse words if they were periods and still had hit songs. He manages to stay relevant, but even more than that he has been producing television shows and is a serious actor, who every now and then still finds time to drop a gangsta album. Today his music is considered to conscious to receive radio-play. Whether he is dropping a Hip Hop movie classic like “Friday”, or producing television shows, we’ve beening trying to guess the color of his shoe laces for years. At the eight spot he may still be underrated on  the consciousness of his lyric alone.  Album- Greatest Hits (Go to church, Once Upon a Time in the Projects, You know how we do it, We be clubbin’, It Was A Good Day, Check Yo Self, You Know How We Do It, Bow Down, Why We Thugs,Natural Born Killers)

8. Ludacris: Others claim to be the King of the South, but Luda actually is the King. He popularize the Dirty South, so much that his reach touches each coast. “Word of Mouth” was a classic album regardless of the coastal region. Interesting hooks, unique style, distinctive voice, sexual overtones. A Ludacris themed album is just pure entertainment. Versatile is a word that can’t even describe Ludacris, so lets put uniquely in front of that. Luda opened up the mid western hip hop to the masses. As the market has saturated with sub par commercial rap fair Luda has taken his appeal into movie roles. Albums- Word of Mouf (Move Bitch, Area Codes, Southern Hospitality, What’s your fantasy, Stand up, Act a fool, One More Drink, Money Maker, Last of a dying breed)

7. Kanye West: He is what Tupac would be if he were raised upper middle class. Complete with social issues, political, dis and controversial all in one rap song. His flow is more akin to Spoken Word, while he may not quite be Taalam Acey he does puts it down quite nicely. He gained fame by producing Jay Z’s albums and spitting bars through a wire (while his mouth was wired shut), and then he took Jesus to the top of the hip hop and pop charts. His style is uncommon eclectic to perfection. I have always maintained that Kanye is what Tupac would be if he were middle class in the millennium, but Kanye almost to a fault love to experiment on track production. His album 2007 “Graduation” retired rapper 50 Cent. Kanye was influenced by RZA’s uses of distinctive and intricate string arrangements over his own drum tracks. He uses unique instrumentation to push the limits of creativity with each albums, sometimes he pushes a bit too far…with albums such as Yeezus which is vicious, petulant, abrasive and colossally vain.  Albums- Graduation, 808s & Heartbreak, Late Registration, The College Dropout. His collab album “Watch The Throne” with Jay Z goes even to further show his versatility and passion.

6. Jay Z  He had a hard knock life, but he is arguably the most versatile rapper ever he can flow to any beat, his wordplay is of the highest order and his presence on the mic is unmatched.  Even though he lost a rap battle to rival Nas, the war was won in the end by Jay Z. Hova is proof that if you speak clearly and have skills you can stay local and still be a national hit. His debut album “Reasonable Doubt” heralded his arrival, but he didn’t stop there, he then dropped “The Blueprint” and “The Black Album” both classic albums in their own right. There is one thing the business side of  Jay Z knows is that the audience is not only watching, it is changing, so he filled the, also classic, album “Hard Knock Life” with tons of mainstream appeal and he also shows his daring side in the experimental collaborative album “Watch The Throne” with Kanye West. Even when Jay-Z rest on his laurel with the 2013’s unpredictable “Magna Carta Holy Grail” shows that no matter the age Jay Z is an artistic rebel as well as a family stalwart  (99 Problems, Dope Man, This can’t be life, Brooklyn’s Finest, Hard Knock Life, Regrets)

                                                                                                        

5. Tupac Shakur: He rapped about poverty in America, but more importantly he rapped about how we should stop it. Tupac was rap’s greatest storyteller of all-time. His ability to convey the gangster lifestyle was unmatched. His popularity and notoriety exceeds that of any hip-hop artist. The East Coast, West Coast beef and the eventual shooting deaths of Tupac and Biggie remain rap’s biggest stories. He was the first rapper to enjoy success internationally. He earned movie roles in Above the Rim, Juice and Poetic Justice. Honestly Tupac would have had many more great songs and been higher on this list, if he wasn’t always allowing wack rappers to follow him on tracks and if he hadn’t been murdered. His verses have saved many a song, and are the only reason we listened to them. When it came to telling it like it is, or how we felt no one did it better and Tupac. Power, Spiteful, Passion, Outrageous and Inflammatory, Tupac pondered the afterlife and why, with all of our resources, social ills still persist. He didn’t need the dopest beatmaker, or a corporate machine to produce him to perfection, he just needed a mic and it was ‘Tupac against the World’. Tupac’s voice was and still is the voice of the streets. Albums- Greatest Hits (When Thugz Cry, Only God can judge me, Hail Mary, Brenda’s Got a Baby, Keep Ya Head Up, Life Goes On, Me Against the World, Ambitionz as a Ridah, Letter To My Unborn, I Wonder If Heaven’s Got a Ghetto, Hit ‘Em Up’, Changes, 2 of Amerikaz Most Wanted, Blasphemy)

4. Snoop Dog: Snoop has stretched out more vowels and dismantled more of the English language than any rapper hands down. His unique laid back cadence and delivery sets him apart from any other rapper. Snoop along with Warren G and Nate Dogg put Long Beach forever on the map. Snoop has dropped lyrics on Pop, Rock, Country and Reggae tracks and that says a lot for a Gangsta rapper from Long Beach California. After gracing Dr Dre’s “The Chronic” with his confident, laid-back flow, Snoop dropped the most important west coast release in the history of Hip Hop 1993’s “DoggyStyle”.  He helped make Death Row records (a label Tupac was also signed to) a force in the music game.  He has graced many rap albums with incredible 16’s. Snoop is constantly reinventing himself. In 2013 he dropped the reggae album Reincarnated. Reincarnated is a very good album and it is Snoop’s most positive and least commercially successful album to date, indicating that there may be a connection with negativity and hip hopSo much of an icon. in movie roles he typically stars as himself, because he’s the most interesting rapper in the world. Dr. Dre, Snoop Dog and Tupac earned the West Coast a level of respect it has since lost. Albums- Doggystyle (Gin and Juice, Drop it like it’s hot, Murder was the case, 2 of Amerikaz most wanted, Ain’t No Fun, Sensual Seduction, Lighters Up, What’s my name)

3. Eminem  His first two albums were instant classics.  His song are about true life experiences but more than that he is a lyrical mastermind. His flow is as faster and his verbiage is more on point than anyone in the game. His ability to cut people down with words is second to none. His albums are not happy, they are not party albums, they are drug addicted, domestic violence laden serious and personal albums that always seems to spark controversy. In an entertainment business that turns largely on race, Em has in many ways transcended that argument, although race has a lot to do with his broader appeal, which is evident by the fact that he has sold more albums than any other rapper. Albums- The Slim ShadyLP, Marshal Mathers LP,  (Remember me, Rock Bottom, Till I collapse, Role Model, The way I am, Stan)

 

2. KRS-1: A philosopher and poet among rappers. He put out five albums under the name Boogie Down Productions (BDP). He pre-dates raps movement towards guns and drugs and instead delivered lyrics with a message, that message was that “You Must Learn”. If the black community had an issue he rapped about it. He spoke to the spirit and the mind of the hip-hop and those that love it. Not afraid to provoke thoughts, or express his opinion he set the standard for New York Hip Hop in the late 80’s. He was crucial in organizing dozens of rappers into the “Stop the Violence Movement”, to help curb the violence in hip hop and black communities. Krs-1 is the chief promoter of Hip Hip culture, he is noted for battling any challenger that tried to stepped to his throne and he is the most respected rapper on this list.. (You Must Learn, Hip Hop Lives, South Bronx, The Bridge is over, Criminal Minded, My Philosophy, Stop the violence,

1.  Tie (Dr. Dre & P. Diddy)

Dr. Dre: What rapper/producer’s name has been uttered more times on albums than his? No ones. And that should tell you all you need to know about his impact on the world of musuc. He entered the big time with the rap group NWA. He introduced the world to Gangsta Rap, D.O.C., Snoop Dog, Eminem, 50 Cent and Music ring-tones. He used multi-layered, melodic synthesizers, slow hypnotic grooves, deep bass, a sine wave keyboard and a liberal sampling of P-funk tunes as he developed G-Funk to power the laid back West Coast vibe of  sex, drugs, violence, gangsterism and promiscuous sex. When you forgot about him, he reminded you. His beats alone have powered more top 10 hits than any other rap producer and his pupils are on this list beneath him. Albums- The Chonic, 2001 (Xxplosive, What’s the difference, Forgot about Dre, Light speed, Let me Ride, Kush)

P. Diddy  The rapper/producer who was the driving force behind Biggie, Mary J. Blige, Usher and a half dozen other rappers and groups. He brought hip hop reality television to the masses. He and protege Mase ended gangsta raps reign with shiny suits. What rapper didn’t want to make is band? He introduced the R & B world to Keysha Cole, while he put a brand new Flava in yo ear. Even with average lyrics Sean, Diddy, Puff Daddy, P. Diddy or whatever he is calling himself now-a-days has constantly beats his haters expectations. Name changes, identity crisis, business side, controversy, creativity and unusual collaborations…that is Combs, from Hip Hop from childhood to adulthood all the while his lyrics displayed relationship and religious conflicts. The uniformed masses will no doubt hate it, but Combs is the Portrait of the artist as a young rapper. Albums- No Way Out (Can’t nobody hold me down, I’ll be missing you, Been around the world, Last Night, I need a girl, Hello good morning)

Dr. Dre and P. Diddy have rapped, produced and shepherded Hip Hop from puberty, through gangsta rap and the lean corporate years. Today corporate production only focuses on catchy phrases, hooks and making sure that the music stays more powerful than lyrics. For those who wondered how middle age hip hoppers will fair, just look at these two is the answered because they’ve done it. The one true omission from the top spot is Will Smith, who is without argument the most popular rapper that ever existed, but let’s leave him at the #1 actor spot.

Very worthy of mention: Drake, Slick Rick, Rakim,Kool G Rap, Busta Rhymes, Timberland, T.I.,GZA, L.L. Cool J, E-40, Too Short, Big Daddy Kane, Kirk Franklin, Ice T, Scarface, Raekwon, Heavy D, *Justin Timberlake, 50 cent, Common, Lil Wayne, Nate Dogg, Chuck D, Mos Def, Method Man, Twista,  Lil John, Kool Moe Dee, Ben Haggerty, Ja-Rule, Kurupt, Mystical and Big Pun. Unlike many of todays rappers the rappers on this list can tell you more about themselves, through their music, than I ever could.

https://www.facebook.com/pages/MG-Hardie/277636622262511 (Join the movement)

I have always been a big fan of Erykah Badu. She has in many ways shown the triumph of the uncompromising black female artist. At times she, through her music, has gotten personal, emotional, philosophical, and I love the way she is not afraid to show that she is political. Often, through her level consciousness, she has had the ability to bridge the gender and age gap and have everyone singing her catchy songs. She is unique from her organic sound to her style of dress both of which show her constant groove. Badu’s latest album ‘New Amerykah Part Two (Return of the Ankh) has recently come out. I am sure that this album will be more of what we have come to expect from Erykah Badu, not over processed, personal, ambient even soulful, but the album is not what this article is about.

This article is about the video “Window Seat” Badu’s new video for her first single. If you haven’t seen it, basically Erykah Badu walks down a Texas street and strips buck naked in front of everybody and lies down near where JFK was assassinated on November 22, 1963.

This is a powerful video that does with actions that her previous videos did with words and color and it stands in stark contrast to them and most videos out there. Now there will be many who won’t see the point of the video. And I won’t give you the point either, because it obviously wasn’t for you. And I appreciate the point and thusly salute Erykah for making it and I must say that Erykah has an amazing backside, but I digress.

Books that are changing everything

Is this really what entertainment has come to? Taking off all of your clothes just to make a point?

Dressing like a cartoon character to be heard?

Making yourself a pop-culture gender bender to become popular?

The answer sadly is yes. With the death of MTV entertainers have been getting more and more outrageous in this say or do anything business and all of it is about as real as a three dollar bill.

Did Erykah have a valid point to make? Could that point have been made without bearing it all in public? Is this really artist integrity? or a calculated risk over reward scenario?

Those are the same questions I asked when I saw a naked Serena Williams on the cover of last year’s ESPN Magazine, especially when I looked through the magazine and found no naked men, not that I was looking for naked men mind you.

Did either of these ladies have to go that far, probably not, but if they hadn’t we wouldn’t be talking about them right now. Let’s be real here, the “mainstream” is not checking for Badu. They are only interested in women of color when there is some kind of controversy. It does speaks volumes that a woman has to take off her clothes to be a viable artist these days and a man has to put on his to be successful. Personally I like Erykah’s counter culture attitude, but it isn’t cutting edge for her to go on television shows with her hair half-done.

How do a real artists compete with these manufactured pop-culture products? How do real musicians stand out in a time-period where the mediocre can go quadruple platinum? The answer isn’t an easy one, but it does depend on where we get our music from and whether the masses really wants to hear real music from real people, or packaged music from created products.  Two weeks ago I recently attended a small event in Long Beach of less than 50 people and the music I was given the privileged to hear there was better than all of the concerts I have been to. It was free, but I would have paid for the experience, you see where I am going with this.

Shocking videos, outrageous dress, and nakedness are not new to the industry, whether it was Elton John with his flamboyance, Prince and his innuendo, D’Angelo and Madonna with their boldness and others who were considered cutting edge with these types of statements. Not only were they out there, most of the time they were out there alone. Those artist never felt that they had to do something that wasn’t them to compete, or more shocking than what someone else did, they weren’t in the same market, but today’s markets are blended. Today we have a country star who isn’t from the country, Rappers rapping country, pop kids rapping, rappers on pop songs, R & B songs that are pop, and the blends go on and on. It is both a testament to the national oblivion and sort of  funny when you hear someone say that they don’t like rap, but the songs they listen to are actually rap.

These industries will feed us this type of empty fair until, or if we get fed up and complain loud enough and just like the media is moving the public from Health Care to Jobs, and Immigration the music industry will create something else for The Mob to follow. Did Erykah Badu have to go to such length to be heard, well we are talking about her now aren’t we? One thing is certain, it is no longer about the music and as long as the public continues to celebrate idiocy, promiscuity, those who will say whatever, do whatever, or those take off their clothes and pass it off as a form of expression I dare say that we should expect no less than the same kind of behavior from our citizenry, so Pack Light.