Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The (cyber)World Is A Ghetto

I was tooling through the slums of World Star Hip Hop the other day & when I was done gazing at the wondrous peaks & valleys of Ms. LaStarya & mindlessly partaking in the gratuitous amounts of nigganomics & coontrocities, I realized something; this is the urban legend that ignorance is built upon. A utopia of shuck & jive unlike any other known to Niggerdom. If I had no other avenue to which my "hip hop" sweet tooth was to be satisfied by, I'd be assed out, misguided, bamboozled, hoodwinked, etc.

Every other recording is a beef. Or a response to a beef. Or an outsiders point of view of some other beef. Or some lame duck has-been being interviewed about their pointless objectivity towards this weeks dead horse. As if hip hop needs more niggas dishing out opinions & personal philosophies. Somewhere in the muck & mire of testosterone, one can occasionally luck up on some funny ass mishap video, scantily clad thoroughbred or random dude freestyling in his mom's living room about how many ways to Sunday he'll blow holes through you. No Dice. If I want to see babies lip syncing the words to "We are the World", or some dude being dragged through a mud pit on the back of a Chevy pick-up, I'll visit YouTube on my lunch hour. I don't believe that WSHH intended to become the ghetto of the 'Nets, but it's now what BET once was between the wee hours of 2-4 a.m. 24 hours a day.

& correct me if I'm wrong, but are there ever any other races featured besides black folks? I can't recall ever stumbling over a white guy strumming his guitar or showcasing his kickflip/railslide prowess. I might have come across a gyrating white chick or two, but in that case the last thing I was looking for was skin tone. The videos, professional or user submitted, all look the same anyway; thousands of thugged out blunt rollers wearing eye-covering baseball hats & Elton John amounts of jewelry with the requisite unemployed pole straddler. & with rap music becoming so complacent & unoriginal, I usually don't even look at the artist's names unless there's valid reason to waste my time. Cats can talk all the "hipsters must die" shit they want, but that's the last thing I see on World Star. I wouldn't mind the hippie hop interlude to break up all the threats of violence, acts of stupidity & stretch-marked boobery.

Remember that episode of Dave Chapelle when the internet was a shopping mall? He never visted WSHH. It would've been niggas standing around smoking trees, watching stripper's bounce they assets for quarters while cats were getting knocked out to hip hop fight songs. The South Side of the mall, of course.

The unexplainable part about it is that I can't turn away. It's like a slow-motion car wreck. Or better yet, unprotected sex; once you start, it's hard to stop. Maybe they put crack in the transmission. Or the logo has hypnotic qualities. Whatever it is, I feel sorry for the impressionable tweenager who lives by the unremarkable standard set by this site.

I would hate for some adolescent from Zumunda to find WSHH & think that this is the best that American hip hop has to offer. It's no wonder that foreign countries are (& have been) so quick to blame the good ol' USA for the social problems they have. As far as OUR presentation goes, look at Exhibit A. There are dozens of good hip hop sites that give you the full gamut of the culture, & in case you've been under a rock or in a cave, WSHH ain't one of them.

Monday, March 30, 2009

(no) Dollar Dollar Bill(s) Yall

I just realized (a couple of weeks ago) that this "economic crisis" isn't really affecting me.

It's not that my scratch is long, or my dollar game is that heavy; it's actually the exact opposite. The saying goes "you don't miss what you never had" (or something like that), & unless I'm mistaken, there aren't any exceptions to that rule. With that said, there's never been a time in my life that I was especially burdened with skrilla. I think the most money I've ever actually physically touched, counted, smelled, had sex on, etc., at one time, was about $10,000. Technically speaking, that's not even enough to buy/drive a brand new whip off the lot. Maybe Hyundai/Daewoo "brand new", but not Honda/Toyota "brand new". & I was young, that money didn't make it past a month. It was that age where moolah, like sperm, was dished out in generous proportions with no regard to the possible outcome. I can still remember buying a beat-down '69 Volkswagen Bug with the last 900 bucks of that cash I had. Damn, I don't even have that car anymore. I wrapped it around some Hispanic dudes fender.


So, in this, a time of financial chaos, I find a sense of comfort in my tax bracket. I wouldn't classify my status as "hand to mouth", but I'm not mad at AIG or that Madoff dude, either. It's kind of like the time when you were a kid & your dad/uncle/older brother knew a guy who was literally rich. Seeing his house, cars, & women gave you a feeling you didn't understand as a child, but later grew to realize that deeply-rooted "playa hatin'" is what you experienced. Upon further investigation (re: nosing), you came to see how hard his life was. Doing whatever it was he did to make that money, the maintenance of all his shiny things, the amount of his respective bills, the toll it took on his personal life, & in an odd turn of events you figured out that it sucks to be him. Lower-middle class didn't seem so bad. Plus, by that time, you grown accustomed to the 99 cent value menu. I know I sure did.

I was raised moderately middle class anyway, a "latch key kid", so the phrase "we can't afford it" became as leisurely as "it's unnecessary", subsequently my notion of the difference between needs & wants was formed at an early age. One year I asked my Dad where were our Christmas lights. He turned & looked at the living room lamp & said "You see those lights?" I nodded my head yes & he said "They're not free. Merry Christmas". Only now do I truly understand that he wasn't being a sarcastic jerk, but a hard working man who did the best he could for a couple of kids & a wife that he probably never intended on having in the first place.

Besides, it could always be worse. Which is a dichotomy of sorts because, think about it, your situation at some point is the "worse" somebody is using as their moment of clarity. Consider it the chain of misfortune; as surely as you're looking to your right at the guy with no shoes, the dude to your left is looking at your old winter coat. It would appear to be one of those times in life where complacency is a gift & a curse. Even still, at least I HAD shoes.

It's no wonder people are purposely working less hours & having more babies. What better way to stick it to the "man" than by playing the game according to the rules he introduced?

Tax return season just got a little more dangerous.

I've never been [close to] rich, & I seriously doubt that I'll ever be [anywhere near] rich. So be it. The social Gods have spoken.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

The One Day Experiment

I love a good social experiment.

Today, out of sheer boredom, I decided to hold all of my conversations using as much hip hop/rapper lingo, slang & colloquialism as possible. As an active member of the hip hop community, I often find myself frustrated with the misuse of the English language, yet thoroughly entertained simultaneously. I understand it's somewhat Ebonics-esque existence, but what if I didn't? How idiotic would I sound to other people? My theory was that the average individual wouldn't have any idea what the hell I was talking about. Hmmmm.........

My Mom: Hello? Hi Anthony. How are you? Are you busy?

TG: Whadup Ma dukes? I'm straight, posted up, feel me? Street sign status & all that, nahmean? What's good?

MM: Excuse me?

TG: I'm sayin' though, marinatin' at the crib, makin' it do what it do, dig? Just doin' me, no homo. It's all good, what's crackin'?

*Result; she asked if I had been drinking & told me she'll call me another time.

SECOND SUBJECT-My son's teacher
Teacher: I want to discuss your son's behavior.

TG: Word up, pimpin. Cat be buggin', right? Yo, I keep it real with shorty, spit that knowledge fa sheez, boom bam. He be all about the shenanigans & whatnot, but I'm steady breakin' it down like, juice, if you out here whylin my dude, you ain't gon never touch no scratch, son. Can't be stuntin' if you stay frontin'! Word!

Teacher: Um, okay sir.

*Result: She handed me his report card & said she'll call my wife if there's anymore problems.

THIRD SUBJECT-Hispanic cashier at Burger King (interjecting a little Los Angeles-style Spanglish)

Burger King Chick: Hola. How can I help you today?

TG: Whadup doe? Yeah, yeah, feenin' for one of them Whopper joints, smell me? Feelin' a lil famished up in this piece, momma. Tryin' to touch some comida, vamonos! Ya boy need a grape soda with that, word, extra diamonds in that bitch, no doubt!

BKC: Que?

TG: Huh?

BKC: Did jew call me a bitch, sir?

TG: Ahhhhhhh, you got jokes dog! Nah, ain't no disrespectin', I'm just tryin' to eat cuz I'm eatin', ya know? Grab & bounce babygirl, grab, &, bounce! That Oww Wee got my guts bubbly, nahmean? Let me get that to go, finna shake the spot before my breezy start blowin' up my connect. She crazy ill!

BKC: Wha? Jour girl she sick?

TG: Word, you feelin' me! Yeah, loco in la cabayza, fa real fa real! Son, I almost wifey'd that chicken!

BKC: I no understand. Jew want chicken sandwich?

TG: Huh?

BKC: Que?

TG: Co-me-dah! Vittles, kid!

BKC: Sir, I think jew should talk to el heffa.

TG: Say word!

BKC: Uh, word? I no underst-

TG: Ahh nah, you droppin' dimes?! You must ain't be up on the G code! It's official on the concrete, real talk! Po's told me it's at least a bullet if they catch a nig slip-slidin' again outchere! Later for that. It's all about square biz, gettin' my scrilla sky high baby, no limits on mine! Can't do that if I'm stretched in the bing! Matta fact, I'm Audi 5. Holla back!

*Result: I never received my food, thoroughly confused my order taker & realized that this is more fun than a barrel of monkeys (no pun intended).

My conclusion was just as I suspected it would be; people had no idea what the hell I was talking about. Hopefully, this will serve as a small list of how not to speak if one yearns to be understood. Of course, I religiously pratice correct speaking, but I seem to be of a now dying breed.

Judging by the generations behind mine, between horrible grammar & body art, they'll be plenty of jobs available for my future grandchildren.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Role Reversal

I mean this in all seriousness........

I posted a blog on XXLmag.com (http://www.xxlmag.com/online/?p=40391) entitled "Where the ladies at?" some time ago. One comment that caught my attention was something to the effect of "the men in hip hop are so feminine that the women are no longer needed". Upon further investigation, that response made quite a bit of sense.

Take a look at what hip hop is versus what it was. If it's broken down by categories, it's a very telling scenario of the culture we love leaning towards a more unisex idiosyncrasy.

The trend began with hair. At one point, you're favorite rapper had braids that hung mid-back length, presumably longer than your baby momma's. For a very brief time I sported the style, but quickly realized that the maintenance wasn't worth the outcome; frizzy cornrows are as far from gangsta as one can get (no Jim Jones). Though the "trend" fizzled somewhat, it's still evident in the hip hop community that niggas want long, luxurious locks. Be it good or bad, a flowing mane is what's up. To this day, you can catch a high-as-hell Snoop Dogg permed out & G'd up simultaneously. I don't think there's anything wrong with long hair on dudes, but if at some point your dome is making your girl's look bad, something's got to give.

The next phase evolved essentially in unison with the hair growth; jewelry. In the 70's, there were actually such things as "man-rings". Society felt the obligatory need to classify jewelry by gender-based specifications. Now, some 30 years later, metro's & hetero's shop shoulder to shoulder in search for the prettiest piece of shine. Diamonds are everybody's best friend, contrary to popular belief. The more, the better. The first time I bought a bracelet, my father asked me if he'd forgotten my mother's birthday. When I told him it was mine, he looked at my hoop earrings & shook his head in testosterone-filled shame. I ditched the hoops & gave the bracelet to my mom, as he suggested & it was a wrap. Now, a rap dude cops a diamond encrusted medallion, huge shiny earrings (the bigger the better), a Wonder Woman bracelet & as many finger trinkets as his hands can hold, subsequently getting his Elton John on. The watch is a given; watches are MAN jewelry. Anything else is should be slid off to wifey. Shiny distractions keep them quiet.

Which brings us to the day's current craze. Tight pants. Nut-huggers for the lame ducks. Granted, baggy pants are best left to shotgun-concealing gangbangers & the remaining breakdancers of the world, but there's nothing the matter with a little loose fit in your trousers (no homo). The problem is when, as with the long hair, your pants hug your thighs more snugly than your girl's. I know you carry a wallet, but I shouldn't be able to see it. If I can tell the difference between a quarter & a dime through your denim, maybe a size upgrade should be considered. Not to mention the risk of a yeast infection, which I assume would be more embarrassing than buying a box of Nix to self-medicate a case of Crabs. Men's pants shouldn't fit into their Air Force One's like Ugg boots. At some point, we can only assume niggas'll be rocking spandex because the jeans don't hug their curves like they want. How far off are we from wife-beaters (no C. Brown) being replaced by sports bras? If dudes start arching their eyebrows, I'm Audi 5.

& with the bickering, fussing, fighting, feuding, tattle-telling, break-ups-to-make-ups, I don't know if I'm witnessing hip hop or an episode of my life where my wife & baby mom's happen to be at the same family function.

Where the ladies at, indeed.

Monday, March 23, 2009

So you think you can rap?

So you think you can rap? Who cares?

There's a million eager young bucks who can boast the same thing. MC's are a dime a dozen. Everbody & their cousin has a studio, with some off the wall in-house producer willing to bet the farm that they can end your favorite rapper's career with little effort. They're floating aimlessly through Myspace & broadcasting in "real time" on WSHH &YouTube, giving the listening public 99 reasons why they are the shit (no Lil' Wayne) & nobody else is. If everyone's the best rapper alive, then what's the seventh degree of separation among the lot?

Is it the lyrics? In todays lukewarm market, credible skill is an asset easily overlooked. Where it was once the selling point of an artist's package, it's now dismissed & unnecessary. Let's all take a moment to thank the good folks at Soundscan. The focus has shifted from lyrical prowess to song structure &/or hook repetition. With that formula in hand, one can easily craft the next sing-song summer hit with no song writing talent whatsoever. Needless to say the industry is flooded with rappers of this ilk.

Is it the marketability? The MC's back story is now as important, if not more so, as the content of the music itself. Jay-Z inadvertently coined the phrase "we don't believe you, you need more people", unaware that it would soon become a mantra for all rap cats to live by. Hip hop heads were satisfied with a story line, fictitious or otherwise if the soundscape was equally as compelling. It wasn't that they might have been lying (on not), but more that we were entertained for however long they held our attention. If you found out some information on said artist that backed up his verbal illustrations, it was a bonus, & added to their mystique. Now, if a rapper says it, it better be true, or risk humiliation & a decrease in fan base activity. In order to sell albums, there must be a demographic to sell to. Choose wisely.

Is it the business-end? Shopping artists as a brand is far for new, but when did it become mandatory? When Chubb Rock wasn't "treatin' them right", he could have easily opted to sell big & tall menswear on the side. But, he never did. Big Daddy Kane could have become the spokesperson for Smooth Operator condoms, & Kool G Rap might've started a line of Ill Street fedora's & patent leather wingtips. Those business deals never materialized because that wasn't what the art was about. It was about the music, not the hustle & it's spoils. Now, a full fledged marketing campaign must accompany any artist's complete album, Myspace hits numbers & possible product development. Be prepared to have an action figure made in your likeness, or suffer the consequences.

Is it the image? Image is everything. There's a reason why a lot of rappers look like rappers, be it rough, rugged & raw or pretty boy facade. To an extent, one must look the part, especially in a field so rife with actors. But, the old adage says "never judge a book by it's cover". Take away the menacing, gold-covered snarls & the overly extensive skin ink, & what's left is the ability (or lack of) to rap, plain & simple. That can be a negative for the guy who simply yearns to rap & not star in a movie or be the face for an athletics apparel company, but it can be a positive for the guy who could care less about the quality of music & who's in it only for the payoff. Rarely do the hustle & the flow meet in a comfortable place of fair exchange. If you look like Lupe Fiasco & rhyme like Beanie Segal, that may confuse people.

The easiest avenue for any young hopeful who's serious about his craft would seem to be the independent route. But, that could severely limit exposure & opportunity. On the other hand, it creates a lane for the artist to be themselves, free to express from the soul as opposed to for the company logo. I've often heard that in life one should follow their heart, but in the "music" industry, be sure not to wear it on your sleeve.

So what separates the MC from the rapper, the hipster from the superstar? A mean freestyle game just isn't enough nowadays & a silly dance routine can make or break even the hungriest rookie lyricist. What more can be said or done to show that the ability to make music, make money & still love the art can be done simultaneously? Selling souls for record sales is big business, & hopefully we can bring it back to the essence sooner than later.

So, do you still think you have what it takes to be a rapper?

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Ugly Baby Etiquette


Is there such a thing as "ugly baby etiquette"?

Everybody thinks their infants are adorable, as they should. But what happens when they subject you to their child excitedly, with that look of anticipation, waiting on your response? What's the appropriate reaction?

"Wow, that's aaaaa, very interesting little guy you got there..."

"Look at that. She looks just like her father."

Case in point; I have a friend who recently gave birth to a baby girl (who shall remain nameless, the baby I mean, on the grounds that I might incriminate myself). First of all, a baby's not a new television set or fresh pair of limited edition Air Jordans. Frankly put, if you've seen one, you've seen them all. That is unless said baby has a horn or three nostrils. For the most part, they're all flesh colored noise makers.

Now, she posed the question (obviously not a rhetorical one), "Do you want to see the baby?".

If you know me, then you know what my initial thought was.

No, not really.

But, in an attempt to be a more civilized person, I nodded & reluctantly said "sure".

Before I could gander at (sigh...) yet another child, she told me it's name. At the risk of sounding like a jerk, why is it that black women make up these names as if there's a race to see who's can be the most ridiculous? I get the whole "unique" name thing, but let's come back to Earth. If it sounds like a disease, a make-believe foreign country or a precious stone, stay away from it. If you've never heard any name remotely close to it, ever, there's probably good reason for that.

So, I looked at the baby, forcing a grin all the while, & she looked back at me. I couldn't tell if I reminded her of a chew toy, or if she was crapping herself. Whatever the case, she reached for an ear, & I immediately got the hell out of dodge.

Not because it wasn't cute.......but because I don't like people touching my ears. Especially germ conduits &/or saliva fountains. & I'm afraid of Space Monkeys.

I'll be the first to admit that all three of my kids came into this world as goons. A cone dome, a pie face & an apple head; not necessarily in that order. Of course, they eventually grew to resemble normal people, but the wait bordered on excruciating. People would say to me, "aww, they're are sooo ca-yoot!". Imagine their horror when I shot back at them, "yeah, right." Or the ever-popular "God doesn't like liars".

I think that there's no better way to be humbled than to have an ugmo kid. It's the "moment of clarity" from hell.

So, as I made small talk with my friend, & she repeatedly try to swing the convo back toward her baby, I couldn't help but wonder; "Should I tell her?"

Nah, I'll let her baby daddy do it.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Earl Simmons Superstar

Very few MC's achieve the fleeting status of Hip Hop Legend. In the dimly-lit alleys & back streets where "real" hip hop is the necessary way of life, there exists a band of man who, for all intents & purposes, are virtually untouchable inside the booth & the outside world as well. Uber-fans & followers, Stans if you will, defend, protect, & shout praises of these more-than-mortal men no matter the circumstance. The ultra elite core of these lyricists no longer walk among the living; Tupac, Notorious B.I.G., Big Punisher, Big L & Pimp C, to name a few. All passed on before their true apex was realized, yet their legacies live indefinite through the fans & bodies of work we've been blessed with. Of the living icons; Jay-Z, Eminem, Ice Cube, Scarface, NaS, LL & several others, one man stands alone on the cusp of hip hop immortality.

He is neither dead nor alive, tiptoing the fine line between sanity & lunacy. This man is Earl Simmons b.k.a. Dark Man X.

If ever an MC could be described as walking dichotomy, it's him by a landslide. Many rappers are caricatures of the lifestyle they profess, but DMX is the truth manifested. His face is a real-time emoticon, his voice the soundtrack to a struggle, his life an open book for any reader prepared to bask in it's tumultuous wisdom.

His debut opus, 1998's It's Dark & Hell Is Hot, is still heralded as one of hip hop's finest moments. It's music, racked pain & anger, was still able to deliver club joints & anthems flawlessly. Needless to say, not many rap artists can cover such a vast spectrum with unbridled emotion as he did. Thanks to Ruff Ryder Records & accompanied by Swizz Beatz, Earl had the world barking like a dog & howling at the moon while it collectively wiped away it's tears.

The Hell he spoke of was/is his life. We've followed him there & back countless times, only to be continuously mystified by his outrageous antics & self-fulfilling prophecies. Not quite invincible, but unstoppable by all definitions of the word. Now, we see the tortured soul at it's lowest point, shackled, mute & motionless. But as any great man will tell you, the bottom must be reached before proper propulsion upward can be ascertained.

The next obvious step should be the retrieval of said greatness, the resurrection of the man doomed to be King. The average human would have succumbed to the powers that be by now, & surely hung himself years ago. But not X. His life story reads like a graphic novel of crime, lust, drugs & violence, yet, the end is still pending. Years after his introduction & subsequent rise & fall from grace, DMX is still regarded as one of the best to ever do it. As long as blood pumps through his heavy heart, the opportunity still exists to pick up where he should have never left off. If one individual can rise from the ashes & breath the passionate creativity back into our cherished art form, it would be him. Not since Tupac has an MC so willingly bared his soul & revealed his wounds to be the sacrificial lamb of a generation. The people weren't prepared for his coming the first time, but in a [hip hop] world now overflowing with anarchy & revolt, his return should be more than welcome.

That is, of course, if he's finally got his mind right. Solitary confinement affects men in different ways. Some argue that drugs & fast living have rendered the once & future king a shell of his former self. Others blame his affinity for law breaking as a stumbling block to an otherwise noteworthy career. Only time will truly tell if his storms have been weathered, or left him washed up on the shores of irrelevance.

The question then remains; is he finally ready to accept his rightful role in the history books or will his re-re-release into the free world mark the tragic end of his legacy*?

*Also check out:
Flesh Of My Flesh, Blood Of My Blood (1998),
...And Then There Was X (1999)
The Great Depression (2001)
Grand Champ (2003)
Year of the Dog......Again (2006)

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The Start of the Ending

Theoretically speaking, nothing lasts forever. Everything must renovate at some point or face certain extinction. Cultures & lifestyles are no exception to the rule. By such a standard, where exactly does hip hop fit in the grand scheme of things?

What started as a prominent declaration of a new youth movement has, over a few decades, become a watered down, generic doppleganger of what it once was. No doubt about it, the pioneers of hip hop/rap music never intended for their legacy to fall into the hands of the light-hearted & lacklustered. Even as it began in parks & abandoned building ditch parties, no one could have foreseen the pillage of a culture so rife with potential. But, no dice. Look where we are now; right where we weren't supposed to be.

Not to compare the hip hop momentum with that of the civil rights movement, but many people sweat, bled & cried for our adorned hip hop to locate it's rightful place in American history. It's as pivotal as the disco era, as poignant as the Harlem renaissance, yet, it gets flanked by most critics & tossed back into the gutters from which it was born. Who's to be held accountable for such atrocity? The ringtone raps, the microwave music, the enormity of the internet, the "hustle" aesthetic, & the "industry" all play a large part in what seems to be an inevitable collapse of the system.

If EVERYBODY is a rapper, then who's left to be a fan? If ANYONE can make & post a video, then who's producing them? The world is changing right before our eyes. Print magazines are falling by the wayside. Record companies are turning to online outlets to sell music. Pretty soon, instead of buying tickets to enjoy an act live on stage, they'll just hold global performances via the Net. & with so many mundane rap acts profiting off of the mindless drones they cater to, it's only going to be so long before hip hop implodes on itself like a black hole, viciously sucking in everything around it.

Hip hop was designed to teach, reach & preach. If it inspired a little emotion along the way then that's a bonus. But, somewhere along that way, it was forgotten that this is for us, by us, & if it ever needs maintenance, it has to be by the originators of it; us. No longer can we stand idly by & allow those of unpure heart to mistreat something so sacred.

Hip hop isn't record sales, funny clothes, gaudy jewelry, crime scenes or the playground for life-like caricatures to romp & frolic. It's the culture that raised us, the lifestyle that taught us, it's the reason I'm writing this at this moment. I keep hearing hip hop is dead, but I disagree. It just needs a massive amount of TLC before it's too late.

If it happened to jazz, disco, etc., then who's to say that we're not the next to go?

Outside the Box

Rap is going the way of it's distant, slightly more tolerated cousin, country music. Case in point; they sing about love (usually unbridled &/or forbidden), inebriation (whiskey ain't henny, but I'm sure it does the trick), ostracizm (every good MC has the whole world against them), fondness for their transportation (replace a horse with any car most of us can't afford), & disdain for authority (fuck the police...........am I right?).

Granted, many genres of music tackle similar issues, but it's in a more round-about way, sometimes so subtly insinuated that you wouldn't have ever known what the song was about if your 15 year old cousin didn't tell you. For the most part, hip hop, like country, sticks to a basic diet of several main subject groups & anything outside of that box is either asinine or amazing (depending on who you ask).

Could it be that hip hop is running out of things to say? Highly unlikely. Such a free spirited form of expression can always find an aspect of life to dissect & display to the world. Rappers rhyme about what they see & what they know, which is vaguely similar whatever hood, project, ward or borough you're from. When a young, virile Dwayne Carter said "tha block is hot", he was talking about YOUR block specifically.

But hip hop, namely rap, seems to find a comfort zone inside the confines of what it knows; money, cars, clothes, hoes, drugs & violence. The most skilled lyricist can take these basic elements & create some of the most beautifully crafted art ever heard over the appropriate sonic canvas. Other rappers, for lack of skill or lack of trying or a cocktail of the two, seem to be boxed in by these topics. Any attempts to think outside of that box result in an awkward flail at creativity. No dice. The fault we find in them is automatic & easily recognized; they suck & shouldn't be rapping to begin with.

But for those whose lyrical prowess is far beyond their mediocre & lame counterparts, should we expect more? Do we accept more when it's presented to us, or turn it away for fear of change? Take Kanye's "808's & Heartbreaks", minus his emotional outbreaks & self-righteous hissy fits. Was it not embraced by the hip hop community because it was the proverbial jagged pill? Or was his reach one of such magnitude that he lost our attention indefinitely? For the record, I didn't like it because I didn't like it, but that takes nothing away from his musical genius (however crazy the dude appears). Without expansion, there is only contraction, & that goes for the horizons of the human mind as well as anything else.

I'm sure it would be much easier to digest different direction if it were more accessible & less random. Uniqueness in music can be tolerated, but the process has to be unveiled in baby steps, as opposed to being force fed. Individuality is a quality admired by many, but too much too fast & it becomes something to shun & shy away from. Rarely is it personal, but more of an automatic response to the unknown. People enter dark areas slow & apprehensively because they have no idea what may be waiting for them inside. That's the cautious nature of any functioning brain.

Simply put, minds remain closed without a reason to open. Hopefully the next wave of MC's will understand that. Hip hop is freedom. As long as that ethos is remembered, then no, hip hop won't ever run out of things to say.

Monday, March 16, 2009

The Art of Life

Being a rapper used to be one of the top aspirations for children. Right alongside doctor, astronaut, actor & football player. Pose the question "what do you want to be when you grow up?" to a child, & most assuredly their was a 50% chance that rapping was somewhere on his/her agenda.

Maybe it was all the "shiny" things associated with the career that drew the child's interest. For some, it might have appeared a chance to garner the attention they couldn't receive elsewhere. Others may have been genuinely talented & were prompted to focus on a field where they would surely flourish. All had personalized reasoning, yet the same goal in mind. To be a rapper. Now, with a new generation eyeing the future with hopes & goals in mind, rapping is slowly backsliding on their list of "things to do".

Frankly, it seems that being a rap star today is a tad bit too dangerous for the average cat. That may explain the influx of drug dealers & hardened criminals that saturate today's already mediocre market. What was once a performer's platform is now a con man's game. A hustle that knows no talent or skill. In most cases, even if you don't like their music, you do however "respect their grind".

At one time, in order to achieve success in hip hop, crew affiliation was mandatory. But, when did gang affiliation become a necessity? Even in hotbed cities of gang activity where hip hop was still a prevalent lifestyle, rarely did a person "cuz" or "blood" on wax. It was generally considered taboo, & although one's street ties might have been acknowledged, not often was it trumpeted in song. For those who grew up in gang territory, you know that the LAST thing you wanted to do was tell people where you were from.

& it's one thing to rhyme about the urban, war-torn environments that envelop us, but it's another to refuse to separate the art from the life. This is merely cliched observation, but other genres of musical art aren't consumed by street level violence. Why hip hop then? What's so glamorous about thug life that it out-glamorizes the good life? Time & time again rappers boast of a better living situation than they had growing up, but what's the point in moving out of the "hood" to start another one in the Valley?

When Marvin Gaye was shot & killed it caused a worldwide gasp. When Souljah Slim was murdered holding his daughter, it was accepted as an undertone of the rap life. We (hip hop fans) are accustomed to the rapidly changing faces of our beloved art form, but when we begin to grow so indifferent & complacent about the violence plaguing us, a red flag should be raised.

It's not that the music isn't any good or substantially entertaining. It's when the already blurred line between fact & fiction is completely erased that problems arise.

Do we blame the artists? The labels? The bloodthirsty fans? The lack of parental fortitude? Or do we just sit back, churn out more conspiracy theories & let the chips fall where they may?

Perhaps some questions aren't truly meant to be answered.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Word to Ms. Houston

"I believe the children are the future. Teach them well & let them lead the way. Show them all the beauty they possess inside. Give them a sense of pride, to make it easier. Let the children's laughter, remind us how we used to be." - Whitney Houston, "The Greatest Love"
This was pre-coke/Bobby Brown Whitney Houston. Far be it from me to find wisdom in the words of a crack head. Now a parking lot whine-o, that's a different story. Buy them a Thunderbird & a tall can of 8-ball, & they'll be able to see the future with remarkable accuracy. But, that's neither here nor there. Although I may not agree with her taste in recreational drugs &/or bed fellows (Ray J included), I do find the lyrics to that song to be phenomenal. They could be considered common sense, but we all know that there's no such thing.

To expand on the notion of putting the children on a pedestal for our future's sake, I have 3 easy steps to ensure your child a great head start in thriving in a world so cannibalized.

First, starting at the first moment you officially "meet" them, talk to them. Not the "goo goo gah gah" banter that sounds ridiculous to everyone listening, child included, but really converse with them as you would any cognizant grown person. No matter what you say, it's going to sound like babble to them regardless. Why not introduce them to vocabulary & word structure as soon as possible? Also, try & shy away from slang &/or ebonics. Few things are worse than a misplaced "they" & "is". Keep in mind that the core of what they learn will be from you. There will be more than enough time for society to infect their feeble minds with all things incorrect. So, why not take a small step toward "idiotproofing" your offspring? If, for some strange reason, you find it difficult to talk to a wrinkled, hairless clump of muscle & flesh that has no basic concept of who the hell you are, read a book out loud. The newspaper works also. Generally anything with words that won't plant traumatic images in their fertile minds. Trust me, you'll thank me for it in the future.

Secondly, hug & kiss them often. It builds a sense of self worth & importance. How many times have you heard someone jokingly say "that guy didn't get enough hugs as a kid."? Granted, that guy might have still went on a shooting rampage when he was fired from Home Depot, but for all intents & purposes let's assume that a little more affection early on in life may have softened the blow. "I love you" is synonymous with such intimacy, & contrary to popular belief, it can never be said too much. Especially to a small boy. Men seem to have the overwhelming need to discard emotion. That complex begins with the proverbial "be a man, suck it up!". Next thing you know, there are generations of guys lacking sensitivity & compassion. Definitely not the male figures needed to help raise the men & women of tomorrow.

Lastly, never use the sentence "because I said so". That spells certain doom to an inquisitive mind. It offers no logical reasoning for decisions being made by the person they most admire. Giving an explanation for your actions to a toddler teaches them, however inadvertently, that everything has a motive. Again, the core of what children learn is their immediate environment, i.e. their parents.

"Mommy, why do I have to go in my room?"

"For one, it's your personal space &............"

Now, I'm not advising a lengthy, convoluted speech, but a curt explanation of why you've made the decision you have. That shows that thinking is necessary to problem solving. Action is the best example.

I agree that the kids will one day be the rebirth of the nation, no matter what generation. It's imperative that we take advantage, & begin to plant the seeds necessary to harvest the proper fruit. In no way can we blame children for their actions in the future without taking the steps to show them the right way, in the present. This is overly apparent by looking at the past.

Maybe this will help some young parents who find themselves confused at times. It's not much information, but it's a start towards a healthier line of communication between child & parent.

You're welcome.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Generation Next

There's a lot of debate about the current state of hip hop music. It seems to be boiling down to "the young" vs. "the old". Although hip hop itself can't necessarily be defined as nostalgic, in a sense, those that have been participants since it's inception, fans & artists alike, are upwards of 35-40 years old. So in a culture still relatively young, there can exist "old" heads, per se.

Hip hop has always been synonymous with youth. After all, the last trend set by old people was moving to Miami. The dress code, the attitude, the language of hip hop is all derived by whippersnappers with something to prove. Through various outlets, if one wanted to get closer to the youth, hip hop was usually an avenue.

When I was a kid, rap music had many forms. Of course there was always the requisite "street music", which is self explanatory. More fanfare & propaganda than knowledge & enlightenment. But, there also existed an equal dosage of educational music. One could easily learn about the roots of African American culture (X-Clan, PRT, KRS-one, etc.), the evils of American society (Ice Cube, Paris, Public Enemy, etc.) or just digest a general cacophony of intellectual thoughts (Rakim Allah, BDK, King Sun, etc.). It was the perfect balancing act in a world so full of negative exposure.

My generation wanted to wear Ankh's & crosses made of faux-leather & wood, as opposed to platinum Jesus pieces. There was actually a time where even cooler than being a D-Boy (or bag) or a Boss Nigga, was being a strong Black man. Standing for something, thus not falling for anything. The Black community was a sacred place to be recognized & protected, not sanctioned & raped by crime & addiction. Tragedy Khadafi, who once went by the moniker Intelligent Hoodlum, released a song in the early '90's called "Black & Proud". The title says it all. Those were the types of songs pumping at house parties. Youngsters wanted to be rappers because they felt they had something to say & "now" was the time to say it.

That's not the case any longer. There isn't a whole helluva lot that [insert rapper] can teach the youth outside of drug manufacturing/distribution & violent behavior. What kid in their right mind wouldn't want to be a rapper, since it's made out to be a glamorous, amorous lifestyle rife with guilt-free greed? I understand that art can be a hustle, but without equal acknowledgment of both parts, it subsequently becomes one or the other. & regardless of purist arguments, hip hop is becoming a robotic merchant of mental death.
Without stimulation, any muscle will surely atrophy & die. Without music to challenge our thoughts & ideals, how long will it be before we're not even required to think? Maybe Kanye & Lil Wayne have the right idea. Fresh & unique trumps mundane & boring any day of the week.

We can't go back in time, but the future is ours for the molding.

"To Observe & Report"

As many of you reading this post, I've worn many hats in my days. Not careers mind you, just jobs, in the sense that there was a basic aura of desperation wafting from all the other poor souls around me. The room for professional growth was limited regardless of personal potential. & we all knew this. Yet, like Pavlov's dog, as soon as the whistle blew our mouth's watered in delight of what was or was not to come. 99% of my bosses/managers were douche nozzles. I understand how Pavlov's dog must have felt.

My least favorite experience was as a security guard. Easily one of the most demeaning, humiliating, under paid jobs an English speaking American citizen could have. My fellow officers who barely spoke English & weren't citizens loved it. I loathed it. The pants were uncomfortable, & a little more crotch friendly than I would've preferred. Kind of like a lycra/polyester/spandex blend straight leg design with a bell bottom flare to accentuate my shiny shoes. Upon first glance, they screamed many things, but "FREEZE! I'M THE LAW 'ROUND HERE!" wasn't one of them. It's no wonder I caught more boxer shorts bunch-ups than actual assailants. The uniform shirt must have been based on Barney Fife's, because any dude weighing more than 137 lbs. would appear to have a healthy set of man-boobs by the time the top button was squeezed through it's eyelet. It sort of felt like the Halloween that I dressed up as a policeman, except then I was 11 & people thought it was cute. Now, it was just the glorified costume of a tattle-teller.

Believe it or not, the security guard's mantra is "observe & report".

Sounds easy, right?

One night I was assigned to a rim factory parking lot, adjacent to the hub where they manufactured the wheels. My total time for human interaction was the 15 minutes when the employees arrived & the 10 minutes that they departed. My shift was 10 pm to 6 am. Prime crime time for most cities in L.A. County.

About a 1/4 mile down the street, I noticed squad car activity. I mean, real police cars, not security guard supervisor's Honda Civics. One patrol unit veered over to me & excitedly asked if I had seen "a man with a gun running this way". I answered "no", & hiked up my itchy trousers assuredly. The officer nodded & told me to "be careful" & drove away quicker than he arrived.

Be careful?

How careful could I be without even so much as a keychain sized can of pepper spray? ALL these guys had guns! I had a clipboard & a flashlight with dying batteries! This guy could appear from behind some Winnebago & shoot me & I wouldn't even be able to "observe" him, much less see what I'm "reporting" about being shot in the thigh meat. Luckily, he never came near my post, or if he did, my hiding place was just that good. I quickly got out of the "protection game" the exact same way I went into it.

High & unemployed.

Sometimes I wonder what would have become of my life if I had the kind of parents that grinded my hopes & dreams into the fairy dust that sprinkles the successful person's Sunday afternoons.

A lot less entertaining is my usual answer.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Its No Coincidence

"Coincidence" is an imaginary word. Like "can't" or "try". Terms coined out of convenience rather than actuality. Indeed, occurrences may happen to have intersecting commonalities, but fate-based faith makes it logically impossible for certain events to just be randomly related.

The current water cooler talk is that the end of the world is upon us. The onset of impending doom has emerged. One could easily dispel such vague rumors as "crazy talk", or, with more detailed surveillance see that there's a mild possibility that the statement holds some weight.

In a recent poll, it was discovered that America has become less Christian over a 10 year span. Percentage-wise, the variable is scant, but noticeable nonetheless. Maybe or maybe not ironic is the fact that the polls shows an increase of Muslim following. I'm no religious nut or Jesus freak, so I won't attempt to translate that into anything in particular. But even without spiritual insinuation, a gander at the world today would leave even the most close-minded individual with at least a tad bit of skepticism towards the path that lies ahead.

I don't condone nor condemn homosexuality, simply because God judges, not me. But honestly speaking, I don't understand it in the smallest iota of comprehension. Granted, humans are animals & should be expected to behave as such in some instances, but discretion & logic are what separates us from the rest of God's creations. That said, I don't get the attraction between same sex partners. All the things that God made to be different were no coincidence. There's a fairly logical reason why I don't have a vagina. Thus, why would I want to be near another man's penis. That's pure science at work. It's deeper than the scent of a woman, or the feel of her flesh. It's my job, as a man, to be a man, because that's the way God intended it to be. All the hoopla of being in the "wrong" body is blasphemous if only because God is incapable of making mistakes. I'd be more likely to accept the Devil's deceit as a root cause than God not paying close enough attention to what He created.

People, as a whole, are moving further from God's grace on purpose. They choose to engage in gratuitous premarital sex. They kill one another with or without provocation. Fathers abandon families & Mothers destroy their children. A pastor was murdered in front of his congregation over the weekend. Police have reported that the man suffered from Lyme Disease & it had covered his brain with lesions. That's a lame excuse to shoot a man of the cloth, in my book. At some point during his life, he allowed a window to stay open wide & long enough for the Devil to work his way into his heart, & plant the malicious seed needed for such a heinous act.

Basically, I don't think the "end" will be the destruction of Earth & all it's inhabitants. I think it's more the result of mankind making the decision to turn it's collective back on God's blessings & trek out into it's existence unassisted. This isn't to say that atheism is right or wrong, but Faith is a powerful tool.

& some scholars say religion is what truly separates humans from animals. Would that have us to believe that without the umbrella of God's commitment to us that we could be snuffed out as easily as a cockroach or fruit fly?

I doubt that God's happy with the decisions being made by man. Assuming one believes in God, just how long do you think He is going to stand idly by while we disrespect Him.

Just because we don't worship the Devil, doesn't necessarily mean we've accepted God. It's easier to confuse the two notions than most people realize. It's not coincidence that living conditions continue to decline for all people as we move further away from God.

In a sense, the further we get from knowing Him, becomes the closer we get to meeting Him.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Where The Ladies At?

I miss females in hip hop. & for various heterosexual reasons, I'm almost positive I'm not alone.

I would equate the situation to high school P.E. class, on one of those days where the coach decided to separate the two sexes for some activity or test. Before this specific day, the girls were right there with us. We could reach out & touch them if need be. Even the ugly ones that, if they weren't half naked & sweaty, we'd have nothing to do with. But, as soon as they traveled to the other side of the gymnasium for a whole period, we missed them. Even though we might not have wanted them on our basketball team, or our flag football squad, we still needed that assurance to our peripherals that they're a stones throw away.

At one point in time, the female MC was shoulder to shoulder with us in the trenches of hip hop, underground, mainstream or otherwise. For every supercrew of cats ready to spit on demand, there was at least one chick that could hang with the fellas. It was almost as necessary as a logo &/or a hand sign. KRS-one had Ms. Melody, Ice Cube had Yo-Yo, Biggie had Kim (pre-botox & silicone), DMX had Eve, Busta had Rah Digga, Hova had Foxy, Joe/Pun had Remy, Master P had Mia X, E-40 had Suga-T, Wyclef had Lauryn, the list can go on for days.

It seems those roles have now been relegated to scantily clad temptresses that will shake a tailfeather for a couple of hundred bucks & a chance to be seen on BET. Granted, the occasional "video ho" uses that as a vehicle to stardom, but it's not like they're representing hip hop as much as themselves. The estrogen-fueled MC was a welcome piece to the puzzle, painting a completely different picture of the exact same thing we saw. She was our mom, our sister, our bad bitch, our bottom broad whenever the need arose. & unlike the love-struck song bird, or the broken hearted siren, the female rapper was the defiant voice letting the girls know to stand up & be accounted for.

MC Lyte's "10% Dis" took the words "hit the road, jack" & breathed new life into them. Queen Latifah called for unity & dared to ask the loaded question "who you callin' a bitch?". Who could forget that Kimberly Jones not only brought sexy back, but reminded us that women like getting head as much as men. Fox Boogie illustrated that every hustler had a wifey at home just as deep in the drama as he was. Even as the feminism trickled down to the ostentatious, & somewhat pornographic likes of Trina & Khia, it was still advancement in the direction of empowerment for sisterhood worldwide. Unfortunately, this class of hip hopper wasn't as highly regarded as their male counterparts, denoted by today's lack of a prominent female voice in rap music.

Good, bad or indifferent, females in hip hop are becoming far & few between. Whether we need them or not is a personal choice, but I think we can admit we miss them, if only a little bit.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Rap Is Outta Control

What happened to the MUSIC!?

Hip hop was/is a culture rich with history (black & otherwise), style, education, beauty, self-empowerment, the list could continue for days. At some traumatic point in it's time line however, a misguided turn was made & it hasn't been the same since. Hip hop became a sideshow of sorts, full of the misfits & dramatics would one expect from their favorite soap opera (no General Hospital). When all's said & done, it would appear that the music has taken a backseat to ridiculous beefs, vicious rumor mills, & all out assaults on the movement's intelligence.

Various factors play a key role in the demise of our beloved lifestyle. Some argue that the introduction of "Gangsta Rap" was incendiary to the pride displayed by the likes of Chuck D, X-Clan, Poor Righteous Teachers, etc. But, "Gangsta Rap" was never new, it just became more popular, as do many things in society. Others criticize the Internets for making such an exclusive experience a worldwide phenomenon. Many people, exhibiting the same ignorance they denounce, blame Black people, because according to the consensus, "we cain't neva have shit!". The remaining observers never really cared to begin with and mindlessly follow every fleeting fad in the common vicinity.

It's virtually impossible to forget that hip hop is a music-based way of expression. People DO still put out quality art for the "masses". Cats still breakdance, MC's still rap, & DJ continue to promote good songs. That's unfiltered fact.

The distortion is found in the murky waters on the way to that fact. No sooner does an hip hop artist rear his head before he becomes the target of attempted character assassinations from fellow "musicians", the media, or so-called fans alike. Usually, such acts are purported without credible reasoning. & even when a viable issue is present, most times it has nothing to do with the distinction of their music. Thusly, the individual(s) acquire fame for the sake of ridiculing one another, & that becomes the take-off point of their career. Beef is the new demo tape.

The need for promotion teams & album signings is defunct. Just go to the 'Nets, say "fuck -insert rapper-", & the buzz will generate itself.

Countless rap stars are said to be gay, unauthentic, make believe, etc., & to a degree, those are all true lies. But, who cares? I just want some decent thump for my buck (or free download). The day I see Maroon 5 put out a dis vlog about The White Stripes, or something to that effect, I'll eat my words & allow the chaos to ensue without saying a word.

Monday, March 2, 2009

What Is "Too Old" to Hip Hop?

Hip hop has no age limit or size requirement. If you're at least "this" tall, you can roll with the culture. No problems given, no questions asked.

But Rap, the musical facet of the movement, is more micro-cosmic, with it's own set of personalized regulations. I'm not referring to "don't snitch" & "never out-rhyme your boss", those go without saying. I mean the ubiquitous guidelines that make rappers bonafide "Rap Superstars".

Youth is a major cog in that system. Think car transmission, as opposed to the entire engine. "Rap" wasn't born in some apartment by a couple of windbags watching The Price Is Right. It began on the street, in the park, at the parties. Call me old fashioned, but there's something about adult children & crow's feet that make it hard for me to believe in middle aged pseudo-gangsta rhetoric. Some are authentic of course, but others, simply put, need more people.

I think it's scientifically impossible for a 43 year old man to have "swag", much less covet endless scallywags, shoot up enemy tour buses & relieve third world Kingpins of their product. Even Arnold Schwarzenegger stopped blowing up robots & murdering alien headhunters once it was time to "Just for Men" his salt & pepper coiffure. How much "gangsta" still exists outside of the studio when you start scheduling prostate exams? Point is, we all grow up eventually, & contrary to popular belief, there's nothing wrong with that.

Rap is a career, I get it. So, instead of an annual "farewell" album, just let the music mature, as it's supposed to, & let the voice of the young generation (no Kanye West) be just that. I don't think artists should ever "retire", but their material should at least grow with their core audience. The same core audience that was there when the "fifteen minutes" began. The same core audience that will still be there when the microwave dings & the Internets suck them dry in search of the next soul to devour.

Loyal die hards don't give a shit about a ridiculous dance. They can care less if royalty & SSI checks come on the same day. They're in it for the music, as we all should be. Diamond lane time for those with experience, dig? Get the torch, light your fire, pass the torch & the circle of life continues.........

For argument's sake; Shawn "Jay-Z" Carter, 39. Calvin "Snoop Dogg" Broadus, 37. Andre "Dr. Dre" Young, 43, Joseph "Fat Joe" Cartagena, 39, O'Shay "Ice Cube" Jackson, 39, Earl "E-40" Stevens, 41, to name a few.