FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

187 Proof

KRS-One is often quoted as saying, “rap is something you do, hip-hop is something you live.” However, what does it mean to ‘live hip-hop’ in this day and age?

Hip-hop was originally created in a similar manner to that of the blues. Like the music that was born in the ‘juke joints’ of rural Mississippi, hip-hop was also created as a result of black struggle and ingenuity. Indeed, the early ‘park jams’ in New York City were as much about showcasing ones individual talents as they were about forming community and celebrating an entire culture that had been enslaved, ignored and disenfranchised.

Today, although alternative outlets exist that continue to maintain these original ideals, mainstream hip-hop, or the most popular forms of rap music have become much more negative. Disguised as party music and marketed to people of all ages and race, the hip-hop lifestyle has been transformed into a commercial entity that is now in the process of destroying its original values in search of greater profits.

This lack of lyrical credibility as well as social value is demonstrated on a daily basis, every minute of the day, on mainstream ‘Urban radio.’ Claiming to represent “hip-hop and R&B,” these commercial radio stations promote ignorance, misogyny and violence to the tune of billions of dollars. [Checkout a lyric from the Number 8 song on the Billboard Charts this week]:

“I bounce in the club so the ho’s call me Rocket, posted in the cut and im lookin for a blockhead, yup in my white tee, i break a bitch back, and i keep a big bank, oh i think dey like dat, before i leave the house, im slizzard on a goose, and im higher than a plane, so a nigga really loose, and i can lean wit it, and i can rock wit it, and if u gotta friend, she gotta suck a cock wit it”

(from, “Lean Wit It, Rock Wit It” by Dem Franchize Boyz)

* * *

Earlier this week, Detroit rap artist ‘Proof’ of the group D12 (which includes Eminem), was shot and killed in a night club on the infamous 8 mile. According to police reports, ‘Proof’ allegedly shot first and was then killed by a subsequent gun shot to the head.

Since Tuesday, it seems the reaction to this deadly event has been mixed between mourning and disgust. I have since spoke with many who say they are sick and tired of all the violence associated with hip-hop and others who merely express sympathy for the loss of life. However tragic an event this may be, one thing is clear, it is certainly not the first time such an incident has occurred.

Tupac Shakur, Biggie Smalls, Big L, Freaky Tah, Jam Master Jay, Mac Dre and now Proof. All hip-hop artists. All murdered by gun violence over the past decade.

(Of course there have been many other violent incidents during the last ten years including the recent fatal shooting at the Busta Rhymes video shoot, the brawl and stabbing at the Vibe Awards and even New York’s good samaritan and sometimes marathoner, P-diddy’s champagne bottle incident with record executive Steve Stout.)

Certainly their are sizable differences when comparing the death of super stars like 2pac and Biggie, with rappers such as Proof or even San Francisco Bay Area legend Mac Dre, however there is one glaring similarity that all these dead young black men have in common?

Nothing will be learned.

(I’m sorry to say but it’s the hard truth! For example, let’s take a look at the deaths of Tupac Shakur and Mac Dre, two rap artists who grew up in my native Bay Area.)

* * *

Tupac Shakur, in all his frailties was a talented hip-hop artist and a very passionate human being. Although his personal flaws and contradictions (and his involvement with criminal minds such as Marion “Suge” Knight), spelled his ultimate demise, Shakur did make valiant efforts to stand before the world and call for change. A direct quote from Shakur on his thoughts about the future were as follows, “I’m not saying I’m gonna change the world, but I guarantee I will spark the brain that will change the world.” (2pac was gunned down after a boxing match in Las Vegas in 1996.)

What is 2pac now? Is he a bootlegged remix? A VH1 special? A t-shirt?

On the other hand, Mac Dre, with all his valid accomplishments before his death was not an extraordinarily talented lyricist. Although he was a savvy promoter of his music, he did not strive for much more musically than his hustle (to his credit he never claimed to do anything more than that). Indeed from his early records which were literally “too hard for the f*ckin radio,” to his stint in prison for alleged bank robbery, to his return and re-birth through a Bay Area rap craze he helped create called “Hyphy” (which literally means to “get stupid,” or “go dumb” from drug use), Dre didn’t stand for much more than pimping and getting high. (Mac Dre was gunned down after a concert in Kansas City in 2004.)

What is Mac Dre now? He’s an icon? A hero? A t-shirt?

(If you don’t believe me, you haven’t been to the Bay Area lately.)

* * *

Obviously, the virtuous legacy of hip-hop artists like Tupac Shakur is not lost and there are indeed people who will continue to keep his memory alive however, it seems to me that over the past ten years or so hip-hop has taken a turn for the worst. Sadly, messages concerned with change and consciousness have been replaced by threats of senseless violence and calls for mindless behavior. Although both criminal and party elements have always existed in hip-hop, there were once many other aspects or ‘elements’ that were equally represented. Today, rap artists can’t get on the radio unless they “Get crunk,” “Get hyphy,” “Get stupid” or “Go dumb!”

Imagine 2pac in a video, dancing around in a triple extra large white t-shirt, exclaiming, “Get stupid! Get stupid! Go dumb! Go dumb!” While it is true, that ‘Pac’ was often involved with less than virtuous activities, I cannot for the life of me imagine the man would ever put out a record that wack!? (wack: adj. meaning lacking lyrical integrity.)

Of course, the argument is raised that this type of hyper, mindless rap music is a release valve for folks and a direct reflection of their socio-economic situation… AND I understand that there is a lot of potential positive energy behind such a release… However what is the energy being used for and by whom is this energy being harnessed?

If three white guys walk into a hip-hop club trying to sell “Hyphy water” and “R.I.P. Mac Dre” t-shirts, is that hip-hop?

If two young men (white, black, brown or yellow) do a bunch of exstacy because they’re favorite rapper does it, is that hip-hop?

If one young person, anywhere, loses their life to a bullet in a hip-hop club, is that hip-hop?

I don’t know … I guess it is up to you?

NATE MEZMER, is a hip-hop artist who stands for social change. His debut album “Kill the Precedent” was released on Mad 7 Records in 2005. He can be reached at: mezmerfmk@yahoo.com

 

 

 

More articles by:

Weekend Edition
January 18, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Melvin Goodman
Star Wars Revisited: One More Nightmare From Trump
John Davis
“Weather Terrorism:” a National Emergency
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Sometimes an Establishment Hack is Just What You Need
Joshua Frank
Montana Public Schools Block Pro-LGBTQ Websites
Louisa Willcox
Sky Bears, Earth Bears: Finding and Losing True North
Robert Fisk
Bernie Sanders, Israel and the Middle East
Robert Fantina
Pompeo, the U.S. and Iran
David Rosen
The Biden Band-Aid: Will Democrats Contain the Insurgency?
Nick Pemberton
Human Trafficking Should Be Illegal
Steve Early - Suzanne Gordon
Did Donald Get The Memo? Trump’s VA Secretary Denounces ‘Veteran as Victim’ Stereotyping
Andrew Levine
The Tulsi Gabbard Factor
John W. Whitehead
The Danger Within: Border Patrol is Turning America into a Constitution-Free Zone
Dana E. Abizaid
Kafka’s Grave: a Pilgrimage in Prague
Rebecca Lee
Punishment Through Humiliation: Justice For Sexual Assault Survivors
Dahr Jamail
A Planet in Crisis: The Heat’s On Us
John Feffer
Trump Punts on Syria: The Forever War is Far From Over
Dave Lindorff
Shut Down the War Machine!
Glenn Sacks
LA Teachers’ Strike: Student Voices of the Los Angeles Education Revolt  
Mark Ashwill
The Metamorphosis of International Students Into Honorary US Nationalists: a View from Viet Nam
Ramzy Baroud
The Moral Travesty of Israel Seeking Arab, Iranian Money for its Alleged Nakba
Ron Jacobs
Allen Ginsberg Takes a Trip
Jake Johnston
Haiti by the Numbers
Binoy Kampmark
No-Confidence Survivor: Theresa May and Brexit
Victor Grossman
Red Flowers for Rosa and Karl
Cesar Chelala
President Donald Trump’s “Magical Realism”
Christopher Brauchli
An Education in Fraud
Paul Bentley
The Death Penalty for Canada’s Foreign Policy?
David Swanson
Top 10 Reasons Not to Love NATO
Louis Proyect
Breaking the Left’s Gay Taboo
Kani Xulam
A Saudi Teen and Freedom’s Shining Moment
Ralph Nader
Bar Barr or Regret this Dictatorial Attorney General
Jessicah Pierre
A Dream Deferred: MLK’s Dream of Economic Justice is Far From Reality
Edward J. Martin
Glossip v. Gross, the Eighth Amendment and the Torture Court of the United States
Chuck Collins
Shutdown Expands the Ranks of the “Underwater Nation”
Paul Edwards
War Whores
Peter Crowley
Outsourcing Still Affects Us: This and AI Worker Displacement Need Not be Inevitable
Alycee Lane
Trump’s Federal Government Shutdown and Unpaid Dishwashers
Martha Rosenberg
New Questions About Ritual Slaughter as Belgium Bans the Practice
Nicky Reid
Panarchy as Full Spectrum Intersectionality
Jill Richardson
Hollywood’s Fat Shaming is Getting Old
Nyla Ali Khan
A Woman’s Wide Sphere of Influence Within Folklore and Social Practices
Richard Klin
Dial Israel: Amos Oz, 1939-2018
David Rovics
Of Triggers and Bullets
David Yearsley
Bass on Top: the Genius of Paul Chambers
Elliot Sperber
Eddie Spaghetti’s Alphabet
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail