Monday, March 31, 2014

Rappers Wearing Skirts

Recently Lord Jamar has been in the news for some pretty incendiary comments. Those topics range from Macklemore to White People’s places in hip hop. Out of the controversial statements he’s made there are so many journalistic opportunities to respond to. But one of his statements caught my attention and forced me to address it in this blog post because it’s something that’s more recent.

“First of all, it’s not just jabs at Kanye West. It’s anybody promoting the feminization of the Black Man in hip hop culture.” ---Lord Jamar,

I speak to a lot of people on a lot of different blogs and hip hop websites. And when this story appeared or when a subject similar to this one appears in which a Black Man is wearing a “skirt” of some kind, you pretty much hear the same type of words that Lord Jamar spoke. For example, when a recent photo of Mos Def aka Yasiin Bey emerged of him wearing a Kente cloth wrap, the hip hop fashion police were at it again.  Bloggers called foul and labeled it a “dress”. Homophobic words were peppered throughout numerous hip hop comments sections.
photo credit: didy b via photopin cc

“How dare he?” “What was he thinking?” “Dude is weird anyway.” The judging was swift and mean. It was yet another case of a rapper that had fallen victim to the feminization of Black Men.
When Omar Epps from classic hip hop movie Juice showed up on the show The View in what some perceived to be a “skirt”, Lord Jamar got into a bit of a Twitter battle with Marlon Wayons (who defended Omar) about the incident.

To a lot of hip hop purists there appears to be a secret agenda to “feminize” the Black Man and to make hip hop more digestible to the masses through visualized feminization tactics. Some hip hop heads believe that “real” hip hoppers should never wear skirts or anything other than baggy jeans and a baseball cap. They believe there is a secret agenda that exists, set up by pro-gay rights people to infiltrate hip hop.
And I strongly disagree.

First, these people always seem to pop off when anyone wears anything different than their chosen attire (Lord Jamar). People like Lord Jamar label themselves as strong, righteous Black Men. Yet when they speak, their ignorance betrays them and reveals that they are really nothing more than ill-informed conspiracy theorists in dark closets. Why?

If you take it back to the motherland (Africa) you will see that these so-called “skirts” that most hip hoppers are complaining about are there. And they have been there from the very beginning! For instance, the Maasi Tribe has worn and continues to wear their traditional garb. These masculine men wear numerous bright colors and unique print within their clothing. To the Maasi Tribe the items are their clothing. But to most of you American haters, they’re “skirts”.

If Lord Jamar and people like him would take some time to do a little bit of research, even on the internet, their so-called “knowledge of self” would stand out less as a slogan and more as actual truth. Even when Omar Epps revealed that his attire during his visit to The View was a tribute to his ancestors and his African roots, Lord Jamar refused to accept it. One can only hope that he learns more about who he is and where he came from.
I know that I’ll have a few people to state that traditional African clothing is different than skirts. To them I would say this; it had to begin somewhere. To me the word ‘traditional’ only means “extended period of time”. But one African brother had to be the first person to put it on. Just because you’ve been programmed to believe that “only women wear skirts” and didn’t do the knowledge for yourself doesn’t mean that your ignorance is an excuse.

Now if Kanye West, Mos Def, Omar Epps, and numerous others walked into a Macy’s Department store and made the purchase in the women’s section and then openly stated that they were trying to make hip hop softer for the masses, Lord Jamar would be absolutely correct. But that’s not the case.
But let’s keep it even realer. Let’s name some Black Men that actually wore skirts.

Eddie Murphy, Arsenio Hall, Chris Tucker, Flip Wilson, Jamie Foxx, Wesley Snipes… I could go on and on. But none of their bank accounts seem to indicate that fewer people purchased their works because of the perceived “feminization of Black Men”. And these men wore actual women’s skirts and makeup! How long has Eddie Murphy been in the game? How many of his movies do you own? I’ll bet a million of you dudes saw Jamie Foxx in the movie Ray. I’ll even bet Lord Jamar saw it. But he didn’t protest it because Jamie Foxx was dressed up as “Wanda” on In Living Color. And before some of you come out of your mouth and say, “Rapping is different than acting” I would submit Rick Ross as my proof that hip hop is on par with acting. Ross took his name and his persona from another person and was actually a prison guard. Next!

Me as a person, I would never wear that type of gear because my preference is jeans. It is what I’m accustomed to and what makes me comfortable. But I’m not going to judge someone who chooses differently. We as hip hoppers need to understand that the world isn’t always against us. Sometimes we do it to ourselves. Conspiracy theories aside, one man is responsible for his own behavior. While trends do emerge and some people do ultimately follow suit we are accountable individually.

Lord Jamar is right in his viewing of fashion trends. A lot of men are choosing to push this button. But it’s based on fashion trends and not some conspiracy against Black men. What can we expect in the age of Facebook and Twitter? We are a nation of followers and biters. We are the “like button” generation.

We have to stop judging entire blocks of people based on our phobias or ignorant and unsubstantiated theories. We hurt far too many innocent people when we do this. While Lord Jamar may be correct in detecting a certain pattern or fashion trend, attacking someone because you don’t agree with that trend is out of bounds. You govern your life. Just simply say that you don’t get down with it. You don’t know what motivates others. 

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Lil Wayne, Drake, Nicki Minaj and The Problems With Young Money

Cash Money Records has held the rap game in a strangle hold for the last few years. Through the label of Young Money, Cash Money Records has made a place for itself within hip hop history as few could have predicted. There have been very few record companies as consistent and that have persevered through industry changes so well.  Since its beginning in 1991 Cash Money has forcefully taken a hold of the music industry and muscled out the competition (No limit Records) by providing a more talented roster of artists that straddle the fine line between hip hop and mass appeal. Under the leadership of Bryan “Birdman” Williams and Ronald “Slim” Williams Young Money have utilized this recruitment tactic to the fullest and in doing so have sold millions and millions of records while further solidifying their position in the rap game.  Through the years Cash Money Records has remained firmly in tact while other companies have come and gone (Bad Boy Records, Rocafella Records).
Image courtesy of J Fry /
But a serious crack has emerged in the armor of Cash Money Records. And it’s coming through the same label Cash Money currently anchors. Young Money. There seems to be a growing level of disagreement in the ranks. Records are not being sold at the same level as their predecessors. Rumors are starting to emerge.  Leadership seems to go one way on some days and then another way on other days. What is going on?

It is my personal opinion that unless the leadership at Cash Money and Young Money makes drastic changes, we are witnessing the end of the domination of Cash Money and quite possibly the end of Young Money. Let’s take a look at these issues and how each “visible” member has contributed to the recent decline.

1.       Bryan “Birdman” Williams and Ronald “Slim” Williams: All successes and failures begin at the very top. The leadership of a company displays the corporate culture, behaviors, and motivations of its staff and team. Most of the blame usually and should ultimately be placed here. Birdman can’t decide if he wants to be a rapper or a CEO. He feels the need for public validation in the same ways that Diddy jumped into almost every one of his artists’ videos and danced around like a clown. Cash Money Records jumps into business ventures without thinking. One minute they’re a perfectly viable record label. The next minute they’re diving head first into dumb oil and gas investments. After seeing the success that Jay Z had with sports management, new rumors are starting to circulate about them jumping into sports management as well. They’ve also signed more than enough vanity acts to rival Andre Young. Limp Bizkit, Bow Wow, Mystikal, Paris Hilton (what was that about) and Busta Rhymes. And of the artists that truly have talent and are signed to the label? They’ve chosen to put them on the backburner, none of them seeing the true shine they deserve to have. Cash Money/Young Money released a compilation that many viewed as a tossed bone to that group of artists; it was an act to placate them. And the dismal promotions and sales showed it. There’s not a wonder that the world is confused about Cash Money. The owners don’t seem to have focus and they jump in any direction.

2.       Lil Wayne: As the CEO of Young Money Records he’s been the man mostly responsible for its success. He’s also been more than responsible for several of its failures. With his incarceration in 2010, during the height of Young Money’s success, the event sent several shock waves through his company.
photo credit: believekevin via photopin cc
     One, the artists that he so heavily mentored and advised began to make ill-advised moves. Sure he advised from jail, but being in jail limits you to being at arm’s length. And when you have such a large company as Young Money had grown to be, it proved to be an issue. His incarceration also killed T-Pain’s move to the label (but seeing how badly T-Pain has recently fallen off, I wouldn’t necessarily call that one a bad move). Ultimately jail and probation changed Weezy. Sobriety revealed a new version of Lil Wayne and the public was not pleased. The albums he released sold decently, but content-wise were horrible. He made inappropriate comments about Emmett Till and caused an uproar in the African American world.  Lil Wayne lost focus and started skateboarding. Next he started telling the world that he would be retiring soon. All of these factors definitely had an impact on his artists as well as the label.

3.       Drake:  Drake has been killing it with sales. He’s absolutely been on fire. But so has his “diva” streak. Instead of accepting his new popularity with grace he’s been quick to lash out against anyone that doesn’t agree with everything he says. He’s engaged in unnecessary feuds with R&B artist Chris
photo credit: Khanillion via photopin cc

     Brown (dude you’re the number one selling hip hop artist, why are you fighting over a woman). He’s attacked a hip hop legend in the media (Common) but cowardly refused to respond to his outright challenge to an MC battle (and this again is rumored to be over a woman). Drake kicked Future off of his tour because of Future’s perceived preference towards his own music. Drake got angry at Kendrick Lamar for Kendrick’s verse on “Control”, although Kendrick didn’t release or reveal the track (Big Sean did). Also the “Control” track wasn’t even included on the any commercial album (which made Drake’s anger that much more confusing since he alluded to his belief that Kendrick’s release of the track during the same time that he released his album, kind of made him mad). And when Kendrick called him out for it, once again Drake chose to speak to the media instead of taking things in the tradition of the hip hop greats and engage him in lyrical combat. That was seen as a cowardly move by most hip hop heads. Next is the “Amen” debacle. Drake is Jewish, which isn’t a problem, unless you get on a track with Meek Mill called “Amen” and you openly support the words being said and are considered offensive to many African American Christian families.  It came across as exploitative. Why not make a track about the Jewish faith and say the same types of things to exploit your own religion? Add all of those things up and Drake has a big chunk of the problem on his plate.

4.       Nicki Minaj: When Nicki arrived on the scene she showed so much promise and opportunity. Here was what hip hop truly needed. A woman. And not just any woman but a woman with the lyrical skill to break down misconceptions and sexist views about women and hip hop. But since signing to Young Money Nicki has done nothing but reinforce those bad views. Her contribution to the big crack in Young Money is just as bad as her peers. Her skin has seemed to become several shades lighter.
photo credit: tamtam7683 via photopin cc
     Instead of teaching women to be respected and to try to solidify her status as a real MC, she’s created “Barbies”. Unlike the best female MC to ever do it (MC Lyte) Nicki has taken Black Women back to being objects of desire instead of intelligent women with minds. Nicki released an album (Pink Friday) that was so un-hip hop that few could actually believe it was labeled as such. In the album she pushed forward pop singing and sexual behaviors like a woman intent on penetrating the Billboard Charts. Hip Hop fans were disgusted. Her next move was to American Idol as a judge. A hip hopper on a pop show? Who was advising her? Reaching a new audience isn’t a bad look for anyone but don’t you first need to solidify your hardcore hip hop fans? Only time will tell if this gamble of hers paid off. Next she released an offensively titled song with the photo of Malcolm X on the internet promo. The swift storm and anger she created currently threatens her new album sales unlike anything she could’ve done. Occasionally she shows promise. The verse she spit on Kanye West’s “Monster” killed every single artist that appeared on his album. The whole thing. But hip hop is about consistency and if you don’t learn that rule first, you won’t last long.

 These issues have currently put Cash Money and Young Money in the positions they are in. The issues are correctable and there is plenty of time to right the course of the ship. But someone had better pay attention to what’s going on and fast. Hip Hop has a short amount of patience. 

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Why Rappers Have Money Problems

On March 26, 2014 The Smoking Gun reported that Wyclef Jean’s previous attorneys filed a document in court that revealed recent communication with Wyclef’s accountant in which the accountant revealed that the rapper was broke.

On March 21, 2014 Radaronline reported that Lauryn Hill was in trouble with the IRS again. Six months after she had served a prison sentence for tax evasion the IRS decided to hit Lauryn with a stack of tax liens totaling nearly $867,000.
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles /

Other rappers that have had serious money issues recently include Nas, Fat Joe, Jermaine Dupri, Lil Wayne, Tyga, DMX, and the list goes on.
What is happening with hip hop and why are more and more artists getting into financial trouble? If you listen to any radio station you can hear them bragging about the luxurious lifestyles they live and all of the property and jewelry they own. Jermaine Dupri once bragged “Money ain’t a thing” on one of his most popular records. Now his whole record company and catalog are exposed due to acquiring a loan to deal with his day to day living expenses. How can so many of them be facing financial ruin?

There’s a difference between what someone tells you and reality.

The reality of the matter is this. The majority of the hip hop artists’ financial problems can be traced back to the home. There are so many hip hop artists that come into the game without the proper teachings on responsibility and how to govern their financial lives.  With the number of single parent homes on the rise, mothers and fathers are becoming more and more concerned with getting overtime and paying the bills than with what their children are learning. A lot of hip hop artists come from poor areas in which checkbook management isn’t a primary concern. Ghettos or slums present challenges that force a child to learn more about protecting themselves from physical violence or finding their next meal. Rarely do those places teach anyone about the importance of paying their taxes or making wise investment decisions.

The other problem that is rarely addressed is the way the music industry uses and abuses certain artists. While almost any good attorney can negotiate a decent contract, most artists are so happy just to have a hit record that they sign ridiculous deals that benefit the record companies and rarely benefit the artist. The record company has no interest in treating the artists as “partners” because of fear that the artist will eventually become a formidable opponent. Additionally, a wise artist might also discover all of the numerous ways that the company has nickeled and dimed him and cheated him out of funds, thus setting up lawsuits against the company. Ignorance is bliss for them.

But there is also a large amount of responsibility that can be put on the artists themselves. At what point do you stop utilizing your upbringing and your neighborhood as an excuse for misbehavior? Since life is a continuous class of learning, shouldn’t someone learn how to manage their finances after a few years?
The answer to those questions is yes. You should absolutely learn something after numerous incidents of falling on hard times. But often rappers are learning this lesson at the worst time possible; when the IRS shows up at their doors with cuffs. Uncle Sam doesn’t want to hear anything about a poor upbringing, a bad environment, or corrupt record companies. The government only wants one thing. They want their money.
So what’s the solution? One thing that I think would help artists is for their record companies to automatically have a contract that makes them attend a certain amount of financial management classes. This would definitely assist people in not only learning what to do with the money they make but it would also protect them against bad management and bad deals.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles /
But hold up… Aren’t the record companies a part of that poisoned tree of exploitation? Expecting them to do it would be absolutely dumb.

What about the government? Can’t they make it a requirement?

Nope. The government can’t even agree on protecting children from guns and you want them to think about protecting hip hop artists from financial mismanagement? Uncle Sam stands to gain so much more by letting people go into default so that they can reap that tax penalty percentage.

So who should be responsible and how can this problem change?

Once again, all roads lead to home. Mom and Dad. The hardcore truth is that if the parents don’t start their children out on a path of responsibility, it’s too late. And since more and more single family homes are being created, the truthful answer to the question is….

Nothing can be done.  

Friday, March 28, 2014

Hip Hop Alert: The Good And The Bad About Jay Z

“I can’t stand Jay.” says the hater.
“Man, Jay Z is killing it right now!” says the fan.

I’ve come to realize that I’m probably both of these people.

I’m torn between those two phrases. On one hand there’s a big part of me that openly hates Jigga. I don’t hate him as a person. That would be above and beyond considering I’ve never even met the man. But I have a strong amount of dislike for some of the things he’s done as a hip hop artist. It’s infuriating. 

Then on other days I’m down with Jigga. He’s the man! I can’t control my Stan-ism as it pertains to giving him props on certain moves he’s made. If he isn’t a genius he’s about as close to one that I’ve seen. You have to marvel at the positive things he’s bringing to so many lives.

So I’ve decided to make an article that seeks to take inventory of these issues and emotions and put them into some level of perspective.
photo credit: MjaMes1408 via photopin cc

I Don’t Like Jay Z Because Of…..

1.       His Lyrics:  Money has clearly made Jay Z a little lazy. With the exception of the recording he recently released with Jay Electronica, Jigga has been inconsistent at best. Most of his rhymes sound like a TV commercial for a mall located in Italy. How many times can you brag about a watch? He’s so far removed from America that even Obama is having a hard time seeing him. And when he notices he’s gone too far, here comes the “crack” references. He throws in a boast here or there about a life that’s long gone as if that seems to be the only thing that we mortals can relate to. Thank God Jay Electronica got in the booth with him and forced him to pick his game up. I don’t think I could tolerate another Magna Carter album. 

2.       Dame Dash: Business is business and at the end of the day the ability to acquire more money is dictated by recognizing certain problems and finding solutions to those problems. I get that. I won’t go into detail about Jigga’s and Dame’s business dealings because I wasn’t there.  But in the arena of public opinion Dame Dash was royally played by Jay Z. Not only did Jigga sever all ties with him, but he tried to behave as though they never made history together. Friendship is friendship and business is business. No complaints there. But when you see your man down and going through all types of adversity because of severed ties, you’re not going to look out for your man in some kind of way? In your immense financial empire you couldn’t find a way to squeeze him in. Yes, Jay Z. I remember your lyrics in “Feelin’ it” on your first album Reasonable Doubt when you said,

“If every n***a in your click is rich your click is rugged. Nobody will fall because everyone will be each other’s crutches.”

So what’s up with that Jay Z? Were you “keeping it real” and spitting truth, or did you mean only people in your business click? In my opinion you played dude. I can’t say who’s to blame for what but I know if my people that helped me build my empire fell on bad times, nonsense would instantly be put aside to get a resolution to his problems. That’s family.  You probably wouldn’t be enjoying the same level of success without Dame. You definitely wouldn’t have Kanye in your squad. And that counts for a lot.

3.       Beyonce: How did this dude pull that off? The fattest chick in the game. We know the rules of life and women. If you got decent looks a little game you can get a lot of girls. But come on Jigga. Beyonce? Tell us how you pulled that one off. When you called yourself “The Black Brad Pitt” in that song Caution with Panjabi MC I instantly blew Pepsi out of my nose in laughter. For real? Are you serious? A lot of dudes on the street say it’s because of your deep pockets. I don’t know… Was it? Come on Jigga. Disprove that theory.

I Like Jay Z Because Of….

1.       His Business Moves: Jay Z is straight up and down killing the corporate world with his business moves. Not only does he have more number one albums on the hip hop chart than any other hip hop artist, he finds ways to innovate. His deal with Samsung displayed a new way for artist to market their releases. And trust me, in a time when the music industry is suffering, that was big. But he didn’t stop there. Jigga also helped Mrs. Beyonce Carter develop a new marketing strategy or her album and it was a complete success. And to add to his arsenal Jay Z has gotten into the sports management arena. Not only did he sign the third largest contract in MLB history with Robinson Cano ($240 Million), he has Scott Boras basically bouncing off the walls in fear. Where did the “rapper” come from? How was he able to pull it off? That thought had me smiling for a week. Impressive moves from Jigga Man.

2.       His Age: I’ve traveled to many countries and The United States is the only country that treats its artists as disposable entertainers. We put zero value on longevity and seek to market and burnout the value of those artists by marketing them to the youth (which is a dumb marketing strategy because young people eventually become old people, so you’re only getting half value). And that is why Jay Z stands out. It’s weird to see one of our hip hop artist age while performing at such a high level of popularity. This is new to the hip hop world. Jay Z is close to joining the AARP club yet he’s still pulling down number one albums? Hip Hop as a whole should be absolutely rooting for this because of one reason… When old people start performing past their expected corporate expiration dates it means that the art form has truly grown and become validated. Young people are always on to the next big thing. But Old People are the most discriminating consumers. And no matter what The Grammy Awards say about hip hop not being a true art, Jigga’s ability to stay relevant while entering the age of 50 basically tells them to “Shut up and listen”.

3.       What He Has Given To Hip Hop: Say what you want about this dude but he’s given pretty much the majority of his life to bringing happiness and joy to fans all over the world. His work ethic is ridiculous. For every year since 1995 he has been producing and sweating for his craft. He’s given that blueprint for success to such artists as Kanye and Rhianna and helped their careers excel. No one can truly accuse him of being selfish because he gave blood and sweat. Can you truly imagine a hip hop world without his contributions? I can’t. How many young Black kids has he inspired with his moves? He’s giving hope to a lot of children that grew up fatherless and in the projects. Being that beacon of hope is a huge responsibility that most people can’t handle. Yet Jay Z does it effortlessly. Like it or not, we need a lot more people like him to better our communities.

The point I’m trying to make is this. l like Jay Z because I hate him. And I hate Jay Z because I’m a fan.  Hate him or like him, he’s here making his mark. 

Thursday, March 27, 2014

The Downfall of Hip Hop

Hip Hop was once the artery of America. It was a pulsating vein in which any person of any age, race, or religion could plug themselves into and extract hardcore, uncut truth. If you wanted to know about the state of affairs in Brooklyn, Watts, Compton or Atlanta all you had to do was listen to the ghetto news correspondents (aka rappers) and they would bring you up to speed. The American media wasn’t ready for a force as strong as hip hop. America had CNN and ABC. Europe had the BBC. Brazil had Globo. And none of those media giants could’ve predicted that two turntables and a microphone could spark a global revolution and compete with them in terms of delivering change throughout the world. And when a little African-American boy purchased his first hip hop record and held it in his small hands, I too felt how powerful hip hop was. With that purchase I had become a part of that revolution.

Many children felt as I did. Little teenaged kids in suburbia who had been routinely fed lies and propaganda through their parents’ chosen news sources were shocked and strangely attracted to this truth. It was real to them. It went against the very words of fear, separation, and racism that they were fed. What’s more, it spoke to common sense thinking and their very intelligent and impressionable minds. Black people used hip hop to their advantage. Sure, we didn’t own any politicians classified above the level of militant, trouble-maker or novelty act by White America, but hip hop provided a platform for anybody with a grievance and a certain amount of skill to get to the source of change for the future; the children.
And that is why today has become so painful for me.

Hip Hop has taken a drastic turn for the worse. Truth is no longer the friend of hip hop. That has been replaced with dark fantasies of drug empires, luxurious lifestyles, and frighteningly exploitative dumbed-down lyrics. Teach? What is that? If hip hop were a professor in your local university, they’d lose their job, be sentenced to 30 years in prison, and shot by a firing squad all in one day. What was once an art that pushed its members towards intellectual supremacy through competition now is a gimmick that regularly exploits its listeners and manufactures fake “beef” and disagreements for album sales. These elements have always been present in hip hop, but not on such a large scale.

And hip hop’s close connection with the youth? The connection that once pushed children to challenge the traditional ways of thinking and to pay attention to social issues has now become compromised. That connection is now used to push product and product only. As a parent I’ve become almost paranoid about hip hop and its effect on my child.

Somebody has to stand up. Somebody has to protect the art that provided so much for us. And so today we hold court.

If you could put 5 individuals or elements on trial for crimes against hip hop, who would they be and why?
I’ll get things started with my list.

Image courtesy of Sira Anamwong /
1.       The Record Industry: For me, this entity holds a large portion of the blame for the decomposition of hip hop as an art form. Profit has become the primary reason to sign artists. There is no emphasis on originality. Instead, a cookie-cutter system has been created and every artist is primarily erected out of the same dough. Money doesn’t care about education. Money doesn’t care about loyalty. Money doesn’t care about love or being factual. Money on cares about money.

2.       Black Entertainment Television (BET): Bob Johnson started out with all of the best intentions. The point was to create a television company that gave America a positive view of who Black People were and what we aspired to be. And then things blew up. Like every television company BET began chasing ratings. Soon the advertising dollar became most important and the quality fell off. After a while you started seeing shows and music videos that blatantly played on stereotypes of Black People. Ultimately Bob Johnson sold the company and made a ton of money. But not before he threw a royal wrench into hip hop and America.
Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici /

3.       Drugs: This element has always been present in hip hop. But the abstract effect drugs have had on hip hop is through the erosion of The Black Family. Tough and unfair drug policies have created far too many single parent homes. When a mother or father is absent, how can you properly educate children? Hip hop has suffered because of this.

4.       Technology: I struggled to put this one on my list. It has helped hip hop and hurt hip hop equally. On one hand we can do things with sound and chop samples in ways that we previously couldn’t. There’s no doubt that technology has enriched hip hop. But there is also the down side to technology. Theft, manipulation of imaging, and money. Music can be easily be stolen and bootlegged on a global scale. Now anyone can use the internet to speak untruths and distort facts. And then there’s the money.
Image courtesy of twobee /

5.       Failure to Protect: Russell Simmons and others are owed a lot of credit for making the world love hip hop. Without them we wouldn’t have numerous artists. But in their desire to sell the product, they didn’t think about protecting the product and legacy. If others can take or use your product and you don’t control that perception, you will eventually lose it. No one is saying that this is Russell’s fault. But if we want to sell something we also need to devise a plan to protect it. And for that reason, hip hop has faltered.

So now that I’ve laid down my 5 guilty parties, I want to know what you think. Who would you sentence? You don’t have to go into lengthy explanations, but just tell me what your opinion is and why. Thanks for participating.

----Black Jay

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Drake Has A Big Problem On His Hands And His Name Is.... Kendrick

Drake has a serious problem on his hands. Not only has he lost the hip hop crown he once wore so proudly and flaunted throughout Canada, his concrete footing in hip hop has become perilously tenuous. Some may ask, how can a rapper whose latest album has sold 658,000 in its first week of release be in danger of losing his strangle hold at the top of the hip hop charts? In a word? Kendrick.
Kendrick Lamar’s rise within the ranks of hip hop doesn’t come as a surprise to hip hop purists. His lyrical ferocity has been on display for quite a while. Since releasing Overly Dedicated in 2010 and Section.80 in 2011, the hip hop underground has taken stark notice of Kendrick’s ability to bend and contort his thoughts into sharp and deadly weapons of lyrical murder.
                                                         photo credit: Khanillion via photopin cc
But Lamar’s adroit political skills have also been on display. Kendrick has aligned himself with the greatest hip hop producer of all time, Dr. Dre, and shielded himself via Independent label from the same fate as the long list of unreleased artists signed to Dr. Dre’s Aftermath Entertainment label. Meanwhile he’s benefiting from the “buzz machine” that is Aftermath/Interscope Records. This move proved to be absolutely vital to his 2012 good kid, m.A.A.d city release and catapulted him onto the world stage with platinum sales, certifying to the world that he was a major player. 

And then there was Control.

Everyone knows the lyrics that set the hip hop world on fire. But very few people, Drake included, expected it to be so intellectual. The song is lyrical poison and chess move worthy, all at once. Not only did Kendrick call out hip hop’s most lyrical and talented new school of artists, he called them out by name.  Not only did he say that he was the King of Hip Hop, he called himself the King of New York! That is akin to starting a war for most artists, but for your average West Coast artist to say that? That is career suicide. 

But Kendrick is not your average emcee. Most people were put on notice that this particular lyricist was not one to play with. Kendrick dropped a lyrical cake in the middle of a dirty room, waited and flipped on the lights. Anybody that came out and spoke was instantly fumigated and confirmed Kendrick’s lyrics. Anyone that was silent was killed too because this move showed that they didn’t have the courage to display themselves to the dare. They weren’t hungry enough to come and get it. Chess not checkers. 
photo credit: hds via photopin cc 
And what was Drake’s response? Drake played checkers. He refused to engage Kendrick directly. As is custom for hip hop’s “King”, everyone expected Drake to go at Kendrick with a vengeance. But he didn’t. Instead he chose a softer more sensitive route to address Kendrick. He went to the media. He gave interviews. He spoke to everyone except the person that sent the challenge. Ultimately, he threw one lyrical subliminal shot towards Kendrick. But subliminal shots don’t hold the same weight as a name checked challenge. It was weak and it was a huge mistake.

Hip Hop has a long history of “The MC Battle”. It’s what makes the art form different than every other genre. Artists engage in verbal combat to determine lyrical supremacy above all challengers. Krs One, MC Shan, Roxanne Shante, Common, Ice Cube, NWA, Tupac, Biggie, 50 Cent, LL Cool J, Big Daddy Kane, Eminem….  All of these emcees have battled on the world stage and attempted to defend their place in hip hop. 

The most recent example of this tradition is the Jay Z versus Nas battle. In terms of lyrical battling it stands as the greatest hip hop battle of all time. Ultimately Nas prevailed as the winner of the battle. But the fact that these two MCs that had sold millions and millions of records and at the height of their professional success, chose to engage in lyrical combat was one of the bravest and most exhilarating moments in hip hop history.  It’s a tradition that separates the chart surfing rappers from true lyricists. 

Drake’s refusal to directly engage Kendrick Lamar speaks more to his desire to make profit. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. At the end of the day hip hop is a business and you have to provide for your family. 

But Drake is missing a very important point here. After the chart sales have diminished and your flame has died down, you have to deal with legacy. What will hip hop remember him for? Will he be crowned one of the best and a visionary in pushing his craft further into the future? Or will you be just another rapper who sold a lot of records but didn’t make an impact? And while Drake may be years and years ahead of a Young MC or Tone Loc in lyrical ability, by refusing to directly address his competition he scars his legacy tremendously. He looks weak. He seems afraid. And fear is something true hip hop heads can smell a mile away. 

Kendrick Lamar has the backing of the greatest producer in hip hop history. He just completed a Grammy performance with Imagine Dragons that blew apart the stage and has every eye focused on his next move. Right now Drake is the sales king. But clearly Kendrick is about to take his crown. Is this the end of Drake?  

The Reason 50 Cent is a Trouble Maker

50 Cent. If you’re a hip hop fan, you know the name well. There isn’t a more polarizing personality in hip hop. You either admire him for his success and his ability to overcome all of his personal and professional obstacles, or you hate him for his outright aggression towards any and all things anti-50 Cent. Mention his name on the comments section of any hip hop website and you will find allies that agree with anything negative you have to say about his behavior. But you will also get blatantly attacked and disrespected by an equal amount of 50 Cent fans that support him unconditionally. In their eyes, 50 Cent can do no wrong. Like it or not, he is absolutely the most polarizing figure in hip hop. 

In his short, meteoric career 50 Cent has sold over 21 million records and has gone on to amass riches and wealth only rivaled by a few in the hip hop world. He currently owns or has partnerships with SMS Audio, G-Unit Books, SMS Promotions, SK Energy, and the list goes on. His personal wealth is currently estimated at or above $250 Million. 
photo credit: via photopin cc

But he also has an even longer list of enemies. Jay Z, Diddy, Dr. Dre, Game, Steve Stoute, Rick Ross, and a lot of others have all been on the receiving end of disses from 50 Cent. And when 50 disses you, nothing is off limits. He goes for your career and your family equally. His sole purpose is to eliminate you from existence. Here are a few examples:

1.       Young Buck, a previous member of 50 Cent’s G-Unit crew, called 50 Cent to discuss some issues. He had been kicked out of the group for perceived disloyalty. When Buck called and spoke to 50 Cent he was emotional and crying, begging to be reinstated. 50 Cent recorded the message and released it to the media. 

2.       After being involved in a feud with Rick Ross, 50 Cent uploaded a video that showed Rick Ross’s ex-girlfriend. She spoke and confirmed to the world that he was previously employed as a corrections officer and that his whole persona was fraudulent. 

3.       On a new song he released in 2014, 50 Cent insinuates that a previous enemy currently on trial for murder, James Rosemond, should have his child beaten. 

4.       In a 2014 interview 50 Cent insinuated that Jay Z was afraid of him when he was at the height of his career and also insinuated that Jay Z married Beyonce for money.

These are some controversial attacks that seem to swing well below the belt. Some seem to resemble a marketing scheme and some are outright vicious. But then again, that’s 50 Cent. 

To be fair, 50 Cent entered the hip hop game with controversy. From the very beginning he came into the music industry calling out various individuals and letting the world know his displeasure with certain artists (Ja Rule, Fat Joe). And to his credit, a few of those targets rightly deserved to be called out for various reasons. Sometimes 50 Cent seemed to be on the side of righteousness. For instance, when he did an MTV interview in which he attacked Murder Inc for their label name, he was correct. Murder is not something anyone should glorify. And that type of attack, combined with his intriguing life story of being shot multiple times, propelled him to the top. Here was an MC that not only rapped about the streets but actually had the scars to back up the stories. The world ate it up.

But that was 2003 and this is 2014. In this climate music has taken drastic turns. Hip hop artists are being rewarded for being more introspective and independent. Gone are the days of record labels putting out gangsta artists for the public to consume like Skittles. Record companies just don’t have the money anymore. The entire music industry is contracting and trying to find its footing. Record companies want artists that can grow their bottom line, not in a short amount of time, but in the long term. That means hungry labels that once thrived off of beef and disagreement are now being forced to cross pollinate with other labels to get their artists the ultimate exposure. You can’t do that if you have an artist that’s poison to everything and has no political skills. 

The music consumer has changed too. They’ve become more sophisticated. The economy is leaving fewer and fewer dollars to waste on nonsense. More and more people are saving that dollar to spend on a worthy release or they’ll outright download music illegally.  

Also starting beef and dissing artists has become an even more dangerous business to be involved in. The artist that gets dissed may be a multi-platinum artist. That means that all of his millions of fans will line up against whoever did the dissing. And that hurts the bottom line.  Record companies are seeing this.
50 Cent is 50 Cent. And while he makes no apologies for his actions, he has single handedly been the sole person responsible for his rap career tanking. He hasn’t released an album since 2009’s Before I Self Destruct. His previous label, Interscope Records, has decided to part ways with him. Partly because they saw that his negativity and vitriol against any and all people not doing his bidding hurt his industry value and popularity in the public arena. His poor political skills (he even dissed Jimmy Iovine, the owner of Interscope Records) also contributed to his release.  A lot of hip hop artists refuse to work with him, partly out of nervousness in being associated with someone so negative, but mostly out of loyalty to a few of the people he’s disrespected. 

50’s limited lyrical skills have also played a part in his fall. He has made very few attempts at growth as an artist and the results are glaringly clear. As evidenced in his recent releases Funeral and Don’t Worrybout it, his music and style seems permanently trapped in 2003. This seems to come from 50’s desire to recapture that energy that made him such a hot commodity in the early part of his career. But it doesn’t really do any good to try to recapture that energy if you don’t understand what went into it in the first place. 50’s ego won’t let him think that his backstory was the primary reason for his success. 50 Cent believes it’s his skill that sold the record, when the truth is it was conservatively 40% skill and 60% biographical story that made him such a success.  

50 Cent’s career isn’t over yet. With a new independent record deal and with the album Animal Ambition being released in June of 2014, he has the opportunity to forge new relationships and to show the world he has grown. But judging from the recent statements he’s made and the new attacks coming from his camp, 50 Cent is using the same 2003 playbook of disses, alienation, and controversy that he entered the game with. The question is will it work again?