Posts Tagged 'hip hop'

Oh You Mad Cuz’…I Punched You in the Face

I know about the narrative arc of hip-hop seemingly representing this “end to violence” in the South Bronx, giving way to breakers and b-boys to go along with emcees and DJs. But realistically, this is a romantic view of the tension and competition inherent in rap music. Freestyle battles, whether in a public space or at the local radio station drip with oneupmanship and dog-eat-dog fury. Of course, speaking as an armchair social scientist, this means that it ultimately feeds into the disunity complex among black men. It means that something that is partly responsible for a new creative class among blacks has much more of a destructive tendency than a constructive one. So there’s just as much aggression and violence in the outer world in this black art of hip-hop. Sometimes that manifests in good ways, like in Ice Cube’s “Today Was A Good Day” where Cube talked relief from the stresses of L.A. strife. Sometimes it just transfers violent memes to violent acts, as in its traditional stance on all things women.

It yields a humorous distance from reality for me. I like a good rap battle as much as the next fan. But when it deteriorates–like these do–into fights for physical dominance, I still appreciate it for just showing its ass. Hip-hop can never really be bought or framed for the positive or negative because it’s visceral. These reactions come from outside factors even if the music itself has a dandy relationship with violence. Violence courted hip-hop from the get-go, and now we have YouTube to watch the result. Enjoy!

In the storied legacy of rap battles, there have been some heated exchanges on wax. Since the millennium turned, those turned into knockout blows knuckle-up style in the form of Smack DVD clips and YouTube snippets. These fist-fighting battles trumped the tradition of wordplay, and sunk hip-hop into the dregs of other internt sensations like Bum Fights, Street Fights and Kimbo slice marauding.

Here are the HeardonmyStoop faves:

Oh You Mad Cuz I’m Stylin On You

Nikz and ENJ are having a pretty sound, typical street-style battle until ENJ drops the line of the year “Oh you mad cuz I’m stylin’ on you” which throws Nikz into a rage unseen…and then KNOCKOUT! Continue reading ‘Oh You Mad Cuz’…I Punched You in the Face’

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I’m A Jamaican in New York

These few weeks have felt like Prelude to An Historic Speech or America Week. The Election bonanza so fittingly dovetailed the Olympics. The Democrats and Republicans put on a show that showed how disparate and simultaneously ethnocentric America can be. It’s difficult to place myself in the middle of the American spectrum. First, I’m black so I have dealt with pressing “otherness” since I learned that blacks in this country were treated differently through a system of historical treatise. Then, uncoerced, Aime Cesaire showed me that the same system effectively suppressed blacks in the West Indies (of America/Britain) and in Africa.

 

Obama

Obama

Since I was born in Kingston, Jamaica but raised stateside, I always had an allegiance to a place where most of my memories had long dissolved. I was stumped trying to figure out my Blackness, my Jamaican-ness, and my American-ness in the face of this larger diaspora idea, which in itself implies dissonance. Then, this week, as if to tap me on the shoulder, Lamika Young, educator and friend spoke to me over chat about Barack Obama. She asserted that the idea of him being named “Barack Obama,” and in turn his separateness from Black Americans, made him less threatening to the general population. I was willing to acknowledge that his exotic nature and name sets him apart from any generalized description of Black American. In the same huffy breath, I was dismayed that we were getting into a discussion of what makes someone Black American. Was she telling me that Black America had institutionalized Blacker Than Thou tests? Continue reading ‘I’m A Jamaican in New York’

The Baba Ganoush Hour with Drew Ricketts

Anwar Pollydore and I joined to do a web talk show expressing all views under the African sun. The language is not for the sensitive. Enjoy all the jokes and uncomfortable moments of this the first episode.

The Baba Ganoush Hour Part One – Live from Canarsies Past

Outasight – Radio New York

A decade after the Blackstar-Mos Def tandem is long enough to reflect on his nasally signature singing. Dante does the reggae chanting as capably as any Dennis Brown heartache song. Outasight, Yonkers Native and unofficial Mos Def apprentice, might be a bit premature in adopting the sing-rap nasal tones. His album standout “Good Evening” is a relaxing, competent rusty soul song for the summer, heavy on hook, feathery lyrics. Radio New York massages the very last sinews of this form. The songs each resonate of aspiring, naive artistry with verses fixated on the unattainable. Just when he seems like his head has been in the clouds too long, he brings it back with an extended wail. (But he rhymes “Maybach” twice, which seems repetitive and counterintuitive.) With a whole boutique industry of white-soul-meets-easy-listening already resurgent in the form of Amy Winehouse and Robin Thicke, Ol’ Nerdy Blues is certainly on to something. What Radio New York (and tracks like “Radio Radio”) lack in range, they make up for with tight dreamy production, swishing cymbals and airy nostalgia. Perhaps straying as far away from half-hearted emceeing as he can will allow him to bloom even further. Preoccupation with alternate realities like “Fame and Fortune” and “Lights Camera Action” has minimized the effects of his simpatico demeanor with real but trite whining.

Benjamin Franklin

Benjamin Franklin [2008]

I’ve seen good men of my generation

mangled by dollars, wars, angels

reigned in by college

free men

strangled by collars

 

but fear trains slaves

I blaze, veer into a strange haze

weary of such lessons

they may hear

but deformed as we are we smile

feign cheer, steer away

from weird exchanges

we rode cycles, same gear

I love ’em and they my brothers

any way you seein’ it

wonderful human beings

future fathers, double-breasted suited armors

unaffected true warriors

lawyers and doctors: men with promise

emanating garish, gaudy, tawdry hopes

in the name of vision, broadened scope

I ain’t noble for treading a mossy road but

their smiles frighten my psyche

their brightness looks blinded 

we ain’t in crisis, we dying

this cycle revives itself

’cause I go for mine as well

when I wish we could share

we fight for divided stuff

when history is clear

we should say

fuck the bullshit

if you don’t get mine, we’re struck by bullets

defunct like you fucked my woman

if you don’t climb up,

I’m nothin

I can’t take solace in nullus

for my brother

these are all theories

if you don’t feel me, either-or

I see across a sea of falsehood

I plant my anchor, you could walk the plank if you wanna

but if we listen

we gon thank each other

MixWeek – Da Gif “Classick”

Da Gif is a Harlem emcee who made his way to Delaware and then back to Brooklyn to link with my fellows from The Dugout. Gif has an amazing penchant for soulful rap songs with sewn-in storylines. “No Born ID” is his lead single and stand-out effort off his album All Hail the New Nigga Nation. The way Gif’s voice, full of urgency and bluster, match a soul track is testament to his talents as a Black musician. Rather than approach a song with dry verses for preset instrumentation, he meshes thematic concerns with the funky or soulful part of his song. J Soul, producer phenom from Flatbush, Brooklyn, defines this imprint with his jumpy piano riffs (“Peace of the Pie”) and encompassing horns come by way of Big Raim on “Oh Love”. Gif makes the careful balance between conscious emcee and prominent songwriter by avoiding moralistic leanings, sticking to his compelling ghetto allegories. This evenness is particularly pertinent on “No Born ID” which details a confused college-aged woman in the throes of racial displacement because of her mixed ancestry. “Crop Boys” also assumes this mood of part-commentary, part-irony in its shared verses between Gif and Cavalier. Both artists talk about the impropriety of the U.S. government and the field slave/house slave mentality bent on dividing blacks but with a humorous undertone, almost staring in the face of righteous rappers like NYOIL who have not often matched lyrical skill with prophetic messaging. The song starts with “Uncle Tom arm in arm with Uncle Sam” painting a rosy picture of the spoiled marriage between duped blacks and their state-sponsored shepherds.


Download Classick here

Choice Cuts: No Born ID, Peace of the Pie, Oh Love, 2 Strong

If You Look At My Life

How to Understand Autobiographical Rap

Around 2001, hip-hop became more familiar with the force of its voice. Although artists had always experimented with the confessional style, some careers are earmarked with that revealing trait more than others. For instance, Eminem, Kanye West, Prodigy and Joe Budden each exemplify using a stylistic shift to capture loyal followers. Earlier still, Nas made Illmatic a diary of Queensbridge living. On the other hand, artists with highly anticipated debuts who compiled an array of disjunctive songs with flavor-of-the-month producers regretted the choice sincerely. Jadakiss made this mistake with Kiss The Game Goodbye, which seemed to betray his gritty personal affect established with the Lox. Again, as the new millennium came around most recognizable figures in hip-hop fell on one side or the other of these sincerely crafted personal diaries. Independent and small label rappers like Aesop Rock, Sage Francis and Atmosphere went far left of center. Their self-styled memoirs placed them squarely with the conscious and/or underground crowd.

But it was telling of the mainstream that Kanye West essentially did the same kind of record, with a few dance hits parsed throughout. “All Falls Down” and “Through the Wire” of College Dropout signified his conversion to that mode by addressing issues of the self in order of priority: dropped out of school, chased record career, became a vindicated star. Continue reading ‘If You Look At My Life’