Monday, April 26, 2004

A List of Old School Political Rap Jams

Jesse-Grandmaster Flash and Furious Five

This was a classic jam which was Melle Mel's attempt to cheer on the first black candidate for the White House. There was a lot of love for Jesse back then.

The Message-Furious Five

The classic chorus about life in the city. Can be read as a Reagen era lament on hopelessness in the urban ghetto.

Renegades of Funk-Afrika Bambatta

This was political in that announced hip hop as a movement, that they were "renegades of the common age." First time I heard about Malcolm X.

If I Ruled the World-Kurtis Blow

Not really revolutionary, but still a fun jam about what it would be like if black brothers were running things.

Yeah You Can Do It-Crush Crew

A rare jam which talks about what Reagen was doing wrong, and tell black folks that they could rise above their conditions despite Reagen.

Criminal Minded- BDP Crew

Classic KRS One which introduced him to the world. Political in its criticism and projecting the gangsta attitude at the same time.

Life Is A Ghetto- Dr Freshhhh

Rare, unknown jam which compared the streets to the wars at the time in the Middle East, and insisted on equal attention in both cases.

Sign of the Times-Grandmaster Flash

They talked about Reagen "We got actors runnin' for President so what the hell is wrong with this government.

White Lines Don’t Do It-Melle Mel

Talked about the crack problem long before drugs were an issue.

World War 3-Melle Mel

Melle Mel was deep in his jam against nuclear war, a common 80's fear.

Hard Times-RUN DMC

RUN DMC talked about the troubles of poor folks in the hood.

Unity-Afrika Bambatta and James Brown

Its all about Peace, Unity, Love, and Having Fun. Talked about social ills.

(Not Going to Play) Sun City-RUN DMC, Melle Mel

Rapped against playing for South African apartheid regime.

Abortion-Dougie Fresh

Spoke out against abortion. Doug was the first "pro-life" rapper (and probably the only one to date).

F the Police-N.W.A

Called out for self defense against crooked cops.

Express Yourself-N.W.A.

Dre kicked positive about doing your thang despite your conditions.

My Philosophy- B.D.P Crew

KRS kicked his full worldview in this classic.

And more forgotten classics...........

Livin’ In the City- 7-11
You Gotta Believe-Lovebug Starski
Do the Right Thing-Lovebug Straski
Rappin’ Ron Reagen-Rappin’ Ron Reagen
World’s Famous-World’s Famous Supreme Team
New York, New York-Grandmaster Flash
Schooly D- Am I Black Enough For You
Melle Mel- Beat Street Breakdown

And what proceeded rap?

The Revolution Will Not Be Televised-Gil Scott Heron
Niggers Are Scared Of Revolution-Last Poets
The Big Payback-James Brown

Sunday, April 25, 2004

Gangsta Literature?

I was at the mall today and went to Walden Books, and I was just intrigued with these books that I was seeing. Maybe the picture of the girl caught my eye. She is cute as heck. As far as this kind of book is concrened, it's been a trend I haven't really put money towards, the "gangsta novel", filled with alot of the familiar imagery of gangsta rap songs and "hood flicks"

It could be said that these continue the tradition started by Donald Goines and Iceberg Slim. However, a case could be made that these books are crude and exploitative, and of no reedeming social value, like much gangsta rap itself.
Heck, even the Iceberg Slim books were pretty disturbing; I will give him props for "Pimp", his autobiography, and Donald Goines did good with his book "Black Gangster", but these were exceptional.

I am going through this other book called "Bad Girlz" and its a quick, simple read, mixing Ice Cube's "Player's Club" with some XXX type imagery. I wouldn't recommend these to anybody, though. I think that anybody should really be checking for WEB Dubois "The Souls of Black Folk" and Alex Haley's "The Autobiography of Malcolm X". I don't think gangsta literature is of redeeming value for anybody.
Ignorant posting of the day

This was taken from the message board, by, what else? A white hip hop fan who calls himself the "Assassin" (ohhh...scary..LOL):

Well, the idea that you're not hip-hop unless you support reparations is kind of a joke. Hip-hop isn't about politics, even if they do cross paths sometimes. Maybe it was formed as a response to certain social conditions, but what it is is an art form. Politically driven rap is just a small part, and Public Enemy didn't form until well after hip-hop was born. And turntables, break-dancing, and graffiti aren't about protesting for reparations. Art and music are universal, so the idea that you can't be part of it unless you hold a certain set of political views is irrational. And Dead Prez know it, too, but they would rather take the easy way out and do their whole righteous anger act.


The response to this posting included some people commenting that of course one of the songs that brought rap to the forefront was "The Message" by Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, followed by "White Lines" by Melle Mel, and "Hard Times" by Run DMC.

Again, you have an instance of a young new jack fan who wants to claim that he knows it all about hip hop, and that politics and hip hop are not synonymous. This to me reflects again the arrogance of white teens who come into the music only liking Eminem, and all of a sudden after watching VH1's re-telling of hip hop history, they want to claim they know what hip hop is and is not.

In terms of holding certain political views, it sounds to me that dude is just trying to take things in such a way that makes him feel comfortable. Its just pretty much a way to get it out of the "hood" and all the real concerns of it, and dumb it down so people like him will appreciate it. Thats what the article I posted said a couple days back, but now its coming straight out of the horse's mouth.

Im glad that the other cats responded and came correct. Funny thing is, I used to really sweat cats like that, but I'd rather just laugh at them.

Saturday, April 24, 2004

T Shirt militants

Alot of American youths who are politically inactive yet make "extreme" fashion statements are what I call T shirt militants. This is a concept that could makes a lot of money, but is that a good thing?

"I got my gat in the air looking out the window like Malcolm" Ice Cube from the song "Wicked"

When I was first going to Howard, I was exposed to the image of Malcolm X holding up a shotgun looking out the window. This image had a powerful impact on black youths, along with the battle cry, "By Any Means Necessary!" When I brought the shirt on Howard's campus, I thought that it was a shirt advertising the rap group Boogie Down Productions. They put out an album entitled "By All Means Necessary", a reference to Malcolm's phrase.

However, I eventually found out the real meaning of the T Shirt. This was a common item back in the late 80's; Malcolm memorabilia. I have that shirt still, and I also have another shirt that has a bigger, more colorful image of Malcolm. Along with the memorabilia came the "black" medallions." De La Soul said it best in their song "Buddy"

"De La Soul/From the Soul/Black Medallions/No Gold"

The black medallions was another form of marketed resistance; part of the call to black unity in the late 80's. On the brighter side, these could be seen as part of a response to the Reagan years and the scourge of drugs and gangs, especially crack, which hit the streets at around that time. Black people marketed this to say that in response to Reagan, gangs, drugs and the terrors experienced in urban life, we all had to get together. This made the soundtrack of Public Enemy and Boogie Down Productions so appropriate; it seemed like everything was in full swing. Gil Scott's Revolution was not coming anytime soon, but we all had to be on the same page.

"Its time to get your head ready, instead of getting physically sweaty."
Chuck D "Welcome to the Terrordome"

Later on, another fad would hit the streets, and it would prove to be very disturbing in its crossover appeal and the impact of urban marketing. The ever popular "X" cap.

I say that the "X" caps were disturbing because so many people wore it, but if you asked them what it meant, they were clueless. A statement of resistance made into a commodity by people who didn't even originate it, they just took it and ran with it. The "X" cap was originally Spike Lee's idea, the concept was taken from the Nation of Islam. In the Nation, you get an "X", which is indicative of the unknown.

When my ancestors came as slaves, they had to take the slavemasters name. Under the slavemasters name, you were property, and your beliefs, values and culture were of the slavemasters and other slaves. The "X" is indicative of a higher conciusness; you give up your slave name, and take the "X" in rejection of the slave name and all it stands for.

Now, if you asked some suburbanite who rocked the "X" cap because it was the latest fad, and would they be able to tell you what it meant? I doubt it.

But, the "X" cap is now just a lost fad; something that most people will not remember even if they sported one back in the day. After the Malcolm X movie, the whole thing just faded away faster than Ice Cube in the last scene of the movie "Boyz N the Hood".I dont even remember what I did with the one I had!

The ultimate intellectual rite of passage for most black youth is reading the book "The Autobiography of Malcolm X". At least, I think. There was a time when this was an "in" thing. In one of the old "Fresh Prince of Bel Aire" episodes, Will Smith brags about reading the book nine times. On another sitcom I saw, on the Fox Network (which is owned by right winger Rupert Murdoch), the child reads the book and he ends up confused, and the book is shown to be a bad influence, as parts of the book are taken out of context and twisted to sound disturbing and hateful. The premise of this crappy sitcom was two black teens with a black father who just married a white woman. Of course, before the kid starts hating "whitey" too much, Daddy has to set him straight or else he will hate his precious white starlet.

Currently, Malcolm X's life story was put under scrutiny because John "Taliban" Walker read the book and it was seen as a factor that drove Johnny to go to Afghanistan and hate America. Poor Johnny, he was a helpless white guy who turned bad because of hip hop and Malcolm X's book. GW said that he was a "good" kid who was somehow victimized by bad influences. Poor Johnny.

But was Johnny the ultimate T shirt militant who just took it too far? He could be a good example. The latest T shirt militant icon is now Che Guevara. His image got so popular that the glam rapper Jay Z wore his T shirt when he was on MTV Unplugged with the roots. It didnt mean anything when he wore it. Being fashion concius like he is, he wore this shirt because he felt that it was appropriate for the band The Roots and their followers.

The Roots make serious music that at its soul is rooted in Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder and Donny Hathaway. Its called Neo Soul, the musical umbrella consisting of such artists as Sade, Maxwell, and Erykah Badu. Their style hearkens to the days of Afros, Panthers and Dashikis; the 60's. To me, this piece of hip hop culture is the epitome of T shirt militancy, placing style before action; image as a movement as oppossed to organizational action.

It happens to all rebellious movements; the flannel T-shirt all of a sudden was popularized by the "grunge" rock movement, and the punk rock thing was exploited big time. Its not really good or bad, but is indicative of the corporate and capitalist society we live in. It doesnt really matter what any particular thing stands for, as long as its not disruptive (I dont see any Usamma T shirts being sold on street corners) and as long as it makes cash. Che Guevara and Usamma may ultimately be on the same page; they both hated America and both believe in the use of guerilla warfare; matter of fact, Che was a master at this! However, somehow he is not equated with those particular things.

But, as for the black power and resistance movements, the commodification shows really how powerless they are now.