Category Archives: hip hop

Busta’s Busted: “Arab Money”

by Special Correspondent Fatemeh Fakhraie

I know, I know. If you’re looking for socially conscious rap or hip hop, you don’t go to Busta Rhymes. But this still surprises me:

Maytha from KABOBfest has highlighted Rhyme’s song “Arab Money,” which has some disgustingly racist lyrics. Maytha brings up some great points about this video, namely, that it is a blatant example of the acceptability of anti-Arab racism.

Let me highlight some of Busta’s rhymes:

Women walkin around while security on camelback

Club on fire now — dunno how to act

Sittin in casino’s while im gamblin with Arafat

Money so long watch me purchase pieces of the Almanac

Ya already know i got the streets bust

While i make ya bow down makes salaat like a muslim

Camelback?! Gambling with a dead PLO leader?! Elsewhere, there are references to growing beards and Prince Al-Walid bin Talal bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud, a member of Saudi Arabia’s royal family known for his success in business (his…uh…bread).

Busta Rhymes’ song (and its fakey Arabic chorus–shudder) is just one more instance of hip hop’s cultural appropriation of Middle Eastern music (producer Timbaland has been “sampling” Arabic songs for years: remember Jay Z’s “Big Pimpin”? That is Egyptian artist Hossam Ramzy’s “Khusara Khusara” that you hear).

Rhyme’s references to Yasser Arafat and Saudi princes create the illusion of ownership: not only are we expected to think that he and Browz understand/speak Arabic and understand Middle Eastern politics and geography, but we’re also supposed to think that he rolls with said Arabs.

When I first heard the song, I didn’t know whether to be angrier about the sexism (Rhymes makes reference to “Middle East women and Middle East bread”—things), the racism, or the casual name dropping in what Maytha calls “baseless stereotypes masquerading as knowledge.” Continue reading

The Apprentice Meets Scarface: The Racialicious Review of 50 Cent: The Money And The Power

by Special Correspondent Arturo R. García

So who’s 50 Cent gonna start with beef next?

Maybe Donald Trump, if you believe the hype behind Fiddy’s new “Apprentice”-style show, 50 Cent: The Money And The Power.

The show’s blog crows that “unlike The Donald, Fiddy’s new show will NOT be putting the ‘Bored’ in ‘Boardroom.’” What it may lack in feigned decorum, The Money And The Power more than makes up for in people uttering variations of the phrase, “I’d do anything for $100,000.”

In the premiere, Fiddy and minion crony hanger-on Dwight Schrute substitute labelmate Tony Yayo appear a little more hands-on than Trump, and more menacing than Diddy, sprinkling their monologues with criminal references. Yayo is identified as the show’s “Underboss,” and the premise is simple: “I’m not looking for an assistant,” Fiddy explains to the 14 contestants. What he is looking for, he says, is someone who can take his 100 grand and “make something out of nothing.” Naturally, their first mission is to get shot, then produce a critically-panned autobiographical movie.

Just kidding. Instead, after choosing the terminally smiley Joanne and the braided Ryan as “Bosses” for the first week, the two seven-member teams make their way from Roosevelt Island to “Camp Curtis,” the show’s compound in Brooklyn, bound together chain-gang style. And just like that, all these people formerly willing to “do anything” start complaining.

It doesn’t take long for tensions to rise. Not only do two members of Ryan’s team nearly come to blows during the mission (they manage to win regardless, earning themselves dinner with Fiddy), but two members of Joanne’s team get into it. And this is where we meet Precious.

Not to doubt the integrity of anyone who describes herself as a “master manipulator,” but the beauty school dropout landed herself on the brink of elimination by telling an Asian teammate to “go do [her] nails.” In the real world, businessman Curtis Jackson might have dismissed someone making these remarks on the spot. But, on reality television, host 50 Cent, shrewdly determining that racist remarks equal “good television,” keeps Precious (who he describes as “a poor man’s Lil’ Kim”) on the show, not before getting literally inches from her face and delivering an Alpha Dog staredown that would’ve made Tony Montana proud. Instead, for being a “wack” leader, Joanne is dispatched with a heartfelt “Get the f-ck outta here.” One can only expect ensuing episodes to showcase just as much workplace sensitivity.

For being what it is, The Money isn’t not entertaining, in the usual brain-on-neutral way these shows have become. It’s all there: the artificially-built tension; the utterly unsympathetic contestants; the Mr. Miyagi-esque team missions. And it’s funny watching Fiddy and Yayo give their Sun Tzu-meets-F-U pep talks to this latest bunch of schmucks. But it’s not edgy, it’s not “street,” it’s not new in the least, unless you’re just now old enough to watch television without parental supervision, or an unabashed Fiddy fanboy or fangirl. The premiere was titled “Choose Your Crew Wisely,” but really, the lesson was Know Your Demographic. And Fiddy shows business sense there, indeed.

Vibe Magazine Asks That You Barack the Vote

by Latoya Peterson

In this month’s issue of Vibe, Barack Obama receives a formal endorsement from the magazine. Danyel Smith’s Editor’s Letter is an impassioned plea to get involved and help push Barack all the way into the White House. She writes:

We value freedom and aspire to be better than we are, and to live in a country that will be better than it is. We must vote for Senator Obama and for Senator Joe Biden. We must make sure our friends get to the ballot box. We must reach deep for every bit of idealism we had at the beginning of rap music. We must not be cool. We must not again make manifest the “apathy” label that has been thrust upon us. This is not a moment to be reviewed or dissected, or gazed upon from an ironic distance. This moment in history is ours. Our country will not be okay if Obama loses.

The issue goes on to provide three key pieces of political commentary: Obama’s own letter to Vibe readers, Jeff Chang’s “The Tipping Point,” a piece that explores the shifting nature of our political landscape, and a compilation of 99 hip-hoppers positions on politics.

Obama’s letter cuts straight to the heart of the apathy Danyel Smith describes in her intro piece:

Now, I’ve heard people say, “My vote doesn’t matter,” “My vote won’t count,” or “I’m just one person, what possible difference can I make?” And I understand this cynicism. As a young man attempting to find my own way in the world, I faced many of the same choices and challenges facing many of you today. I sometimes doubted that my thoughts and actions really mattered in the larger scheme of things.

But I made a choice. I chose to check in, to get involved, and to try and make a difference in people’s lives. It’s what led me to my work as a community organizer in Chicago, where I worked with churches to rebuild struggling communities on the South Side. It’s what led me to teach and run for public office. And even today, I hear the skepticism. Too often, our leaders let us down, They don’t seem to do much to make our lives better. So I understand the temptation to sit elections out.

But this year, when the stakes are this high, and the outcome will be so close, I need you to choose to vote.

Continue reading

VH1′s Best 100 Songs in Hip-Hop: The Evolution of Black TV

by Guest Contributor M.Dot, originally published at Model Minority

Two major things happened in Black television in the last week or so.

Rap City was canceled, TRL was canceled and VH1 presented the 100 best songs in Hip Hop.

All of these are interesting because they relate to hip hop. I remember when I first learned that 106 and Park audience surpassed TRL’s about 7 years ago, and I thought to myself, hmm thats interesting. In fact, I think Carson Daly had just left the show for Hollywood.

Recently, I read a quote in S. Craig Watkin’s book which said that black teenagers in general and boys specifically occupy a very interesting place in the American culture. On one level their presence is reviled, their bodies are policed (laws on sagging pants) and they are systematically undereducated (only 35% of Black men starting 9th grade in NYC graduate) yet their “cultural products” are in demand from Madison Avenue to Japan. Continue reading