Tag: hip hop

November 19, 2008 / / On Appropriation

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.” Read the Post Busta’s Busted: “Arab Money”

November 3, 2008 / / activism

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.

Read the Post Vibe Magazine Asks That You Barack the Vote

October 23, 2008 / / activism

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. Read the Post VH1’s Best 100 Songs in Hip-Hop: The Evolution of Black TV

October 1, 2008 / / Quoted
August 5, 2008 / / Uncategorized

Excerpted by Latoya Peterson

Warning: Explicit Language.

Saying that this interview blew my mind is an understatement. Reading “It’s All One: A Conversation between Juba Kalamka and Tim’m West” in the Total Chaos anthology was an illuminating experience in reference to queerness and hip-hop culture. There were so many pieces I wanted to type to share with you all, but couldn’t do so without feeling like I was taking money out off Jeff Chang’s wallet. So here are a few snippets of the conversation that made the largest impact on me and hopefully many of you will try to locate the full interview (or even buy the book).

[…]

Juba: It wasn’t until commercial viability became an issue for the record industry at large did the need for a categoric and hard-line heterosexualization and hypermasculine posturing come front and center. Hip-hop’s racial contextualization has been similar to that of early rock ‘n roll – the sale of scart, titillating, and ultimately Otherizing fantasy images of nonwhite people that fit into that same old boxes of “frightening yet sexy.” So, no, maybe a “gay” identity wouldn’t fit as a component of a “hip-hop” identity if you understand “gay” as a code for “weak” or “feminized” and therefore undesirable to a media machine selling a particular kind of Scary Negro Drag, or someone who’s performing it and unable or unwilling to interrogate their positionality.

At the same time, there’s the issue of “gay” or “Queer” being yet another identity marker that had already been co-opted by white middle-class institutions by the time hip-hop was beginning to receive mainstream attention. An authentic b-boy (read: Black) would have had a difficult time integrating a gay or bisexual identity into his pose, as “gay” was something he would know he was racially, economically, and socially excluded from.

Tim’m: But even this undermines a rich legacy of gays and lesbians in Black communities that had little to no interaction with white gay culture. Culturally speaking, Black gays have always preferred to abide alongside their Black communities rather than “ghettoize” their sexualities into geographic “safe spaces.” This isn’t a criticism, just an observation.

Juba: I agree. There is the assumption by Black straights and white gays that Black Queers were somehow automatically interested in participating in white gay culture – which also assumes an uncomplicated relationship to being “out” in the way most people understand that. That is extremely problematic and, as you have said, lazy thinking.

Growing up in Chicago and attending high school in the early and mid-1980s there was no real distinction between straight and gay in the house music scene, though it was overwhelmingly Black and Latino. My high school reflected this dynamic as well as that of the white gay kids never really expressing any interest in what we were doing.

Read the Post Quoted: Juba and Tim’m of Deep Dickollective on Hip-Hop and Homosexuality

July 3, 2008 / / Uncategorized

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

Yes. David Banner said it.

Talk about colored girls, homicide and patriarchy.

You would think that Capitalism, the fall of the stock market and the price of rice were controlled by who we had sex with.

What if a white man sat on that stage and said that?

R.I.O.T.

David goes on to say that “Most of these men sell dope because they want to impress you”. So wait, if we stop having sex with D-boys then they are going to get jobs at Mc Donalds?

I think we need more labor and gender theory. Read the Post If You Want to Change Society, Close Your Legs

May 23, 2008 / / Uncategorized

by Latoya Peterson

Skimming through the MTV newsfeed, I saw an interesting item that sheds a little more light on the ideas and concept of Nigger.

MTV explains:

We’ve heard him rap from the perspective of a gun that has been used in several homicides. He’s rapped from the perspective of a kid on a project bench. And on his upcoming album, Nigger, he’s at it again, reciting lyrics from the viewpoint of an insect. One of the standout cuts he previewed for MTV News on Tuesday is called “Project Roach.”

“A roach is what I am, fool/ The ghetto is my land, fool,” he raps on the track, which was produced by No I.D.

“I get to thinking about how we evolved, how the human family evolved and sh–,” Nas said Tuesday from Jimmy Hendrix’s Electric Lady Studios. “And I looked at ants, man. One day, I was looking at a bunch of ants. We’ve got a lot in common — just like everything that’s alive, everything that eats and breathes and builds and creates. There’s a connection to even the smallest thing. So I looked at it as the whole world, instead of looking at us as beauty. Inside poverty, inside the street, inside the ghettos and the gutters and the slums, we aren’t looked at as beauty out there. We were looked at as the worst pest, and because of that, because of that treatment, some of us started to believe we were a pest, started to believe what we were told, and started to act like it, and started to reproduce my people, bring kids in the world that were f—ed up in the head.

Read the Post Still on the Fence About Nas’ New Album

May 22, 2008 / / Uncategorized