Suppose rap died some time ago. I would say it died because the art of it made the person matter more than the art itself. A better way of putting it is this. If I’m a painter, then what I paint on the canvas must come before me. I’m merely a vessel for its existence. If it didn’t, in terms of value, then the artform would be subject to standards under popular culture, personalities and things of that nature. It would mean no one loves the art anymore than they love the appearance, personality and what the camera shows them. A facade.
The art is no more like a canvas unequal to its creator, but a sacrifice on behalf of that creator and the next popular face and personality after, waiting to be bought, sold and consumed. You can tell because we now venture into their lives in ways where the music is a non-factor. Rap is purely a commodity at this point and the rapper is an extention of that product.
Movies are a perfect example of the point I’m speaking. That is where the art comes before the creator. However, it’s a hybrid in the sense that those who play the characters can, at most times, become idolized beyond the movie itself. This stretches into the concept of celebrities and celebrity worship. Now that I think of it, the creator of movies is much like the producer (assuming we’re talking about the beat) and other entities behind the scenes.
But to back up a bit, you watch a movie not knowing the faces or caring much about them because the work is largely separate from its creator(s). So we’re able to appreciate the movie and its worth without the attachment unlike music. I’m not so sure how other genres foot this bill, but with rap, it’s difficult to achieve that because the art and the creator are one. You can’t get one without the other, which is a vulnerable spot. A flaw in its design when one considers things related to popular culture and its exploitative ways. It’s ultimately why conscious rap for example hits a hard spot because popular culture dictates that they’re not listening to rap so we can be preached to or feel we should care about something because said rapper made a song about it.
As a result, the personality behind the content is priced higher. Those who view the artform as a standard to be met affords them to create powerful, unrestrained works, but due to what I’d say is a lack of their interest with consumers’ view of them as a person more than their work itself. I think of the maxim “the customer is always right,” but in art, I think it destroys the value we place on the art in comparison to the creator.
I’m just gonna get right into it y’all. Around the 6–7 minute mark J. Cole begins to speak about meditation and his reasons for it. I thought that was dope because there’s a lot of research (here, here and here) that supports how impactful it can be if done consistently. And with an artist like J. Cole with such a large influence, it’s something I believe can trickle down to his fans and friends of those fans, if not already. Because the way I see it, in our current and hypertensive environment, meditation can pull us back into ourselves and away from the high anxiety, high alert world we’re so often tuned into.
I say this not to preach, but as a note to self cause I too find myself caught up in the rat race. It can stress you out if left unchecked. The outrage machine, the politics, the attention grabbing headline of an article few of us read or that trending topic we allow to occupy our space when it’s really an intruder of it — and that’s just online. Imagine the things people deal with in the real world. Fortunately, I’m no stranger to sitting back in silence and tuning out the 24/7 noise machine that’s constantly pulling at you one way or another.
Three complementary sources I recommend seeing are:
And a lecture done by a former Facebook employee who touches on a similar subject that Cole does around the 8:50 mark.
Another moment was when he started to discuss his drinking habits and used an analogy for it to explain his take about social media. He mentions being pulled by these things and noticing the effects it was having on him to where he simply fell back from it. I related with him where he starts to talk about strings being pulled. It’s one of my pet peeves with it. It can take full control of your time if used unwisely because you’re constantly being bombarded by this, that and the third.
A bit later, the topic of social responsibility comes up and you hear Cole asks Angie if she thinks that matter, talking about him as an artist speaking out about a controversial topic, and she says yes. I thought it was an interesting question because at one point in time I use to think if only these celebrities and entertainers with their platforms would take full advantage of them and speak up about certain things. How naive of me lol. However, I still hold on to the idea that someone like J. Cole (or Reggie Bush) has a voice where if he says the right thing and in the right way he could persuade and move minds, just like his song False Prophets (more on this later), 1985 or Brackets, which I already touched on.
But then again, I don’t think it matters that much on a large scale, maybe on an individual level, because there’s like billions of hours being broadcasted and uploaded to the internet daily and all that information has to be overwhelming to the point a single message, whether influential or destructive, could easily be forgotten and discarded for the next hit of information.
Now about false prophets.
He goes a bit more into what it was about, mainly this uplifting of celebrities (or people in general) on a pedestal. Now as a side note, whenever these discussion take place I always refer back to this Hunger Games scene where one of the characters say, “you’re meant to be a distraction so people forget what the real problems are.” And in today’s climate, especially today’s climate, it’s as true as the sky not being blue. Of course we see blue, but there’s other significant things going on behind the scenes making it so and that’s how I rationalize these public figures, including J. Cole.
The way I see it they’re more or less like cogs to whatever industry they’re in. When one of them goes renegade, like Mr. West, we see how the media machine responds. People then take sides. The attention of something that seem so insignificant takes over and dumb down the consciousness in the process to he say she say on some Lupe shit. But like Angie said, “what do we do with false prophets?” Good question.
That step child called Capitalism
When Cole spoke against capitalism I thought it was misdirected. I can’t begin to fathom the amount of takes from people on capitalism. Some may have a point, but where I differ with his view is he’s saying capitalism is to blame for what we’re seeing. Whereas I believe it’s just a flawed feature of human nature and behavior. The flesh is weak and I shall not want I’m told. But why is the flesh weak? Is it because of capitalism’s marketing ability to exploit that weakness? Or is just a part of the human experience no matter the system? To get a better view of what I mean, just look at the 7 deadly sins or the concept of it. If capitalism never existed, we’d still have these energies among us. Pride, greed, lust, envy, gluttony, anger and sloth. These are just energies from a world built on polarity so no matter what system you implement, it’d be impossible to separate ourselves from them and their effects.
After all, it’s a material world we live in and the flesh is just a product of its environment and subject to everything in it, unless we somehow evolve beyond the forces of this dimension (read the Kybalion). Until then, this will always be upon us and no human-based system or lack thereof is efficient enough to get rid of it.
But this is where the conversation gets pretty deep, at least to me.
Around the 1:00:00 mark and beyond, they start to dive deeper into celebritism and certain people’s infatuation with them. He relates this need of people to idolize and believe in certain people like Donald Trump, Kanye and even himself. He mentions this being a flaw of people because the only purpose it appears to be for is filling a void inside of ourselves.
For instance, he touched on the people who believe in Donald Trump so deeply that if he said jump, they would probably respond with how high? Same with a figure like Barack Obama.
Like Nas one said, “the people need something to believe in.”
He then goes on to say this is just as dangerous because it plays into people being manipulated because we don’t truly know the full intentions of these people we believe and make our idols, be it a celebrity, an actor or actress, a politician or a loved one. That was a key point I thought, where he compared theses holes we all on some level possess and needing them filled by other people (or things) in attempt to make us feel whole for whatever reason. With that part, I think he hit a pulse on today’s madness or what appears to be madness. These holes he kept mentioning? I thought of these shootings we continue to see happen as a reflection to how broken, empty and misguided people are. The manipulation and strings being pulled? I see it with agenda after agenda to shape and influence the minds of millions on and offline for better and worse.
It all comes full circle I suppose and back to the concept of meditation. Being self-aware and making attempts to refill those empty holes we may have trapped inside, but not with drama in other people’s lives, drugs or some other stressor-stimulant, but with something deeper from within to make us truly whole and immune from the deception outside of us.
I’m only thinking out loud here.
I’ll end it with this last notion. Towards the 1:30:00 mark, the conversation of purpose comes out. Cole goes into how pervasive music has became in his life to a point without it is to his detriment. And I hate to say it, but I think I feel where he’s coming from. In my own life, all I knew at one time was basketball and then it became rap. In between that it was school of course, but also chasing after the girls, hanging out late at night and smoking weed not realizing how much time I had consumed doing mindless activities.
Fast forward to the present, I still love making music, but there’s a part that’s hungry for something else to be as fulfilling as writing a verse was or now with making a beat, which is still an incredible feeling. But with that being said, go watch the interview or let it play in the background if you haven’t already.
Scrolling through twitter I came across a video done by Genius featuring Jessie Reyez who’s music I never heard of until then. I might even check out her music to hear what other things she has to say. But here I want to say this. Serious question. Why would you wanna be like men in that regard? I get the shame aspect of it, but if there was no shame, I generally don’t believe a woman is cut like that. Besides, wouldn’t you think tryna be like men would be just as worse for women than the stigma itself?
This notion about getting props for smashing multiple women, it’s a lonely world. Ain’t no equality in that. Being a playa is something to “strive” for but it leave you empty, barely making real connections with the people you give yourself to. Put it like this. It’s a practice I wouldn’t recommend to my son. I’m not even being religious about it neither because a man who hasn’t grown pass his dog years is not a sign of any real world achievement.
But if there’s a cultural shift on the way around that, and I’ve come to understand it is, then I’m the last person to shame a woman for it. We all got our needs so by all means do what you feel. I’m a just say don’t be surprised or upset when a guy or girl you’re really into chooses to hold you to a different standard regardless of what you feel.
“I’ll write a check to the IRS, my pockets get slim
Damn, do I even have a say ‘bout where it’s goin’?
Some older nigga told me to start votin’
I said “Democracy is too fuckin’ slow”
If I’m givin’ y’all this hard-earned bread, I wanna know
Better yet, let me decide, bitch, it’s 2018
Let me pick the things I’m funding from an app on my screen.” — J. Cole
Just like most forms of art, hip hop should drive the discussion. That’s the true power of it. Case in point, just listen to J Cole’s song Brackets from his latest project KOD. He touches on taxes, which is a highly important topic in this country. Because for the millions upon millions paying taxes into a system, yet seeing less in return for it on a year to year basis, sounds like a scam but that’s democracy for you. Unless you’re well organized and use that as leverage, you won’t get much of your money’s worth in return.
For what it’s worth.
I understand what America was envisioned to be. The land of free I’m told. A government of the people, by the people and for the people. Those same people pour their life’s blood in money to support this system, which one can very well call an empire run not by the people as so designed but by those with deep enough pockets and influence to push their interests. And the funny thing about it is this system only survives and can carry on this way because of the full faith and credit we the people have in it. Add to the fact that so many departments and agencies exist with budgets (from tax dollars) that fund projects, regulations, research, initiatives and other programs that the average person wouldn’t have the time or patience to even map out its usefulness. Think about it.
There’s about a handful of programs (and other areas tax dollars go to) I can imagine that are generally useful, whereas others are wasteful uses of money and it keeps happening, further proving how reckless things are. When I listened to J. Cole on Brackets, I sense where he was coming from. He wanted to know where all this money made is going and why can’t the spending of it be decided by those who put in? This where being well organized across the country plays best. But as say all this, I’m not J. Cole rich rich, but I understand his plight. You come from a country that prides itself on being great but moves slow to fix its domestic issues and twice as fast to fix foreign ones, further depleting resources that could be used for other things that people who fund the government could benefit from. All the agencies and departments with their programs and regulations, are all of them a matter of necessity? Because when you’re at a trillion dollars in debt and spending more money than you bring in from taxes then who eventually shoulders that burden if something were to occur? Is it us? I think so. This is why I think J. Cole needed to make Brackets.
Sure, it might get swept under the rug along with the rest overtime cause there has been a damn good job at removing (education wise, jobs, mindless entertainment, etc) the citizen as far as possible from the system, but damn man, at least somebody talking about something that actually is about a topic that directly and indirectly affects people and the more people start and continue to press the issue the better. Because what’s the point of songs if they don’t communicate something of value to the millions of earlobes they capture? Doesn’t always have to but surely it should more often. Wishful thinking.
Whether it’s Google’s manipulative search results, YouTube’s ad-pocalypse or Twitter’s shadow banning, it’s all the same.
Censorship. It’s a word that’s been receiving a lot of attention lately. Just recently I read that Spotify, a music-streaming platform, was making a move to bar the infamous pied piper himself, R. Kelly, from their curated playlists. Now that’s not anything extreme unless they were going to remove all of his content from their platform.
“It lets the music-streaming service ban or bury music or artists it judges to be “hateful,” whether it be songs that incite violence or artists whose conduct it won’t tolerate.”
A particular issue I see is with banning controversial figures from playlists because their actions or views don’t align with the company is that these playlists are powerful means for getting music heard these days — at least that’s what I hear. Basically, these playlists are like a performance boosts from the company that can give an artist the advantage of more ears than someone who’s not on a playlist.
Now in the case of R. Kelly this move may have its merits. I don’t follow him close enough these days, if at all, but the guy seems to be a magnet for negative publicity. But if we were to look at the bigger picture of having a “music-streaming service ban or bury music or artists it judges to be “hateful,” whether it be songs that incite violence or artists whose conduct it won’t tolerate,” then it stretches the scope from preventing hate or violence towards one into censorship. That’s a lot of power these tech companies have if that’s the case.
In their policy it says, “we don’t censor content because of an artist’s or creator’s behavior, but we want our editorial decisions — what we choose to program — to reflect our values. When an artist or creator does something that is especially harmful or hateful (for example, violence against children and sexual violence), it may affect the ways we work with or support that artist or creator.”
But that’s not a bad policy on its face. No company should want to align themselves with those examples, especially if they’re the ones promoting them. But looking closer, it’s turning a company into an arbitrator of morality akin to a religion, like Christianity, would with sin. So in the case of R. Kelly, because he’s a musician with an ugly public perception over the years, he’s essentially barred from certain privileges within this company — their playlists and possibly future deals.
My red flag moment is not R. Kelly’s dilemma, but how far will the policy stretch? Because the policy is about hate, which is largely subjective and in the eye of the beholder. A song like FDT by YG could pass as hateful content. And honestly, hate of any kind is something we should not try to suppress so quickly because it may prove to be an ineffective way of dealing with it and one that unfortunately ignites it.
Also, in the policy it says, “hate content is content that expressly and principally promotes, advocates, or incites hatred or violence against a group or individual based on characteristics, including, race, religion, gender identity, sex, ethnicity, nationality, sexual orientation, veteran status, or disability.” Again, on its face this looks reasonable, but it’s vague. It leaves an open-ended interpretation to what hate content could be and apply to. Also, it would seem that hate content is permissible as long as none of these characteristics are involved. Loophole?
But this reminds me of an article about a proposed law on anti-semitism, which eloquently states it’s “highly controversial because it conflates criticism of Israeli policies with anti-Jewish hatred, shutting down debate by suggesting that anyone who looks critically at Israeli policy is somehow beyond the pale.”
The key point in the quote above is confusing criticism for hate. So when I used YG’s song FDT as an example, it could fall on either side of that spectrum depending on who you ask because again, the eye of the beholder. But I understand as I say all of this that it’s probably unlikely this policy will affect an artist with views deemed “controversial” (like Kanye West or Lupe Fiasco) from fully expressing themselves and flourishing in this technological world.
I personally say let the public — the market — decide versus instituting censor-like parameters. Because although this is about music, what’s preventing these types of policies from spreading further (from public or political pressure) to elsewhere, essentially cutting off certain groups or people (i.e. those with valid yet controversial views) from accessing valued services because of their perceived public or private “misbehavior?”
Now that’s something we should not get too comfortable with because these companies (YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, Spotify, etc) have positioned themselves to either make or break a creator and if it so happens to be one who’s considered “controversial” (another overly used word) or not in alignment with whatever order of the day, then that creator’s freedom of expression, including his or her distaste toward something or someone, could be perceived as hate and silenced to the shadows as punishment.
I think that’s a pretty bold statement for what’s suppose to represent a free and open society because one day it could be you up against the censors.
“Whether from a disease or from a bullet, I wouldn’t be mad, I lived my life to the fullest.” — Joe Budden
Right off top, I wanna say I don’t think about dying no time soon. Even before the accident, it was always like that. Matter of fact, I remember a good friend of mine who never wanted to talk about death. My guess is because it was a depressing subject. As of today, I wouldn’t wanna give it any of my energy honestly. My shit too potent for that. But at the same time, we can’t front like it’s inevitable. More like the pink elephant in the room cause I understand how close the shit can be, which is why I wanna talk about the song If I Died Tomorrow by Joe Budden.
It was on volume 2 of his Mood Muzik series and at the time I first heard it, I was in school living some of my best years. It got cut short though, which is part of the reason for writing this. Call it my words never said. I must admit though Joe’s song wasn’t even my favorite, although I’ll say he has good taste in beats cause the sample so smooth and matches the subject well. But it plays right into the whole depressing convo I spoke about earlier with my friend. However, considering that was almost a reality on September 5th, I think it’s a worthy enough topic to touch on.
In the song, Joe builds on a lot of relatable situations and the title should be self-evident on what he’s talking about. A situation where if he died tomorrow. It’s exactly like the 24hrs to live song where you hear these guys (Mase, Jadakiss, DMX and Black Rob) rap about the things they would do if all they had were 24hrs to live. It’s the same concept, but both songs have separate moods. Joe’s version was a bit more reflective, deeper but refreshing because it’s on a much personal level. But it has me thinking. If I died tomorrow, what would I say, do or not do? Joe spent damn near 7 whole minutes, which isn’t long given the topic, but I think I can muster up a few things so bare with me.
If I died tomorrow, I’d tell my father he’s the greatest person and father that a son could ever have and he deserves more than he gives out. I would want him to know he’s always been that voice in my head to keep me off the bullshit. I’d let him know how he’s kept me protected from a world I’m fortunate enough to never had to lived in where kids have no father figure so they go searching elsewhere, like the streets. I would also tell him I apologize and he would know why. I should’ve been more aware. He stuck by my side from the jump though, just like A, and been there with me ever since and I don’t know why God gave me somebody like that, but it’s a beautiful thing God did. Also, I’d put him on a plane to a tropical place where there’s nothing but sun, a beach, women and peace of mind so he can fully unwind and not be burdened with other people’s problems, including my own.
If I died tomorrow, I’d organize all of my closest family from both my mom and father’s side so we can see how black families should always be—and that’s together—even if it’s just for a day, but I’d rather it be like when I was a kid where being around family was a weekly to damn near a daily affair. I’d tell them ALL…Uncles, Aunties, Cousins, Grandparents, you name it. I’d say let’s help each other with our situations. We family so we should at least be in position to do that, even if it’s just talking over a game of cards. Then, I’d let them ALL know I love them cause I’m really big on family in spite of being so reserved as most people would know. I grew up in a community surrounded by family and friends so that’s what I like to see. No drama, less stress, more laughter and a whole lot of love and understanding of one another to go along with it.
If I died tomorrow, I’d go see both my grandparents on my father’s side and just spend the day with them. Talk with them as they tell me about the life they lived in the south and just sit back and enjoy their presence cause without them would mean no us. I’d thank them for taking care of my brother, my cousins and myself throughout all the years, money and sweat they dedicated, including the level of stress they helped lift off my parents’ shoulders. I couldn’t ask for anything better. I might even take a few shots of Whiskey with Bossman like I used to do and go help Granny plant flowers, cut her grass and move her white rocks from one side to the other. Basically just be the grandson my brother is, which leads me into…
If I died tomorrow, I’d let big bro know, although he already knows, that he’s my role model and everything I ever wanted to be like. I’d tell him sorry for wearing his shoes to school and rushing back home before him to put them back like nothing ever happened. Then I’d say that’s what little brothers are for lol. But I’d also tell him let’s go play one on one like we use to when it was just us even though I was probably a pain. I’d tell him I know I could’ve been better with making choices instead of stupid ones. Lastly, I’d hug him as tight as I could cause I miss being around him to the point it feels like it’s just me when it was always us. I’d probably say a bunch of things to my brother cause that’s my blood. Go to the end of the world and back if needed me to. We lived in the same households for years and I’d pay good money over and over just to experience it again, especially the days on Lenoir and Edsel playing baseball and one on one basketball with the infamous milk crate for a rim.
If I died tomorrow, I’d take a trip down south and spend time with my mother. My heart. Always have been as far as I can remember. I’d tell her she raised her child well and in such a good way that living where we grew up felt like a luxury. I’d tell her all the hard work she puts in hardly goes unnoticed and she’s the reason why I keep my faith. I’d tell her she could do no wrong in my eyes because that’s how I see it. I’d even let her know that I used to wished I had went with her when she asked me to because I’d probably be in a totally different place in my life and probably for the better considering how things have been lately. But finally, I’d just like to be near my moms and be around to hear her voice.
If I died tomorrow, I’d link up with all my buddies from the cradle, made songs with, roamed the streets late at night with and break bread. Figuratively and literally. Let’s get some money together and see the world or something. Aside from that, I’d let them know I’m glad to have had them around cause I was so much to myself and being with them added so much fun in my life. Whether it was at Oakland, Beechwood park, Sabbath or on the white side, it was always a good time being a part of the crew. I’d let them all know I never had a problem with them that was so big that we couldn’t talk it out cause it was always love with me. Whether it was on Superior, Leroy (and Goodell), Palmerston, Campbell, Frazier, Beechwood, Holford, Polk or on Lenoir, I’m glad I can say I was there with y’all and love y’all for sharing those times. Roll up.
I think I will end on this part cause I know I can write a whole book if I wanted. I think I just might lowkey. But if I died tomorrow, I’d go and chill with all the women I ever had something with and tell them thank you for allowing me to be a part of they life. I had fun. If I could have made it better, then I would in heart beat. Whether it was short or long term, I’m just know I’m fortunate for each and every one that God placed in my life, especially the last one.
I think I wrote quite a lot on this topic and I probably will go deeper in a book or something. But for what’s it’s worth, if I died tomorrow I’d spend it being around the people that added plenty of color to my often black and white world. Yeah, that’s what I’d do and few others things—I’m thinking beach front property somewhere in South America. But since I don’t plan on going anywhere any time soon, that’s what I most likely will do while I’m still here.
If I died tomorrow, I’d tell everyone that ever felt some way about what happened that just because I’m not the same person you’re physically used to seeing doesn’t mean I’m any different. You don’t have to feel uneasy around me but if you do, then I rather you get it off your chest — cause shit happens to the best of us. I’m still the same Monta aka your boy Chase and will always be that.