Posts Tagged ‘kanye west’

Commercial hip-hop bears strange fruit: on Kanye West, Rebel Diaz, Billie Holliday and Troy Davis.

Commercial hip-hop bears strange fruit: on Kanye West, Rebel Diaz, Billie Holliday and Troy Davis.

‘Strange Fruit’, originally recorded by the legendary jazz singer Billie Holliday, is about the lynching of black Americans by racist paramilitaries. You could argue that, to sample this song in a track about, well, nothing in particular, is a bit disrespectful. Here’s ‘Blood on the Leaves’, from Kanye’s new album ‘Yeezus’:

You can read the lyrics here.

A year and a half ago, Rebel Diaz also recorded over a beat that sampled ‘Strange Fruit’. Their track addresses the modern lynching of Troy Davis.

Lyrics here.

Which song does the sample justice?

Some thoughts on Kanye and Jay-Z (or “Don’t blame rappers for our mess of a society”)

Chuck D has responded to Jay-Z and Kanye’s single ‘Otis’ with his own flip of an Otis Redding sample. His YouTube uploader comment pretty much says it all:

This is a polite respect call to the troops, to continue to inspire but reflect the people better. OTIS Redding was a humble country man from Macon Georgia who bought a jet to work in, not flash. He perished in that plane. Here’s to hoping that the Jay & Kanye supergroup can elevate the masses and try a little bit more to reflect OTIS heart rather than swag, because they’re too good to be less.

Here are the lyrics:

Respect to you two heroes
But trickle-down got us less than zero
Respect, last I checked
Prison-industrial complex: no swagger
Millions, billions, trillions, whips, women
Is a million miles from what people’s feelin (no gas)
Try a little compassion, 2012 fashion
Style your insides, we outside
Fasten a broke seatbelt
Unemployed ride through hell

Notice! Know this. Got to… know this.

Have we all forgotten
Latinos and Blacks pickin electronic cotton, no stax
16.2% is depression inside a recession
Spending money and time on how we dressing
Losing money and homes, homes
These stats be on smart phones
Don’t need new slang to express the pain
Of what’s really goin on in the game of life
Please discuss with no education and knowledge of self
45 years of fucked up health

Notice! Know this. Got to… know this.

Chuck is making a valid but respectful request to these two legends to work harder in support of the suffering masses worldwide, especially the black community in North America. This is of course an entirely reasonable request from an innovator of hip-hop – an artform that was developed by (and for) oppressed people.

One thing I have noticed, however, is how much people *love* to criticise rappers for their promotion of crass consumerism. I mean… last time I checked, no rappers were involved in *creating* this society that’s obsessed with money and luxury.

It seems to me that the sociology of a Jay-Z is reasonably simple: you grow up as a marginalised, improverished black kid in a racist consumer-obsessed society; a society that constantly tells you that poor people and black people (and especially poor *and* black people) are nothing, and that the only way they can become something is by getting conspicuously rich. So you use your incredible skills to become conspicuously rich, and you say to the world: “Look! I *am* somebody – I have *two* expensive watches!”

So when we criticise Jigga and Yeezy for flaunting their obscene wealth, we are really just criticising them for not breaking out of the mental prison that has been built around them.

Would I prefer if more of our rappers got down like Dead Prez, Tupac, Chuck D or Mos Def? Hell yes! And the corporate colonisation of hip-hop is a profoundly negative thing. However, I don’t think the bulk of the blame lies with rich rappers, easy and obvious as it is to blame them. Advertising executives, luxury goods manufacturers, politicians, bankers, mainstream journalists – these people are all more deserving of our criticism than West and Carter. The people that run the music industry were *born* rich, but for some reason we have more to say about poor (and especially black) people who *get* rich.

I have listened to ‘Watch the Throne’ a couple of times. It’s aaaite. Couple of great tracks on there. Basically I’m not all that interested in the problems faced by supremely rich people, but we can’t forget that Jay and Kanye are two of the most important musical/lyrical innovators of our generation. Furthermore, they never completely forget their roots (as evidenced on the track ‘Murder to Excellence’, where Jay says “I arrived on the day Fred Hampton died / Real ni**az just multiply”, and Kanye says “What’s the life expectancy for black guys? / The system’s working effectively, that’s why”). As rich as they are, they still face racist judgement at many levels, and they still have roots in the black community, and these things are very clear in their music and their attitude. I didn’t hear any country and western artist saying on national television that “George W Bush doesn’t care about black people”!

So there you go. I like the respectful way that Chuck put his criticism. Chuck is an elder, and has earned his stripes in the rap game. He gave Jay and Kanye respect, and he told them how he thought they could improve. All I’m adding here is: let’s not fall into the blame-the-rappers game.

Jay Z and Kanye West ask “What’s the life expectancy for black guys? The system’s working effectively, that’s why”

‘Murder to Excellence’ is my personal favourite of the ‘Watch the Throne’ album. This track deals with the silent genocide that is ‘black on black’ gun violence. Pointing the finger squarely at the white power structure, Kanye asks: “What’s the life expectancy for black guys? The system’s working effectively, that’s why”

Amazing instrumental by Swizz Beatz and Symbolyc One.

Bloody Murder, murder murder (x4)

(Kanye West)
The paper read murder, Black on black murder
The paper read murder, Black on black murder

This is to the memory of Danroy Henry
Too much enemy fire to catch a friendly
Strays from the same shade, Ni**a we on the same team
Giving you respect, I expect the same thing
All black everything, Ni**a you know my fresh code
I’m out here fightin’ for you, Don’t increase my stress load
Ni**as watchin’ the throne, Very happy to be
Power to the people, When you see me, see you

(Kanye West)
And I’m from the murder capital, Where they murder for capital
Heard about at least 3 killings this afternoon
Lookin’ at the news like damn I was just with him after school,
No shop class but half the school got a tool,
And I could die any day type attitude
Plus his little brother got shot reppin’ his avenue
It’s time for us to stop and re-define black power
41 souls murdered in 50 hours

The paper read murder, Black on black murder,
The paper read murder, Black on black murder again
Murder again…

Is it genocide?
Cause I can still hear his momma cry, Know the family traumatized
Shots left holes in his face, Bout piranha-size
The old pastor closed the cold casket
And said the church ain’t got enough room for all the tombs
It’s a war going on outside we ain’t safe from
I feel the pain in my city wherever I go
314 soldiers died in Iraq
509 died in Chicago

I arrived on the day Fred Hampton died
Real niggas just multiply
And they say 21 I was supposed to die
So I’m out here celebratin’ my post demise
If you put crabs in a barrel to insure your survival
You gon’ end up pulling down niggas that look just like you
What up blood? What up cuz?
It’s all black, I love us

(Kanye West)
The paper read murder, Black on black murder again

It’s a celebration of black excellence
Black tie, black Maybachs
Black excellence, opulence, decadence
Tuxes next to the president, I’m present
I dress in Dries and other boutique stores in Paris
In sheepskin coats, I silence the lamb
Do you know who I am Clarice?
No cheap cologne whenever I “shh-shh”
Success never smelled so sweet, I stink of success
The new black elite They say my black card bear the mark of the beast
I repeat, My religion is the beat
My verse is like church, My Jesus piece Now please, domino, domino
Only spot a few blacks the higher I go
What’s up to Will, Shoutout to O
That ain’t enough, We gon need a million more
Kick in the door, Biggie flow
I’m all dressed up with nowhere to go

(Kanye West)
Yea it’s all messed up when it’s nowhere to go
So we won’t take the time out til we reach the T O P
From paroles to hold G’s, sold keys, low keys
We like the promised land of the OG’s
In the past if you picture events like a black tie
What the last thing you expect to see, black guys
What’s the life expectancy for black guys?
The system’s working effectively, that’s why
I’ll be a real man and take care of your son
Every problem you had before this day is now done
New crib, watch a movie
Cause ain’t nothin on the news but the blues
Hit the mall, pick up some Gucci
Now ain’t nothin new but your shoes
Sunday morning, Praise the Lord
You the girl that Jesus had been saving me for
So let’s savor this moment, And take it to the floor
Black excellence, Truly yours

Lyrics via KillerHipHop.

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