Posts Tagged ‘racism’

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?

Indigenous Australian rapper Caper raps against discrimination

A personal song about the racism and discrimination Caper has experienced in society throughout his life.

Caper was born in Whyalla in the Eyre Peninsula, South Australia. Raised by a single Mother with his brother and sister (he has never met his father). A lifetime spent facing adversity, Caper grew up less fortunate as a kid and lost his Brother and Mother to heart disease. Remaining strong he rose a powerful and compelling storyteller rapping about the highs and lows in life capturing raw emotion through poetic rhymes.

Caper has a unique and inspiring sound to deliver to the music scene rapping with insightful lyricism, drawn from the inspiration of his own and other people’s experiences. Caper made national & international headlines in June 2011 when his anti racist video ‘How Would You Like To Be Me’ was banned from Facebook after just one complaint, labeling it as being ‘too offensive’. The video sparked much debate but was re-instated with the help of his loyal fans. How Would You Like To Be Me Debut on Channel 10’s ‘Landed Music’ late 2011.

Caper’s life story was captured in the documentary ‘Chasing SHADOWS’ (airing Australia wide on ABC 1 Art Scape) gaining him exposure to a national TV audience. Caper’s stirring lyrical messages is now reaching a world-wide audience as his popularity and message spreads.

Via Green Left

“Made You Die” – Trayvon Martin tribute from Dead Prez, Yasiin Bey (Mos Def) and MikeFlo

Militant Trayvon Martin tribute over the classic Nas ‘Made You Look’ beat (produced by Salaam Remi). Great video by Bmike.

Heartening to see top-level established artists coming together to make a statement, raise awareness, educate and organise.

Follow on Twitter:


Rebel Diaz – Troy Davis Lives Forever [lyrics and download]

FREE DOWNLOAD: Rebel Diaz – Troy Davis Lives Forever (prod Agent of Change) by agentofchange

Check this brand new track from Rebel Diaz, produced by myself. The track takes the form of a letter to Troy Davis, and the instrumental samples Billie Holiday’s classic song ‘Strange Fruit’ (which dealt with the issue of lynchings).


Another lynching has gone down in the US
And it’s 2011. Nothing has changed.

What up Troy, I can’t believe they actually did it man
To tell the truth they ain’t never gone kill you man
You live forever in the hearts of those who fought for ya
You fought for us, you gave us strength like a true soldier

[Rodstarz verse]
I feel the pain, I feel the anger and I raise to show it
I hit the streets and spread the word so the world knows it
I’m sorry we didn’t save you
Shoulda been braver
But at times I feel alone when I’m surrounded by these strangers
2009 we first spoke, after I met Martina
I got the shirt but since then I haven’t really seen her
Been on the road with these raps just tryin a spread a message
But when I think about our talks they were such a blessing
You was in jail reading your poems on the phone
And all I did was just listen, back stage of the show
Then I heard the crazy news about a week ago
That the date had been set and they wanted you to go
11.08pm, September 21st
Never forget, my inner being still hurts
Obama stayed quiet, like he did for Oscar Grant
Clarence Thomas b**ch ass never gave you a chance
See, you was innocent, there was too much doubt
7 of 9 witnesses wanted their testimony out
They was scared, police threats, serious like cancer
But you know it wasn’t true, years later they recanted
I wish I had the answer what to do next
Gotta do more than tweet, Facebook and send texts
We need freedom, organise like Zulu
Feel the pain of injustice even tho I never knew you

What up Troy, I can’t believe they actually did it man
To tell the truth they ain’t never gone kill you man
You live forever in the hearts of those who fought for ya
You fought for us, you gave us strength like a true soldier

[G1 verse]
They still lynching from plantations to the prisons
Methods changed but it’s the same system
White robes used to burn a crucifix
Now black robes sign a death sentence
Instead of Jim Crow and legal segregation
It’s yuppie condos and cuts to education
And I ain’t gotta say it Troy, you said it in your last letter
Thanking your supporters worldwide for they past efforts
More than half a million signed them petitions
The pope, the archbishop, stars and politicians
A who’s who on Twitter weighing in like Mayweather
But what happens to my bro after the storm let up
New day
Pray you in a better place
Over here we coping, tryin a channel that rage
To abolish these legal lynchings, abolish they broken system
Abolish the need for prisons, in defence of the human spirit

What up Troy, I can’t believe they actually did it man
To tell the truth they ain’t never gone kill you man
You live forever in the hearts of those who fought for ya
You fought for us, you gave us strength like a true soldier

Troy Davis: strange fruit in 2011

This song, first recorded in 1939, still resonates today, the morning after the legal lynching of Troy Davis by the white power structure in the US.

Many didn’t think it could happen – many thought the (black) President would intervene, or that that the Supreme Court would listen to the numerous human rights organisations that were calling for clemency. But the truth is that systemic racism and white supremacy are still very much alive, and the racist far-right is in the mood for re-asserting its authority.

Forward against the racist system, by any means necessary.

Southern trees bear a strange fruit
Blood on the leaves and blood at the root
Black body swinging in the Southern breeze
Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees.
Pastoral scene of the gallant South
The bulging eyes and the twisted mouth
Scent of magnolia sweet and fresh
And the sudden smell of burning flesh
Here is a fruit for the crows to pluck
For the rain to gather
For the wind to suck
For the sun to rot
For a tree to drop
Here is a strange and bitter crop

Troy Davis

Jasiri X – I Am Troy Davis

Jasiri X takes the Pete Rock and CL Smooth “They Reminisce Over You (T.R.O.Y)” beat and uses it to brilliant effect, breaking down the Troy Davis case – yet another example of the deeply entrenched racism of the US ‘justice’ system.


Does the court system employ racists?
Then why are so many black boys in cages?
Why shouldn’t I be paranoid of hatred?
Just look at the curious case of Troy Davis
Let travel on down to savannah
In the state of Georgia just south of Atlanta
Where they wave the rebel flag like a bandanna
Hung our ancestors then posed for the camera
A white police officer was shot and killed
Over and argument he tried stop and heal
And here’s where the plot gets real
The main suspect blamed Troy went to the cops and squealed
And with no physical evidence or weapon
Troy was arrested for a 187
He said he was innocent man was a when he was questioned
But they said that he did it who needs a damn confession
They just need is a witness they can press to cry
Tell em what to say or they arrest the guy
Then Put em on the stand and make em testify
Swear to god to tell the truth and do they best to lie
And they did so troy was found guilty
Sent to death row by police so filthy
Even though his innocence is true
We pray they don’t reminisce over you

But the truth always comes to light
And Troy Davis didn’t give up the fight
He kept filing appeals until it was reveled
The state of Georgia wants an an innocent man killed
That’s why a who’s who wants him out
cause there’s just too much doubt
And witness after witness came forward and admitted
the only reason they did it cause the police insisted
so wicked so vicious
The system’s broke so fixed
2 decades no Christmas
Execution dates 4 listed
get organized show resistance
go online sign those petitions
Black Americans know the difference
It’s a new day but the same old lynchings
I am Troy Davis
families destroyed be cases
why can’t we avoid the Matrix
instead of giving his children toys to play with
he’s waiting his execution hoping the court stays it
I’m praying and doing
we need action we need movement
cause his innocence is true
I pray they don’t reminisce over you

Follow Jasiri X on Twitter
Sign the Amnesty petition calling for clemency

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.

Unbelievable police brutality at New York hip-hop event

Check this footage from Jay Diamond at an event last night in New York featuring Pete Rock and Smif-n-Wessun, launching their new album Monumental.

Police stormed into the event, shut it down, told people to leave and started beating people up. As Pete Rock commented on Twitter: “Black is not da favorable color in dat area i guess!!”

General Steele of Smif-n-Wessun gives a great breakdown of what happened in the interview he gives at the end of the video:

“You can witness it was jam packed, there was no fights, no confrontations. There was all kinds of people in there, from all over the place. There was music in there, it was going off, it was poppin’. Then the police came and stormed the place, telling us we had to get out. And then they started beating on people, telling us to move away. This is what goes on in New York City. New Yorkers get frustrated when the police come in and, instead of bringing order, they create more chaos. This is what NYPD does. They create more chaos, because they don’t identify with the people… These motherfuckers is the overseers of this land right here. We witnessing it right now. I guess they bored. They can’t find no rapists, killers and criminals, so they wanna fuck up the common folk, the party-goers, the hip-hoppers, the current revolutionaries of this time. Long live hip-hop, long live free speech, long live you guys out there.”

Again we see the true nature of the police: their main function is to intimidate people, to keep them in their place, to preserve the status quo of capitalism and imperialism. They are playing the same role in Greece (where they’re attacking protestors with tear gas right now) and in England (where we have seen several deaths in police custody in recent weeks).

Let’s give the last word to the late, great J Dilla…

Tim Wise ‘White Like Me’ summarised in 15 tweets

White Like Me

White Like Me

As a random learning exercise, I tried to summarise Tim Wise’s excellent book ‘White Like Me’ in 15 tweets. I figured I’d post them here for posterity.

Here we go:

  1. We breathe racism – it’s everywhere around us. Therefore we all have to be constantly vigilant about our own prejudices.
  2. ‘Whiteness’ is a construct that was developed in the Americas in the 1600s to prevent the unity of black slaves and poor whites.
  3. Before that, people weren’t talked about in terms of white or black. Skin colour wasn’t considered a significant attribute.
  4. Laws were created, privileges were enforced. Whites were persuaded that their solidarity should be focused on race, not class.
  5. Race has no value from a scientific point of view, but it has become a sociological/political fact.
  6. Exceptions (Oprah, Obama) don’t prove the rule. There was a black millionaire in the US in 1911. Did racism not exist then?
  7. Many white people find it difficult to come to terms with the idea of white privilege, because it threatens their self-image.
  8. Privilege starts from day 1 – where you live, your family’s financial security, networks, inheritance, perception, education access.
  9. It is our human obligation to fight injustice. This struggle will never be truly finished, but we focus on playing our part.
  10. White people have everything 2 gain from fighting racism. Racism destroys US/English culture. We must develop a new inclusive culture.
  11. Silence is collaboration. Regardless of colour, we have clear responsibility to stand up to injustice perpetrated against others.
  12. If we can recognise that we’ve done wrong to the environment and take measures to fix it, why can’t we do the same with race?
  13. White people should set antiracist example in all areas. Expose racism. Refuse to worship a white Jesus. Boycott racist companies.
  14. White people should be willing to follow, not lead, in antiracist struggle. Respect that others have deeper experience of issue.
  15. Reject the Eurocentrism of mainstream education and press. Actively explore non-European history and culture.

Read the book; it’s great. Very refreshing and healthy to hear a middle class white male recognising white privilege as a problem.

Personally, I agree with the contents of the book almost entirely, but as always, remember to read critically and develop your own view.

Get the book for £7.73 on Amazon UK

Excellent description of the con of racism (Tim Wise)

The notion of the white race found traction in the North American colonies, not because it described a clear scientific concept or some true historical bond between persons of European descent, but rather because the elites of the colonies (who were small in number but controlled the vast majority of colonial wealth) needed a way to secure their power. At the time, the wealthy landowners feared rebellions, in which poor European peasants might join with African slaves to overthrow aristocratic governance; after all, these poor Europeans were barely above the level of slaves themselves, especially if they worked as indentured servants.

From the mid-1600s to the early 1700s a series of laws were promulgated in Virginia and elsewhere, which elevated all persons of European descent, no matter how lowly in economic terms, above all persons of African descent. The purpose of such measures was to provide poor Europeans (increasingly called whites) with a stake in the system, even though they were hardly benefiting in material terms from it. In other words, whiteness was a trick, and it worked marvellously, dampening down the push for rebellion by poor whites on the basis of class interest, and encouraging them to cast their lot with the elite, if only in aspirational terms. White skin became, for them, an alternative form of property to which they could cleave, in the absence of more tangible possessions.

This divide-and-conquer tactic would be extended and refined in future generations as well. During the Civil War era, Southern elites made it quite clear that their reason for secession from the Union was the desire to maintain and extend the institution of slavery and white supremacy, which institutions they felt were threatened by the rise of Lincoln and the Republican Party. One might think that seceding and going to war to defend slavery would hardly meet with the approval of poor white folks, who didn’t own slaves. After all, if slaves can be made to work for free, any working-class white person who must charge for their labour will be undercut by slave labour and find it harder to make ends meet. Yet by convincing poor whites that their interests were racial, rather than economic, and that whites in the South had to band together to defend “their way of life”, elites in the South conned these same lower-caste Europeans into joining a destructive war effort that cost hundreds of thousands of their own lives.

Then, during the growth of the labour union movement, white union workers barred blacks from apprenticeship programs and unions because of racism, with the encouragement of owners and bosses who would use workers of colour to break white labour strikes for better wages and working conditions. By bringing in blacks and others of colour to break strikes, bosses counted on white workers to turn on those who replaced them, rather than turning on the bosses themselves. And indeed, this is what happened time and again, further elevating whiteness above class interest in the minds of European Americans.

The effectiveness of racist propaganda to unite whites around race, even if it meant overlooking economic interests, has been stunning. And while it would be nice to think that this kind of shortsighted mentality were a thing of the past, it appears to still maintain a grip on an awful lot of whites in the present day as well.

White Like Me cover

Return top