Archive for the ‘The State of Hip Hop’ Category

Hip-Hop-2014

The Story

Recently Nicki Minaj sought to return to her alma mater, Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Art and Performing Arts, to give an inspirational talk to the students. The Principal denied her request. Nicki tweeted about her disappointment over not being allowed to speak at the school. She stated that the school had changed her life and she wanted to inspire he current students there.2014 MTV Movie Awards - Arrivals

Naturally a social media backlash began as people spoke out about whether or not qualified as an “appropriate role model” that she speak to students. This same so this cussing came up when P. Diddy was scheduled to speak at Howard University’s commencement ceremony (add to that he was given an honorary degree that day as well).

The Problem

In true definition a role model is someone whose behavior, example, or success mirrors that to which others aspire. This means that a role model is not publicly elected not do they volunteer. They are those individuals who influence and inspire others through their own natural presence.

The problem is that we, as a society, have become so obnoxiously grandiose that we presume to be the authorities on everything. The power of social media has given a broader voice to those everyday citizens who twenty years ago may have never been heard. However, this access has deluded us into believing that just because we have an opinion it always matters concretely. I say this to say that while the public opinion (supposedly represented by the media) may have it’s opinions and thoughts on who should or should not be a role model, it really doesn’t make any difference. Individuals, people, and/or groups choose their role models and nothing anyone else has to say will change that.1035x684-seancombs-1800-1399907449

To deny a celebrity the opportunity to speak directly to the population for whom they are a role model is controlling and counterproductive. I think this is especially true when it comes to Hip Hop artists because they often occupy a controversial and contradictory space in society (not that they can help it as reality is controversial and contradictory). Giving them an opportunity outside of their art to speak to their fans and supporters would allow them to add dimension and clarification to their messages that may be confusing to younger audiences. And if nothing else it will allow them to see their role models outside of the cameras and lights and assess them with greater understanding.

The Point

The point is that I get so sick of popular opinion seeking to control and dictate people’s behavior and thoughts. The strength of that choke hold is growing everyday through opinion, ideology, and legislation. Little battles such as this one is where we are losing the war. We are so tunnel visioned and opinionated that we miss the big picture. The more we allow institutions and systems to appraise our individual value, regulate our behavior and dictate the spaces in which we allowed to move, the more we become commodities and not citizens; prisoners and not people.

 

I’m not sayin; I’m just sayin,

An Angry Black Man

Advertisements

20130920-132745.jpg

The Story

20140808-091959-33599840.jpg

You would have to be living under a rock to not hear about Lil Kim’s recent release of identity theft, which featured Nicki Minaj’s face on an ID with Kim’s name on it. Of course the Hip Hop illiterate media are screaming that Kim is renewing her beef with Nicki but what is actually happening is something deeper, bigger, and better.

Enter the Queens

Though the sex to which I belong is considered weak you will nevertheless find me a rock that bends to no wind
– Queen Elizabeth I

Nicki has been holding down the public face for the women of Hip Hop for past few years. It’s a throne to which she ascended without much challenge except for Lil Kim. Recently there were attempts of the media to push Iggy Azalea into the ring with Nicki, which have failed miserably as Iggy can’t even earn her credibility as an authentic member of the Hip Hop culture. So the only person who has come at and can come at Nicki is Kim…and Kim’s back.

Kim’s first attempts to protect her legacy were fairly weak and uncreative. After a lil while Kim faded back into shadows and Quenn Nicki kept the spotlight. To Kim’s credit she was not prepared for Nicki and worse she gravely underestimated Nicki. In truth, Kim has nothing to fear really. She’s put in her work, paid her dues. And her place in Hip Hop history is fixed: she is and always will be a Hip Hop Queen.

Philly Fourth Of July Jam

Lauryn Hill has been performing quite a bit recently and although she hasn’t dropped anything new and fans aren’t really impressed with her Soca mixed speed spitting renditions of the tracks from The Miseducation of Laurn Hill, she’s making her presence known and it won’t be surprising to her start dropping singles and or getting features to lead up to – we hope – another album. So there’s that.

Remy_DJ_Khaled

But Hip Hop heads in the know are also waiting to see what will come from the Bronx bred Remy Ma who has been released from her seven year prison stint. On August 1st Remy posted an “I’m back!!!” text gram on Instagram. The post was followed by photos of Remy sitting in the studio beside DJ Khaled. A few days later Khaled and Remy dropped “They Don’t Love You No More.” Remy’s hungry.

The Point

This is a mad exciting time for Hip Hop as the queens ante up to take own their respective place in the culture. So while the media is playing readership games flinging terms like beef and talking about which female is running Hip Hop, what we actually know is that even as they tussle for the reigning throne, they’re all queens and Hip Hop is better for them all representing Hip Hop women and dropping shit for the streets to bang to.

I’m not sayin; I’m just sayin,

An Angry Black Man

20130920-132745.jpg

The Story

In recent news it was announced that Maureen “Ma Dukes” Yancey, the mother of legendary Hip Hop producer J. Dilla has donated some of the late Dilla’s equipment to the Smithsonian to be included in the National Museum of African American History and Culture.

Dilla’s equipment will be part of the “Musical Crossroads” exhibition that will be opening in 2016. The exhibition will include collections form Chuck D, George Clinton, Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, and Chuck Berry.

Mainstream Dangers

While Dilla’s recognition and inclusion in the exhibit is a momentous one, it is also a sign that Hip Hop is, yet again, fortifying itself in American Music mainstream. For the 80’s babies who can remember when Rap music was public enemy #1 this is a sign of progress. But with progress comes new challenges.

“Once hip-hop culture is ubiquitous, it is also invisible. Once it’s everywhere, it is nowhere. What once offered resistance to mainstream culture (it was part of the larger tapestry, spooky-action style, but it pulled at the fabric) is now an integral part of the sullen dominant. Not to mention the obvious backlash conspiracy paranoia: Once all of black music is associated with hip-hop, then Those Who Wish to Squelch need only squelch one genre to effectively silence an entire cultural movement.”
– Questlove (The Roots)

Questlove makes a hugely intellectual and profound insight into the nature of mainstream assimilation. It is a truthful assessment that follows the vein of thought most thoroughly discussed by Frantz Fanon in Wretched of the Earth. It deals with what happens when a subculture is appropriated into the dominant culture. If this culture, like Hip Hop, is one of blatant and open resistance to the dominant culture then it runs the risk of being neutralized and rendered invisible as a space of revolution. There are some who believe this to be intentional and, as Questlove mentions, a method to herd the rebellion into a single space that can he more easily squelched.

Whether or not this assimilation is intentional and/or malicious it is definitely problematic. On regards to Hip Hop it brings into question agency, intention, and effectiveness. Some have come to see Hip Hop as simply a culture of art and as such possess only the primary intent to create art. Such a thought bastardizes the culture because it dismisses the importance of the social oppression and neglect that inspired Hip Hop’s founding fathers to reach for artistic mediums to convey their reality and challenge the forces that created the bleak prison in which they found themselves. Therefore, Hip Hop, at it’s roots, is as much about social justice, challenging the dominant culture, and revolution as it is about artistic creativity.

studio

The Point

In this case the challenge is to not allow Hip Hop to be neutralized and lose its edge as a medium for giving voice to the voiceless. The mainstream offers greater exposure and social acceptance but it also carries the danger of being consumed and discarded. Acceptance into the mainstream has allowed Hip Hop to become a global force that reaches far beyond the boundaries of the South Bronx. That’s fucking awesome! But what we in the culture must never forget is that:

When we revolt is not for a particular culture. We revolt simply because, for many reasons, we can no longer breathe.
– Frantz Fanom

Nonetheless Dilla’s inclusion in the Smithsonian is a worthwhile achievement and I am proud. RIP Dilla whatever comes of it, you deserve the honor. RESPECT.

 

I’m not sayin; I’m just sayin,

An Angry Black Man

20130920-132745.jpg

 

The Story

Ironically, I had heard the song but hadn’t paid much attention to Iggt Azalea. From listening to the song I expected it and the creator to fade into Rap oblivion too quickly to be worth the research. However, a few weekends ago I got into a discussion with a dude in my neighborhood, who is and indie rapper, and he says to me that Iggy Azalea is coming for Nicki Minaj’s spot. I bust out laughing and said “she can’t possibly. I don’t even know who the fuck that is.” He acts appalled and we rush over to my laptop and he pulls her up on YouTube. I can’t remember the first song he played but 30 seconds in I grabbed my drink and walked back to other side of the room. He stares waiting for my response and I ask “You like this shit??” He then adds that T.I. Is backing her (as if that means anything). I responded by saying “well shame on T.I.”

Keeping It Real

One of the major principles in Hip Hop is keeping it real. Hip Hop is a culture that was birthed from rebellion of inner city youth who were tired of being disregarded and lied to. Those youth challenged the society in which they lived and that status quo that oppressed them. Because of those forerunners Hip Hop has a legacy in truth telling that includes all aspects of life. If someone calls themselves a part of Hip Hop and gets caught fronting, it’s a serious offense.

On her single “Fancy,” Iggy Azalea raps “First things first. I’m the realest.” One does not simply make a statement like this and not expect to be investigated. But to add to the call for question is a line from Iggy’s song “D.R.U.G.S.” In which Iggy says “When the relay starts. I’m a runaway slave master.” Female rapper Azealia Banks took issue with the line tweeting:

I’m not anti white girl, but I’m also not here for any1 outside my culture trying to trivialize very serious aspects of it.
– Azealia Banks

Regardless of how Hip Hop Iggy may consider herself slavery pins from a White person is not only distasteful but appalling. Such carelessness makes one question how authentically Hip Hop she can be if she cannot understand and respect the deep connection between Hip Hop and Black culture that make such a reference more offensive than witty. The final stroke that most definitely brings Iggy to the chopping block of Hip Hop authenticity is the media hype that she is a contender for Nicki Minaj’s spot.

Iggy and Nicki

For the past few years Nicki Minaj has been the major mainstream representation for female rappers. That is not to say she has been the only female rapper making music, but she has one of the few to see large mainstream success and celebrity. When Nicki first hit the mainstream there were many comparisons between her and Lil Kim. The public discussion and fans and Hip Hop heads taking sides pitted the two against one another. The end result was a few studio disses and terse interview statements. However the two have now settled into their respective spaces and have their individual fan followings.iggy-azalea-nicki-minaj-mercy-remix-507x397

Enter Iggy Azalea. With her single “Fancy,” media attention, and the backing of T.I. (a respected established rapper) Iggy Azalea is beginning to contend with Nicki Minaj in terms of publicity and attention. The major concerns with Iggy are that she’s an Australian White girl who sounds Black. Her persona and the content of her material has left many Hip Hop heads questioning her authenticity, which is serious in the world of Hip Hop. Nicki Minaj recently made an offhanded reference to the fact that despite the popularity of “Fancy” and Iggy’s self proclaimed realness, she doesn’t have a writing credit on the song. Rumors have swarmed that it is possible that T.I. Is writing for her. THAT would be the nail in the coffin that would bury Iggy in the Hip Hop graveyard for posers.

The Point

The media favors Iggy – for some reason – and continue to defend her place as the new Nicki; however, the Hip Hop community who is and will always be the final jury still has their doubts. Personally, I can’t willingly sit through a whole song and when the visual is added I’m more repulsed than intrigued. Iggy Azalea may sell records and gain media attention but from the evidence I’ve seen she is little more than a gimmick for T.I. to make money.

I’m not sayin; I’m just sayin,

An Angry Black Man

20131115-080629.jpg

This series seeks to help create a body of resistance literature that will chronicle the collective radicalization of a Black Masculinity movement that seeks to decolonize our minds and invent identities, in resistance, that transcend stereotypes. We will speak up and force the world to deal with us. Let the Black Masculinity movement begin.

The Story

I have recently been placing a lot of thought into what some would consider the feminist thoughts of Black women and the implications they held for Black men. I particularly explored 2 interesting videos by Black women that were very provocative but made powerful statements on a number of levels: Erykah Badu’s “Window Seat” and Nicki Minaj’s “Lookin Ass Niggas.” regardless of how anyone felt about either video, it was clear that these visual images along with their lyrical content made powerful statements that elicited a myriad of responses. For Black men, I think, there is a powerful statement being made in regards to Black female sexuality that should be explored.

Isis

Isis

Badu and Minaj

In watching Badu’s walking the street of downtown Dallas, Texas slowly undressing, part of me was just waiting to see if she was going to actually go all the way nude. But by the time she does and is shot down in the video closing the video with a short monologue stating:

They play it safe, are quick to assassinate what they do not understand. They move in packs ingesting more and more fear with every act of hate on one another. They feel most comfortable in groups, less guilt to swallow. They are us. This is what we have become. Afraid to respect the individual. A single person within a circumstance can move one to change. To love herself. To evolve.

-Eyrkah Badu

I found my arousal to be more intellectual than sexual. My first thought was ‘what the fuck does that mean?’ I then jumped on YouTube to watch the video again and take in the lyrics and the images that were being depicted. After the second view I was smiling and nodding because I respected the bold statement. On third view I was throwing my fist in the air because Badu, as only she can, had inspired thought, challenged the status quo, made a poetic and socially conscious stratement boldly and artistically. Badu’s statement – no doubt – incited Dallas officials to take legal action against her because the guerilla filming sought no approval from the city for its filming and her nudity threatened the integrity of the city and its ability to protect its citizens from nudity (lol).

Nicki Minaj who is one of the few female Hip Hop artists with mainstream visibility. I found Nicki’s Lookin Ass Niggas single to be fascinating. Especially when analyzed in conjunction with the video. Here is Nicki, scantily clad, sensually posed, and sexually alluring. However, the content of the song contrasts with what the visual images might normally suggest to a man. Even while Nicki stares coyly at the camera she tells her male onlookers to “stop lookin at my ass ass niggas” while arching her back so her ass is looking at you (whether you look back or not). Nicki let’s it be known that she is not going to forgo her sensuality or shroud her body to not be objectified by a man; she’s just not going to be objectified. Her sensuality/sexuality is not for make consumption.

The Problem

One of the most poignant comments that I have heard made me really ponder my thoughts about Black women and the appeal/sexual desire for Black women. It was when Erykah Badu — in response to the criticism of her Window Seat video said:

People are uncomfortable with sexuality that is not for male consumption

– Erykah Badu

So perhaps the problem was not integrity but some flaw in the patriarchal way that we view the female body and the contexts in which we allow it to occur publicly. Badu’s statement was such a powerful one  because it made me clear that the mainstream of American society is more accepting of nudity/sensuality when it is grounded in lust. One needs to look no further than popular television to see the growing trend of full female frontals and male backsides (that would have been taboo a decade ago) to see that we have become more liberal in our censorship and in what we consider improper. However, the country goes into an uproar when say Janet Jackson’s nipple is accidentally exposed during a performance or when a female music artists don outfits that look like lingerie or when a singer goes nude in a video to make an artistic statement. E. Badu is definitely onto something, especially in considering the Black female body.

The Point

When I truly consider the statement that Badu made, it really opens a window of consciousness of which I had previously been unaware. I had never considered the thought that a woman could wear something sexy and revealing and it not be for the attention of men. In true patriarchal fashion I never thought twice about this. Now that is not to be confused with the thought that some people (make and female) have in believing a woman is asking to be raped, harassed, groped, or grabbed because of what she’s wearing. I’ve never thought that but what makes sexism so sinister is that like other oppressive forms of thinking it situated itself in your consciousness in a way that tells you that it is “normal” and “truthful” and, therefore, okay to think and there’s no need to question it.

The Black female body is not an object to be consumed nor is her sensuality/sexuality a commodity to be possessed. These things are an extension of her identity and are shared at her discretion. No man (or person for that matter) should think themselves entitled to or worthy of that gift. If she wants you to have it, she’ll let you know (“nigga nigga”).

 

I’m not sayin; I’m just sayin,

An Angry Black Man

 

20130920-132745.jpg

 

Background

Los aka King Los is one of the most respected rappers in the game right now. Los has been doing his thing since his signed on with Diddy in 2005 and after the deal fell through he signed on again in 2012. Recently Los announced that he was again leaving Bad Boy Records.

Despite not releasing a Bad Boy album, Los released a number of mixtapes that received critical acclaim. Since his last announced split from Bad Boy, Los has dropped Zero Gravity II. So let’s dig in…

King_Los_Zero_Gravity_2-front-large

This album is dark and brooding without becoming depressing. What I think what saves the feel of this album from being too somber like say Kid Cudi’s Man on the Moon (which I actually dig the album but it’s so emotional and dark that I often can’t listen to it all the way through without attempting suicide) is that Los’ signature flow and lyricism brings an energy to even the slower tracks. So it doesn’t feel like the album drags or becomes stagnant even though Los is somewhat bearing himself in the content.

Track Review

Track 1. Creator
Ft. JS
Produced by Dot N Pro

The opening track sets the stage for what follows on the rest of the mixtape. The haunting production gives the feeling of anticipation and suspension. And the song opens with these lyrics being sung:

Why would you create this King in me?

It puts so much responsibility on me

How did I get here?

Creator of the wind and the stars, the heavens and mars

Everything there is to be

Creator why are you so bad to me

Los comes in spitting about the struggle to survive the world you’re created in and the yearning to change that world.

Surpassing the passive with passion

Clashing with hopeless niggas

My hopes is to show ’em focus and growth

They expose the sickness of seeing flashing lights

Taking heed to this bad addvice

You know demons attack at night

I been dreamin in black and white

Due to lack of a true emotion

From things that I’ve sacrificed

In my past

But movin’ past it is bringing me back to life

For real Los?? On the very first track we’re reminded of why this dude gets the respect he gets. This track ends with a clip of a newscaster discussing the high murder rate of Baltimore, Maryland (Los’ hometown).

Track 2. Don’t Get In My Way
Ft. Royce Da 5’9″ & Shanica Knowles
Produced by Dot N Pro

This track opens with another news report discussing Garrett Smith, a Baltimore drug kingpin who made tens of millions of dollars before being caught. On this track Los sets the background for the man he is by describing the world he grew up in Baltimore.

Track 3. Woke Up Like This
Produced by Hunter Bressan

This track follows up the last with more tales of trapping, clubbing, and sexing.

Fell asleep trapping

Woke to the bread

Track 4. Trap House
Produced by Dot N Pro

This track begins Los’ chronicling of the decline of a trap career. He spits about his homies ended up in the feds. The track ends with a skit describing the closing of prison cell doors as you go to jail.

Track 5. Only Nigga Left
Produced by Dot n Pro

Ont his track Los reminisces about the ballers who inspired the young men in his neighborhood to get in the drug game. The most interesting about this track is that Los is rapping about the lack of connection in all of the communities he experienced whether it was other ballers  in the game, people at church, or those who work their 9-to-5s.

You oughta thank God he favored you niggas

That’s right, I serve God nigga

They ain’t gon’ teach you that on World Star, nigga

They curb y’all niggas by giving you the worst of the worst

It’s life in the words to this verse

The track ends with a clip of Sway for Sway in The Morning praising Los on his 5 Fingers of Death freestyle challenge. Sway compared Los to the greats and justifies that by having been close and been in the presence of lyrical greatness “I know what it feels like,” Sway proclaims.

Track 6. Everybody Ain’t Kings
Ft. Kobe and Devin Cruise
Produced by Peter Pan

This, right now, is my favorite track on this mixtape. The track samples Vickie Sue Robinson’s 1976 disco hit “Turn The Beat Around” and in that way feels like old school Hip Hop production. Here Los declares his royalty as a king of Hip Hop – hence the revision of his moniker to King Los.

We don’t do the same things

Everybody ain’t kings

Bow down kiss the ring

Fuck nigga bow down kiss the ring

Casuse everybody ain’t kings

Y’all ain’t fuckin wit me

Los’ flow on this track is quick, smooth, and strong like a running waterfall and the energy of the beat makes a smooth transition from the hard trap tracks that come before into the mellow tracks to come. this track ends with a clip from Muhammad Ali’s interview before his famous 1974 boxing match against George Foreman where in 8 rounds, Ali reclaims his heavyweight champion title by a knockout.

Track 7. But You Playin
Ft. Mario and Lola Monroe
Produced by Devin Cruise

This track is more of an interlude as it features Los’ girlfriend/baby mother, Lola Monroe who was once affiliated with the Black Taylor Gang group of rappers. Lola was also a nominee for BET’s 2011 Best Hip Hop Female award. Marion comes in crooning on the hook before Lola rips it in a minute and a half.

This could be us but you lying like you don’t know me

And you won’t know

if you keep on

Keep doing

your own shit

grown shit

Sincerely yours

the wrong bitch

To sleep on

The track opens with Los asking to see the girl but she saying that she’s going to the club with her girlfriends.

Track 8. Fuck The Club
Ft. Lil Al B
Produced by King Los, Polo Bandit, and Peter Pan

This song piggy backs of the last outro with Los telling his girl, “fuck the club, I’m on my way to you.” This is clearly the sexy track for the lovers. I actually really like this song as well. It ends with a clip from The Pursuit of Happyness where Will Smith’s character is telling his son to protect his dreams and go out and get what he wants.

Track 9. I Don’t Give A Fuck
Produced by Peter Pan

At this point the mixtape takes a darker more melancholy tone as Los opens up about his feelings of being disconnected from trusting connections with other people since entering the rap game.

Said I been down and out

I been through the rain

I been hurt so long

I can’t feel the pain

Los pulls from his poetic roots on this one. The song is dark and yearning. As the beat comes in Los’ quick flowing lyricism keeps the song from dragging or becoming to weighed down. Each verse starts off in first gear and builds, then slides  into a sing-song bridge and jumps into the aggressive hook where Los loudly declares, “I don’t give a fuck!”

Track 10. All On Me
Produced by Hunter Bressan and Peter Pan

This track continues Los’ determination to grind and be number one even if he has to do it alone. This song resolves Los’ earlier melancholy moment of feeling deserted by friends. Here Los resolves that it’s up to him to get what he wants and he can’t worry about whether or not anyone else supports him. The track ends with a comical skit where Los’ uncle is calling him from prison to ask for money.

Track 11. Hard Time
Ft. Kobe, Mark Battles, and Shanica Knowles
Produced by Devin Cruise

This track continues the theme of grinding with no help.

Track 12. Play Too Rough
Produced by J. Oliver

This track seems to end the conceptual material on the mixtape. Los closes out by affirming that he is the man he is because of what he’s endured in life (which he’s shared through the previous tracks).

Dangerous

The shit we been given ain’t enough

That’s why we bang, slang cane and stuff

And when we bang and aim, you duck

Los makes it clear the reason why he’s made it to be king because he’s from the streets, he’s survived the streets and dragged himself out the streets through a rough grind.

That’s why I play too rough, play too rough

I done seen Demons attack and Angels rush

Ruptured spleen, I ain’t the sickest?

My nigga the fuck you mean?

King

King_Los_Zero_Gravity_2-back-large

Wrap Up

Los includes some of his better freestyle moments and interspersed are a few more tracks including “Do Something” which features Los’ production debut and the last track, “Bar Mitzvah,” where Los makes it clear to all the other rappers out there who may try to come for his crown that he’s prepared to protect it. The mixtape has been cited for its eclectic production and content. In response Los stated:

“I wanted to revisit the hunger I started with, while sonically capturing the story telling aspect and to always lyrically stimulate but really master the art of creating music, while not compromising who I am as an artist”

– King Los

One can’t help but admire Los confidence and his grind and no one can dispute that kid got bars. This mixtape is definitely up to par with what we have come to expect from Los. This mixtape is a solid body of work that you can listen all the way through from track 1 and never get tired. To Los, RESPECT.

I’m not sayin; I’m just sayin,

An Angry Black Man

20130920-132745.jpg

 

The Story

According to Lorne manly of the New York Times, other have been more than three dozen prosecutions in United States courts that have admitted or made reference to rap lyrics in order to secure a conviction. Most, if not all of these cases tend to have some asinine accusations resulting from the use of violent rap lyrics. The conversation surrounding the use of rap lyrics as criminal evidence is whether or not the lyrics reflect the reality of the rapper or whether rap music is an artistic expression in which the creators, like literary authors,  are not to be assumed as directly related to any of the stories that they tell.

Rashee Beasley

Rashee Beasley

Jamal Knox

Jamal Knox

Jamal Knox and Rashee Beasley

Last month in Pittsburg, two amateur rappers were arrested on charges of threatening police, intimidating witnesses, and terrorist threats for a rap video that they released…wait for it…on Youtube. Police who had formerly arrested and/or engaged the two young men claimed that the Knox and Beasley’s lyrics were directed towards them. An example of some of the lyrics used in the song are, “Let’s kill these cops ’cause they don’t do us no good. Pulling your Glock, oh ’cause I live in the hood.” Both young men were sentenced to 1 to 3 years for their rap video.

Vonte Skinner

Vonte Skinner

Vonte Skinner

In New Jersey, Vonte Skinner who is accused of attempted murder had his rap lrics used in his trial. The Prosecutor read 13 pages of rap lyrics that Skinner had wrote 3 or 4 years prior to the incident in question. The prosecutors have stated that the rap lyrics were not the overwhelming evidence that was being used to convict Skinner. However, Skinner’s attorneys argue that the admission of his rap lyrics was a tool of the prosecution to prejudice the jury in regards to Skinner’s character and propensity to commit the crime in question. Skinner’s conviction was overturned in a 2 to 1 ruling of an appellate court that concluded that the use of prior written rap lyrics was similar to admitted evidence of prior committed crimes which is held under strict scrutiny as to when and how such evidence can be used in court. The court declared that rap lyrics must be used with similar caution when they are used as evidence. The case has been taken to the Supreme Court for final judgment.

Antwain Steward

Antwain Steward aka Twain Gotti

Antwain Steward aka Twain Gotti

This month a young rapper, Antwain Steward,who uses the stage name Twain Gotti, was arrested on two counts of murder for a crime that happened four years. A murder case that was closed unsolved in 2007 for lack of evidence and/or leads was reopened last year when Steward released a Youtube video of a song that Police officers assert served as Steward’s admission of the crime through his boastful, violent lyrics that made reference to having gotten away with a murder. Steward will be going to trial in Virginia in May. Steward’s case has gained to the attention of a number of individuals who have concerns about the precedences that courts are setting by allowing rap lyrics to serve as evidence and in Steward’s case a confession.

The Problem

The major problem is that this kind of prosecution perverts the First Amendment, in which we are guaranteed freedom of expression. Prosecutors state that their use of rap lyrics as criminal evidence does not prevent rappers from writing. This is true; however, if that information can be used against them, then that negates the protection of the First Amendment. The reason that police officers must read individuals their Miranda rights is because at that point the individual is being taken into custody due to the probability of them having committed a crime. A person in custody does not have the same rights as a citizen who is not suspected of criminal activity, therefore they are warned that anything they say can and will be used against them. If the suggestion is that we should all walk around using this kind of caution in our speech and expression, then we are all always in custody. That sounds like oppression if not slavery.

The Point

The ACLU has submitted a brief to the Supreme Court to urge them to tighten the requirements for the admission of rap lyrics as trial evidence. The ACLU’s ultimate stance is that rap lyrics should be covered under the First Amendment of the Constitution, which guarantees freedom of speech.

Our point is there should be heightened scrutiny

– Ezra D. Rosenberg, ACLU

The government has been slowly expanding its power to control, manipulate, dictate, and disregard the Constitutional rights of American citizens. Whether or not we like gangster rap or oppose the use of violent lyrics, this is much deeper than that and the effects will be felt more broadly than just the Hip Hop culture. If the government can pick and choose song lyrics and Youtube videos as a smoking gun to convict us of crimes, then we better begin to watch what we post on Facebook, Instagram, Vine, and any other social media outlet. If there’s a gun found in rap lyrics, the only smoke that it has was planted by the prejudice of the court. It’s becoming apparent that when the police are looking for a suspect and the courts are looking for a conviction, Freedom of Speech is an expendable privilege.

Im not sayin; Im Just Sayin,

An Angry Black Man