October 15, 2010
Now that the smoke has cleared and the hype has died down, I think that this is an opportune time to analyze Wyclef Jean’s attempt at becoming the President of Haiti, specifically through the prism of Hiphop culture and the repeated attempts by many persons and organizations, at fusing it with politics. In the days following Wyclef’s announcement, I took to the streets of Brooklyn in order to gauge the reaction. While there was an almost universal approval among the youth or rather those who are a part of or influenced by Hiphop culture, and most foreigners, of Wyclef’s decision to run, older members of the Haitian population were a bit more reserved and took more of a wait and see approach to his potential candidacy.
The universal factor in the older population’s perspective regarding Wyclef’s presidential announcement, was that the older generation of Haitians who KNEW about and followed Haitian politics and politics in general, were not easily swayed by Wyclef’s popularity and celebrity, while the younger generation, who DID NOT follow politics, were. This fact seemed to be a microcosm, of the problem, with fusing Hiphop and Politics in general. Although that problem, being easily swayed by a candidate’s celebrity, at the expense of other factors used in determining a candidate’s political acumen and eventual effectiveness, ranges across all demographic lines.
After an initial period of massive publicity, where we saw Wyclef officially announce his candidacy on CNN, garner coverage with a variety of outlets including Time Magazine, and gain front page status on the cover of prominent New York newspapers such as Caribbean Life and Amsterdam News, Wyclef was ultimately disqualified, and prevented from running for the post of President. He was deemed ineligible, due to the fact that he was in violation of a provision found within the Haitian Constitution, which requires that candidates for President, have lived and maintained a residence in Haiti, prior to them running, for 5 years.
After much back and forth, including reports of him going into hiding after receiving death threats, and a meeting with Haitian president Rene Preval, the decision by the CEP, the Haitian Election Commission, to decline Wyclef’s candidacy, was upheld. He subsequently released a song entitled, “Prizon pou K.E.P.A.” in which he accused the President of Haiti of betraying him. The disqualification of Wyclef, brought considerable scrutiny to The CEP. For many, The CEP, one of the over 8,000 NGOS (Non-governmental organizations) operating in Haiti, is being held up as an example of the fraudulent nature and ineptness of the Haitian government, and is said to be controlled by and funded by foreign interests, specifically France.
Many of the reports in the American media covering Wyclef, portrayed him as being cut from the same cloth as former President Jean Bertrand Aristide, particularly in regards to his popularity among the masses, and his connection to the youth of Haiti through Hiphop. However, after he was disqualified there was NO protest by the masses, or youth for that matter. In addition, these profiles amounted to nothing more than fluff pieces, as they would fail to articulate, in detail, any vision or plans that Wyclef had for Haiti. If not to provide an objective analysis of his platform and scrutiny of his qualifications, a process that should be expected of any Presidential candidate, the question remains, why was Wyclef given so much publicity in the first place?
Now of course, the assessment of a Presidential candidate’s qualifications is SOMEWHAT of an objective process, however, skills, such as critical thinking, policy analysis, coalition building, and the ability to express themselves coherently through the spoken and or written word, which theoretically could be applied to the task of the Presidency, CAN be measured. Those who are in and observe politics know this. Granted, as one who has followed Haitian politics and also written on Hiphop as a political tool including the THESIS written in requirement for my Master’s Degree in Political Science, my analysis is a bit more refined. However, I was mystified at how people would just automatically assume that because Wyclef was popular and on TV, that he was qualified to be president.
This sentiment was especially vexing coming from my American friends, those who had fervently demanded that President Barak Obama become president, primarily because of his QUALIFICATIONS, both quantifiable, i.e. Harvard educated and qualitative, e.g. he had a “Presidential” presence and demeanor. Among my American friends, one actually said that Wyclef would be president and that his former security guard BEAST would be head of security. I couldn’t help but think that the calls for Wyclef to become President were not based on any informed assessment of his qualifications, but rather based on an underlying sentiment that stated basically that, “Haiti is already messed up how much worse could he do?”
It's interesting to note that although he accused the President and Intellectuals of Haiti of discriminating against him, Wyclef has been careful not to name the proverbial “Man” , or accuse any foreign influences as being the reason why he was disqualified. To be quite honest, this same “man” put Wyclef on the Grammy’s, on Television and allowed him to announce his candidacy on CNN and publicize his campaign in Time Magazine. Basically, this same “MAN”, MADE him, and extended his career far beyond relevancy. Moreover, the same President of Haiti, who he accused of betraying him ,appointed him to an Ambassador At Large position,.
For many, Wyclef’s candidacy and ultimately a presidency would have been ideal, as theoretically, it would have placed a continued spotlight on Haiti and consequently its problems. However, this line of thinking, places priority on the key to solving Haiti’s problems being celebrity involvement and charity, and not on internally developed solutions, which a President of a country regardless of if they’re on TV or not, should be able to Prove himself or develop a team who will. And Wyclef, who has had extensive, almost SIGNULAR access to the American mass media for quite some time, has rarely been able to do just that. Even for the short time where his candidacy was being considered, his attempts at programmatically disseminating plans for Haiti, rarely moved beyond vague generalizations such as, “…. the Haitian diaspora should be involved in the reconstruction process, and granted dual citizenship”, or that, “…Haiti needs investment.”
Despite the fact he has been an entertainer for over 15 years, Wyclef had never fervently advocated for the increased political involvement of Haiti’s Diaspora. That is because the nebulous position that most diasporic Haitians hold, specifically having no voting rights within Haiti, despite sending upwards of a billion dollars to Haiti, has always been advantageous for those in Haiti who are able to maintain citizenship in or do business there, while also living in and taking advantage of the economic opportunities that present themselves in America, something that Wyclef’s celebrity afforded him the opportunity to do, unlike those who are subject to or afraid of Haiti’s Political turmoil cannot. Most of Haiti’s middle class and most educated stratum are located outside of Haiti, so those who are able to have one foot in both worlds, have benefited from the lack of competition, which dual citizenship would create.
Wyclef Jean rose to fame in the Haitian community on the heels of and in large part due to, those persons who also supported the Lavalas Movement of former President Jean Bertrand Aristide. When President Aristide was restored to power, with the help of President Clinton, in 1994, after having been given a Coup D’etat in 1991, these same persons also became huge supporters of Bill and Hillary Clinton and formed a powerful Bloc within the Democratic party, through organizations such as New York labor union SEIU local 1199, where current White House Political Director Patrick Gaspard used to serve as its Executive Vice President for Politics and Legislation.
Since the time of President Aristide’s return there seems to have developed a loosely knit almost clandestine network of organizations establishing a direct line with The Haitian Government and both The Democratic Party and The Congressional Black Caucus, that exists to steer the policy and ultimately destiny of Haiti as it relates to The United States of America. Indeed many believe that the Clintons and The Congressional Black Caucus have benefited greatly, both from the lobbying money and business opportunities that being involved in Haiti, provides and Wyclef Jean is central in this mix. Some would argue because of this, Wyclef is too aligned with the Democratic Party and Bill Clinton to have any independent thought regarding Haiti something that you theoretically would require from a Haitian president.
Moreover, because of his pseudo protest nature of his songs, Wyclef, like President Jean Bertrand Aristide, has maintained a great deal of support with members of the so called Progressive and Radical Left, who like to project their revolutionary rhetoric on Haiti. However, it is well documented that Wyclef is close associate of Michel Martelly a.k.a Sweet Mickey, also an entertainer, current presidential candidate, vaunted Aristide opponent and openly aligned with the so-called elite of Haiti. Sweet Mickey and Wyclef were OPEN supporters of the coup of President Aristide of 2004, a fact that makes two important points.
The first one, is that President Aristide’s support was fractured for a long time and he did not enjoy the unmitigated support akin tom the period of his initial rise to power of 1990, something that the Left always fail to acknowledge. Or maybe they just don’t know. In addition, in the case of Wyclef, it could be the case that his entrance into a different class stratum in Haiti , which his wealth and political connections would logically provide him with, trumped any type of impulses that he might have to lace his music with any sort of fervent activist sentiment, or references to CLASS and income inequality as it relates to Haiti., that could have been acted act on politically. Perhaps he felt as that the love for him among the masses was so strongly entrenched with that he could do that. The point is, these are nuances that should be central in any analysis of Haiti and far too often is sorely lacking when there is any discussion of the Politics of Haiti, and consequently any analysis of Wyclef’s run for President.
Wyclef has always been Political, in the sense where, people, have always projected their desires on him. And at each step, Wyclef has played up to that At the height of his career, Wyclef was to be the new version of Bob Marley. Urging the Radical Left’s fantasies of Anti capitalism and Third World revolution, with Haiti, The First Black Independent Country in the Western Hemisphere as the Backdrop. His name has been linked, as producer or as performer, to revolutionary rhetorical films based in Haiti, such as Ghosts of Cité Soleil and The Agronomist. both films about figures who CHALLENGED the Enemy…as defined by the LEFT. Whether it is, PAPA DOC or Anti Aristide Forces.
But Wyclef himself has understood whether through experience or observation hat the reality is more complex than that. And now, in the era of Obama, Wyclef is trying to make yet another transition into leader of a nation, because political symbolism in the form of dreads and pseudo-protest songs is not the same as governance and policy formation. In The Time article Wyclef says that he can get the bourgeoisie and people together. That may be so…But to tell them to do what? In my opinion the fact that at the height of his popularity he did not establish any sort of mechanism in the interest of Haitian artists and his own organization or in fact a political lobbying entity proves that he didn’t have the political knowledge or foresight to become President of Haiti.
Ignorance of the governmental process and politics in general, be it local, national or international, is the most dangerous factor in the use of Hiphop culture as a political tool. The way it (the marriage of Hiphop and Politics) currently functions, instead of it being the culture of Hiphop, it is actually the CELEBRITY of Hiphop and its artists, that is being used to influence the masses to get involved in politics, however minimally, or perhaps the overemphasis on celebrity as opposed to issues and grassroots organizing, is done in order to put up a smoke screen, used to mask other important issues.
We have seen this effect, the galvanizing of the youth through Hiphop celebrity without sustained political involvement or development of an agenda, in various instances, such as with Russell Simmons’ Hiphop Summit Action Network and their various campaigns, where for example, voter registration is discussed as it pertains to Politics, but no actual policy in relation to the Hiphop generation, has yet been developed. Getting someone to register to vote and some scattered effects on Policy with governance. And just because they sounded hot at the rally doesn’t mean they should be President.
July 24, 2010
This picture of Kanye West and Lebron James was taken right after Lebron’s hour long special on ESPN where he announced his decision to leave the Cleveland Cavaliers and sign with the Miami Heat. In Hiphop parlance, what Lebron James did would be considered a “POWER MOVE.” Not only because he left his Hometown of Cleveland, where he was an icon, but more so because of his chosen destination of Miami, where he will join a team which includes Dwayne Wade, a superstar in his own right.
Lebron’s decision, and its professional ramifications, coupled with the fact that it was orchestrated in part by elite players, who leveraged their talent in a way never before seen in NBA history, illustrated a type of maneuvering rarely executed by and among Black athletes in America, WHILE ACTIVELY PLAYING or otherwise for that matter. But this Picture of Lebron and Kanye, whose song Power, (which I’m sure by now everyone has heard), made me think of Lebron’s POWER MOVE within the context of Hiphop itself and its ramifications for the society at large.
Make no mistake Lebron is a Hiphop head. One of the few B-ball players to receive a certified cultural Hiphop co-sign, in the tradition of Shaq and A.I. From doing the “Kid N Play 2 step”, to grabbing the mic at his birthday party, to choppin it up on a consistent basis with Jay-Z, Hiphop culture is the muse and template for his NBA career. His desire to be a billionaire, are aspirations by Hiphop culture more than anything else. Even though he declined to join Jay-Z and The Brooklyn Nets, his photo with Kanye West let you know, that his decision was informed in part by his aspirations as seen through the lens of Hiphop culture. Lebron wants Billions, AND glory. In otherwords, he wants it all….and what’s more Hiphop than that?
I first visited Miami a.k.a. South Florida (most Haitians call all of Florida MAYAMI) on some party shit in 1999. A lot of my fam had been moving there and this was my first visit since they did. I linked my Brooklyn cousins who were staying in Fort Lauderdale. A former Flatbush, Brooklyn resident, he told me about and took me to two parties. “Top Shotta” Fridays at Club Crystal and “Rockers Island” (an obvious play on New York’s Riker’s Island” jail) at Club Amnesia. Both parties were located at this spot in the city called South Beach. I wasn’t really feeling the South Beach vibe, but the parties and the play list on the radio, as it was the beginning of uniformity of play lists across regions, fortified the notion that my cousin and others had been telling me which was that Miami, had many similarities at least culturally, to New York, mainly ethnic diversity. Two incidents in particular, while on that trip showed me this fact even further.
The first one happened on our way home from South Beach after one of the parties. We heard a song by someone who sounded to us like Master P. We actually thought it WAS Master P. The MC in the song had a line about, “ ….you don’t know no Nigga with more Polo gear than me, girl.” Me being a LO head from Brooklyn, I found this statement highly amusing. At the time, I couldn’t fathom a dude from Miami, who sounded like he just left the plantation, could have more Polo gear than me. On the heels of the mainstream success of Master P and Cash Money, “ Nann Nigga” by Trick Daddy became the song from The South, which broke through in NY. Funk Flex, who was at the Miami Superbowl in Jan 1999, started pumping it hard upon his return, effectively beginning the process, from a GRASSROOTS LEVEL of The South’s dominance across all regions.
The second experience that I had happened while we were helping a friend of my Aunt’s, move. I was chopping it up with a real dark skinned dude with dreads and a deep southern drawl,. When he turned around to speak with my aunt, he began speaking flawless Haitian Creole. I was amazed. Little did I know that dark skin dreads who spoke Creole had a bit of a rep in Miami.
The cultural evolution, which I had been apart of in New York, I could see also occurring in Miami, at least musically. In other words, I knew that, Dancehall would soon have to be a staple of Urban Radio Play lists. This might have happened eventually in Miami BEFORE New York. While I knew and saw that a Hybrid combination of Hiphop and Dancehall was LONG overdue. The closest thing to this cultural evolution I have seen being ACKNOWLEDGED and MARKETED, is the development of Reggaeton, a hybrid of Hiphop and Dancehall, which was easily marketed as indigenous to the Hispanic community, through the vast network of Spanish speaking radio and television stations. This happened AFTER the dancehall mainstream explosion of the mid 2000s. Miami was the backdrop of many a Reggaeton video. The question is, if the Hispanic community was able to develop a Hybrid of Hiphop and Dancehall, would not the creators of both cultures…people of African decent have been able to do the same?
The new Damian Marley and Nas album “Distant Relatives” displays that cultural evolutionary consciousness which was exhibited by the marketing of Reggaeton . Distant Relatives is conscious, in the sense that, it was executed with a concerted effort to combine both art forms. While a great album indeed, it is lacking in impact, on an audience which has been exposed to both art forms and various hybrids thereof for 10 years on the mainstream level and internally within the community of African descent for much longer.
Listen to this audio clip of Brooklyn, New York Dancehall Soundsystem King Addies. King Addies was the first sound to play The Fugees on dubplate (specialized versions of songs tailored for specific soundsystems) in 1996. At a time where The Fugees were beginning their ascent and King Addies was at their peak of popularity within the indigenous Brooklyn Dancehall community. King Addies is widely credited with being perhaps the soundsystem to break open the permanant acceptance of Hiphop within Dancheall
This 1998 clip of King Addies at South Beach’s Club Amnesia’s party ‘Rockers Island” demonstrates EXACTLY how this process (cultural evolution) is facilitated or at Least accelerated THROUGH MUSIC. Listen to the shoutouts and play close attention to the featuring of the “Showtime” riddim (beat) . The SHOWTIME riddim, with its audio representation of the Brooklyn partygoer chant “Hey… Hey…. Hey”, has since found its way unto many Hiphop and Dancehall songs since. You thought “No Games” by Serani was the first song with it? Side note: Tony Matterhorn was also at this dance playing with sound system Renaissance. It is a well known, that Miami was the launching pad for Matterhorn’s solo career, after he left King Addies.
The same year that I went to visit my cousin, I came to Florida again, Columbus Day weekend, as an intern with The How Can I B down music conference. How Can I Be Down was an annual music conference, which had been held in Miami since the early 1990s. While I was at the Radisson working at the How Can I B down conference, activities associated with The Miami Carnival, mainly a concert featuring which was the hottest Soca group at the time, Square One, was also taking place. It wasn’t lost to me that many of my cultural influences and business aspirations had collided. How Can I be Down and its predecessor Jack the Rapper, were known for beefs Between Death Row and Luke and other wholesome family activities. By the late 1990s, South Beach became the stomping ground of many major label Hiphop stars and by 2001, would be home to the annual gathering of Hiphop heads every Memorial day weekend, now known as Urban Beach Weekend.
During the process of starting my own label, my economic and business awareness has grown, and I have come to view Miami not only as a cultural hub and destination, but in practice, a microcosm of the purchase power of The Hiphop generation of African descent and their ability and lack therof to effect change, on their behalf. Urban Beach Weekend, which since 2001 has attracted upwards of 350,000 people to South Beach, every Memorial Day, began as an informal gathering, and was NOT welcomed by the businesses and residents of South Beach. However, due to the WILL of the people, Urban Beach Weekend is TOLERATED, mainly due to the business that it brings, similar to Hiphop itself.
But participants of Urban Beach Weekend have been exploited and discriminated against. Check out this article by Uncle Luke talking about how during Urban Beach Weekend and how, the businesses at South Beach routinely elevate their prices, a process known as price gouging. And of course as the number of participants has grown so has the number of incidents of Police Brutality and misconduct.
But this is a situation, which Hiphop participants are used to. Not only because of the fact that they are residents of inner city communities, but also because Hiphop has in effect been under surveillance by law enforcement in a process mirroring that of Cointelpro program of the 1960s, for a minute. It is a well-known fact that there are Hiphop cops and that in Miami specifically, it was found out that dossiers had been kept on Hiphop artists frequenting Miami, since the early 2000s
While the popularity of these events in Miami have grown ( and everywhere else for that matter), the demographic that has demonstrated this consumer potential has had a myriad of organizations, the most popular being The Hiphop Summit Action Network headed by Russell Simmons, targeting them for political marketing, in an effort to at the very least, get them to vote. The effect of this political marketing is still being debated and analyzed. Many credit the Hiphop generation with electing Obama, while others say that this not the case and even if it was, the communities that Hiphop originates from people of African descent, have yet to receive any tangible benefit for doing so. While Miami is not the only place, many of the iussues which would be of significnce to this political demographic, such as economics, Immigration Reform and Police Brutality and given their strong presence in Miami, Haitian relief aid are present. Can this demographic leverage their money and votes to be part of the national debate during the next presidential election?
“In this White man’s world…we’re the ones chosen……”
Kanye West appeared on the 2010 BET Awards and had on a big chain with the Egyptian deity HORUS and Pyramid rings. Immediately, the conspiracy theorists have created a video declaring his imagery as satanic. This decoding of Hiphop practices and discerning their occult origins has become popular, with many videos surfacing on Youtube addressing the issue, with most concentrating on Jay-Z. The new album by Miami MC Rick Ross features a song entitled "Freemason" featuring Jay-Z in Which Jay-Z addresses the rumors of his affiliation to Masonry. While Jay-Z denounces Masonry as a devil worshipping medium, Ross on the other hand with lines like “Built Pyramids, Period we’re masters”, spits lyrics in line with those who claim Masonry is in line with spiritual traditions such as that of Ancient Egypt.
In any spiritual tradition, a person is said to be initiated within such tradition, by going through rituals and trials, of which MCs such as 50 Cent and Kanye West have gone through many. While observing these artists, it has become apparent that Hiphop itself seems to be a vehicle for some to express their skills within the medium known as Hiphop, while simultaneously developing themselves while doing so. Is this why there is a sudden examination of Hiphop in comparison to Masonry, Christianity, devil worships and the like, in an effort to figure out the greater purpose of Hiphop beyond Money, Hoes and clothes, (while not necessarily giving them up). Hey…
Rick Ross has also gone through his share of trials, so to speak. From his beef with 50 Cent, to the scrutiny of his musical image due to his being a former corrections officer. With his new album, he seems to be reaching for a higher vision for Hiphop as in addition to his track with Jay-Z, he also has songs sampling The Black Panthers and speaking on street legends Larry Hoover and Big Meech. Ross also has a song entitled M.C. Hammer, who is the poster child of gaining income through Hiphop and losing it. It’s commendable that Ross’ is attempting to reconcile these divergent elements within Hiphop, no easy task as people have DIED trying to do so. But how seriously can he be taken when one takes into account the contradiction of calling oneself “the Teflon Don” while being a former Corrections officer. Miami is also home to a burgeoning underground Hiphop and Conscious community and home to the Organic Hiphop conference, can they take advantage of this increased spotlight Lebron will bring to Miami, in order to place political issues, and non mainstream styles to the forefront,
In 1964, Miami, Florida was the location of the famed, Cassius Clay vs. Sonny Liston heavyweight fight. There, Malcolm X provided Cassius Clay with a vision and spiritual discipline with which to harness his considerable raw talent. Clay transformed into Muhammad Ali. Could we see a similar transformation occurring with Lebron James? Will the move to Miami have the same effect on Lebron, as did Malcolm X on Muhammad Ali? By Lebron putting a huge spotlight on Miami AND his affiliation to Hiphop culture,Miami could be the location for a transformation of Hiphop itself, consequently accelerating the synergy and elevation of the cultural, political and economic elements of Hiphop, toward freedom, justice and equality for people of African Descent.
August 17, 2009
A few weeks ago, I went to see Big Daddy Kane at Prosepct Park. Needless to say, the experience brought to mind many thoughts about Hiphop......and Brooklyn......past, present and future. The show itself was cool. Kane performed with a live band and I guess he was trying to put on a show, so to speak. But the experience paled in comparison to seeing him perform lat year at Marcus Garvey Park in Harlem, with just two turntables and a mic. It probably had something to do with the differing crowds. In Harlem, in attendance was the hood, who got a chance to relive their Hiphop heyday. In Prospect Park, it was mix of people who were there during Kane's peak, white boys who wished they were, and out of towners who were just happy to be there......at Prospect Park.....way in the bac. Regardless, when you see Kane and hear those classics, you can't help but remember Kane at his pinnacle. For those who dont know, Big Daddy Kane is the blueprint for Brooklyn MC's, such as, The Notorious B.I.G and Jay-Z. Click here for a sample.
His combination of, topical versatility (conscious lyrics, battle rhymes), overall lyricism, hit songs and ability to appeal to the ladies and dudes, all especially evident on his 1989 classic album, "It's Big Daddy Thing", were at the time unmatched. Not to mention, he could cut a rug with his two dancers, Scoob and Scrap. The only thing Kane couldn't do was Hiphop/Reggae, but hey, at least he tried, and that was 1989. With his early 70s musical backdrops, Kane culturally would channel the ghetto of Blacc New York, and his persona gave him the aura of a Blaxploitation character, a cross betwen Shaft and Blacc Ceasar.
Kane was an organic MC, meaning he came up from and was created by the streets of Brooklyn and Hiphop culture. This is important because, within Hiphop at that time, there was some sort of quality control. Only the nicest would get that street cosign and consequently acceptance, into the Hiphop fraternity. This is the same process that birthed the great Brooklyn MCs that followed Kane. Kane brought Jay-z out on tour with him in 1990 and Kane's DJ Mister Cee, discovered The Notorious B.I.G. Big Daddy's dominance is the reason why any MC considered to be the best in Brooklyn is almost automatically proclaimed as the Best MC in New York by default.
But 20 years later, there seems to have been a stalling in the pipeline of the next GREAT Brooklyn MC. After The Notorious B.I.G. and Jay-Z, I would be hard pressed to find that next dominant figure.. Jay-Z is still active of course, and the impression is that there have not been any MCs who have been able to reach his level, because, he is simply, the best rapper alive. The best MCs would reflect and personify the consciousness of the people. So does a Billionaire Jay-Z reflect the consciousness of the people of Brooklyn, "D.O.A" not withstanding? I guess that would depend on WHO are the people? And What is their SELF consciousness?
Since the days of Kane, one of the byproducts of Hiphop's popularity, has been the separation, for marketing reasons, of the socially conscious MC, from the MC who represents and reflects the aesthetics of the Street....That's why Brooklyn MCs such as Fabolous and Papoose would be placed in a different category than say Mos Def and Talib Kweli.... But daily experience in Brooklyn as a member of the Hiphop generation, would ultimately cause you to become aware of the fact that, the street and social consciousness are linked. Now being able to represent both as an MC, that's one thing. To do so and also be able to craft the MANDATORY HITS necessary for those clubs and radio and ultimately, the crown? That's a different story. Many have tried......and failed.
The failure to crown a new King of Brooklyn has also resulted in a failure to crown a new clear cut King of New York. The decrease in price of Hiphop means of Production (e.g. Protools) and the Internet, has allowed many aspiring artists to be able to enter Hiphop as both creators and distributors, through the mixtape, street DVD and now social networking sites and blogs. Some would say that this has created a clutter of mediocrity on the way to the throne. But it also has allowed a means for people to get heard, where one was not readily available, due to the consolidation of mainstream media and the politics of the music industry. Even so, access to the mainstream media has perpetuated the illiusion that the late 90s and early 2000s Hiphop stars of New York, are still on top, even though record sales have declined steadily since 2000.
Jim Jones, who emerged from the Dipset, parlayed his initial mass media exposure, utilizing the changing media landscape and music industry model, into concurrent independent record deals and eventually into a major label joint venture. Jimmy was prime positon for the New York crown, but Jimmy lacced the basic requirement needed to be the King and that is FEARSOME SKILLS. Consequently, we're left with the ususal suspects, as far as King Of New York is concerned, Jay-Z and 50 Cent. Even on the so-called underground level, it seems to be the same cats being mentioned over and over, your Mos Def and Kweli's, or dead prez....Throw in some Early to mid 90s legends in the mix and a changing of the New York guard seems unlikely for the time being.
But there are a new breed of MCs who are fightng for their time among the elite of Hiphop and the next attackers are Slaughterhouse. Slaughterhouse consists of 4 MCs who banned together in an attempt to lyrically blast their way to the Hiphop promised land. Collectively, Slaughtehouse has had their share of experiences with major labels. Joe Budden with Def Jam, Royce Da 5"9 with Tommy Boy (He has also been affiliated with Eminem), Joell Ortiz with Aftermath and Crooked I with Death Row. They don't exactly fit the descrpition of "outsiders" to the industry and one can argue that their inability to make mainstream hits....which I consider to be a SKILL.....could be the reason why they haven't received their just due, after so-many years in the Business. However, Slaughterhouse's album despite its reliance on hardcore lyricism, does have songs which COULD play on the radio, and do very well. So in effect, their album does give support to the group's unspoken opinion that it is in fact music industry politics, which has prevented each individual member from reaching that elite status in the Hiphop pantheon.
Slaughterhouse's Internet business model (spearheaded by Joe Budden), combined with Independent distribution, Joe Budden's beef with the Method Man, on some, "your time has passed" shit, and their hardcore anti-ringtone Rap lyricism, might end up having a revolutionary impact on Hiphop. The Slaughterhouse movement is a signal that the patience of the next generation of hardcore Hiphop lyricists, has grown thin and that they want their spot in the Hiphop limelight and the accolades and monetary benefits it affords, and they want it now, by any means necessary. At the very least, Slaughterhouse have proved that there is a viable alternative to the mainstream business model, so much so, that, Joe Budden, recently at some point, has been the leading vote getter, in the Hottest MCs in the game poll, on MTV. Slaughterhouse as a collective, their indiviual stories and the timing of their movement has each member functioning along along the lines of what I define to be a TRUE MC......What is that?.........maybe for my next blog......and it's not just some rappin ass nigga.
When placed alongside newcomer Drake, Slaughterhouse creates a striking dichotomy. 4 battle tested Hiphop MCs, with years of grinding in the business, compared to a rapper from Toronto, who seemingly came out of nowhere and who's claim to fame is having appeared on Degrassi High. Drake has had the red carpet rolled out for him in the Hiphop music industry, the likes I have never seen. No jail, No gunshots, not even a car accident. Just a passport.....first class, no stopover. Now Drake has some skills, but I remember watching Degrassi Junior High bac in the day and I couldn't imagine Big Daddy Kane being on it. I guess that's what comes with Hiphop becoming mainstream. But watch for an all out attack for control of Hiphop, by who I call, the "Hiphop Fundamentalists".......The ones who in the spirit of Big Daddy Kane, and the era that created him, champions beats and rhymes BEFORE, music industry politics and appearances on Entertainment Tonight. 2010......Hiphop Jihad.......a.k.a..... The Wrath of Kane.