Hip-Hop & Oprah's High-Horse

I have been observing the recent hoopla over Oprah interviewing Jay-Z and I’m looking at her a little bit sideways, personally.  A lot of people are excited about the interview and considering it a big accomplishment (for who I am not sure), but I’m not really drinking the Kool-Aid, so to speak.  So finally a rapper is famous enough and ratings-worthy enough to get a seat at Oprah’s figurative table?  Though I’m sure some Oprah disciple will try to rip me a new one via e-mail or the comments section because people read what they want to, let me clarify beforehand that I’m not taking away from Oprah’s success.  I don’t watch the show or support her personally, but her story is very important and inspiring to many.  However, for lack of a better (i.e. not from a comic book movie) quote, with great power comes great responsibility.  While some would take her public denouncing of hip-hop as using her power responsibly, my thought is exactly the opposite.

The problems in our community that hip-hop often tends to mirror are not going to be resolved if those in Oprah’s generation and those of her stature (the closest thing today to DuBois’ Talented Tenth) continue to distance themselves from the youth and what’s important to them. You’ll never get through to anyone unless you lower yourself to their level and start speaking their language.  It definitely doesn’t help when the majority of your audience is white and you use your forum to make blanket judgments about hip-hop, something you have obviously not taken the proper steps to understand.  However, it seems to me that the Jay-Z interview is a start (or a stunt).

To be honest, the interview in O Magazine was actually good.  It was a simple conversation where Jay-Z, who’s probably the best person to do this, did his best to explain things like the allure of drug-dealing, violence in hip-hop, and the use of the N-word (which Oprah had to “agree to disagree” with him on).  This week, he appeared on Oprah and taught her how to rap, strangely having to explain to her that “the Chi” is a nickname for Chicago (*dubious face*…come on, Sofie).

My feelings toward Oprah have been mixed for a while.  The whole Ludacris debacle, where she (during an interview with the actors of Crash) threw a jab at Ludacris’ lyrical content and then edited out his rebuttal by airtime, was disgusting.  Even Bill O’Reilly has sat down to speak with Dame Dash and Cam’ron, despite his criticism of hip-hop being much sharper than Winfrey’s and his usual penchant for d*baggery.  To O’Reilly’s credit, at least he was giving the artists a chance to speak for themselves, though I don’t know how effective these appearances were one way or another.  Regardless, I’ve got to give the man G points just for sitting across from Dame and Cam and having it out.  Oprah wanted to make her point to Ludacris (which was totally unrelated to the show’s topic) and just move on without allowing him to defend himself and his work.

I look at Oprah distancing herself from hip-hop the same way I looked at her opening the school in Africa.  While of course it’s awesome of her to open a school anywhere, there were kids in need right in her backyard.  She complained at the time that when asked what they needed, American kids would ask for money, iPods or sneakers, while the African kids asked for school uniforms.  So what…there is a reason for those differences and it lies within American society’s general materialism.  Books are provided in the American public school system and not all schools even require uniforms, so the circumstances differ but that doesn’t make kids here less worthy or less deserving of help.  This is your backyard.  You don’t even have to leave Chicago.  You are an African-American before anything else.  Perhaps if it were opened in Chicago, the school would have been better run, being closer to Oprah herself.

Again, I’m hoping the Jay-Z interview was a step toward creating understanding and bridging the gap between the hip-hop generation and older people who may not “get it”, regardless of race.  If we put the responsibility on rappers to be more responsible with their message to the kids consuming hip-hop culture, shouldn’t we also put the responsibility on people in Oprah’s case who serve as default ambassadors for Black people, to educate their audience…or at least humanize hip-hop by allowing it to speak for itself?  Jay-Z addressed it in the interview, but I think it deserves some real discussion in front of the same audience she denigrated Ludacris and his music (our music) in front of.

Read the O Magazine interview for yourself.

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Different = Good?


So last night, I downloaded Kid Cudi’s new album Man On The Moon: The End Of Day (and actually waited for the real release date…see, I’m getting better…baby steps though).  This post is in no way, shape, form or fashion represents any type of album review, as I haven’t given it the obligatory three attempts necessary to really get a feel for a hip-hop album.  Knowing in advance from reading reviews on the album, I got in the proper frame of mind, so to speak, that you need to be in to listen to most music from Cudi and proceeded to listen.  I’m feeling some kind of way.  Granted, it took me about a month to warm up to Kanye’s 808s & Heartbreaks and I still am not completely sold on the rap-Phil-Collins thing…it just had several undeniably good tracks and rock-solid production quality, as is to be expected.  Like 808s, I at least expected to hear at least one song where Cudi just raps…not so much.  Cudi is clearly channeling Pink Floyd on a lot of the tracks, which I’m not mad at because I love Floyd, but yo…Cudi’s not Floyd.  To be fair, I’ll give it a few more listens and give you a final verdict on it at some point.

Listening to this album made me think of how people tend ot automatically give people props just for doing “something different”…like giving School of Fine Arts students fashion cred for wearing aubergine, Cal-Trans orange, hot pink, and Nickelodeon-slime-green in the same outfit just for wearing something no one else would…sometimes there’s a reason for that.  Now don’t get me wrong, there are definitely cases where people do something different and it turns out to be fresh.  In many cases, though, when you get the feeling that someone deliberately thought “oh, nobody’s doing this, son” before they do it, it comes out lame.  Any you can think of?  Post it in the comments section.

Different = Good

Bilal – As I’ve said before, if you’ve never seen Bilal live, get your life together.  I’ve seen him twice and think homeboy’s a genius…one of many reasons it would be rare for me to ever pay to see a rapper live.  The man’s band is kickin’ and his onstage antics almost make you think he’s having a seizure, but what’s a live show without energy and originality?

Ol’ Dirty Bastard – The video for “Brooklyn Zoo” disturbed me at first (the last place it seems you’d want to be is in that hallway…dude was on one, not to mention Method Man lurking in the background looking like he’d eat your firstborn), but now it’s one of my favorite songs of all time.  Definitely top 20.  The late great ODB took strange to a whole other inebriated level.  Method Man once explained ODB’s name best: “bastard” as in “he had no father to his style”.  Nobody was like him before and no one has tried since.  Oh and nothing says crazy like a pair of shades with one lens out.GRACE

Andre 3000 – Even back in the ATLiens days when you saw him in the Foot Locker referee shirt and his grandmama’s silk church-turban (you know, for when the wig was too itchy to wear on Sunday), Andre Benjamin has been on some other.  Long before Kanye was pseudo-crooning, Andre dropped The Love Below on that a** and changed the game up.  I don’t recall anybody (successfully) switching up their style that drastically.

Holly Weerd – A kinda trip-hop band from ATL that I could only find one song for, but that song (“Weerdo“) is dope.

Grace Jones – Stran-jay!  People didn’t know what to do with themselves when Grace Jones showed up in Boomerang (or in Conan or in that Bond movie) looking like a gender-bending dominatrix, but Grace was on her own planet and you really couldn’t tell her sh*t…and wouldn’t risk it.

Christopher Walken – His little monologue in Pulp Fiction about the watch was enough to convince me that Christopher Walken might be a biscuit short of a snackbox.

Different = Yeah, Not So Much

Bjork – Sorry, I just do not get it…

Pink’s flying trapeze performance at the MTV VMAs – Just because nobody else has done it doesn’t mean it’s a good idea for you to do it.  And the one-breast-out outfit?  Yeah, that’s been done and much better (Li’l Kim).  The girl can sing, but singing while swinging off of a trapeze isn’t conducive to a good performance.  The VMAs were enough of a circus as it was.lil_mama

Anything Li’l Mama has ever worn to anything – What, I’m wrong?  Look to the right.  Yes, that’s a pacifier.  Voice of the young people or voice of the wardrobe-impaired?  No further explanation needed.

Dennis Rodman – This was just unnecessary wierd but thank God, a wierd we haven’t had to look at in the pas ten years.  It was always like “could you please jsut play ball?  Please?”

90% of the entire inventory at any Urban Outfitters – Way to re-produce and distribute a 40-year-old cotton T-shirt and sell it for $28, awesome.  And the pounds and pounds of useless crap marketed toward college students who think they’re being original not knowing there’s 8 million dorm rooms decorated the exacct same way?  More awesome.  Can’t knock the hustle but buying cool, unique stuff from a chain store immediately makes it not unique and not particularly cool at all.

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The Kanyeezy Apologeezy

"What would Big Mama think?"
"What would Big Mama think?"

I just want to clear some things up in addition to addressing the Kanye apology on Jay Leno.  Some people took offense at my post yesterday regarding the Kanye West/Taylor Swift incident, mostly due to their failure to read the material I wrote.  This is a blog…I am not a journalist…I’m not here to just tell you what happened or to give some diplomatic response that doesn’t represent how I really feel.  Life’s too short to mince words.  At no point did I deny the fact that Yeezy’s actions were (in my own words) “rude as hell“.  The point of me writing it was to get people to lighten up about it.  It’s the bloody VMA’s for Pete (Wentz)’s sake…nobody won a Nobel Peace Prize.  If you were deeply upset about it in your heart of hearts, I suggest re-evaluating what’s important to you in life…seriously.  It’s not that deep.  Taylor Swift, Kanye, and of course, MTV will be eating mighty healthy off of this for the next several years, so take entertainment for what it is and save the emotion for real life.

That being said, Kanye isn’t a dude known to be insincere.  He says what’s on his mind generally, much to others’ dismay, but he still kicks the real regardless.  Beyonce is a better artist in my opinion, but the VMAs is based on the fans and I think ‘Ye may have lost sight of that in the moment as he was channeling hte late ODB (while just kind of making a “dirty b*stard” of himself).  It’s not a BET award…and MTV’s core following is a little younger than Kanye or I could relate to.  And clearly there are those in middle America and beyond who relate more to Taylor Swift than to Beyonce.  I get it and I think ‘Ye does as well.  I’ve never seen a Kanye apology, though, and I don’t know if we ever will again, but I can’t do anything but respect it.  You don’t win any street cred in the hip-hop community by getting choked up, so I don’t think there was anything to gain from Kanye just apologizing for the sake of doing it.  Chances are his audience isn’t tuning into Leno on the regular, nor would they stop buying his albums because of this, so I can only categorize this as a real-a** moment for West.

As for Leno, I’d be remiss not to mention that the “what would your mama think” question at the end of the interview was a low blow, as a particularly astute friend of mine was wise enough to point out (thanks tpp).  This was nowhere near that serious that anyone but Kanye needs to ask himself that question.  Clearly a ploy for ratings and Leno should be ashamed of himself.  Let’s keep it on the level here.

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Bumrush The Show: Kanye West vs. Taylor Swift

F*** ya feelings

I’m officially changing this girl’s name from Taylor Swift to Taylor Not-Swift-Enough.  If I’m accepting an award and Kanye West jumps onstage with me, there is no way he’s getting my microphone.  This is what this man does…this ain’t new, baby!

As much as it pissed my wife off last night, I was dying laughing last night at Kanye showing his natural a** at the VMAs.  First of all, let’s take our emotions out of it for a second, folks.  It’s just entertainment.  And let’s not act like the VMAs is the Grammys…didn’t MTV just have Sacha Baron Cohen fall on Eminem’s head with his a** out?  But Kanye’s a monster for being “disrespectful”?  Come on now.  Kanye plays a character…it may be a character who’s intimately close to the real Kanye, but he knows it’s expected of him to show out.TSHIRT

Second, Taylor Swift should be happy to be included in a Kanye bumrushing.  It’s almost a rite of passage.  At least Black people know who the hell she is now.  I was clueless…still am in a way, but this is an opportunity to cross over for her!  Use your moment!  Real talk, though, the best way to turn this around is to be a good sport about it…maybe even collaborate with Kanye.  Let’s be about our paper, please.  I mean, do you really think she would have gotten the love she received at the end when Beyonce let her come back out if Yeezy hadn’t jumped his rude a** up there?  Be for real.

And for real…let’s not act like Beyonce didn’t come out and really show people why she deserved the award more than Taylor Swift or Britney Spears’ wack a**es.  Step your bodysuit game up and we’ll talk.  Not everybody can pull off a routine like that.  Janet didn’t even go as hard as B did on the real.

All in all, yes that was rude as hell.  I’m sure teenyboppers everywhere were in tears.  Am I personally mad at dude?  No.  It’s all entertainment and I was entertained.  Taylor Swift is still getting checks and will get many more because of this.  Now let’s stop actin’ like Kanye’s next joint will not be copped..and promptly.

PS: Haven’t yet checked the blog-o-verse yet, but I already know somebody’s gonna be mad about Lady Gaga thanking “God and the gays” in her acceptance speech, but please…stop before you start.  Getting up in arms over that only does two things: (1) makes you look like a bigot and (b) sells at least another record for Lady Gaga.

Mad at this?  Check out my response to the Kanye West apology on Leno here.

[Sorry…I had a clip of the incident, but the jerks at Viacom removed it…so here’s this…LOL]

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