Mom — I meant wrapper, not rapper. Thoughts on white fears, black arts, and 2016 election.
The Verizon CEO whose employees just stopped showing up to work holds Sanders in contempt. In the mid 90’s, he gave the “I will not yield” speech in defense of an increased military spend, and used the word contempt to describe the public’s opinion of republicans, democrats, the presidencies and our legislative branch. He was very angry about the misuse of our government funds for weapons stockpiling while people were suffering in this country.
Here is that speech, layered into songs like Y.G.’s Fuck Donald Trump, themes from Mockingjay, the trailers for Wild and Straight Outta Compton. My production is terrible, and I want someone to take this idea and do it better, but I made this a month ago because showing the connection between these media pieces is important in persuading new voters.
Can we make a hip-hop mashup of Bernie speeches to show their relevance to black lives in America? A critical part of this media succeeding is illustrating how quickly hip-hop music trying to communicate the challenges of being black in America has been routinely dismissed by critics and casual fans alike.
I placed an emphasis on Kanye and Taylor Swift because the coverage shows the lack of fair critical analysis regarding hip-hop artists. One line, in an entire album, has been repeated over and over by pundits, “made that bitch famous” because if youth listened to the gospel parts of that album, or had seen the Steve McQueen video “I feel like this” they might learn some new point of view on life as a black man in this country.
The dismissal of his latest album as misogynistic off of such a small sample size reminds of the Obama clip ‘You didn’t build that’ taken out of context by Fox and blasted in front of small business owners across the country. When you talk about representation, such strong characterizations matter.
The fraternal police’s response to Beyonce’s Formation was to boycott. The article cites Dr. Eric Mayer’s critical analysis of the boycotts surrounding his crossover metal album which relayed the anger black men felt towards police after Rodney King in a package that would reach suburban white youth otherwise disconnected. The revolution will indeed, not be televised.
I am posting this information in the subreddit Sanders for President because the demo skews white, and probably does not listen to as much hip hop as /r/hhh so they might miss the reason these artists, and their art, need defending. Many of Sander’s supporters would be the first to dismiss Kanye West as an arrogant asshole, without self-examining how little they know about the history of his genre. The voters for the Grammy’s who decided 1989 should win have no idea about the motifs laid out by Tupac which TPAB built upon. I am not asking you to like hip-hop, just to better understand its place as an art form expressing the idea that the United States does not value black life.
Kanye West said as much, and got ostracized for when he accused GWB of hating black people or saying that Beyonce had her dues taken by a fledgling artist because of skin color. If a full listen through, eyes closed, hi-fi with studio phones of the finalized Life of Pablo album cannot unveil some greater depth of West’s character, let me leave with two pages on Tupac from Culture of Fear by Barry Glassner covering America’s misplaced fears.
Just a Thug
After Tupac Shakur was gunned down in Las Vegas in 1996 at the age of twenty-five much of the coverage suggested he had been a victim of his own raps-even a deserving victim. “Rap Performer Who Personified Violence, Dies” read a headline in the New York Times. “What Goes ‘Round….’: Superstar Rapper Tupac Shakur Is Gunned Down in an Ugly Scene Straight Out of His Lyrics,” the headline in Time declared. In their stories reporters recalled that Shakur’s lyrics, which had come under fire intermittently throughout his brief career by the likes of William Bennett, Delores Tucker, and Bob Dole, had been directly implicated in two previous killings. In 1992 Vice President Dan Quayle cited an antipolice song by Shakur as a motivating force behind the shooting of a Texas state trooper. And in 1994 prosecutors in Milwaukee made the same claim after a police officer was murdered.
Why, when white men kill, doesn’t anyone do a J’accuse of Tennesse Ernie Ford or Johnny Cash, whose oddly violent classics are still played on country music stations? In Sixteen Tons Ford croons, “If you see me comin’/ Better step aside/ A lotta men didn’t/ A lotta men died,” and in “Folsom Prison Blues” Cash crows, “I shot a man in Reno just to watch him die.” Yet no one suggested, as journalists and politicians did about Shakur’s and 2 Live Crew’s lyrics, that these lines overpower all the others in Ford’s and Cash’s songbooks.
Any young rap fan who heard one of Shakur’s antipolice songs almost certainly also heard one or more of his antiviolence raps, in which he recounts the horros of gangster life and calls for black men to stop killing. “And they say/ It’s the white man I should fear/ But it’s my own kind/ Doin’ all the killin’ here,” Shakur laments on one of his songs.
Many of Shakur’s raps seemed designed to inspire responsibility rather than violence. One of his most popular, “Dear Mama” was part thank-you letter to his mother for raising him on her own, and part explanation of bad choices he had made as an adolescent. “All along I was looking for a father — he was gone / I hung around with the thugs / And even though they sold drugs/ They showed a young brother love,” Shakur rapper. In another of his hits, “Papa’z Song,” he recalled, all the more poignantly, having “had to play catch by myself/ what a sorry sight.”
Shakur’s songs, taken collectively, reveal “a complex and sometimes contradictory figure,” as Jon Pereles, a music critic for the New York Times wrote in an obituary. It was a key point missed by much of the media, which ran photos of the huge tattoo across Shakur’s belly — “THUG LIFE” — but failed to pass along what he said it stood for: “The Hate You Give Little Infants Fucks Everyone.” And while many mentioned that he had attended the High School of Performing Arts in Baltimore, few acknowledged the lasting impact of that education. “It influences all my work. I really like stuff like ‘Les Miserables’ and ‘Gospel at Colonus,” Shakur told a Los Angeles Timesinterviewer in 1995. He described himself as “the kind of guy who is moved by a song like Don McLean’s ‘Vincent,’ that one about Van Gogh. The lyric on that song is so touching. That’s how I want to make my songs feel.”
After Tupac Shakur’s death a writer in the Washington Post characterized him as “stupid” and “misguided” and accused him of having “committed the unpardonable sin of using his immense poetic talents to degrade and debase the very people who needed his positive words most — his fans.” To judge by their loving tributes to him in calls to radio stations, prayer vigils, and murals that appeared on walls in inner cities following his death, many of those fans apparently held a different view. Ernest Hardy of the LA Weekly an alternative paper, was probably closer to the mark when he wrote of Shakur: “What made him important and forged a bond with so many of his young black (especially black male) fans was that he was a signifier trying to figure out what he signified. He knew he lived in a society that still didn’t view him as human, that projected its worst fears onto him; he had to decide whether to battle that or to embrace it.”
Readers of the music magazine Vibe had seen Shakur himself describe this conflict in an interview not long before his death. “What are you at war with?” the interviewer asked. “Different things at different times,” Shakur replied. “My own heart sometimes. There’s two niggas inside me. One wants to live in peace, and the other won’t die unless he’s free.”
It seems to me at once sad, inexcusable, and entirely symptomatic of the culture of fear that the only version of Tupac Shakur many Americans knew was a frightening and unidimensional caricature. The opening lines from Ralph Ellison’s novel, Invisible Man still ring true nearly half a century after its publication. “I am an invisible man,” Ellsion wrote. “No, I am not a spook like those who haunted Edgar Allan Poe; nor am I one of your Hollywood-movie ectoplasms. I am a man of substance, of flesh and bone, fiber and liquids — and I might even be said to possess a mind. I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me.”
TLDR: I told my mom when I was in third grade I wanted to be a rapper for Halloween. She is the most loving woman in the world, but she asked me, “You want to be a rapper, why? They are so rude.” She could not see the men behind the music. I, immediately learning from her tone at a young age that rap was not a respectable art to admire or study, wittily replied, “I mean wrapper, like a candy wrapper.” She was quite proud. I suspect she still is today while I march in New York this weekend.
I want to raise awareness of Sanders’ civil rights policy and history. If more rappers come out in support of Sanders it could heavily influence votes for New York and beyond. If this essay reaches anyone at all I will post the photo of myself, in third grade, dressed in a mom made juicy fruit wrapper costume.