A Healthy Dose of Gangsta?
These days I’m feeling more and more like a bastard when I hear “hip hop,” because the Hip Hop that raised me was intellectually gangsta. Guess that explains the initial hunger that goes through me when I hear a song by Somali emcee, K’naan. His debut single, “TIA: This Is Africa,” directly disses the American “hip hop” scene, calling rappers “p*ssy.” K’naan’s 3:53 of critical bars left me wondering of the whereabouts of the classic and genuine corner store heroes, American youth found at their local intersections. K’naan is the realist, when he teaches the so-called “illest” in the West that:
It’s no secret we know how to squeeze lead, But the pre-set is not to squeeze it/ Used to be at peace but now using t-shirts, And it reads RIP cause the peace dead… The rap game just got itself a new day, This is Africa, hooray/
The motherland chose to drop knowledge because we as a community have an aesthetic problem. Our standards allow rappers to merely signify an emcee, a gangsta or a beast, without embodying it. In TIA, K’naan tells stories of living in tougher ghettoes and holding grenades at the age of five, a culture that transcends the black America. By the end of the song, there’s still an understanding that it doesn’t have to be that way: But the pre-set is not to squeeze it. Freedom does not live in American hip hop. I mean, look at Dead Prez, their video, Hell Yeah, shows the community something that should be a threat to American media. The fact that it’s on YouTube tells us how loss we are. Dead Prez can give a visual handbook for bucking the system and the system won’t trip because it knows we are only interested in dance moves and bangin. Change in America starts with culture before politics.
After checking MTV’s Sucker Free Summit’s nominees for best verse of the year, I couldn’t help but give props to K’naan’s diagnosis of the game. His comment, “Around here we only bumpin Fa La Kuti/ Tupac or Bob Marley Lucky Dube/ So we don’t give a f*ck about your groupies/” formed a valid critique of the artists represented on the summit’s page. MTV’s lyrical dream team flies high in a cloud of swagger building and nothing more; a strong kick in the ear. What surprises me the most is the nothingness going bar for bar in the Kanye West’s verse of Run This Town. This does not reflect Ye’s best verse but does show popular demand. A fan myself, I find myself waiting for something real to jump off but all I found were lavish references such as “What’s that Ye? Baby these hills/ Is that a May-what? Baby these wheels.” Maybe the best lyrically, in my opinion, was Nicki Minaj’s. In My Chick Bad, she came across as “going hard.” In the end, her verse is laced with witty metaphors: conveying another shallow point that she’s swaggalicious. Check the verses yourself but the conclusion is still the same: rappers are different from emcees. Today, we have rappers who have lost touch with the world in need of their services; a community of youth in need of poetic labs searching for cures to their situation, whether it be gun violence in Chicago or blatant colonialism in Somalia. Peace, Love, and Hip Hop y’all.