This is a post first published over two years ago.
It got a couple hits recently.
I read it, having not read it in over two years… and I thought it said things that still need saying.
And I think it manages… to still say them well.
I don’t recycle posts, as I’m long-winded enough, and insane enough that I always have topics for my rage or my reason. But this post seemed… especially timely to me, and worth the limelight… one more time.
Without further ado:
I’m not a fan of profanity, be it the n word, c word, b word, whatever. I don’t have a knee jerk reaction to profanity, I just think your language defines you and yours, and sometimes it traps… you and yours.
So that said, I’m not a huge fan of rap.
More precisely, I don’t like what it has become. I don’t like hip-hop. I don’t like this glamorization of ignorance, this pretense of hardness by too many men who own nothing.
Not even themselves.
You want to be a tough guy. You have a wife, you love her till the stars go dim, you have kids… you raise em right. You teach them to walk with their head held high.
You do this, you do these things, in this world… where you can be broken for walking out your door, if you can do these things in such a world.. that makes you a tough guy. How well or how badly the women in your life live, mothers, sisters, wives, friends, daughters… these things define a man.
Not simply screaming, not cursing,not defiling… but striving, sometimes crudely, sometimes failingly… toward something better for you and yours, in a world that is increasingly not about better.
Those definitions of “tough guy” and “man” are hard ones, and I have met very few, myself included, who rate them.
But sometimes the attempt is enough, the striving earnestly toward those ideals…the striving even though victory not promised, and defeat virtually assured. The attempt to succeed, even when every day you fail… has value.
Once upon a time, rap was filled with men, with tough guys who screamed… for the love. BDP, PUBLIC ENEMY, PARIS, ERIC B, TERMINATOR X, even NWA. And of course the fathers of Rap, men like THE LAST POETS and GIL HERON.
But that was when rap was coming from the streets, rather than the board offices of SONY and TIMEWARNER. Corporate mobs who promoted their Gangsta Rap to the exclusion of all else, who take every virtue and twist it till it’s a vice.
That is America defined.
It is that place, where all virtues are twisted until they are vices.
Blues and Rock, vilified colored music, until they could paint it white… and sell it… and call it Elvis. Rap, same thing. Vilified urban music, until they could paint it white… and sell it ….and call it Eminem.
They can replicate the noise, but somewhere the heart is lost.
They, commercial America- the sellers of standards, have a way of only glorifying the worst.
It really is, about co-opting and corrupting any positive movements… before they can grow.
Which is why more people know the name Eminem than Paris, know Rocky than Joe Frazier, know Arnold Swarzenegger than the man he executed… Stanley Tookie Williams; because America is that place where they sell the lie, when the truth is the wrong color.
So the best stuff in America, will never make the top 40 in America. They don’t play it on the radio, or show it on the TV, or teach it in the schools.
The best stuff in America, the worthy stuff, the positive stuff, you have to hunt for, but it’s worth the hunt.
So I hate Sony Rap, and Time Warner Rap, and Corporate America defined rap. But I love real rap, rap about waking you up, from pervasive nightmares. Conscious rap. Spoken Word. Hip Hop. Call it what you will. I love the people who are still making it, people who are out their… still screaming…”WAKE UP!”
A few that you won’t hear on the radio, but you really should do everything in your power to hunt up, are:
PARIS of course, anything by this soldier, this… prophet of rage. Who for three decades… has held the line. Has held the goddamn line. His DEVIL MADE ME DO IT is one of the great albums of all time.
The usual suspects of Public Enemy, BDP, mentioned above. Also Rage Against the Machine.
And one I want to introduce you to is IMMORTAL TECHNIQUE:REVOLUTIONARY VOL II. I picked it up because of Mumia Abu Jamal, his words on it.
I love courage in people, I love people who speak to you in these volatile times not of sneakers, or cars, or hos… but of volatile times. This CD all the songs are good, some better, some worse (again I can only deal with so much profanity), but there is one song… that is exceptional. And it is worth having the CD for this single song.
I know when I hear something great, and something true, because we live in a nation and a world, where both greatness and truth… are endangered commodities.
So when I hear them…
When I hear these disused concepts… combined… it’s a beautiful thing. I get chills. I listened to THE POINT OF NO RETURN the first song on this CD, the song in question, … and it gave me chills.
I love people who will rage, RAGE…not against you,but FOR YOU! Who will bleed their guts out, rip their flesh off, for the mildest hope… that they can save you, that they can… wake you up.
A lot of people talk about God, and those who talk about him the most, typically know him the least.
Bible thumpers give me a swift pain, I’ve never met one who didn’t lie himself to sleep.
All I’ve ever known of God, any real proof, comes from people who are always outnumbered and always outgunned. Comes from the voice of… sinners and saints. And whether it’s a 16 year old Palestinian girl eulogizing friends who blew themselves up, because their death was all they had left to fight with,… or a man on death row, for not sitting down…. still standing up, or young men on a mic who have watched their neighborhoods become occupied cities and decide to speak against it… whoever the voice comes from, when it’s both great and true… it brings me to my knees.
And those are moments when I believe in God.
That some people, can go on in a world such as this… and still care so deeply, about anything. Those are moments that spur you to want to make a difference, be a better man, make a better world.
Give you the desire to fight hard… one… more…. moment.
That for me, is all I know of God.
And those moments are rare things. And listening to this song was one of them.
I had thought there were no more prophets of rage.
I have never been so glad to be wrong.
Pick up the CD, listen to the song, and if it gives you chills. Share it with a friend, and make your world a better place.