Tuesday, November 23, 2010

5 Reasons Why I Do Not Hate Nicki Minaj

I really was going to stay away from doing any Nicki Minaj related posts. This is partly because I don't care that much to be discussing her at length, and partly because I like to pay attention to music that I actually support and like around these parts. She reminds me of an android-- I think purposely on her part-- sort of void of any real emotion or tangible connection to anything remotely real. Of course, this is the trend today in most pop music, especially among women, so whatever.

However, Nikki Minaj is a girl rapper, and as much at it bugs me, I usually feel inclined to jump in and offer some sort of opinion when people start to totally berate her for being average. That said, here are 5 Reasons Why I Do Not Hate Nicki Minaj.

#1- She is not the official representative of all female rappers. 

And it's unfair and downright silly to expect her to be. She's just yet another example of the overwhelming need for more female rappers (and actually, artists in general) to have the opportunity to have support and exposure. Then, we could actually pick and chose who to like.  Of course, all of us hip-hop folk can probably name a good five female emcees that we dig--Eternia, Stahhr, Boog Brown, Jean Grae and the like... but the bigger issue here is that if more female rappers were allowed to shine at the same time, Nicki could far more easily be put into her proper place, or her music could be kept in perspective. As it is, since there are no other female rappers doing it at her level currently, she is scrutinized and looked at as either the savior of girl rap (if you are one of her Barbie supporters) or the epitome of why people don't like female rappers. In all honesty, both assessments are unfair.

Look at it this way-- in the male world of hip-hop, or just in hip-hop since it's so dominated by dudes, the need to categorize it as "male" is redundant, you can name off the top at least 10 rappers who are huge--with mainstream radio-play, endorsements, etc. etc. You can name another 10 rappers who are underrated, another 10 rappers who are your current favorites, another 10 who are all-time favorites, and the lists go on. The cool thing is, the lists can realistically feature different rappers. You'd be hard-pressed to name 10 legit female rappers period, let alone have the audacity to try to make up lists. If the only rapper I was forced to listen to was Talib Kweli, or T.I., or Jay Electronica, it would be boring and terrible--and that's obviously not a swipe at any of them. I'm just saying, making one artist carry the weight of an entire genre is never fair.

#2- She doesn't even make music for me.

When Nicki Minaj began referring to her fans as "barbie dolls" and posing in pictures with obscene amounts of pink looking like the next installment of Bratz dolls, it became immediately clear that she was not making music for any woman over the age of 22, so why would I be offended that I can't relate to whatever it is that she says? It's silly, really.

I mean, if I were going to spend my time and energy being offended by Nicki, it would probably be because she's not a proper role model for young girls. But then, that opens up another can of worms because which one of these young, slutty, delusional poptarts is? Breast-baring Rihanna? Lap-dancing Beyonce? Acid-induced Lady Gaga? Nicki's primary demo is young, attention-seeking girls and non-black girls looking to validate their coolness by listening to whatever hip-hop is popular at the moment. Like, Kim Kardashian is probably bumping the Hello Kitty out of Pink Friday as I type. There are enough real issues to get worked up over in life; Nicki Minaj just ain't one of them.

#3- She's mildly entertaining, like a skinnier, less-talented version of Missy. 

I know that Nicki had beef or whatever with Lil Kim. I never cared enough to follow the specifics, so I don't even know what it was about, really, but whatever. The Kim comparisons seem a little off to me. As she's released more music, really, Nicki reminds me more of Missy Elliot than anyone else. The animated voices, the wild characters in the videos and performances, the general presentation on the mic. Of course, Missy is a great talent, so I'm not daring to compare the two talent wise, but I see a lot of Missy influence on Nicki. And admittedly, I find her relatively entertaining for 16 bars.  Or, if I had to compare her to a dude, she sort of reminds me of a way less lyrical Ludacris--sexual, silly, one-liners. At any rate, she's not terrible if taken in moderation. Have I downloaded her album yet? Nah. Will I? Eh, probably not. As I just mentioned, she's not making anything I'm interested in hearing at length. I'm just saying. Which leads me to my next reason....

#4-  She is no worse than Gucci, Dorrough, Lil B, Jim Jones or Lloyd Banks.

Or any other mediocre/terrible rapper to achieve some measure of popularity or success. No need in attacking her for basking in the mediocrity that by and large, has dominated mainstream hip-hop for the past 10 years.

#5- She's not interesting enough for me to hate. 

That kind of emotion requires a depth of feeling that I just don't have for Nicki Minaj, or really, any rapper at all. Maybe if she ever said or did anything that was really profound, or exuded depth beyond the carefully constructed hollow image she's created (and I do believe it's carefully constructed because she's a very bright woman), I could muster up some energy for her. As it is, I just can't. Just as I can't muster up the energy to hate any other rapper, male or female, who hasn't done anything besides whine about life and brag about themselves. It seems unfair that people get so worked up about hating Nicki when again, she's not doing anything different from most rappers of her caliber.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Food Chain- "Reverse Psychology"

REVERSE PSYCHOLOGY from foodchaintv on Vimeo.

New video, "Reverse Psychology" from Denver-based group, Food Chain. Dope vid. I guess it's a bonus track off of their album, Corpses (which was great). Happy to see that people are starting to pay attention to these guys.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Happy Living Music- Nov. 9th Edition

Times is hard. Ya'll don't need me to tell you that. Here's a list of the some of the random songs that have been getting me through my days. Happy living.

1- MGMT- "Electric Feel" ...Great for dancing around the living room.

2- Pete Kuzma feat. Bilal- "Hi & Dry" ...Great for driving with windows down.

3- Foreign Exchange feat. Chantae Cann- "Laughing at Your Plans" ...Great for driving with the windows down.

4- Zero 7- "Destiny" ...Great for wine and conversation.

The Saga Continues: Dallas Police Shoot Three Unarmed Men In Less Than a Month

Right on the heels of the obsurd two-year sentencing of Johannes Mehserle, the BART cop who shot unarmed Oscar Grant III in the back, while he was handcuffed, the police are at it again---this time in Dallas.

Over the course of the past month, three unarmed men have been shot and killed by police officers.

Oct. 29th- Tony Menchaca was killed. Out of all of the shootings, this one appears to be the most "justified," though Menchaca was clearly suffering from mental issues. Menchaca said he had a weapon, and reached swiftly into his waistband. Five police officers then opened fire, learning after they had fired 23 times, that he was unarmed. The question here for me would be, why did they shoot him 23 times? I can understand why the reaction would be to shoot, but it seems like police training should include learning how to fire non-life threatening shots at a suspect--especially considering that these people are exactly that...suspects.

Oct. 13- A Plano man was killed accidentally during a drug investigation. The Dallas Morning News states: "One of the recent shootings, in which a Plano police sergeant killed a man Oct. 13 during a drug investigation as officers closed in to arrest him, was accidental, police have said. A grand jury reviewed the case but declined to take any action on it."

Oct. 9- Unarmed 25 year-old, Tobias Mackey, is shot and killed by police officers, prompting an outcry from civil rights organizations in Dallas. An 11 year-old boy was grazed during the shooting. The Rev. Ronald Wright of Justice Seekers of Texas told the Dallas Morning News: "They've got to stop killing African American men, unjustly. We want the police to police. The biggest gang problem right now in Dallas is not gangs, it's the Police Department, and that's scary."

Monday, November 8, 2010

Ode To...Jake One

Jake One is a beast. That said, here is an ode to his more recent endeavors.

Freeway "Escalators" (produced by Jake One)
Any producer that can make listen to an entire Freeway song is good with me. Anyone that can make me listen to an entire Freeway project is my new bestie. Not that I dislike Freeway, to the contrary, actually. But his voice can get a little nerve-wracking after 16, unfortunately. However, any time Free and Jake collaborate, I'm inclined to do nothing except bob my head in sheer delight.

Scarface- "High Note" (produced by Jake One)
I know Face has an actual video for this, however, I find it very disturbing and therefore, you will instead gaze at the Emeritus cover. Trust me, you're welcome.

Scarface-"Dope Man Music"
I literally ride to this 9 out of the 10 times that I get into my Dodge Neon. This track is ridiculous. I know I'm recognizing the talents of Jake One here, but: "It's all about the paper my nigga, fuck a struggle/we ain't dyin broke hopin to get it, that's why we hustle..." --recession music at it's finest.

Jake One featuring D Black- "God Like"
I really hate it when rappers refer to themselves as "God" or say things like "God like" as it refers to something as mundane as their "flow." Anywhoo, this sounds like something that Beanie Sigel would sound great over. As I've often lamented, he needs to let me pick his beats. If he did, he'd probably still be rapping.

Jake One-"I Glow" featuring Elzhi and Royce da 5'9
Aside from two of the best rappers alive being on this track, Jake exposes his west coast roots, much to my delight.

And on a completely separate, totally random note-- there is another dude with ONE in his name that consistently makes me click "listen" these days... DJ Burn One. Okay, the transition was corny, but I can't wait for his instrumental album, The Ashtray, to drop and not just because one of the songs, "Sharae's Charade" is named after your girl (Jacinta Sharae). *Here's hoping the extra cool title makes the cut.*

Freddie Gibbs featuring Pill- "Do Wrong"
It doesn't get much smoother than this. Burn One gets the vibe that Freddie Gibbs has managed to revive-- that early Suave House, T-Mixx, Mike Dean sound, and I love it.

Four Women- Kelly Price, Marsha Ambrosius, Jill Scott and Ledisi (Inspired by Nina Simone)

I didn't really watch all of Black Girls Rock last night. But I did flip over and happen to catch this performance of Nina Simone's "Four Women" by Kelly Price, Marsha Ambrosius, Jill Scott and Ledisi. I literally cried. If you could remain unmoved after seeing this, you probably have no soul.

Here is the original by Nina Simone.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Two Years: Oscar Grant III, Oakland and the Elusive Justice System

This morning, I got up to look at the headlines. I wanted to find out what mainstream media was saying about the protesting in Oakland over the sentencing of Johannes Mehserle, the cop who shot unarmed, handcuffed Oscar Grant III in a BART Transit station a couple of years ago. Mehserle received two years, although based on some red tape and a bunch of random laws, he could've only gotten four years max, anyway. So guess what I found this morning when I began my search? That's right. Not a damn thing. The browser is automatically set to go to RoadRunner, some search engine that provides daily headlines. The protest was nowhere to be seen there.

Not that I really expected to be. It's not surprising that media has been very light on the coverage of the protesting (last night's from all credible accounts was generally peaceful) and rioting over this trial. If media is a propaganda machine, it doesn't make sense to report on things that might incite the average American to get up and make some noise over the continued injustices in this country.

Protests and movements, if frequent enough, lead to revolution. Why do you think those people over in France are always in the streets?

Over here, the idea of protest is typically limited to an online petition sent by some organization like Save Darfur or MoveOn.org. After all, can't have the revolution interrupting the next episode of Keeping Up with the Kardashians or Dancing with the Stars, now can we?

So, the media under-reports the rare instances of American's peacefully assembling to address injustices. Especially injustices that involve the shooting of an unarmed black man. Especially protests that are not limited by race (note the picture above, which features people of all nationalities). None of the protests in Oakland, which have been occurring fairly regularly over the past two years or so, are properly reported. Apparently, Oakland, home of the perhaps one of the most revolutionary movements to emerge out of the U.S. in the past five decades--- the Black Panther Party--- has people there that still have some fight left in them.

Anyways, continuing in my search for information, I headed over to another site.  This is what I found on CNN. I had to scroll down to the middle of the list of headlines that are in the sidebar of the page.

Oakland police chief: Protesters 'tearing up' the city
 Authorities in Oakland, California, said unruly marchers were "tearing up the city" as they protested a two-year sentence for a former transit police officer convicted for killing an unarmed man.
They were throwing rocks, bottles and trash, and ripping up fences late Friday, Police Chief Anthony Batts said.
That's how the story begins. Now, from the accounts that I read on Twitter (yes, I still get on to see what folks are talking about) namely, my personal hero, Davey D, the protesters were peaceful. The police, however, were not. They ended up arresting between 100-150 people. According to Davey D, the people were shouting not to resist the police.  This is what he had to say about it on his blog, HipHopandPolitics:

Tonight Oakland Police showed us what Marshall Law was all about as they conducted mass arrests in East Oakland around 6th and East 17th. All in all over 150 people were arrested and likely to be taken to North County or Santa Rita for the weekend.
This all began when about 500 marchers left downtown where city hall is located and attempted to march to the Fruitvale BART station where Oscar Grant was murdered. OPD had devised a boxed in strategy which was described as a scrimmage line. With the use of helicopters, dozens of patrol cars and undercover cops spread throughout the crowd, police in a series of manuevers tried to corral marchers into a block and immobilize them.
So who is telling the truth about what went down? Some journalist who is reporting from Los Angeles (where the case was moved) or the man who is actually there? Why wouldn't CNN have had reporters based in Oakland reporting what was happening? Poor journalism? Laziness? Apathy? I'm thinking the latter two.

I headed over to the Oakland Tribune to get what would hopefully be a more accurate account of events. Their headline immediately told an entirely different story. Of course it was the top story for them--but beyond that, here's what it said:
Peaceful rally ends in 152 arrests

A day of peaceful protests over the sentencing of BART police Officer Johannes Mehserle ended in an angry march that led to a confrontation between protesters and police and 152 arrests. One officer had his holster ripped from his gun belt and another was hit by a car; his condition was unknown Friday evening.
But the scale of violence and destruction that marked previous protests did not manifest itself Friday night, although City Hall closed early as did several stores near 14th Street and Broadway.
This is significant, because the average reader, the average person who is generally unconcerned/unconnected with the entire Oscar Grant III saga isn't going to head over to an Oakland-based publication to get a more accurate, thorough account of events. They will read CNN's lazy, uninformed headline, maybe the first two graphs of the story and call it a day. Propaganda at its best. Further, the CNN story didn't even make mention of the inflammatory, degrading remarks the judge, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Robert Perry, made, chastising Oakland citizens for writing to the court, demanding that Mehserle receive a higher sentence.

I don't expect much more reporting to be done on this case. It, like the rest of the countless cases concerning unarmed black men and the police will subside. Their names will only come up when the next black man is murdered...then they will inevitably slip from our lips again.

So what to do? Two years. Two years for murdering someone. My cousin is doing 30 years for armed robberies, in which no one was killed, no lives taken. Two years. Michael Vick did that much time for killing some damn dogs-- mean dogs at that.

"Treat me like an animal, but love them Pits..." --Killer Mike, "I Gotcha"

Two-years. I almost feel like a hypocrite for just sitting here, typing. Internet activism, Tweeting injustices isn't working. So what to do? It seems as though no matter we do, the cycle continues.

Case and point: here's a story that I wrote, ironically, two-years ago after the Sean Bell verdict. I interviewed members of the hip-hop community, including Killer Mike, Gorilla Zoe, stic.man, Edward Garnes and more.

50 Shots: The Community Speaks on Police Terrorism

Edward Garnes:  “Systematic change takes constant attack. What happens is we get complacent and comfortable. We put the heat on every couple of years, then we fade away. And cops and system know that black folks will have momentary enlightenment and go back to business as usual."
Two years. Something has to give. I just don't know what. Maybe two years from now, someone will have a clue.