Saturday, August 01, 2015

Battle Royal

 Battle Royal
When the media coverage of Meek Mill vs. Drake first went viral I excited me! Not as a fan of their work but as a lyricist, poet and outright music enthusiast. This moment put the focus back on lyrics. The last time the mainstream or general public were really interested and concerned about what someone had to actually say was that BET cipher verse by ‪‎Kendrick Lamar when he put the entire industry on notice. To this day NO ONE has reasonably responded to that. Do you know who truly listens, dissects and critically analyzes rhymes regardless to whom or what? Rap Enthusiasts  who genuinely appreciate lyrics, poets/spoken word artists, battle rappers and emcees/femcees. Last week 85% of the mainstream audience were just bobbin' they head to beats.

Another thing that I appreciate about this situation is it's potentiality to bring out the best lyrical content of artists. Busy Bee Starski vs. Kool Moe Dee, LL Cool J vs. Canibus, Jay-Z vs. Nas, KRS One vs. MC Shan, Ice Cube vs. Common and etc. are all instances where artists came with their best. As long as it doesn't go waaaaay left on some government co-opted Tupac/Biggie scenario it's a healthy landmark moment for Hip Hop‬ in general and rap music specifically. Something else I've considered is its economic stimulus. The peripheral memes, videos, vintage tees, product placement and co-signs that not only generates web traffic but creates commerce is important. When Drake dropped his second Meek diss track Back To Back he used a picture of forgotten "World Series Hero" Joe Carter after hitting a three run homer to beat the Philadelphia Phillies. We would be na├»ve to believe that people didn't go out and buy Joe Carter paraphernalia that day? Brilliant! Drake also made good on his lyrics by sending Charlemagne‬ 6 bottles of Dom P.. That was dope yet imagine if he would used his celebrity to get behind an up and coming entrepreneur and support their brand of alcohol by sending it to Charlemagne. What if Meek Mill responded by talking about charity work he's done for the Blackstone Foundation Library in Toronto? Personally I would love to see instances like this used to better empower everyday people and support local businesses.

After all of this Meek Mill finally came back with his response entitled Wanna Know which was wack from my perspective. His words weren't clear, Funk Flex added his theatrical explosions, there were samples and anything else you can imagine that distracts a listener. Although many people, including Philadelphians, expected more I still appreciate this moment in Hip Hop. Politically speaking it's no different than lobby groups putting the pressure on public officials to respond to a current situation. In rap music, people, not necessarily artists, oftentimes don't have this kind of pressure on them -especially when they're mainstream [Top 40]. Therefore, they say, do and sell whatever they want to the public. In this instance the lobby groups were everyday people using social media and hashtags to call for a response and we got one. Some may not realize this power to social economically engineer events and the growing political consciousness of the people but it's happening.

Almost three decades ago The Cosby Show highlighted an upper middle-class African-American family living in Brooklyn in the beginning of the golden era of Hip Hop‬. Yet the first time the culture was explicitly addressed/introduced was on a Season 2 Episode when the children were in the studio with Stevie Wonder and he sampled their voices and produced a beat with a synclavier. This was 1986 when Run DMC, Just Ice, Salt and Pepa, Steady B, The Beastie Boys, Afrika Bambaataa, Doug E. Fresh, Whodini, Too Short and others were making their mark within the chronology of rap music. At this time rap was still mocked as "jungle music", marginally accepted and Stevie Wonder served as an ambassador for a sound, creative process and exposure to a culture that would ultimately reshape the world. We have come a long way from this mainstream moment of time. Now it's common to hear some element of Hip Hop culture in every facet of television and radio globally. It doesn't mean that it's accepted, it means that it and it's people are financially useful. We cannot overlook, minimize or trivialize that.

Some people have called this Meek Mill vs. Drake media coverage boring, overrated, wack, a distraction and etc. Yet the irony of this is the fact that they still found themselves commenting about it. That's like an Atheist talking about there is no God. At the end of the day, whether we like Drake, Meek Mill, Nicki Minaj's neutrality, this is a teachable/educational moment. If you're a Hip Hophistorian, use it as an opportunity teach others about the chronology of rap battles. Take a moment to educate yourself, and others, about "ghost writing" and one of the most prolific one's Smokey Robinson. Are you a rapper/emcee? Well make your own response to the situation or state of rap music. Do you make custom tees, a producer, graphic artist or etc.? Do something with Joe Carter or others such as Meek Mill's sister who has over 1 million youtube views in 48 hours. Find something of value in this that is inspiring, empowering and educational as opposed to just complaining. Add-on!

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