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Time Zone: EST (New York, Toronto)
Messenger: Empress Nzingha Sent: 2/28/2006 10:32:07 AM

by Anthony Gayle (

"If we don't get 40 acres then I think that Blacks/
At least shouldn't have to fucking pay sales tax/
Gotta give us something back/
GMC should give every black man a brand new 'Lac/
Then we should all give 'em back/ Tell 'em we don't want that/
Y'all listening to too much rap"

The above lines are taken from a track entitled "Kiss the Babies" by a
rapper named Saigon. I think they illustrate a very important point
rap music. Rap is one of the most powerful forms of expression precisely
because the debates about the music also occur within the music. I think
would be hard pressed to find another global art form where this is the

We often criticize rap artists for the things they say. It is less
common to
hear any discussion about the etymology of the words they use, or what
perception of those words might reveal about us. In order to have an
dialogue, I think we first need to truly understand the importance of
This is true for the outspoken rapper who speaks with little regard to
consequence(s) of what he or she has to say. But it is also true for the
pundits and celebrities who only seek to curry favor with white people
absolving them of all responsibility, or by appeasing their sense of
Saul Williams noted in an interview that we are "persons" (i.e. beings
sound). We are, in a sense, defined by our ability to communicate. We
understand that words matter. Tell Amiri Baraka, whose 1968 jail
was partially motivated by ideas expressed in a poem, that words do not
matter. Tell C-Bo, bay area recording artist whose parole was revoked
because of lyrics on a CD, that words don't matter. James Baldwin once
noted, "Some officials in Washington actually believed The Fire Next
caused Watts."(Arts in Society, Summer 1966) There are people who
that 2pac's lyrics resulted in the death of a Texas policeman. These
people will tell you that his lyrics resulted in his own demise as well.
am often tempted to give these people a smack across the face after
such claims, simultaneously forcing them to confront the problem with
argument and testing the strength of their convictions. I chose to write
these words instead.

Critics will often say there was/is nothing revolutionary about rap.
will say there was nothing revolutionary about 2pac, especially when
compared to Malcolm X or Martin Luther King. For them, rap is nothing
than posturing. This misses the point completely. From the chants of
to the lil' drummer boy of war, words to beats are powerful. Together,
can evoke a visceral response. Those who claim that rap is not powerful
would deny all of history. Furthermore, I doubt there are many people
believe a revolution will begin by simply pressing play on a discman, or
recording a song. The people who mention Martin, Malcolm and 2pac in the
same breath may not be talking about the commonality of their life, but
commonality of their death. How can so many people, often with messages
diametrically opposed, meet such a common fate? Perhaps their point is
we place too much emphasis on what they said to the neglect of how their
words resonated with the people. Rap can be a marriage between words and
beat. It can also serve as a metaphor for the relationship between a
and the community.

Martin, Malcolm and 2pac were all murdered black men. In that way, they
all connected. They all had their blemishes—all of them. Of course,
get very different reactions depending on which blemishes you choose to
expose. They each used their words differently. Martin often (not
exclusively) used his words to help articulate the dream he had for the
future. Malcolm often (not exclusively) used his words to heat us
the cold, hard reality of that era. 2pac often (not exclusively) used
words to detail the fierce contradictions within. To compare them would
unfair. If Martin Luther King had died at 25, he would most likely be
remembered by some as a pastor of a small, Alabama church. If Malcolm X
died at 25, we would most likely not remember him at all. What made them
special were their respective transformations, and their ability to
transform others through their words. I believe this is the ability that
terrifies people to this day. It explains why the people who dislike rap
much spend so much time discussing it and so little time providing the
of leadership that would make the absolute worst of the music, and the
people in it, irrelevant. Any one who has the ability to mobilize people
affect the status quo is in danger. 2pac once noted that he wanted to
take 6
million album sales and turn them into 6 million votes. Does that sound
crazy? Was it all political bluster? Ask the Governor of one of the
economies on the planet (California) if that sounds crazy? Ask his
co-star, Jesse Ventura, if that sounds crazy? I listened to the
track again(link in my previous post) and I came to the conclusion that
Minister Farrakhan doesn't scare anyone with his rhetoric. He scares
by his ability to put one million black bodies in this nation's capital.
Martin Luther King was planning to march poor people directly into this
nation's capital. You don't think that scares people. How many of you
eye contact with the vagrants who pan handle at busy intersections? Yep,
think an army of "undesirables" would scare most people. Any black male
is capable of mobilizing large amounts of black people in status quo
changing ways is a threat and is typically discredited or marginalized.
if they won't keep their mouth shut, it will be shut for them.

Haven't you ever wondered where the strong black leaders are at the
level? We have them at the local level, but once you move beyond the
level, strong black leadership is almost nonexistent. Jesse
daddy (discredited). Al Sharpton?- Aint he busy doing a low budget, loan
commercials that will charge poor, black people outrageous interest
rates on
loans that will help to keep them poor (Marginalized)? These examples
illustrate why there's such a strong dislike for Farrakhan. Despite the
efforts of some, his ability to mobilize hasn't been completely
though it has been diminished by discussions that seem to focus on the
failures of the million man march. I must have missed the memo that said
march, or even a movement, is supposed to provide the final solution to
of our problems. Similarly, critics of Hiphop ask, "What has Hiphop done
the betterment of Black people?" I must have also missed the memo that
the goal of Hiphop is provide solutions to all of our problems. I
hear someone ask, "What has American Culture done for the betterment of
Black people?" If you consider Hiphop to be a sub culture of American
Culture, then it stands to reason that the problems with Hiphop must
also be
problems with American Culture.

I think we need to move beyond a very narrow, constricting view of right
wrong with respect to our words. This either /or paradigm we have with
respect to words may make some feel like they have the higher moral
but the community is dying in the process. What good is having a higher
moral ground if it means abandoning so many in the trenches? It is one
the interesting ironies I have come across in reading the work of Hiphop
rap critics like Stanley Crouch, John McWhorter and the recently
deceased C.
Delores Tucker. There arguments against rap are not new. They have been
around since the inception of rap. Interestingly enough, critics and
they criticize are often not as different as they would like us to
They argue that kids can't make the distinction between rap and reality.
yet, many of them can't seem to make the distinction between rap and
Some of them can't see the difference between what Hiphop represents and
what is presented. There is a disconnect between the Civil Rights
and the Hiphop generation (You may want to check out Todd Boyd's book,
H.N.I.C.). It is reflected in the dialogue, or lack thereof, between the
young and old. Fortunately, it can be mended. If we are careful and
thoughtful with our words, then there is no reason why the healing can't
immediately begin. It is my opinion that it will be up to the elders to
reach out. Why? They are the ones with the experience and the first-hand
knowledge. Who better to lead? It saddens me when I hear older people
have so much they could offer opt to dish out nothing but scorn and
contempt. Is that really any different from the scorn and contempt you
hear on a record that, in turn, causes you to react in that way?

I had no desire to see the 50 cent semi-biopic. Some of my friends
referred to it as a black "8-mile." All jokes aside, I did think a
bit about his past, and I tried to think what I would do given his
background. If I had the chance to go from a bullet-riddled drug dealer
to a
super wealthy entertainer by recording some crass lyrics, would I take
If I were given the opportunity to work for a conservative think tank
I will be used like a puppet, but paid handsomely, would I take it? The
conservative lackey won't be paid like 50 cent, but at least he won't
to worry about the intense scrutiny of the federal government, or the
jealousy of friends and enemies alike. He'll probably be able to keep a
more of his money in the long run. Would you take it? I probably would
if my
upbringing had been any different. It's not because I think it's the
thing to do, but I am trying to do something that is becoming
rare. I am using my words in an attempt to be honest, with myself and

We live in a society that shapes and creates the types of individuals we
everyday. Love? Compassion? Leadership? All of these things are in short
supply. The recent execution of Stanley Williams illustrates my point.
To be
sure, Stanley Williams was responsible (directly and indirectly) for a
of pain and misery. But what did he have left to do on this earth other
to use his words to try and prevent others from going down the same path
went down? His execution shows that the desire for justice (i.e.
was more important than all of the lost souls that he might have saved.
a moment to think about what type of message that sends to kids. We have
created an environment that would rather condemn than edify, and
rather than empower. Where might we find similar themes? I submit that
anyone who owns a 50 cent record (not to pick on 50 cent there are
plenty to
choose from) doesn't need to go very far. We need the elders (not old
folk—there's a difference) to pick up the mantle of leadership once
We need them to say, "Hey "young buck" (pun intended) let me show you
you can build your worth (monetary and self)."

In order to accomplish this goal I have some recommendations that every
black person in America should do. I make no qualms about being
and I hope you will see that pro-black does not mean anti-white or anti
American. In fact, I think having a strong black community is good for

1)Dead Prez said turn off the radio. I would take it a few steps
Not only should you turn off the radio, you should turn off the T.V. You
should cancel your subscription to cable for a period of no less than
months. See how you feel after cutting off the sewage that enters your
through those devices. If you really want to see improvement in
it isn't enough to boycott a Nelly video on B.E.T. especially since
are literally thousands of individuals who would love to see him go so
can slip right into his place, and thousands more who would love to see
entire story take place through the T.V. screen. You need to hit the
responsible for programming in the pocket books.

2)Use the money you save on cable and open a saving account. Help your
and/or yourself get into the habit of saving and investing. Contrary to
popular belief, it doesn't take a whole lot of money to start a
The hardest part is usually just starting one. The next hardest part is
training yourself to set aside some of your earnings for savings and
investment. Even if it isn't a lot, the most important thing is that you
consistent and you try to up the amount you can comfortably save

3)Have debates with your family and friends. We need to move beyond this
simple either/or paradigm that only allows us to keep one thought in our
head at a time. We need to be able to discuss different view points,
critically analyze them, and see how they might benefit the individual
the community. We need to embrace words again—the good and the bad.

4)Finally, we must recognize the connection between events. Note that
preceding three points are not wholly separate from each other. One can
often feed into the other. Just like the goal of good investment is to
your money work for you, we need to become the owners of our
property and processes and have them work for us. Then we will not have
worry about the critics, under miners or rappers who would be content to
have us spin our wheels and never make any true progress.

Messenger: White dread Sent: 2/28/2006 11:00:49 AM

I am also a big Tupac fan, I agree he never wanted that some one would kill because of what he said on his albums. People use it as an excuse or politicians use it to destroy another black person who speaks truth. It was stated that the kids who killed the texas police officer listend to the track "Souljah's Revenge" there is nothing on that song that would send some out on the street and kill people, in particular police man. His words ARE still powerfull. I believe that he is killed because what he stood for. not what he rapped. Just like malcom X and Martin Luther King, killed because they had a true opion about society and poverty and such. The words of these fallin souljah should never be forgotten, they might kill al revolutionary but never a revolution.

One Love

Messenger: Nefertiti Sent: 3/3/2006 9:26:25 PM


Messenger: Ark I Sent: 3/5/2006 12:02:06 PM

I finally read your reasoning Nzingha.

I give thanks for your words.

I fixed a lot of the errors that came through with the punctuation.

I am going to look into changing the programming to automatically convert the characters when they are first entered.

Could you tell I what the symbol was supposed to be for the characters that remain.

Ark I
Haile Selassie I

Messenger: Empress Nzingha Sent: 3/5/2006 5:06:39 PM

I didn't write this. A friend of mine did, I'm reposting. I just thought it was worth sharing with the Idren.

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Haile Selassie I