"Shadow boxin' when I heard you on the radio." -- LL Cool J on "Mama Said Knock You Out"
Recently, on the top rated "Chicken and Waffles Morning Show," something happened that shook up the rap world. The hosts were kickin' it with militant hip-hop artist "Songhai," when he started name checkin' rappers who he claimed were part of a diabolical conspiracy to destroy the youth. Songhai threatened to pimp slap the top five commercial hip-hop artists if they didn't change their wicked ways, ASAP. Strangely enough, he issued a retraction the next day, claiming that what he said was that he was gonna give the rappers a "hand clap." But... the damage had already been done. The seeds of revolution had already been planted in the minds of the people...
Last week, hip-hop artist Saigon created a controversy when, during a visit to NYC's Breakfast Club morning show, he announced to the rap world that he was gonna punch rap's top dogs -- 2 Chainz and Rick Ross -- in the grill if they didn't stop making songs that were detrimental to the children. Immediately, the Twitter-verse was flooded with people who were proclaimin' him hip-hop's new savior. Then a few days later, in a whirlwind change of events, he announced on his Facebook page that some of his words were "ignorant" and part of a "strategy."
I have always wondered why, when real hip-hop artists keep it real about one of the cashin' out rappers, within 48 hours, they release an apology or some sort of "clarification." A few years ago, OG rapper Ice-T apologized to Soulja Boy and more recently, Lupe Fiasco issued an apology to upstart Chief Keef regarding comments they made that were based on nothing but the pure, unadulterated truth.
So what gives?
Although Saigon has said that he didn't want to single out anybody in particular for the ratchet state of hip-hop, since you can count all the rappers who are gettin' heavy radio play on one hand and still have a couple of fingers left, how can you not name the names ? Also, since we agree that someone has committed grand larceny on the culture, how can you have a crime without having a criminal?
It must be noted that when artists like The Game actually punch rappers, they never apologize. Instead, they just say "Yeah, and if I see him in the streets, I'm probably gonna punch him again!" But "conscious" rappers go from Malcolm X to Martin Luther King in 2.5 seconds.
While some people may believe that the remarks of Maybach Music Group affiliate Gunplay may have had a little something to do with Saigon's sudden change of heart, I doubt that's the case. I'm sure that the rapper risks gettin' snuffed out by 10 Gunplay look-alikes every day on the NYC subway. So, it's probably not the street thugs, but the Wall Street thugs that make rappers nervous. They are more scared of Morty Schiester, corporate attorney, than they are of some rapper.
And, who can blame them?
If the rumor is true that 50 Cent has the power to shut down projects at rival record companies, how much power do you think his boss Jimmy Iovine has? That is why there is this code of silence between industry rappers, whether conscious or commercial.
When Saigon called out 2 Chainz and Rick Ross, he was not messin' with individuals. He was messin' with brands that people have invested a lot of cash creating and they weren't gonna let some rap revolutionist cancel their meal ticket. Contrary to popular belief, industry beefs are not handled by the rappers, but their image consultants. So, the same "Pierre Escargot" that picks out your favorite ratchet rapper's outfit for the BET Awards is the same cat who handles his beefs.
When Saigon went on his rant, he committed an unforgivable industry sin. He made people start to think. Also, as an industry insider, he co-signed something that we already knew. The masses are pissed off at the current state of hip-hop and they were just waiting for an industry cat who was as pissed as them to articulate their frustrations in a large forum.
And, it's not only the brainiacs that are outraged. It's the thugs too. Although rappers like Rick Rozay are flashin' their jewels, the streets are just tryin' to eat. While members of the Hip-Hop Millionaire Boys Club are ridin' around in Maybach's with heated seats, the boyz in the hood are out in the cold, rappin' that line from Freeway's "What We Do": "If my heat stops workin' / Ima rob me a person."
Already, there are videos on Youtube of Rick Ross catching heat from members of the Gangster Disciples in various states. And, America's greatest fear is that the gangstas get politicized and stop stockin' bullets and start pickin' up some books. That's why politically educated artists pose such a potential threat.
We may never know how many brain cells were sparked by the power of the Saigon interview. Even with the retraction, once words come outta your mouth, you can't call them back.
As omniscient as the heads of the multi-national corporations that control hip-hop claim to be, they will never be able to discern where rap ends and revolution begins. But, that doesn't stop them from trying. Many people have had their lives destroyed or ended for daring to wake up the masses.
J. Edgar Hoover's COINTELPRO "fear of a Black messiah who could electrify the youth" is still in effect and the rap industry is part of the program. So, I don't fault rappers like Saigon for being guarded with their words.
I blame us.
The blood of the martyrs is on hands of those who claim to want socio-political change, but have not formed a hip-hop united front to make artists, writers and activists with a message feel secure in speaking truth to power
Remember, during the 60's, it was the student movements on college campuses that held Muhammad Ali down with speaking engagements after he was banned from boxing for speaking out on the war in Vietnam. Unfortunately, we don't have that structure any more.
We must rebuild it.
Also, as powerful as the music industry executives appear, they are not gonna put guns to our heads and force us to buy our children Chief Keef CD this holiday season. So, we must join the "Take Back Hip-Hop Black Friday Campaign" and only spend our money on music from artists with a message this holiday season. And, I'm not talking about those artists that are just using conscious hip-hop as a marketing scheme or an entry level way into the industry. I'm talking about those who are actually involved in our physical and mental liberation.
This way we can honor those artists and activists , past, present and future, who sacrificed their lives for speakin' the truth and were either blacklisted, put in jail, or, like Saigon said on his latest video, "Blown Away."
This editorial piece is part of TRUTH Minista Paul Scott's "This Ain't Hip Hop" series, a weekly column for intelligent hip-hop heads. The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author, and not BallerStatus.com and/or its staff.