So while listening to the Live From Headquarterz show I heard a new Chuck D. song speaking on shit that’s popping off with this immigration bill in Arizona (might not be about that directly but it is about immigrants). It feels good to hear the man and to know someone behind the mic is still willing to speak out. I know there is Dead Prez, Immortal Technique and The Coup (still) who are true front liners and then when Nas, Kweli, Common, Mos and even Styles P (who never gets credit for saying some conscience shit which he does a lot of by the way) feel like they want to go that route they do so. But it’s been awhile since we heard someone like Chuck D. This post isn’t necessarily about Chuck D. and the song but more of how good it felt to hear him it and then it became upsetting to realize no one has picked up where he left off. I know thanks to that outburst on the live telethon after Katrina hit we thought that voice would be Kanye. It really turned out to be nothing more than a right place at the right time thing didn’t it? But I’m talking about those rappers who are “relevant”.
There goes a phrase we throw around way too much in Hip Hop or popular rap music. Relevant. The word has been reduced to nothing more than big word way to say popular, who’s hot now, the “it” guy and any other kind way of not just saying flavor of the month. But as “relevant” as these guys are they aren’t saying shit of relevance at all. Perfect example is the two last elections. A gang of rappers said go out and vote and all were of course against the republicans but when asked anything remotely political they pulled away. Their views on anything from Katrina to Jena 6 to this recession have never been thrown out there for whatever reason and it doesn’t make it on albums either. Lil Wayne had something aimed at Bush after Katrina, not a lot people know the song. Then there’s Jay-Z who had a new verse on “Ignorant Shit” addressing the Imus thing and a quick line about Jena 6 but not a whole song, granted that was on the American Gangster album so it would have not fit in to have a whole song about those events. The last news “relevant” song I heard has been the “Something’s Wrong” by David Banner and 9th Wonder about the teen who was killed last year in Chicago. I’m going out on a limb and saying radio didn’t really place it in heavy rotation at all. So with the shit going on in Arizona to the fact young Americans in the hood are really feeling the impact of this economic slope with no jobs out, government programs ending and schools closing rappers have yet to address shit. If anything they let you know the recession hasn’t touched them at all. Yeah that’s as deep as they indulge into that subject.
Back when Chuck D was “relevant” MCs knew they were the voice of the hood and used those voices to tell the world what was going on in the hood and how we felt about it. We knew the hardship that went on in New York was felt in Virginia and thanks to Geto Boys we knew that Texas had those same issues. 2 Live Crew warned us that our (Hip Hop artists and comedians too thanks to Andrew “Dice” Clay) freedom of speech was under fire. Hell, 2 Live Crew won their court case about their lyrical content. KRS, Paris as well as Ras Kass on his debut album Soul On Ice gave us history lessons. It seemed as if every album during the golden era had at least one conscience song on it. I’m not saying I want these new dudes to make one conscience record, I’m saying with so much going on how long can they keep NOT speaking on it? Then you have wonder do we as rap music listeners even want to hear deep shit. I remember when Ludachris dropped that album in 05’ that was deep and no one really liked it. It got good reviews because of the growth the man showed but the sales weren’t there and the album before this new really didn’t make that much noise either in the hood. So what did Luda do, he went back to his old formula and all is forgotten about his attempt to be a deeper dude.
Back to Chuck D. again, Chuck D. shouldn’t be making records filling a void that’s been there since he left the game. He should be jumping on the remix of a song of political awareness and showing up in the video as way to say the mantle has been passed on to good hands. It still is good to hear that Chuck still has it though.