Tuesday, 11 September 2007

Talking Points (Part I)

I apologise again (I'm making a habit of this!) for the lack of updates recently. There's two simple reasons for this: a) I've recently got a new job and have been training on it full-time and have found my spare time few and far between in the last few weeks, and b) my internet connection is awful and cut off for the last five days. To show my commitment to the cause, the first thing I've done getting back online is come here and start a belated blog entry. Let's get reacquainted.

This is the start of a new series of posts that will not appear in any regular slot or at a regular time every week as such. I will simply be discussing some things within the realms of hip-hop that have made me think outside of the box in recent times.

One thing I’ve always liked about hip-hop (and to a certain extent metal) is that the lyricism within sparks not only controversy, but serious discussion. Hip-hop is always at its best when the song has finished and you’re still thinking about the lyrics that you’ve just heard. Even though I didn’t agree with Chuck D on, well, everything (at times I actually found the man to be racist against white people in fact, as some of his songs follow the overused and never fully explained 'white devil' concept - I always feel like that sort of thing is a weak attempt of excusing your own failures through playing the race card, but thats a whole 'nother issue), I always found him interesting. This is why despite the fact I don’t agree with his viewpoints I own at least 6 or 7 Public Enemy albums and listen to them all on a regular basis, and also own and wear a black and green Public Enemy t-shirt with pride.

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Chuck D started conversations, he elicited a response, and I honestly think that was his main intention. He knew how to sell records. You don’t need a record company plan. You don’t need scantily-clad lasses in your music videos. You don’t need to have a chiselled jaw and take your shirt off. You don’t even need to be associated with other big artists (although that does seem to help). All you need is something powerful that people will not only recognise you for, but never forget you for. The combination of great music and important and thought-provoking lyricism is the SOLE reason why artists are successful on a long-term basis.

The reason why 2Pac, although an overrated artist he was and still is, always gets thrown up as one of the best rappers in those discussions is not because of his ‘Ambitionz Az A Ridah’. Even though those songs are equally as good to listen to and take enjoyment from, it’s the ‘Changes’ and ‘Brenda’s Got A Baby’ type songs that people will constantly cite to back up their argument. it’s the same with any artist who is often thought of as being a classic rapper. Rakim has ‘Paid In Full’ one of the most relevant and most quoted rap verses about the struggles of being poor and trying just to get some money to allow you some enjoyment in life. Kool G Rap had ‘Streets of New York’. Even Eminem had ‘Stan’. it’s not what your body of work is that gets you put on a pedestal, its what your body of work arises within the listener.

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On that note, I’ll start this very first ‘Talking Point’ article with a touchy subject in recent times. The ‘War on Terror’. How does this link with hip-hop, you ask? Well, towards the end of 2006 and the start of 2007, Wu-Tang affiliate, and emcee and producer Cilvaringz released his rather tasty ‘I’ LP. It had that dusty Wu-Tang feel. The one from their very first album and the feel you got when you listen to ‘Tical’. The album, although light-years away from those Wu releases in terms of quality, was solid as a rock, but had a strange song in the shuffle. It had no beat, no music, just Cilvaringz rapping, more like speaking a 3 minute verse. The song was called ‘Death To America’.

I suggest you listen to the song before we go on, so here is the download:

Cilvaringz - Death To America (from 'I')

A bit heavy eh? I, being an Englishmen who watched 9/11 and the London bombings and saw the pain and terror they caused, find it hard to agree with the sentiments in the song. But its almost impossible to shrug off what is being said. The song is not a piss-take or satirisation of the way the war is perceived (I don’t believe that it is anyway), it is, or seems to be, the genuine perception of what is thought by the average Muslim in regards to the war in Iraq and in regards to the occupation of Iraq by British and American troops.

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In a way I hope Michael Moore had heard this song around the time of the making of Fahrenheit 9/11, as it may have took him to the other side of the war and given the film even more realism. The most harrowing moment of that film for me wasn’t the whole idea of Bush being supposedly in cahoots with the Bin Laden family, or even the awful scenes capturing the victims of bombings in Afghanistan, it was the scene with a young American soldier in an interview with Michael Moore. When Moore asked him whether he’d go back to Iraq, the Soldier simply said he would rather take the risk of jail time, sacrificing his own freedom, than going back to Iraq, and not for the reasons of the conditions of war, but because he couldn’t stand the fact that he knew he was killing innocent people.

This is the same line that this song takes, from the other side, but with the anger of a young man done wrong. As I mentioned before, I don’t agree with him, but it certainly got me thinking when I listened to it.

This is really a test run for this particular thing, as I'm not sure whether I get lots and lots of people coming to this site, or just a few Northern Author Junkies that log on here 10 times a day each! So, for those who have been receptive to this, download the song and give your opinion, whether politically-incorrect or not (I love political incorrectness personally) on the song itself and on the sentiments within it (not to mention what it made you feel and why). I'll reply to every comment and hopefully we can get some dialogue going between at least one or two of us. As I said earlier, this could die on its arse if no-one joins in, so its just a test run.

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