My Own Hip Hop.

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A little over five years ago I began one of the most life-changing journeys of my life so far. It started on a yellow school bus after a field trip  sponsored by a school program. I sat awed as several of my friends, including a young Denzel Curry (formerly of Raider Klan, now of C9), freestyled effortlessly about their skills, cartoons, anime, and movies. Afraid of choking in public, all I did was sit quietly and watch.

Now fast-forward to the present moment and my decent ability to freestyle in a manner reminiscent of Black Thought in this video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bxzQCyHRqWA) has helped me to make life-long friends. Add on to that two free EPs and a collab album with one of my best friends, and I’ve come a very long way. I am a Hip Hop artist.

But in an era where I can run into aspiring rappers in front of the movie theatre, what does that even mean? It’s been hard to admit that I no longer aspire to be a “professional” rapper but I really don’t. As an artist I’ve invested in a garden of creativity and if I were to become fully invested in Hip Hop, I see my other creative interests dwindling. Now they don’t necessarily need to, but to maintain the control over my art that I’ve always believed to be the norm, I know they would have to. Basically, I’m not in this to be Mick Jenkins, J. Cole, or Kendrick Lamar. I just love writing raps and performing them in front of people. I’m competitive with it, but I understand that I’m not shooting everyday.

To make a simple metaphor, I’m very fit creatively, but I don’t practice rapping all of the time. In a pick up game the team that has the most talent and skill wins in the end, and I’ve got a lot of both (IMO), but neither is the sharpened sword needed to cut through any and all of the competition.

But I’m still about making music. More so than trying to best any and all competition, I’m working to develop my own lane and style. I’m challenging myself to pick up new patterns over time and I’m learning more about creative writing, music, and sound in general. And I am closer to finding the sound and sincerity that I’ve been seeking.

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All of that explication is really just a long winded way for me to say that I’m working hard to finish up my next free music project Man(a). I’ve been doing a lot of my own production so it has an even more personal feel than my other projects. At the same time, I’ve only been effectively making beats for a little under two years, so many tracks are flawed/imperfect and I’m ok with that. Lyrically, I’m excited about some of the topics I’ve been able to tackle and I know there’s only room for improvement and greater introspection.

All in all, it’s turning out to be an exciting journey. Hip Hop has definitely changed me for the better and I’m excited for another chance to really express that. I’ve set a tentative release date for March 29th. Hope to hear some of your feedback.

Peace

-Raƒi

YBR – Do We Still Need the Black?

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Part of my YBR set will be discussion posts for a course I’m taking called Blackness Across Media. Feel free to share your thoughts!

In 2015 we are really at a confusing point in American culture. As Stuart Hall mentions in his piece, “What is the Black in Black Popular Culture?” we are currently (this is debatable) in an era of the global postmodern, where American mass culture has effectively infiltrated most of the world and more importantly other areas of the world have begun to push their own mass culture into the West. When (South) Korean music artist PSY has the most viewed YouTube video of all time (Oppa Gangnam Style), it’s clear that we are still in the era that Hall speaks of and exactly as he describes, we, as Americans, still only get a taste of the exotic. We might have more access to it then ever before, but there are limits to what will broadcast and disseminated by the media and advertisers/corporate entities. In the case of PSY, we don’t really get PSY. We aren’t meant to understand him and most of us are unable to even feign awareness of the nuances in the work he makes. Personally, I only know enough to know I know next to nothing about PSY or what Gangnam style is really about.

So what does PSY have to do with Black culture? For the purpose of this piece, the PSY phenomenon illustrates my issue with globalization and mass communications as the two factors that have had profound effects on Black culture in America. According to Hortense Spillers, Black culture is inherently critical of the larger American culture because its very existence is due to the separation of Black people from white people. But the question is when a culture of resistance in a global sense becomes part of the culture it is resisting, how does its significance change? In a global sense, PSY resists the standards of appearance and language, but is commodified as a funny and quirky exception to the rule and really loses its ability to effectively resist. For Black music culture, when jazz is jazz and no longer considered a “Black music”, when rock is “Elvised”, and when rap music is, in many ways, incorporated into pop music, does the distinction matter? Is Jimi Hendrix considered Black rock? Or can his blackness been folded into his person and he be considered Classic Rock? Blackness is without a doubt a factor in America, but once larger diverse audiences adopt cultural products forged from blackness into their own cultures and identities, is blackness still an important distinction to make?

I’d like to say that there is something that is lost when these products aren’t looked at through a lens that reflects their blackness, but the minority perspective is the one most easily erased from the social fabric. If everyone else considers a song like Mississippi rapper Big KRIT’s “Rotation” to be an insignificant stream of conscious song about a joyride then does it matter if a few people understand the significance of having one’s own vehicle in Black culture? As the lines blur more and more (pun not intended) Black peoples should continue to hold on to the understandings and nuances their blackness, or other sections of their identity, afford them when interpreting culture, even if that blackness becomes a marginal aspect of the cultural products as they are presented.

Thanks for reading,

Peace

Raƒi

Young Black Radical – Introductory Poem

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I’ve been AWOL for quite some time, but I plan on coming back to writing more since I’ve been reading more. I’m starting a new segment called Young Black Radical which will feature short poems, rap verses, videos, film reviews, and critical pieces around the topic of Young Black Radical.

On the name: I debated between the title: New Black Radical and Young Black Radical due to the connotation of the term New Black and how it’s being used today. In many ways, the idea of New Black is extremely problematic in that it denotes a separation from the legacy of Blackness in America and the world at large. I refuse to align myself with such notions. The title Young Black Radical fits the purpose of the pieces that will be included in that: they are the works of young (16-26 year old) Black people who identify in some way as radical. Simply, ideas and beliefs that strongly deviate from what has been defined as the status quo.

Without further ado, here’s a poem titled Young Black Radical:

Black in the age of President Obama.

Drama is now subtle realistic life-like.

Drama used to be opera used to be soaps 

theatre shows for the night life

paintings with vivid stories, you could lose yourself in

lengthy musical melodies and orchestrations.

Black in the age of President Obama. 

They call the US a Post-Racial Nation.

Until next time. Peace.

-Raƒi

The Liminal Lyricist