By Rahsaan Thomas
What can be done to return mainstream rap music back to its positive roots? The Yard Talk panel discussed how this could happen.
Eric Curtis: “We understand someone will always do what others want for enough money, but there is a way to force them to produce positive music. They either go with the flow or we close their doors.”
Antwan Williams: “You can’t take it back. It needs a rebirth; it needs to start all over. What you can do is start fresh, start a whole new buzz, a new crowd. If your car is broke, buy a new one. Don’t try to fix something that don’t want to be fixed.”
Marcus Henderson: “It’s about getting back to our true nature which is our community.”
John “Yahya” Johnson: “It’s a 700-lb gorilla that is out of control and the guns we working with are ineffective. You have to change society’s thinking and make the life they’re glorifying look less shiny. Products go in and out of season. We change the thinking and the industry will go with it.”
Williams: “You change the game by telling your story. I don’t care about how much you talk about killing; if you are on the street, you ain’t killing people. Really living that life consumes you. If you’re working hard to feed your kids, talk about that. If you just lost your mother and father, talk about that. There are more people who relate to that than who has the newest Bentley or ‘I’m popping this bottle.’ That’s how you change the game.”
Johnson: “All the materials on the web have made the world smaller so people are able to see clearer. They are more enlightened.”
Marcus Henderson: “We lost control of the stations. BET sold out. We can always buy something else.”
Rapper KRS1 said that rap music was the voice of Black people, back in the early ‘90s on his Edutainment album. Maybe that is becoming true again.
Several music superstars, led by Jay Z, have created Tidal, an online music streaming service. They include Paul McCartney, Beyonce, Rihanna, Kanye West, Madonna, Pharrell and others. Online streaming gives artists the opportunity to deliver their music straight to audiences. However, the question remains: what are they going to do with that ability? Will the music focus on more responsible, positive themes or remain the same?
Kendrick Lamar has taken a step in the right direction with his album, To Pimp a Butterfly. Despite the explicit language used, he speaks on real social issues. In The Blacker the Berry, he raps about being a hypocrite for crying when Trayvon Martin was killed, while gangbanging had him trying to kill Black men too. On “I” he argues that using the N-word is justified because it stems from the Ethiopian title Negus, which means king, ruler, or emperor.
In conclusion, the panel anticipates the All Lives Matter movement will take rap music along with it. They see promise in songs like “Feeling Black” by the Dream and “Glory” by John Legend and Common. Talent rappers like Lecrae and San Quentin’s Williams (“Banks”) demonstrate that the music can be aggressive and real without being negative.
There is hope yet.
-Trenise Ferreira contributed to this story