All Articles Tagged "hip hop"
Most fans of Hip Hop are not the least bit shocked by news that Marion Hugh “Suge” Knight Jr., former head honcho at Death Row Records, has killed someone. Some of us might even claim to have seen this coming.
And yet, for years we kind of ignored, if not excused, his erratic and often violent behavior because that’s just Suge. Folks might not want to admit it, but lots of us were entertained by Knight’s debauchery. From the story about the time he hung Vanilla Ice by the ankles off a roof until he signed away rights to “Ice, Ice, Baby,” to his most recent arrest for alleging stealing a camera from a photographer with accomplice Katt Williams, doing crazy things used to be a huge part of his appeal.
And as disgusted as I am by his actions, I do wonder if somehow Hip Hop culture, which at times seems to thrives off of hyper-masculinity and violence, kind of empowered Knight?
No, I don’t think that Hip Hop was the reason why Knight plowed into a bunch of people, killing one. That is all on Knight. But rather, how might our being entertained by Marian Knight’s erratic behavior have shielded him from getting the help that he needed? And I’m talking mentally.
This is not the first time the question of mental health in Hip Hop has been broached here. Last April, Tom Barnes penned a piece for Policy Mic, entitled “What We Should Really Be Saying About the Rapper Who Cut Off His Penis.” In case you hadn’t figured out, the essay is about Wu-Tang affiliated rapper Andre Johnson, aka Chris Bearer, who in a bout of depression fueled by drug abuse, cut his penis off and jumped out of the window.
Barnes argued then that Johnson’s suicide attempt was indicative of a culture, which celebrates mental illness. More specifically he writes:
“There is a romantic notion surrounding artists as tortured geniuses who relieve their anguish through creative expression. But when artists’ suffering shows its fullest extent and ends in tragedy, it’s not ok to be entertained. It’s time to face up to the facts about mental illness in hip-hop and treat it as the problem it really is.”
As noted in a previous piece, I thought Barnes overstated the prevalence of mental illness in Hip Hop alone. I firmly believe that Hip Hop culture is no more or less flippant about mental health than the rest of society. But after Knight’s latest violent outburst, resulting in the loss of a life, I’m really starting to see his point. And I’ll take it one step further: what if it’s the fans, who give excuse to depression, personality disorders and other unchecked mental illnesses; not only because it entertains us, but also because it feeds into narratives that Black boys and men are inherently bad and later, dangerous?
“Another theory is that African Americans don’t also subscribe to treatment. So we could be suffering for years and we won’t get help,” said Ronald Crawford, mental health professional and author of Who’s the Best Rapper? Biggie, Jay-Z and Nas?
Crawford, who also writes for Rap Rehab, said that while he wouldn’t make a diagnosis of Knight without meeting him first, the rap label boss’ behavior, as reported in the media, is consistent with an anti-social personality disorder. According to the Mayo Clinic, symptoms of the disorder include difficulty dealing with people, frequent trouble with the law and having little to no regard for the rights, wishes and feelings of others. Crawford added that anti-social personality disorder is a common diagnosis among people serving time in a correctional facility.
He acknowledges that Knight probably found refuge for his erratic behavior in the glorification of his image, as do other artists including Kanye West and DMX, whose erratic behavior (and in the case of DMX, actual diagnosed mental illness) is often cosigned by fans.
This is only compounded by the already fragile nature of American manhood, which frowns upon the sharing of any emotions and feelings, that could be perceived as weak. Crawford said that anger is considered a secondary emotion usually meant to protect oneself from vulnerability. And the anger we sometimes hear in Hip Hop may very well be the result of people not knowing how to express their true feelings properly. “It’s raw emotion – that is lots of what we hear. People don’t know how to say, you hurt my heart. So they say other hurtful things.”
However , Crawford is not convinced Hip Hop (or by default, the Black community) culture nurtures mental illness. Instead he points to a number of artists who have used their platforms to talk about mental health including Pharoahe Monch, who last year dropped an album about his own bouts of depression and suicidal thoughts.
In fact, Crawford said that he has felt that the raw emotion within Hip Hop has been helpful in getting some of his more difficult patients to open up about what is troubling them. “A lot of people pay attention to the misogyny and the violence in rap, but one of the things they don’t talk about is how rappers have been talking for years about fatherlessness and the impact it has on young men,” he said.
Crawford isn’t the only one who has used Hip Hop in counseling services. A couple of researchers from Cambridge University have created Hip Hop Psych, which also uses some of Hip Hop’s more positive lyrics to raise awareness about mental illness.
He also points out how often the artist’s intended message is lost when we focus only on the presentation. “I think it is a little deeper than some of the lyrics that they use. And we need to take the time to get into what they are saying and not how they are saying it,” he said.
While Crawford thinks we should be aware that an artists’ erratic behavior might be indicative of deeper issues, and that help should always be encouraged, he doesn’t believe that fans should stop patronizing their art. To do so, is like punishing people for being hurt or having mental health problems, he said.
“Is it what the artist is saying, which is upsetting you? Or are we mad at what they are going through? I think instead of shooting the messenger and getting mad at what they are talking about; let’s get mad at the conditions of what they are talking about,” he said.
I’ve always said I love listening to Charlemagne on “The Breakfast Club” but I would be scared to actually meet him. On the one hand it’s refreshing to listen to someone who is so honest in expressing his thoughts on music and pop culture. Charlemagne has said that Wendy Williams taught him he could either be for the people or for the industry. He chose the former and it shows.
But I would be scared to meet and have a conversation with him because Charlemagne frequently makes disparaging and disrespectful remarks to and about women. He gawks at women when they sit next to him, commenting on their bodies. He crudely and openly talks about sexual practices, even women’s vaginas, while said women are visibly uncomfortable with the conversation or attempt to change the subject. Long story short, he’s consistently disrespectful and rude.
Most of the time, no one calls him on it. People, men and women alike, (because he talks to men about vagina too), have either smiled nervously, remained silent or attempted to change the subject.
But that’s not what happened today. When Master P sat down with “The Breakfast Club” this morning, things took a left turn when Charlemagne tried to insult a Mercedes, a female rapper signed, at one time or another, to No Limit, Master P’s record company.
Here’s how it went down.
Charlemagne: I always wondered, how did you set up promotion for your projects? Because it was a time that No Limit was dropping project every week. It was a No Limit product in stores every week. Except for Mercedes, we never saw that. And I always wanted to see that because she had a fat ass pussy.
Master P: See there bruh, hold up… Don’t talk about Mercedes like that.
Charlemagne: Oh, my bad. I didn’t know. Is she family or something?
Master P: She ain’t family; but still though, with all my people man, you know how I am. But we good, man. You know what I’m saying…you know how we get down.
Charlemagne: But how were you setting it up, promotion wise?
Master P: Naw, let’s go back to this dog. Let’s respect. Because I’m not going to talk about your sister, your mom or nothing. That’s the first thing. I know you do your radio thing and I respect that; but at the same time, Mercedes is a…she a female.
Charlemagne: You right. My bad. But she did look good on that cover though.
Master P: She did look good. That’s your opinion…
An upcoming rapper walks into the room and Master P gets distracted. Then DJ Envy tries to get Master P to answer the original question. Master P obliges and then gets back to the issue of respect.
Master P: But like I said man, it’s about respect, Charlemagne. You know me and you go back.
Master P: When we talk about women– I don’t care I ain’t gon’ disrespect no hookers or nothing. Cuz I don’t do that, I’m a man. And I don’t want nobody to disrespect no people that I know. You know what I’m saying.
Aaaahhh what a breath of fresh air! With the exception of the word female…this was so perfect. I absolutely love the fact that Master P lets him know that it’s not about Mercedes being related to him, the fact that he knows her means he won’t let anyone disrespect her. And then the response got even better when P said, in fact, he wouldn’t speak about any woman in that way, regardless of what society may say about her worth or moral standards. Standards starts with self and the fact that he is a man, he won’t allow himself to disrespect women. There is only one word that can detail my reaction to this portion of the interview: YAaaaaaassssssss!
And since I grew up in and still go to church, I feel this Holy Ghost dance gif is appropriate.
Women have been degraded and disrespected for far too long in the confines of Hip Hop. But if we’re being completely honest, it’s not just Hip Hop. The medium, as it’s been known to be, is a reflection of the world in which we live, good and bad. It’s society’s fault for making us believe that women are somehow inferior and therefore worthy of this type of treatment and discussion. And if I can take it a step further, it’s not just men who disrespect women. You need work at MadameNoire for only a week to see women calling other women all the types of hoes, bitches and thots in our comment sections.
Misogyny is real and so deep, women have become the torchbearers of it.
I appreciate Master P and his response so much because it shows us how to stand up for the rights of women. (Note, that Master P was very respectful and direct in his approach.) We don’t have to smile politely or laugh it off. And it also shows that all women, no matter what they may do for a living or if they defy your personal, moral code, should be and deserve to be respected as human beings.
You can watch the full interview on the next page.
“I Sparked A Change”: Iggy Azalea Explains Why She Thinks She Has Changed Hip Hop, And How She Deals With Her Haters
When you really think about it, Iggy Azalea had a really good 2014, and a really bad 2014 at the same time. While “Fancy” became her breakout hit, which ushered in a string of other hits from her album The New Classic, she was also called everything but a child of God by everyday people, rap fans and fellow lyricists (hey Azealia Banks!). And while she tried to defend herself here and there, the comebacks only made things worse.
But Azealia isn’t letting her detractors get her down. In fact, if you ask her, she has already made an impact on hip-hop, even if her career doesn’t last longer than a hot second. It all started when GQ asked her what she wanted her legacy to be down the line:
“You never know how long you’ll be in people’s good graces, especially in this business. So I hope it’s long—but I could be here for three or four years and then be out, like most artists. So it depends. I might be here for a long time. At the very worst, if I have a short-lived career, at least I could say I sparked a change—that I inspired some leniency in what people accept in hip-hop. And if I have a very long career and can be gyrating in a leotard at 35, that would be great.”
As for people who would disagree with such statements, I-G-G-Y says she’s #unbothered. The accolades she’s been given have helped her feel that way:
“Uh, awards season helps. Anytime where people get to choose who they want to have a voice and they choose me, I just think that makes it worth it. And that gives me the patience to just bite my tongue. When people choose me as the person they think should be speaking for them, I think, Well, I don’t really care what someone in the industry or another artist has to say about it. Your opinion is biased anyway, because you want people to listen to your voice. So having actual people who choose me, it makes me think, I have a place, and I don’t care what other people have to say about it. I was a fan of rap music growing up, and I didn’t feel like there were enough characters that represented me and my situation. So I think it’s needed.”
Hmm. Not sure what to make of this.
An Italian-inspired restaurant in Washington, DC is planning to host a hip-hop dinner to honor slain rappers Biggie Smalls and Tupac in February. For the menu, which hit Twitter earlier this week, Graffiato is serving “thug rice,” which is cuddle fish ink risotto, crawfish, crispy clams, cauliflower. There’s also “blood money sausage” and “Chocolate Chip Blunts” on the three-course meal.
After Graffiato, chef Mike Isabella, a former Top Chef contestant, heard of the criticism of the menu, he told DCist the menu is simply a “work in progress,” reports The Grio. The menu has since been taken down with the only mention of it in this press release on the Graffiato website.
The dinner is to take place Feb. 2 and cost $65 per person.
“Restaurateur Mike Isabella gave Y&H the following statement via his publicist, who says he’s not available for an interview: ‘The Graffiato dinner on February 2 is a celebration of hip hop from two of the greatest artists of the 90s. The menu is still a work in progress, and dishes will be inspired by songs, lyrics and classic east and west coast dishes’,” reports Washington City Paper.
Technology entrepreneurship offers an extensive amount of opportunities. But flip through most magazines and websites that delve into the space and, at times, it seems as though the content isn’t speaking to you, more so at you…and in another language. It’s a concern that The Phat Startup (TPS) team—Anthony Frasier, James Lopez, Jesal Trivedi and Jahde—recognized and aimed to disrupt.
Influenced by Lean Startup methodology and hip-hop culture, The Phat Startup is an integrated media company that develops premium content for new to serial entrepreneurs. Known for their well-attended NYC events, where they’ve brought tech heavyweights such as Reddit founder and serial investor Alexis Ohanian, VaynerMedia founder and social media expert Gary Vaynerchuk, and Ben Horowitz (a.k.a Nas’ bestie), co-founder and general partner of the venture capital fund, Andreessen Horowitz, the Phat Startup is entering a new chapter, hosting their inaugural Tech808 conference on November 21 at New York University. The conference, which is in partnership with the Clive Davis Institute, will explore the world of entrepreneurship through the view of those who are grinding and hustling to make power moves.
MadameNoire caught up with The Phat Startup co-founders to discuss tech entrepreneurship, starting your own venture and why Tech808 is a must-attend conference.
Lopez: I was inspired to start TPS because I noticed that the similarities between hip-hop and lean were a perfect way to educate aspiring entrepreneurs that resonated with the hip-hop culture. Buzzwords are cool, but if you don’t understand them you cant learn from them, or apply those lessons.
Frasier: What played a big part of me jumping into The Phat Startup is being constantly asked questions about becoming an entrepreneur. When I got together with James, and we began to see we could use the culture as a way to get entrepreneurs interested and informed, it was magic.
How did The Phat Startup go from an idea to a platform to a movement, which entails events and now your conference, Tech808?
Frasier: The blog was the first step. The content was the second. The content played a huge part in our journey. When we wrote resource guides and conducted interviews, we weren’t talking to a white kid at Stanford. Sure, anyone could relate and benefit from our content, but we had a certain demographic in mind. We wanted to ask questions a single mother in Newark, NJ could relate to. I wanted to create a guide that a college dropout in Oakland would vibe with.
As a result, it helped us gain a following. The largest reason people follow us is because we present the same resourceful, quality information you would get anywhere else, but with a cooler voice. It’s less intimidating, and people love that. We love hip-hop, so when we wave our flags we do it like any hip-hop movement would. We wear our T-shirts; we make sure the logo is visible on our products. It makes people want to join the squad and be part of something. Hip-hop taught us that.
What can attendees expect from your inaugural conference?
Lopez: For Tech808, we decided that having people talk about the come up wasn’t as valuable as them telling you how to create your own come up or movement. We wanted to get off the usual background information and have all speakers leave the community with executable advice that they can start implementing the day of in a TEDx style conversation.
We want to educate our community, so Tech808 is pure executable advice, no self-promotion.
Talk to me about the inspiration behind the name Tech808
Frasier: The Tech808 name came from our founding members: Jesal Trivedi and Jahde. The 808 is the most famous bass sound in hip-hop. It has a boom to it that is unmatched. Bringing tech together with that represents the convergence of the two cultures. It also means we not playing games out here!
How will Tech 808 be different from a lot of the other technology conferences happening in other tech hubs such as San Francisco, Austin, Atlanta and New York?
Lopez: Tech808 is different because we wanted to focus on the lessons learned from founders in the trenches right now. People like Mark Zuckerburg are super special, but the tactics they use now can’t be used by a company that is just launching. All of our speakers are building their empires from an early stage and their tactics are the ones our community needs to implement now.
Frasier: I agree with James. What also makes us different are the same reasons we were able to attract our audience. It’s the culture. It’s the comfort level [of] people asking questions and not feeling dumb, or left out. We are for the people. You don’t get that vibe when attending a larger, more popular conference.
For those aspiring to be tech entrepreneurs, what advice would you give them about starting a business in the tech space?
Lopez: As Nike would say, just do it. There will never be a perfect time to start. Start now and learn how to overcome the obstacles that you’ll face. There isn’t a blueprint to follow, but you can learn from how others over came adversity. Do that and grind!
Frasier: My biggest piece of advice for aspiring tech entrepreneurs is to learn and build as much as you can. Learn how to code. Don’t have the time to learn how to code? Learn how to prototype! Learn how to build wire frames. Learn how to communicate your vision to a technical person. But, as much time as you spend learning, you have to start building and making mistakes. Making mistakes is how we get better and, trust me, you will learn to love making mistakes in the tech world. Making mistakes is actually better than reading articles and books.
Based in New York City, Janel Martinez is a multimedia journalist who covers technology and entrepreneurship. She is the founder of “Ain’t I Latina?” an online destination geared toward Afro-Latinas. You can follow her up-to-the-minute musings on Twitter @janelmwrites.
There’s a video floating around the Internet of Bobby Shmurda performing in front of a bunch of White executives and not too many people are happy about it.
If you haven’t seen it, you can check it out here. Reportedly, this video was shot the day that Shmurda was signed to the record label. But the gist of people’s angst centers around a lone Shmurda, lip syncing and dancing to “Hot N*gga” as well as some other tunes, both on and off tables, in the Epic Records boardroom while the audience of predominately White folks – as well as L.A. Reid, who is CEO of Epic Records – smiles and cheers him on. The description under the video, says that it was the day that Shmurda was signed to a record deal.
As some folks in my network have noted, this particular video, and I guess Schmurda in general, are prime examples of what’s wrong with the music industry today. Especially White executives being at – or near – the helm of selecting what represents HipHop, and by default Black culture. And as a result, we get a kid, whose lyrics border on a real world version of Idiocracy.
Although, most if not all signed artists have to perform their albums or demos in front of the record company executives, I can somewhat understand the sentiment here. Much of what we hear in popular Hip Hop is garbage. And yes, I know: it’s popular Hip Hop. But it was also popular Hip Hop back in the day with lots more diversity.
There was M.C. Hammer and NWA; KRS-One and PM Dawn; Arrested Development and the GraveDiggaz; b-boys like LL Cool J and urban cowboys like Whodini too. Back in the day, you could turn on the radio and find a rapper spitting his own unique and creative brand of the budding art form. There were even lady rappers – plural. But every since the genre of music has become institutionalized, all we get on the radio are a bunch of dudes – and Minaj in the same white or black t-shirt doing that weird auto tune thing.
More specifically, I’m kind of blasé about the song “Hot Nigga.” While I can’t take a step outside a few feet without hearing it blaring from a car stereo or somebody’s “personal” music player, the song has yet to catch me. And it doesn’t have anything to do with the lyrics (even though they are pretty elementary and the subject matter stale and as always misogynistic). My generation had The Chronic and most of us as adults have respectable jobs and families. So the younger generation can have Shmurda. But rather, I just don’t think there is anything special about the song. Hell, it doesn’t really stand out from the rest of the trap house or other rap songs on the radio right now. So the mere fact that the song has taken the world by storm, really does perplex me.
However while the song is mysterious, the dance is not. Oh, I totally get the Shmoney dance. What’s not to love about a two-step? Anybody can do a two-step. Plus you always look cool doing it. But more importantly, the Shmoney dance is bringing something back to Hip Hop, that has long been forgotten: and that’s how to have fun.
I don’t know when it started but for some reason, it totally became uncool for a male rapper to dance. And in fact, there was a time not that long ago when you would be hard pressed to find a rapper, busting a move or two. Of course there was MC Hammer and his entire Oakland clique. But we also had Kwame, Kool Moe Dee, Heavy D, Digital Underground (I bet as soon as some of y’all read “Digital Underground,” y’all started doing the Humpty Dance), and a host of emcees who were not scared to blame it on the boogie. Even some of the more serious rappers including Big Daddy Kane and EMPD broke it down a couple of times. Seriously, name a rapper from the heydays of the genre, who did not dance, and I’ll show you a rapper, who likely did not chart.
Okay that’s not entirely true: I do sort of remember when rap turned into a rhyming-on wax version of “Footloose.” It was the sometime in the mid-90s. Puffy, later to be known as Diddy (but forever in my heart as Puffy), was the last of the foot-shuffling, two-stepping Mohicans. He was also the originator of the shiny suit. And during the Bad Boy era, there was not a Puffy-associated artists, who was not required to dance around in a shiny suit.
The suits and the two-step were both fun for a while. But then it became too much. Puffy and his two step and shiny suits were poppin’ up in everybody’s videos. But then male rappers and their audiences alike started to denounce Puffy, his overt materialism and the shiny suit culture as byproducts of what commercialization was doing on the genre. And the genre of music started to get more hyper-masculine. No more suits, no more singing, no smiling and of course, no more fancy with the footwork. Now, it was all about low-sagging jeans, mean-mugging and thug-lovin’. And the most we got in the way of a dance out of these rappers was leaning back and doing Rockaway.
I’m not really down with Shmurda. And quite honestly, as a budding old head I don’t think that I’m his target demographic either. I’m perfectly fine with that. But as a young-old head, I do appreciate both the songs and dance ability to lighten Hip-Hop up again – somewhat. I’m not sure if we’ll ever get back to the era where rappers will start incorporating more limber movements into their routines like the “Steve Martin” or “The Typewriter” or the “Ed Lover” or even the classic, “The Wop.” But at least the rappers are starting to relax a bit. And not be so hard all the time.
And this is particularly important considering we had almost a generation of young men who was reared under this distorted era of masculinity, which sought to label everything as emasculating (i.e. for girls and gays). For instance, I have a one friend, who recently bought a Philadelphia Sixers throwback-ish beanie and cut the red, white and blue fabric ball off the top because “real n*ggas don’t wear ballies.” That is a true quote. He also thinks the Shmoney dance is gay because, “why aren’t there any women dancing with him in the video?”
It’s hilarious and quite stupid, I know. But for a myriad of reasons, American men are very protective of their identities. Perhaps the Shmurda dance will inspire more rappers to adopt a signature movement – as well as other things that were previous not-gay but somehow gay now. Perhaps a rapper will come along and challenge men to not give a damn about who or what is gay or not. And maybe in a few years, my friend can feel comfortable two-stepping in his beanie with the ballie on top and still feel like a man.
Hailing from California, Luke Christopher and his infectious smile captivated us while we interviewed him about his budding music career. Growing up in a biracial household, Luke Christopher mixed various genres together to create his own sound. As a self taught musician, Luke Christopher’s claim to fame has been to blur the lines in music. Therefore, his personal edge has been covered through working with artists such as Wiz Khalifa, Common and Usher to name a few. In this intimate interview with the L.A. crooner/rapper he details how he entered the music industry, deals with groupies and is changing the West Coast sound.
How did you get you start in the music industry?
I started writing song on GarageBand back in the day, when I was 12 years old. My brother and cousin would create music with me on the program but to be honest, we were just messing around. We would take nursery rhymes and turn them into raps. Then at some point, they started to do their own thing but I stuck with creating tracks on it. I started rapping when I was 13 and I started singing when I was 15 and producing. I didn’t have anyone to sing on my hooks, so I began to just do it all and it worked out to being a blessing.
Who would you like to work with currently, or in the future?
I definitely would like to work with Andre 3000, James Blake, Regina Spector, Mos Def and Kanye. I really like what Pharrell is doing right now; to be honest I am really drawn to artists who are extremely creative.
Every Tuesday, you promised to release a song. Have you lived up to that goal?
My team and I have released 15 weeks worth of Tuesday “singles” of original songs and some of them are samples.
Creatively, how does that affect you as a writer?
By releasing a new song every Tuesday, it has been a cool exercise. Every single week, you have to create something different. None of the songs sound the same and I notice my fans realize that. They will tell me “oh snap, that new track is different and dope.”
You call your fans the TMRGang; Are they just as crazy as the BeyHive, Beliebers or other stans?
Yeah the TMRGang stands up even though they are not as big as the other fan bases but they are crazy [laughs]. But on a serious note, they love good music and that is what it is all about.
Since your status is changing due to you becoming more popular, do you feel the people around you have changed? Also, have you had any experiences with groupies?
The people around me have not changed. The homies are still the homies, because we are a team. But the groupies are coming. But to be honest it has all been all flattering, so it’s all good. Nothing too crazy [laughs].
What style of music influences you when you are in the process of creating a song?
Writing wise, it would be Stevie Wonder. Also, The Beatles, Micheal Jackson; if I am writing a rap song, I look to Pac, Mos Def or Common. I like to input wisdom in rap. I definitely go back to early Kanye too; he has been a great influence on my music.
West Coast rap has changed; do you think it should revert back to its 1980s style or do you like how it is transitioning now?
The nature of music is to change and grow, so sonically it will never sound the same again. But I like the current sound and I think it’s dope. There are a lot of artists coming out of the region now, so it is a perfect to be out there. The sound is ill and it’s like we are coming back now to take over the industry.
Check out Luke Christopher’s latest Tuesday song, “Sunny Days!”
From The Grio
Before Russell Simmons, Diddy and other rappers became fashion conscious and began making their own clothes, hip-hop style in the 90′s was distinctly designer label friendly.Iconic fashion designer Tommy Hilfiger saw the potential buying power of hip-hop culture early and recruited the era’s top acts to wear his signature line Hilfiger, including Usher, Snoop Dogg and the late Aaliyah.
Recently, the 61-year-old reflected on hip-hop’s long term impact on his lifestyle brand.
In his Bloomberg News interview, Hilfiger said rap’s influence was necessary for his business to expand, but ultimately he was following a trend.“Look, it fueled a lot of growth, but it took us away from our roots,” said Hilfiger. “When people ask me advice, I say stick to who you are. Stick to your guns. There is an image and attitude to most brands, and that’s really important. I like to stick to my heritage and not chase trends, and at that point we were chasing trends. Chasing trends was easy, but it was dangerous. It’s more important to me now to be consistent.”
Read more about Tommy Hilfiger’s brand and hip hop at TheGrio.com
Writer Tom Barnes has penned an interesting piece for Policy Mic, entitled What We Should Really Be Saying About the Rapper Who Cut Off His Penis. It’s about the unfortunate suicide attempt of Andre Johnson, AKA Andre Roxx aka Christ Bearer, who may or may not have been associated with the Wu-Tang Clan.
While his affiliation with the legendary rap crew is dubious, the internet jokes about the man, who severed his own penis before jumping from the balcony, have been plentiful. Naturally, Barnes finds the mockery objectionable. But he also takes issues with the framing of the story within the media, particularly focusing on the more sensationalized penis chopping aspect of the story instead of talking about the possibility of mental health. And not just with Johnson but with Hip Hop as a whole.
In particular Barnes writes:
“Hip-hop artists have a long and complicated relationship with mental health. Many rappers have suffered debilitating mental illnesses, but have swept their problems under the rug or hid their symptoms under the guise of drug addiction. Eminem, Kanye West and Childish Gambino have battled suffered through serious bouts of depression. Scarface tried to slice his wrists when he was 13 and was housed at a mental facility where he was heavily medicated. DMX recently admitted he suffered from bipolar disorder, as did rapper Baatin from the group Slum Village. Wu-Tang member ODB reportedly had a long struggle with mental illness, though any erratic behavior he exhibited was often dismissed as a result of his heavy drug use.
Activist and journalist William Upski Wimsatt points out, the slang re-appropriation of words like “mad” and “ill,” actually “[celebrate] mental illness.” In that way, illness becomes part of the entertainment value of the music. But most rappers coming from the poverty-stricken areas where hip-hop was born had inadequate access to mental health treatment growing up, even though they were surrounded by constant trauma. Rappers — especially young black ones — are an at-risk population we don’t talk about.
There is a romantic notion surrounding artists as tortured geniuses who relieve their anguish through creative expression. But when artists’ suffering shows its fullest extent and ends in tragedy, it’s not ok to be entertained. It’s time to face up to the facts about mental illness in hip-hop and treat it as the problem it really is.”
I found Barnes theory about mental illness and Hip Hop both compelling and a little off-putting. I agree with him that mental illness is still a topic, which seems, at times, to be taken lightly, especially when it comes to black men (but black male rappers more specifically). In general, I find that it is a lot easier to laugh at DMX – or admonish his weakness – than it is to accept the fact that he is dealing with some real issues mentally. Plus the industry as a whole (from the record companies down to the fans themselves) do seem to celebrate the rappers, who exhibit the most irrational and unpredictable behaviors.
And this goes beyond the eccentrics of rappers from the underground counter-culture. I’m talking about Gucci Mane triple scoop ice cream face. Or Charles Hamilton, the once-thought as rap phenom, who was dropped from Interscope for his “erractic behavior” and eventually checked himself into NYPresbyterian Mental Hospital after suffering a mental breakdown. Both of those instances, as well as others, garnered, among many onlookers and fans alike, more mockery than actual concern for their well-beings. And to that, I totally understand Barnes’ point.
With that said, is mental illness in Hip Hop really a problem?
The assumption Barnes seems to make here is that Hip Hop is somehow different in its approach to mental illness. Of that, I am not sure. People’s response to mental illness, particularly those creative people, who suffer from some sort of mental health issue, has always been twisted, if not self-serving. World renowned artist Vincent Van Gogh suffered severe mental illness throughout his life before finally killing himself. Nobel Prize winning statesman Sir Winston Churchill is said to have been bipolar. And grunge-metal martyr Kurt Cobain, who also suffered from mental health issues, (according to relatives), before taking his own life. In all those instances, (and many more), we are likely to talk up their talents and physical contributions to society far more than we are to delve seriously into their internalized pain and suffering. Certainly we can’t blame Hip Hop for that?
Not to mention that the whole rappers re-appropriation of words associated with negative feelings-angle Barnes raised in his piece seems like a stretch considering that “insane” and “crazy,” have been used by the general populous for years to signify other emotions outside of their original negative feelings and context. And by framing this as a “problem” within the culture, we kind of suggest that the genre itself is to blame.
Everyone who I know that has gone to therapy always talks about how journaling, or the writing down of the feelings and emotions inside, helps. So do other artistic endeavors. In fact, many mental health professionals have incorporated art into their therapy with great success. I know for my personal well being, writing is very cathartic. So I also imagine that a soundproof booth and a mic can help a troubled rapper work through or at the very least channel and express that inner angst.
Likewise, there doesn’t appear to be a shortage of rappers doing just that. Probably the most classic of examples is The Geto Boyz Mind Playing Tricks on Me, which delivered a powerful testimony about psychological breaks and paranoia. Lauryn Hill gave us erratic and imbalance realness on her MTV Unplugged Live album. And Biggie Smalls gives us the last moments of a tortured soul in Suicidal Thoughts. Most recently (like within the last month) Pharoahe Monch, another emotionally-honest rapper, released his fourth solo P.T.S.D. (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), which is all about a man dealing with depression. I can name several more rap songs and lyrics, off the dome, which communicate very candidly a rapper’s personal bout with depression, bipolar disorder, paranoia, suicide among other mental health issues, but you get the gist.
If not then the point is, there are plenty of unfiltered narratives in Hip Hop culture, which take the discussion around mental illness – as well as their coping mechanisms to mental issues – quite seriously. The problem has always been if the consumers are really listening.
Last season of Love And Hip Hop New York, left us with tons of drama we were glad we didn’t have in our personal lives. The main story line and love triangle of LHHNY’s season 4 revolved around Peter Gunz, Amina Buddafly and Tara Wallace and during the reunion show, Amina Buddafly announced she was pregnant with Gunz’ child after he told viewers his relationship with Buddafly was a mistake. Despite these circumstances and Gunz continuously denying their relationship the two have remained together and it actually looks like Gunz might have the potential to be a decent father based on his Instagram posts.
Today he posted a sonogram picture of his and Amina’s new bundle of joy, allowing fans to pour in their love and support. In the caption for the photo he simply wrote: “My wcw… its a girl!” which is breaking news for fans who were curious about the gender of the couple’s first child together. Though we still don’t have a due date, we can’t help but wonder if their might be a premiere date in the works for some sort of Peter + Amina + baby reality show. You know Mona and VH1 love a spin-off…Either way, congrats to the happy family!