Part 2:Tiroteo vs the TV Gangsta

Since the last post was about a mambo tune that I won’t be playing out anytime soon I thought I’d start out with a fun spanglish mambo party jam that I DO like and got a big forward at the last New York Tropical Dance. Bachata meets Mambo meets ATCQ.

Sakawaka by the official Dominican Pimp Makaraka y la Grande Liga


Tiroteo [tee-roh-te-o] or alternatively Tiradera [Tee-ra-deh-rah]

1) A shoot-out

2) gunman lyrics in latin music

3) Battle tunes dissin other MC’s in latin music

I could draw on a million gun choons you’ve heard so I’m rollin with definition 3 here and offering a nugget from an unknown young Dominican duo called The Mr. feat Yankee Next. A ting called Ratata

Another bachata meets mambo tune, this one takes aim at the big boys of Mambo: El Sujeto, Jucafri, Tulile and Omega. The Mister who refuse to be pigeon-holed as Mamberos or Reggaeton artists fuse all sorts of urban and caribbean music and are comprised of Wagner Jesus Ortiz aka Mr. WJ and Franklin Emilio Gomez aka Mr. Frank. In recent hip-hop history this underdog tactic was deployed to career-launching success by one Mr Curtis Jackson on the now legendary How to Rob.


I went back and found the video of El Sujeto I mentioned in comments of the last post. Here he and up and coming latin hip-hop artist El Lapiz are in a parking lot cheezin for the camara, flashing loaded clips, matching hardware and rattling off lyrics…. they then take turns exchanging poetic two-line couplets of street verse (as u watch, think bomba improvisada)



Now, I’ve got guys and girls in my family that freestyle and act just like this on and off camara so here’s some thoughts on the gangsta/bling ethos infiltrating the jibaro homelands.

At home in PR, after a blunt, my cousins are easy enough to get along with. We spend our time together laughing at some of their admittedly moronic antics; a 26-man brawl with a police squad, pranks played on crack-heads, stealing cars (na dawg- sorry to break it to ya…. playing Grand Theft Auto does not a gangsta make), motorcycle crashes, bar fights, turf wars etc. Every visit is replete with new stories and matching battle scars. They boast of a revolving door at the local precinct that was recently installed, just to keep up with our brood. As they’re telling me all this, I watch two of them bitch up to raised hand from Titi Lulu, standing a towering 5’4 en chancletas y rollos.

This in-and-out of jail pattern that has developed for my cousins on the island (and in the Bronx), it causes grief to both their families and the community. Some of crimes are necessitated by survival, but most of it is carried out just to get a rep. (There is also a percentage of our cumulative arrests that is attributed to cops being pigs, racial profiling and babylon system)

I ask myself where they get it from because we were raised together outside of the fact that I left the island our biggest differences aren’t a formal education. I stand with them as a student of life educated by my environment who chose to go my own road while good friends opted to finish school and then college to get their degree. True enough, the experience of coming to the states lends me some advantages like mastering English as a first language but that gets balanced-out by other factors. They own their houses, while I pay rent. One even has a garage below his house which has rented as a tire and mechanic shop his whole life, so he’s learned a trade by osmosis. Neighbors come to him for the odd jobs they cant afford to pay a trained mechanic for. Nobody offers me gigs for my superior tele-marketing skills and DJ’ing has yet to re-coup the amount of money I’ve spent on music, my drug of choice.

Then there are my cousins in the Bronx. Like me, they are transplants that have been here in the states for more than ten years. They speak English as a first language and spent most of their lives here but they share equally riotous stories. Difference between me and most of these kids? Surprisingly, neither camp watches much TV so the best I can pin down is that Hot 97, La Kalle and NYC’s mixtape circuit dominate the South Bronx, PR is bumpin reggaeton and I’m the odd man out that listens to as many genres as they do artists. Obviously, I’m tuned into the internet streams on BBC radio, Samurai.FM and the elsewhere in blog-landia. Therein lies the discrepancy. Puerto Rico’s internet is still largely dial-up last I checked and neither they nor the Bronx camp are web-crawlers so they are subject to whatever information is given to them.

I wanted to hold off on the following for a next conversation but I welcome your thoughts this: Gangsta rap’s ideology, the image of guns and bling being cool wasn’t made popular by the general American public or the hip hop community at large. Industry force-fed it to us with little alternative until we got used to it and its now grown past our borders and is affecting other communities. This isn’t my opinion as much as a springboard for dialog I’d like to engage in with you in the comments section. If you wanna go deep in the hood chronicles dig up Bushwick Bill’s album Lil Big Man and try that on for size before writing your response. What I’m getting at with this is until recently, when $mall Change invited me to play on WFMU, no one ever asked me what I wanted to hear on the radio, much like no one I know has ever participated in the political poles that CNN and other media outlets wave as hard statistical data.

Now, back to my hick relatives. Talking to most of my primos (i’m the fourth oldest of 32 blood-related cousins) I find they all share a highly-animated sense of reality, one in which being gangsta is how u gotta be ‘cuz that’s what its like in the streets yo! But when I look down the hill we all grew up on in Puerto Rico, there is still a huge field that horses graze. Behind that, the race track belonging to El Recinto de la ‘Yupee’ Bayamon (University of PR). Standing there, I often myself pondering if I had stayed would have stayed in Puerto Rico, living that close to a great university…

The oldest of the my cousins back on the island has enough crack-heads and ganja smokers in the area to pay the bills, but overall its really not that gully in Barrio Juan Sanchez where we’re from. The neighborhood remains mostly friendly jibaros, who now lock their doors because scattered corrillos of kids with shaved legs and plucked eye-brows are tryna act hard?!? These kids perceive their world through a lens calibrated by the gangsta-ideology that permeated reggaeton and now merengue and what we are seeing are consequences of allowing music and other forms of media to go off into the wilds uncontested.

One of our daily newspapers in Puerto Rico is named El Vocero. On more than one occasion and from both younger and older generation sources I heard it described like this…. when you pick up El Vocero, (holding it out pinched between thumb and index finger) ….it drips blood. During a two-week stay there, I read 3 separate articles about mercenary style killings; bag over head. hands tied to their feet behind their back- shot in the back of the head; all of them within a few miles of where I was staying and suspected to be carried out by guys my age and younger. These were separate articles over the span of a few days but there was no visible thread between them one was a car robbery, one over a girl, one over drugs. It seemed to me at the time, that several one-up ‘a ver quien es mas gangsta’ disputes had climaxed in tandem, resulting in copy-cat atrocities.

I’m not blaming artists or their music for the violent acts committed by individuals. But denying that the demeanor and attitudes which have become prevalent in the current generation is not in some way affected by the music these kids are digesting seems beyond naive. We can take a lot of what singers say with a grain of salt but the question I’m posing is why is the line so far off center? Does calling a spade a spade have to = censorship? I’m not saying these guys shouldn’t have the right to make their music or that it shouldn’t air. But is there a forced emphasis on new jingles or the dance of the week and an oppression of air-play for thought-provoking music, or is it me? What I see is a bunch of kids setting the coordinates to stat quo and forcing themselves into the cookie-cutter gangsta image in hopes of making it so they can get outta the hood.

I speaky di inglesh and my native tongue and I understand quite clearly the words that are coming out of their mouths.… so when do we get to the scene where bubble-gum gangstas get knocked the fuck out by artists with more talent and a different set of standards? At the very least lets call them out on their shit and ask them to elaborate. There are circumstances where letting art speak for itself is useful but when you have so many clones I think we would all be better off to challenge an artist on what they are trying to accomplish with this a piece of art beyond just making money. Those who put thought into their art will usually rise to the occasion. You can get into the ‘why does art have to mean something’ question if you wish, but I won’t be taking part in that with you. I’m busy looking for art with substance or both new and old genres to explore and learn from. Too busy working with MC’s that CAN break the mold. To watch artists hide behind the stage persona and do and say ridiculous things while in character seems a cop out even when factoring in that being an entertainer is, in rare cases, a well-paying job opportunity to someone who comes from bleak circumstances.

Here’s an all-star line up of MC’s with real street-cred that aren’t afraid to face the wind and are ready to blow the current whackness out like the flickering flame that it is. Jahdan Blakkamoore the man Guyanese from Crown Heights Brooklyn, Princesa hailing from Argentina, recent unsigned hype inductee Homeboy Sandman outta the Qboro serving nourishment to the masses, Durrty Goodz in the UK whose Axiom EP raised the bar for grime MC’s, and MV Bill who lives in the City of God, Brazil (his documentary Falcao is story more people should be aware of- large up to Maga Bo on this one). All of them have wicked flows and make it a point to challenge norms plus know how to rock a party. Show them some love ya’ll

Now, I’ll admit to getting older, ornery and detached, having not owned a TV in 8 years. I still manage to enjoy the art of story telling in rhyme, slang and street context. Can you admit a large percentage of new artists out there offer very little lyrical song-writing ability and rely on good publicists to determine for the audience what’s hot? I have to believe at some point society should hold people accountable for their words and actions and at the same time strive and get to the root of our problems. As a Latino, I take it upon myself not sit idle and watch apathetically as my family and culture are brainwashed. I’m happy that Immortal Technique is doing his thing but he’s got a way too much M.O.P. in ’em for the average listener, myself included. Nobody likes Debbie Downer so I search far and wide for party-rockin music I can stand up for because, often times, that can’t afford a publicist. Challenge yourselves to create play-lists that work well on the dance-floor and balance lyrical content. You’ll find its a lot harder than keeping your eye on what everyone else is playing but infinitely more rewarding. That’s how we go ’round payola. Thank you for pushing good music forward via your blogs and the encouragement to air these ideas. –

run go tell dem come…we ready fi dem- Gex


  1. big money getting behind “Gangsta rap’s ideology, the image of guns and bling being cool” is the continuation of an acrid cycle. like the minstrelsy that dominated American entertainment in the 19th century- gangsta posturing outlines a strictly limited set of gendered and raced possibilities….reflecting back on the communities they purport to represent and providing ‘access’ to these communities for those who don’t recognize the illusion/reduction. The adoption of a hyper-violent and virile baseline for popular entertainment isnt new, but combining it with the ” bling being cool” and funds as the ultimate gauge of value- reformulates the whole system in a way that just perfectly serves capitalism. when your pulling money from the prison system and entertainment industry- cross marketing makes alot of sense. not only do they hit you for accessing the entertainment, but the entire message reinforces a desire for consumption outside of your means..regardless of what those means are…… as inspiring as folks like hova are… i cant help but wonder if the tycoon is really the model we want to emulate . and yet full circle… money cash hoes fucking kills the dance every time. but maybe its just how swizz does with the keys…. its late here, and its later there… thanks for putting these word out Gex… its an honor to share in the conversation.

  2. it’s not you. oppression of thought-provoking music, or is it me? in fact there is an oppression of music that isn’t straight up ANTI-BLACK (i say black to mean all of us. my cousins live up the street in cabo rojo). music about killing black people is ANTI-BLACK. music about selling drugs to black people is ANTI-BLACK. music about treating black women like animals is ANTI-BLACK. and so on. straight up and down. big shout to Taliesin who hit the nail directly on the head. the objective of this music being forced on us is to keep us in a state where we make as much money for them as possible, through the prison system, though wasting money, whatever, and at the same time keep our minds so wrapped up with nonsense that we never develop basic awareness that keeps us from being collectively suckered. what i don’t understand is how people that realize this listen to this garbage. it’s one thing for the kid in queens who’s 13 and has never left his neighborhood and barely left his block and doesn’t know any better. but FOR THE PEOPLE THAT REALIZE THAT THE WHOLE POINT OF THIS GARBAGE IS TO MAKE US STUPID, TO KILL US BY MAKING US KILL EACH OTHER, TO SQUEEZE AS MUCH $ OUT OF US AS POSSIBLE WITHOUT IMPROVING THE QUALITY OF OUR LIVES AN IOTA, how dare you listen to this? how dare you allow other to? they’re trying to kill us. it’s working. THEY’RE TRYING TO KILL OUR CHILDREN! IT’S WORKING. and you just stand by? TURN IT OFF. NEVER TURN IT ON! doesn’t matter if it always kills the party. there’s music out there that won’t kill us that will kill the party, and if we force them to give it to us, they will. they’re not gonna close down clubs and radio stations if we force them to give us good music. at that point they’ll look for another way to brainwash us. i hope we defend ourselves more aggresively to that one than we have to this.

    infinite thanks for shedding light geko. it is the responsibility of all of us to do the same. and not only that, but TAKE ACTION. TURN IT OFF. and if you can’t turn it off. then walk out. and if people ask you why you’re walking out. then tell em. we gotta take it that seriously. that’s how we’re gonna make a change.

  3. Ah,but this isn’t the only generation. I recall a certain Hector and a certain Willie gangta’d out on a few album covers, makin like Bad Boys and “assaulting” Santa.

    A certain Piri Thomas who had to go thru the same thing on the streets and prove himself to be a man.

    Neither the street life nor the desire to prove oneself to be a man by committing violent acts or at least looking as if one commits said acts, is unique to the current generation.

    My 45 year old husband TAUGHT his sons to be gangsta because he said “I want them to be prepared for the real world”. My husband wasnt listening to reggaeton growing up.

    The music influences the values of the children, but it also reflects the values of those who came before them. We cannot blame this generation, nor even the one before them.

    Bling? Shaft was bling. Scarface and the GOdfather were all about Bling.

    No, my dear, this isnt new. Was it forcefed to us? Au contraire.It is carefully cultivated by certain members of certain communities. The big bad nigga image has been around since before tv and radio. I have a few books of AfricanAmerican folklore at home, trust me- this aint nothin new.

    IMO,the problem is men of color, who have been powerless for so long, are even more inclined to “signal” wealth and power in unhealthy ways than others. When you cant get a job, protect your wife and kids (if u marry), keep massa (in whatever incarnation) from fuckin with you what else is there? How can you show to the world, in ways they understand, that you are man?

    Sex- you can get “bitches”, lots of em. Yeah, so THe Man sleeps with your wives and daugthers, sterilized em against their wills, wont pay welfare if ur married,etc etc. Nothing reverses emasculation like running amok screwing everyone.

    Killing- You cant keep the man offa you, but u can certainly go around terrorizing those weaker than you
    Bling- If you cant get a “real job”, you can find a way to at least have some trappings of success to LOOK like a provider of some sort.

    Till those issues are dealt with, whatever the music kids listen to will reflect their need to show the world certain aspects of themselves that they feel are underrepresented.

    Would I say that popculture allows this and perhaps encourages it? Perhaps. “Let the silly fools have their guns and bling and THINK they have real power, destroy themselves and in 15 years when they are bankrupt all the money will be back in our hands, so who cares.” (See Tyson,Mike for an example)

    Encouraging, failing to discourage isn’t the same as forcefeeding. Its more like McDonalds providing junk food for us to happily wolf down, we want it and like it. “They” enable and perhaps encourage the consumption of it, but force? Nah.

    My opinion.

  4. “so when do we get to the scene where bubble-gum gangstas get knocked the fuck out by artists with more talent and a different set of standards? At the very least lets call them out on their shit and ask them to elaborate.”

    When the consumer has no more need for these fantasies. When the consumer has dreams that can be achieved by other avenues.

    Thats why we have movies about the Lottery and Marrying Millioniares. Women know that there are often insurmountable barriers in real life, to financial success. Movies about going to college, working hard etc clash with our experience that tells us loans are hard to get, scholarships not easy, our secondary school educations inadequate, childcare expensive.

    Fuck it, let me watch a movie where I meet a man at the diner where I work and he wins the lotto and shares.

    Something that disturbs many is that we often consume that which harms us. We eagerly, greedily consume it and eschew Good Stuff when it is offered to us. We cant (totally) blame The Man for forming our tastes or for controlling our choices.

    We have to find a way to properly portion out the blame and assign the responsibility for change.

    Me? I dont buy that sort of crap. I dont mind sex, do mind killing and drugs in my music and movies. I dont let my kids watch much tv or movies.I banned radio in 1995. I wont buy books that glorify that lifestyle. And I try to make it possible for my kids and others to believe in a world where success is possible by means other than straight gansta-ism.

  5. N: “Let the silly fools have their guns and bling and THINK they have real power, destroy themselves and in 15 years when they are bankrupt all the money will be back in our hands, so who cares.”

    G: I care. Whose hands are we talking about ? It doesn’t go back into the hands of the masses or the communities that need it. I’m well aware this isn’t a new phenomenon but when coupled with capitalism and the hyper-speed of the internet and its ability to reach the masses the problem grows exponentially and to sit idly and say that’s how it is and how it has always been doesn’t really offer much suggestion for how to get ourselves out of the slump we’re in

    N: Encouraging, failing to discourage isn’t the same as force-feeding. Its more like McDonalds providing junk food for us to happily wolf down, we want it and like it. “They” enable and perhaps encourage the consumption of it, but force? Nah.

    G: I end up at McD’s like once a year when its the 5 in the morning and no dinner in sight but otherwise I haven’t had a big mac in quite some time. I know alot of folks who can say the same because they live in an area like new york where you can find alternatives or because they have the means to get elsewhere (for reasons like having cars and being able to afford 4.50 a gallon or they making more money than someone in the hood). People have to eat, its a human need, when ya belly em growl up, and you only have a one hour lunch break, and thats all thats in your immediate area or within your price range OF COURSE your gonna eat that shit. Those fries are bangin calorie count and all! But I think we can agree that if there were more alternatives (i dont mean KFC/Taco bell – I mean healthy affordable alternatives) with money to franchise and advertise the way McD’s do people would explore more. The problem here is accessibility. TV and Radio offer very lil variety to choose from. Not having the internet is a major problem in parts of the world

    N: My 45 year old husband TAUGHT his sons to be gangsta because he said “I want them to be prepared for the real world”. My husband wasnt listening to reggaeton growing up.

    G: I live in the real world, I’ve been on my own since 15. I’ve lived in the south bronx, miami, puerto rico. I’ve had a 13 year old pull a gun on me, been at a friends during a DEA raid and ya know what… a lot of those gangsta kids really just want to laugh and scrape together enough money to cop a dime and smoke a blunt and chill.. They don’t wanna have to deal with drama. ” You cant keep the man offa you, but u can certainly go around terrorizing those weaker than you” Thats a learned behavior. We allow them to paint bullying as cool. Its out there of course, its nature, survival of the fittest and all that. but if no one stands up and says HEY-CUT THAT SHIT OUT! Things will continue to deteriorate. We need more Jim Brown’s in the world
    MV Bill is one of them.

    The bling thing Tali handled up top- massa’s way of gettin his money back.

    N: Sex- you can get “bitches”, lots of em. Yeah, so THe Man sleeps with your wives and daugthers, sterilized em against their wills, wont pay welfare if ur married,etc etc. Nothing reverses emasculation like running amok screwing everyone.

    G: I’d like to hear your perspective on a woman’s side of that struggle.

    N: Till those issues are dealt with, whatever the music kids listen to will reflect their need to show the world certain aspects of themselves that they feel are underrepresented.

    G: True, and this is part of the work that is needed to deal with those issues. We have to talk about them and offer suggestions, develop ideas and alternative programing. My problem is that I like afro-carribean and unerground bass music too much. I’m out of touch with hip-hop. But when we find ourselves a great hip hop DJ that enjoys the sound kids are listening to and mashes up interesting ideas about how to get out from under and can sneak that under the radar. That lady is gonna make a difference.

    N: Me? I dont buy that sort of crap. I dont mind sex, do mind killing and drugs in my music and movies. I don’t let my kids watch much tv or movies. I banned radio in 1995. I wont buy books that glorify that lifestyle. And I try to make it possible for my kids and others to believe in a world where success is possible by means other than straight gansta-ism.

    G: I’m testament to that success by other means. Glad to hear that you set those limits for your kids, that was an important factor in me turning out the way i did. thanks for taking part in the conversation

  6. I attempt to understand things without being judgemental, that doesn’t mean I approve of everything. As a parent, a woman and a student I may perceive the same thing in many ways.

    Ultimately, my goal is to understand and if there is anything I can do to “improve” things, do so. If something unhealthy fills a need in people, my personal goal is just to understand what that need is and to think of healthy ways to fill that need,whether its certain music,underaged sex, drugs, bling worship,etc. In my worldview, people engage in behaviors for reasons. If the behavior is maladaptive, then my solution is to try and find a better way for them to scratch their itch OR eliminate the itch.

    I try to not impose my values on others. But I get to impose all I want with my kids, so they get to deal with no watching of videos or listening to radio and the total banishment of MTV, BET etc at my house.

    Class issues complicate things, because much of what I dislike isn’t so much wrong as it is distasteful.I dislike ghetto wealth signalling because it is ghetto as much as I dislike it for being a waste of resources.If it were the conspicuous display of orchids rather than shoes and chains, I may be inclined to give it a pass.

    When I get time,I’ll share my thoughts on being a girl in a world where men collect “bitches” to enhance their masculinity;on being a girl of a certain background, with a certain appearance. I have often felt that to many men I am nothing more than a trophy and source of cute kids DNA. That everything good about me they appreciated ONLY for what it could do to enhance their status.
    I’m not even a woman, I’m a music video cliche.

  7. There’s so much going on here I’m not even sure where to begin. Really great posts, Gex!

    I think it’s significant to look at early gangsta rap (pre-G-Funk/Chronic era, around1986 and 1992) when it seems a new batch of hiphop artists/MCs started embracing that other side of hiphop culture (not the political, cultural—graffiti, breakdancing side) the drug-crazy, reckless side of inner-city/urban life and disenfranchised communities—gangs, drugs, sex, cars, violence, whatever… We should examine that early period to gain insight before we talk about “gangsta rap’s ideology” and violence and hyper-materialism as being cool today.

    Hiphop has always had that materialistic, “fun” side (the Sugarhill Gang “Rapper’s Delight” side) but it also had its mindful, conscious side (Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five “The Message”) and even when we had Ice-T, Eazy E, NWA, Geto Boys and Cypress Hill making raw, violent music that reflects the realities like police brutality/harassment, we also had Public Enemy, X-Clan, KRS-One, Paris (and Slick Rick, Tribe and De La to a lesser extent) reflect the struggles and frustrations of their community.

    Hiphop has become so extremely tangled up with consumerism and materialism, so transient the fashions and tastes and role models and clothes—so heavy the peer pressure, the fashion again, and the gossip… very fleeting, but like you Geko, I’m optimistic.

    In Freetown, Sierra Leone, at the height of the Tupac/Biggie controversy/beef, a gang (I don’t remember what they were called, Thug Life or something like that), which had been growing really since the early nineties on the eastern part of town, occupied an area they called Death Row. When the Revolutionary United Front entered the capital in mid 1997, members of the gang and a lot of other young men and women, to a certain extent influenced by gangsta rap mentality pick up weapons and joined, or become somewhat connected to the RUF and proceed to start wreaking havoc on Freetowners.

  8. For the record, a lot of “conscious” vocal artists are pedantic, simplistic, and annoying, and/or they have terrible choice in beats.

    the rare thing in the black & brown pop persona is *complexity*, which is the only antidote to stereotypes that i’m aware of. I dont mean ‘complex lyrics’ or complexity in the literary sense, i mean complexity in the Wiley sense, in the Lil Wayne sense,

    in the sense that you feel you are listening to an individual and not a puffy icon/sex toy/white-executive driven fantasy of the violent & big-dicked brownskinned male etc etc.

    art (or club nights) which reduce possibilities rather than generate them tend to leave me cold — and sometimes those possibilities are sonic, are about flow, are about everything _but_ the lyrical content..

    music is a place of symbolic action, symbolic battles.

    I think it is extremely useful to follow the money & see who profits from gangsta rap, which in effect will let you know who gangsta rap “is” — who controls it.

  9. Rupture – ‘For the record, a lot of “conscious” vocal artists are pedantic, simplistic, and annoying, and/or they have terrible choice in beats.’

    i’m glad someone said it! and i agree with striving for a (um) weezian/wileyan ideal of individuation and complexity, as opposed to spitting a bunch of ‘conscious’ signifiers or commands (don’t fuckin TELL me to expand my mind, tell me shit that EXPANDS my mind). using the gangsta *archetype* (not stereotype) as a template for an mc to explore his own personality is what, to me, makes these folks next-level artists.

    in a lot of ways, i think that gangsters, hustlers, players, and (to draw the link back to afroamerican folklore) pranksters (souljah boy tell’em!) make for useful themes precisely because they are not mundane– they allow a role for fantasy in which truth can be interpreted through contrast or exaggeration. you know what i don’t want to hear? an mc detailing the relationship between teen pregnancy and the oversight forms he’s filling out day-in/day-out at the English as a Second Language class he’s teaching in the hood. aside from being a top-down perspective, it’s boring.

    i DO like hearing paul wall go on about using his financial aid checks to buy rims.

  10. We’re moving! I love the level of discussion you’ve started here Gex, great!

    I am torn about this. On the one hand, there is nothing I have less time for than the knee jerk conscious finger wagging of backpack hiphop over bad old beats (or good new beats for that matter). On the other I do agree that promoting violence and death non-stop DO indeed have negative psychic consequences for everyone who listens, especially those who are young or lack perspective.

    But I agree with Rupture in this that the one antidote is more reality not less. Someone like Z-Ro from Houston who went through the gangsta era, got locked up (he claims wrongfully), came out bitter and christian and now makes songs both about the Iraq war and how he’ll shoot you is contributing more to the dialogue. The level of individual detail he’s bringing to his music and weight of experience allows me to take him seriously when he starts speaking against black on black crime, or about why people do these things because they can’t get a better job. Nothing turns me off more than some 19 year old from the suburbs rapping about how he’s smarter than the gangsta rappers and that they’re wrong about x y and z and how lyrical irical he is. I really want to say dude, just shut up and rap about SOMETHING instead of rapping about rapping about something.

    I think Kanye actually, for all his materialism, arrogance and general being annoying has probably done more for the ‘conscious’ rap world simply by not being gangsta and being successful in the hood, thereby showing new artists that if they want they can go that route, be fly and a good musician and talk about stuff that means something directly to your life (through the wire, etc) and you can break through without being a carbon copy. This is more of what we need, viable alternatives to the negative, rather than to simply say “we don’t like this, stop it”. If anyone has tried to stop any addictive behavior one of the things you learn is that you need to replace that time, buzz, whatever you’re getting from that, with something better and non-damaging.

  11. SHADETEk puttin in yardage for the hometeam….

    ‘You need to replace that time, buzz, whatever you’re getting from that, with something better and non-damaging.’

    That’s one of the biggest challenges I face in trying to construct the kind of sets I’m talking about. Its hard finding non-damaging stuff that I would play out in a club without sounding preachy, dated or losing the dancefloor. Politically conscious MC’s aren’t the end-all solution to point to. I often take the MC out of the equation all together and play the instro, perhaps mashing it up with some obscure bit a somn from somewhere. One of my favorite jams to play this year has little more to say than I’m being attacked by mosquitoes while trying to chillax with a drink on a sunday. Pyrelli’s lazy boy style and tunes about food and being fat are another great example of fun jams that we can relate to without gettin too ‘better than thou’.

    Rupture’s point about the backpack movement clutching to the boom-bap as vehemently as the crotch on their over-sized jeans serves as a huge limiter on selection (beatwise). Rappers rappin about rappin offer little more than an exercise in verbal calisthenics that is often better left out on the street-corner cypha then in the recording booth.

    Audio Sniper Tip # 216
    Keep the targets drunken and/or stoned head-space in mind while at the club. It’s a party. Church isn’t till sunday, and right about now all anybody is trying to do is get laid or at least dance with somebody.

    Audio Sniper Tip# 247

    Your target is trying to dance or talk to friends and isn’t paying a whole lot of attention to lyrics. Try playing music that is sample-based with sparse vocal snippets. Tunes like these are made for Dj’s that play in clubs and can be a killer alternative to playing something that perpetuates violence.

  12. First of all: “Thoughts on the gangsta/bling ethos infiltrating the jibaro homelands…” Gets the award for best phrase I have read in the past while…

    It’s hard to pin down exactly what the effect of music and video is on people, especially adolescents who according to the accepted brain research have certain disadvantages in terms of judgment and behavior. I’ve heard strong arguments for the necessity to more responsibly produce music and film because of the risk of copycat behaviors. But I can’t say that I entirely agree with that point of view. Nor do I think it’s completely true that violence has been “force fed” to people through popularizing gangsta rap either. It’s important to remember that consumers have the power to buy or not buy, and they usually buy stuff they can relate to. I think the streets were already pretty violent before gangsta rap showed up. Interpreting musical content is also a very subjective and complicated task, and I don’t think it should be our goal to pass final judgment. Everybody has something to express that somebody else would find offensive. Ultimately, I think it’s up to the individual people, the individual consumers to inform themselves, educate themselves and put some thought into making their own decisions.

  13. I think lyrical content is absolutely crucial in the hiphop, dancehall reggae (or whatever black and brown young people’s music) context. Yes, sonic and flow are very important ingredients, but even in the club scene people like to sing along to lyrics as they dance. When Matt dropped Lil Wayne’s “Lollipop” at the last DA party, the crowd went nuts, dancing and singing along, hands in the air… “Call me so I can make it juicy for ya…” The crowd also went crazy for “Go Round Payola”—the girls I was with never heard it before, but went insane to that riddim.

    Back to lyrical content. I’ve witnessed kids, probably not even over ten years old, recite Ying Yang Twins’ “Whisper Song” on the A train in Bed-Stuy and in the Lower East Side. The words, messages replicated in hiphop songs sip into kids ears, affecting their attitudes, their emotions, and their character because, believe it or not rappers are looked up to, as role models and not just as entertainers. We listen to music outside of the club more than we do inside the club. Take Maino’s recent smash “Hi Haters”, which is currently burning the airwaves here in NYC, at least. The song is a classic example of how lyrical content can reinforce a stereotypical mindset, an attitude, in this case saying that if you are not attracting, generating ill will from others, you’re not shining and you’re doing something wrong.

    Personally, I tend to go for the dark, abstract, subversive type of hiphop, which is something you can find in the mainstream and the underground/backpack, and you guys are making the underground sound like one terrible monolithic group. Most of the complexity/individualism you talk about already exist in the underground, and every now and then the complex, insurgent artists get exposed in the mainstream and smash the stereotypes. The monstrosity that is the Carter III is great, but then again so is the new Keak Da Sneak album “Deified,” Flying Lotus’ “Los Angeles.”

    Here’s a video of Immortal Tech loosing a freestyle battle on BET in 2004, I think. It’s pretty funny.

  14. Here’s an interesting article that briefly touches on the rise of gangsta rap/reality rap/ultra-reality rap becoming the dominant perspective in hiphop –

    “Ironically, a George Clinton fan named Dr. Dre helped push space to hip-hop’s margins for the better part of a decade. In 1988, Dre co-produced Straight Outta Compton, the epochal album by ur-gangsta-rap posse N.W.A, which made the group’s stone-faced “reality rap” hip-hop’s dominant perspective. Cosmic journeys became fanciful departures from hip-hop’s so-called “true” locus, the flesh-and-blood, asphalt-and-concrete street. In the mid-to-late-’90s, bling-era hip-hop supplanted gangsta rap, trading an exaggerated narrative of urban despair for an exaggerated narrative of upward mobility—but not the sort you get from a shuttle blastoff.”

  15. that Slate article is vacuous — not to mention cribbed from the wikipedia entry on ‘afro-futurism’

  16. I know. I thought it was flimsy and narrow in it’s references to Dery and Bambaataa, and I don’t like that term Afronaut. Afrofuturism is enough for me. But I think the point about the rise of Gangsta stands though.

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