[Kamikaze] Look Inside The Matrix | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

[Kamikaze] Look Inside The Matrix

I had the honor of speaking on a panel recently at Tougaloo College to discuss sexual imagery in hip-hop. It was apropos because my last column spoke to a similar issue. It was a spirited debate to say the least, and one that made me want to even go deeper into this controversy.

From where I stand, it seems easiest to attack hip-hop artists. In a male-dominated industry, it's always easiest to point the finger at the little guy trying to advance his craft or the guy who's simply trying to make a living. We have a lot of work to do on both sides of the fence. Male, female, black, white—the images we see are part of a bigger problem.

It doesn't simply lie with the artist; the answer is within the matrix. No, I'm not pitching another sequel to the popular movie series. I'm trying to give perspective. The music industry, hip-hop especially, is not run primarily by those who create or perform it. It is run by suits who rule from on high. They dole out orders, eliminating those who are unproductive. They only worship the bottom line. Such is the nature of my business. Hip-hop artists live within this machine, but in order to change what the public consumes, we must fight to control that machine.

Those with real power don't care about the culture that is hip-hop. They have no respect for the five hip-hop principles of MCing, DJing, graffiti, break-dancing and beat-boxing. They have not led the lives we lead, so they don't understand our passion.

Sometimes I feel no one can truly understand our passion. Unlike most other professions, sports included, hip-hop has no retirement plan. Follow me. There is no union, there is no pension plan. Keep reading. There is no health insurance, no life insurance. Nothing.

Yes, you may have opportunities to make ridiculous amounts of money, but without careful planning and a string of hits, you could find yourself on the short end of the equation in a matter of days.

Thus, you find artists who have the "get all you can get now" attitude. The "by any means necessary" attitude. And you still may not see my point: Sex and violence sells! Let's not kid ourselves. Nelly's "Tip Drill" video sells records. 50 Cent's story of being shot nine times sells records. The machine wants to sell records; consequently, the machine promotes what will make it money.

So as an artist, do you fight the machine without the benefit of a safety net and perish, or do you conform? I haven't even answered that question for myself, so I know it plagues others. Frankly, you can't blame Nelly, 50 Cent, or Lil Kim for attempting to make a living. This is America. The land of opportunity.

Sure, in a utopian society, sex and violence would be eliminated. Sure, in a perfect world, all hip-hop would be Will Smith. But inside the matrix, these artists see rampant sex and violence on every corner. They grow up with it. And when the machine tells them they can make money from spinning their lives into colorful lyrics, of course they spring at the chance.

Before you judge, look at the bigger picture. When we show the big wigs that the Common's, Talib Kweli's and Dead Prez's of the world can sell as many records as 50 Cent or Eminem—on a consistent basis, mind you—then the machine will change its course. It's just that simple. As Crooked Lettaz, David Banner and I had one of the most critically acclaimed albums of all time ("Grey Skies," Tommy Boy, 1999), but our creation languished on the shelf. Flash forward to 2005 after Banner's "Like A Pimp" and my "Bust Ya Head to the White Meat," and now our popularity grows daily.

We must rage against the machine. This looks like a job for the M.A.P. Coalition. Stay tuned.

Kamikaze is a rapper in Jackson and a founder of the Mississippi Artists and Producers Coalition (MAP).

Previous Comments

ID
69915
Comment

Wow. "do you fight the machine....or do you conform?" Good question. And kudos to Kamikaze for sharing that struggle with us. Never thought of it that way. Thanks for presenting this perspective. I read a column in the Advocate last week (forgive me....can't remember the author) that stated that the overwhelming majority of "gangsta rap" (i think that was the term used) music is purchased by middle to upper class white men. Does anyone have a transcript of the panel discussion? I would have loved to have been there.

Author
emilyb
Date
2005-04-20T18:57:44-06:00
ID
69916
Comment

Agreed, Emily. This is a good column. I feel like we're listening to Kamikaze think out loud here, and he's being honest about the struggle. I think that is exactly the question facing many rappers (and others in potential sell-out positions). I was thrilled when I saw it come through. Thank you, Kamikaze.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2005-04-20T19:01:07-06:00
ID
69917
Comment

Exactly emilyb. that statement is one I have heard too. The majority of the rap that is purchsed in this country is done so by suburban white kids. Kids who by the way would never have the guts to visit the inner city. They purchase a rap record and they can get the "experience" of being from the "hood" without ever really having to go there. There money is what keeps the music industry thriving. I feel sorry for most of these artists because they arre in a dilemma. Kamikaze is obviouosly one of those who wants to tread a different path but hell...the lights gotta stay on.

Author
trusip
Date
2005-04-21T09:17:34-06:00
ID
69918
Comment

Chappelle Show did a hilarious riff on white kids listening to rap music on Tuesday night. In true David Chappelle fashion, it was completely twisted and painfully funny, and hit the nail right on the head.

Author
kate
Date
2005-04-21T09:23:06-06:00
ID
69919
Comment

The only time I listen to rap is when I'm taking my neighbor's kids out to the movies or whatever. They are 9, 12 and 15 (the 9 and 15 year olds are females). Anyway, they'll be singing along to the music and shouting out "freak in the bed". It bothers me because I can see they are sitting ducks for teenage pregnancies. If the music were balanced by good parenting, I can see how it might not be so bad. But the reason I'm carting them all over town is because they lack decent parents.

Author
JET
Date
2005-04-21T10:14:02-06:00
ID
69920
Comment

Bands put out "critically acclaimed" albums all the time(which is mostly hot air from the labels) that just don't relate to the consumer or grab their attention well enough to warrant buying. It's not just in hip hop. I just bought 3 Doors Down new album and it sucks..but the commercial is calling them "critically acclaimed". So you can't blame "the matrix" for that. That's called life. hip hop as I remember was Sugar Hill Gang...nothing remotely gangster or sexual about them but they caught my attention and made me understand that hip hop was here to stay. My son even has your record(2broke 2ball) but he told me that he doesn't like it. I asked him about you when I saw people talking about you on this site and he confirmed your existence but immediately followed that up with "whatever" so I left it at that. So it's not his fault that your music isn't to his liking because he loves Nelly like crazy citing "he's just cool". And I find it hard to believe that when a rapper makes millions, as did Nelly, that they STILL can't seem to make a change on how their songs are created and portrayed. For low level rappers like yourself I could see if the record label took you for a ride and your records were left dusty in a box somewhere but hey, you can't win em' all. And you mean to to tell me they're treating millionaire rappers like slaves at these labels? If that's the case, how then is Jay Z the new president of Def Jammer records? As far as retirement and other benefits....I heard Tommy Lee(Motley Crue) on VH1 talk about how as a touring group, his band has to use their money wisely for things like life insurance, dental work(if needed), tour bus insurance, etc... Now, looking at hip hop, they don't seem to be spending their money wisely at all. Way too much jewelry and cars and houses and strippers being bought to seem like wise spending. but from your standpoint it's the fault of "the matrix". hmmm.. I don't know, maybe you're in the wrong business because this whole article just sounds like another bitter cop out column by you kamikaze.

Author
Black Man
Date
2005-04-21T15:48:27-06:00
ID
69921
Comment

I agree 100% with what Kamikaze has to say here. And I'd like to add a mea culpa to my post of last week... Yeah, I disagree with misogyny in rap. I disagree with rap that glorifies violence. I think Spelman College had every right to not host Nelly, and if I had a say in it, I'd probably vote against hosting him there myself. But I'm tired of folks from culture A telling folks from culture B that they need to "reform." There's a colonialist, white-man's-burden element to this sort of thing that I can't stand. If I understood hip-hop, I'd have a right to talk. But you know, DJing, MCing, beat boxing, graffiti, breakdancing--I don't know squat about them. I know that spreading cheese to get a ten doesn't refer to making a $9.95 cheddar melt, and I know a cherry six four isn't a tall man in drag. But when I talk about "reforming" hip-hop, it's like listening to a neocon talking about "reforming" Islam. Sure, some hip-hop artists shouldn't do what they do. Sure, some fundamentalist Muslims shouldn't do what they do. But I've always taken a dim view of folks who fixate on improving cultures they don't otherwise take much interest in, so I need to get off my high horse about this stuff. Not to say I don't have opinions; just that they don't mean a whole hell of a lot on this subject and I'm finally realizing that. Cheers, TH

Author
Tom Head
Date
2005-04-22T01:53:44-06:00
ID
69922
Comment

Oh, and I'm no hip hop connoisseur, but every review I've read tells me that Kamikaze's in exactly the right business. Anyone know (I'm guessing the man himself isn't reading this) whether Kamikaze is the same Kamikaze who collaborated with Mala Rodriguez on "Grita Fuego"? Cheers, TH

Author
Tom Head
Date
2005-04-22T01:57:32-06:00
ID
69923
Comment

But I'm tired of folks from culture A telling folks from culture B that they need to "reform." There's a colonialist, white-man's-burden element to this sort of thing that I can't stand. Personally, I don't like the idea that white guilt is a good reason to give "culture B" a pass on misogyny and the glorification of violence. That's an abdication of responsibility. If I understood hip-hop, I'd have a right to talk. But you know, DJing, MCing, beat boxing, graffiti, breakdancing--I don't know squat about them. I do. I've had to call Control numerous times to get graffiti removed from my trains, thank you very much. I've even gotten a headache from having to operate a train for three hours that had graffiti on the outside, when there was no opportunity to either remove it or switch it for a clean train. Been there, done that, no thanks. But when I talk about "reforming" hip-hop, it's like listening to a neocon talking about "reforming" Islam. Sure, some hip-hop artists shouldn't do what they do. Sure, some fundamentalist Muslims shouldn't do what they do. But I've always taken a dim view of folks who fixate on improving cultures they don't otherwise take much interest in, so I need to get off my high horse about this stuff. Not to say I don't have opinions; just that they don't mean a whole hell of a lot on this subject and I'm finally realizing that. I understand what you mean, but at the same time, I think it's important that we agree on a certain number of common standards and hold everyone to them. In a civil society, there's no reason to expect less. However, I do get the "log in your own eye first" argument, to go Biblical on you. And while it makes sense, I also think it can be overstated and overused. Best, Tim

Author
Tim Kynerd
Date
2005-04-22T04:37:54-06:00

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