Refined and Fly

Monday, January 15, 2007


Peace to everyone on this day of knowledge power all being born to equality. First I would like to thank all those who voted for me (Angel Eye) and RXC/ Classic 1824 for the Pittsburgh Hip Hop Awards. We didn't win (wasn't judged based on who was the best rapper, but who got the most votes on the Internet), but thank all of you for your love and support.

Recently, on a list serve I'm on, there was a discussion about whether gangsta rap should be considered Hip Hop. In being aware of the power within all of the ciphers we are a part of, we cannot overestimate nor underestimate the effect that music has on people. So often, Hip Hop gets the blame for what's wrong with the world, and don't get me wrong, some stuff is too much for me, and I'm very liberal minded. However, we cannot underestimate the effect that a lack of values and cultural base has on our communities, namely children. Here are a few points from my perspective:

1) Hip Hop did not start off with the intent of being some positive revolutionary movement. It was a combination of things based on where people were at. There was so-called gangsta music, party rap, bling music, just kickin it having fun ridin down the street music,so-called mysoginistic music about how many girls you could get, straight beats and rhymes and music with positive messages. We cannot continue to romanticize this. That's like how people romanticize pre-colonial Africa or ancient civilizations (as if it's just one big place where everybody did things the same way in a positive manner). Everything wasn't all good about it. You can't just focus on the best part cuz that's relative anyway. One person's best part might be De La Soul. Another person's best part might be Kool G Rap or Snoop.

2) Hip Hop is a reflection of the good, bad and ugly side of what's taking place in our communities. For the most part, Hip Hop is where the people are at. Not to say that there aren't studio gangstas and some people's images are manufactured and pushed to a certain population cuz there are. But there are some rappers that people actually relate to. I understand why Jeezy was upset when Nas said Hip Hop is dead. He's like, "Hip Hop ain't dead cuz I'm rappin." And I respect a lot of the music comin from the south and the bay cuz it reflects the struggle and experience of a lot of the masses of people, and if I don't respect it, to a degree, I don't respect my people and our varying experiences. Then I start separating myself, thinking I'm different (7:14) from the masses of people (sometimes unconsciously, with good intentions), then how effective can I be in positively impacting?

How can I hate on somebody if that's where they're comin from. Just because someone raps about different topics, with a different style from a different region doesn't mean that it's not Hip Hop. It just may not reflect where you are coming from, and of course people would like to see more of a relatable experience on the radio. I agree. Coming up, there was more diversity in the music. That's the main issue to me and see that fight as valid, although not the largest priority. I get tired of having to turn the radio down when I have some children in the car, cuz they can't listen to most of it on my watch, especially after having broken some lyrics down (but they listen to it anyway on their own time, just like I did when I was a kid). Now you're inundated with the same shit every day and that's counter-productive and boring. I wouldn't want to just hear so called conscious rap all day every day either, cuz that only reflects one experience and I would be bored with that. Are we really remembering accurately what we listened to when we were kids? I bet it wasn't just one thing, and some of us as junior high and teenagers were shakin our asses to some mysogynistic, pimpin, gangsta shit. Don't tell me ya'll weren't fuckin with NWA or Snoop's Doggystyle, or Dr. Dre's The Chronic, or Kool G Rap, etc.

3) If you have a problem with the music people make, go grab some kids and teach them something else. Expose them to different things. Help change their living situation. Then they'll make different music. You can't ask a kid to be a rap nationalist or whatever if that's not their experience. Even if you challenge the "system," there will always be kids rappin like that as long as those conditions exist. When me and a brother did Creative Liberation, our youth arts and Hip Hop program, there was a heavy educational component that many of them experienced before they came to the program. We had to reorient them mentally and culturally first. With some kids, it was easier due to their orientation growing up. With other kids it was harder due to their orientation growing up. We unveiled many of the lies, myths, and reasons behind the condition of our people, they understood and expressed their reaction to it, started changing their mind set and the things they valued, and THEN they were able to make some music that was reflective of their mindset while still being themselves. Take whatever lyrics you don't like and break it down with the children, ask them what a pimp, hoe and bitch is and see what they say (cuz most of them don't even know...they're just singing what they constantly hear all the time) and after that, see if that is how they see themselves. Our issues are so much deeper than the music. I remember being 9 years old, listening to Too Short Freaky Tales in my walkman, and even went to a Too Short and 2 Live Crew concert with some other neighborhood children. I grew up and still do listen to all kinds of stuff. The music was not detrimental to my existence cuz of the values that were instilled in me. That's what has the most power.

4) Part of the issue with so called conscious rap (and I don't like the term "conscious" either. Consciousness is awareness, regardless of whether the awareness reflects good or bad) is that not enough focus is placed on instrumentation, bangin beats and being relatable enough for folks to understand you. Unless you're preachin to the choir or making music to perform in coffee shops with people who already think like you, you gotta make that shit hard man! Not meaning be other than yourself, but being able to make your message relatable to people. Put some knock into it and don't be preachy! Otherwise, you just look like a lame, separatist corny hater who cats wouldn't want to be around for 2 minutes cuz you don't have any fun.

You can't teach somebody if you see yourself as so unalike, that you repel them. And everybody can't play that position (but check out or for some of our music that strives to strike that with a message, but not corny). Hell, even take some popular beats that you would love to rhyme to, jack that shit, and spit some hot shit over it. At least the music will catch people's ears. No matter how I look, headwrapped and queenly, I don't want to spit to no flowery stuff cuz I know what I like and I'm not trying to preach to the choir. So when somebody hears me rhyme, to a beat or acapella, I rhyme aggressively (not like a dude, but strong and confident, assertive.), I try to choose a bangin beat selection (original or not), and get my message out where it's visual, but not too complex. I ain't rhymin bout no hexagons and some cloudy flowery shit, and I don't wanna hear it either. So at the very least, no matter who's listening, they'll say, "She can rhyme," and may get something out of it. It's a shame to go to a show full of conscious artists who make music "for the people" and the people we rap about aren't even in attendance cuz it doesn't appeal to them. Next time you're at a so-called conscious hip hop show, check who's in the audience, and you'll see if the music is doing its job. Mos Def could have been that artist that resonated with different populations across the board. Even Lauryn Hill could have been somebody who related to all sorts of people, particularly women everywhere. But they went in another direction for various reasons.

If you do music for the people and you perform your music for a block party in the hood, and it doesn't bring people to the stage or they walk away you gotta think about if your music is applicable to them and change your strategy...not the essence of your message, but how it is delivered. Rap for some kids and see if they like your music. I love trying out rhymes on the kids I work with, asking them if they understand what I'm saying, and when they say "Oooh, Sister Medina, that's hard," I know I'm going in the right direction.

5) Gangsta rap is Hip Hop. Pure and simple. It just might not be Hip Hop you particularly like or relate to. Times are a little different and it's hard to sell "conscious music" to 80s crack babies who don't live your lyrics. Do the knowledge to the cipher you're in or trying to speak to (meaning, look and see what's going on around you) and see what you need to do while still remaining your authentic self. It ain't easy, but it ain't for everybody.

P.ractice E.valuation A.uthenticity C.reativity E.ffectively (PEACE)

I Medina Peaceful Earth


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