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Hip-Hop Fridays: Hell Yeah [Pimp The System]

“We together on the same track now baby. Whatcha’ gonna’ call us now?”, Jay-Z shouts out to introduce his collaboration with Dead Prez on the remix of “hell yeah [pimp the system]”, which appears on the new album RBG: Revolutionary But Gangsta. That the man consistently referred to as one of the most materialistic in rap would create a track with arguably Hip-Hop’s premier political consciousness group has surprised many – including fans of both Jay-Z and Dead Prez.

It should only be a pleasant surprise. I think it is a beautiful thing.

Some viewers may remember that I have explained that in some very important ways, Jay-Z, for all of his references to The Robb Report, Bentleys, sneakers and watches, has exhibited powerful forms of consciousness (See: The "Consciousness" Of Wu-Tang Clan, Suge Knight and Jay-Z Part 1 and Part II. Others might recall that a couple of years ago I praised the collaboration between The LOX’ Styles P. and wordsmith Pharoah Monch because of the implications for unity, power and consciousness that were clear to me when Styles P. - one of Hip-Hop’s most respected street rappers joined forces with one its greatest lyricists, Pharoah Monch to create, “My Life”. And, as I have mentioned over the last four years of our existence, I believe that it is Nas, who among all current MCs, has the greatest potential to credibly merge consciousness, street credibility and militancy.

Columbia Records, a couple of weeks ago sent me complimentary T-shirts and CDs of “Hell Yeah” celebrating the new Dead Prez album. The t-shirts, as well as the lyrics, are not for the feint of heart. The shirt features the Dead Prez logo, a Tupac-like middle finger with a red, black, and green wristband above the words, “revolutionary, but gangster”. And the more I thought about it the more I realized how powerful Tupac is and was; and how important he (and the recent MTV-produced movie, “Resurrection”) will prove to be in the re-emergence of conscious Hip-Hop. Public Enemy was arguably more politically-consciousness in their lyrical content; Rakim and Big Daddy Kane possibly had more street influence; and a young KRS-One may have been the greatest at merging both in the edutainment format; but no rapper had more appeal to women, charisma, and more of a life – destined from birth and childhood – to impact the streets and political consciousness, than the rapper who embodied the spirit of both coasts, was trained professionally in the arts, and was born to a mother who was a member of the Black Panthers. After watching “Resurrection” I became more convinced than ever that Tupac’s entire life was destined and designed by the Creator to teach us more in death than in his physical life – fulfilling what is written in Hebrews 9:16-17 :

16 For where a testament is, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator.

17 For a testament is of force after men are dead: otherwise it is of no strength at all while the testator liveth.

In important ways, “hell yeah [pimp the system]” perfectly captures the spirit of Tupac, and beyond him, the duality and spirit of political consciousness and street life that he lived, amplified and projected. The recording is an important step to promoting unity especially among Blacks (with implications for rap artists who subscribe to narrow market niches) and the oppressed and disenfranchised all over the world or, as Jay-Z shouts toward the end of the track, "You know what this is about. We broke those boxes you tried to put us in to separate us, you know what I mean?"

Click Here To Listen To the remix of "hell yeah [pimp the system]" featuring Jay-Z

Cedric Muhammad

Friday, April 2, 2004

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