Hip-Hop Fridays: E-Letter To Billboard, Rashaun Hall, and Jonathan Cohen Re: "Jadakiss Single Courts Controversy"
Your interesting article “Jadakiss Single Courts Controversy” gets to the heart of why we at BlackElectorate.com launched our “The Streets Are Political” MixCD series. I like your article but disagree with your introductory judgment, “Musicians often voice political opinions in their songs, especially during an election year. Most hip-hop acts, however, have remained mum on the current political environment -- until now.”
Our MixCD series, Volume I and Volume II, provides evidence to counter your point that “Most hip-hop acts, however, have remained mum on the current political environment -- until now.” To punctuate our view that many artists are “political” many of the songs we included on the compilation come from artists, like Jadakiss, who have enjoyed mainstream success or enormous popularity on the streets or underground niches of rap music. The point we are making, and will continue to make, is that there exists a much broader definition of politics than most people understand or accept at present.
To your credit you don’t equate politics with voting like a great many observers, who believe that a person is not politically conscious unless they vote in an election. That is what makes your article the most important of all of those that I have seen written about Jadakiss’ song “Why”. Your look at the behind-the-scenes drama involved in the editing and playing of the song to me, is just as political as the general election in November. I hope you will read the article written at BlackElectorate.com by Ashanti Alvarez about the controversy over the censoring of Kanye West’s “White Man” lyric. The role that radio and video stations play in all of this is very important. Even the powerful "shock-jock" Howard Stern is learning this.
While I was in attendance at the recent National Hip-Hop Political Convention in Newark, everywhere I went and participated – as a moderator, panelist, and workshop presenter – I was encouraging people to support Jadakiss and “Why”. I outright told people I believed that it was the most important Hip-Hop track to have been released in the last five years. At the time some of those in attendance at the convention had not heard the song or had not carefully listened to the lyrics and were more in tune with more obviously conscious, underground or political artists, and found it hard to imagine how I could be correct about an artist that rhymes in great part about the streets, drug dealing, and guns.
The "Why did Bush knock down the Towers?" lyric in Jadakiss’ song is just too easy to pay attention to. But to me there are several other lines in "Why" that, from a Black perspective, are just as, or much more powerful or important for the Black electorate to consider. The song is loaded from beginning to end with "political" statements. And Jadakiss, a rare rapper with enormous street credibility and radio play, has the potential to influence the block, the suburbs, and eventually, yes, an election.
That it would be Jadakiss who would be raised up at this hour to make such an important song speaks to the need for a redemptive spirit and patience in our criticism of rap artists that many believe glorify what is wrong with our society and community.
As he makes this transition he deserves our support, protection and appreciation for having the courage to not only speak the truth, but for having the courage to do so knowing that he may pay the ultimate price (more than just record sales) for doing so. He says it best, quoted in your article, "Somebody has to take the forefront and sacrifice...That's what I do -- I sacrifice myself."
Friday, July 16, 2004