Rappers Do Dumb-Ass Things, And Say Dumb-Ass Sh*t. Why Is This News Now?

1365454852_ll-cool-j-brad-praisley-467

On the strength of his Ether-related “comeback,” there are few albums I anticipated more than Nas’s Stillmatic. (Honestly, Wu-Forever and MBDTF are the only other albums I waited for with that type of anxiety.) He didn’t disappoint, either, as tracks such as Second Childhood and Rewind exhibited the type of ambitiously—even painfully—detailed creativity long-time Nas fans had been expecting from him.

The album climaxes with One Mic, a track that somehow managed to pull all of Nas’s best qualities together to create a song that some critics called “the best song of the decade.”

Perhaps the most memorable and rewindable part of that song combines Jesus, bullets, and a bit of tricky math to create a four bar stretch that I considered to be one of the best, most creative, and most clever collection of lyrics I’d ever heard.

Jesus died at age 33, there’s 33 shots

From twin Glocks there’s sixteen apiece, that’s 32

Which means one of my guns was holding 17

27 hit your crew. 6 went into you

I listened to this song again the other day. And, while the track and those lines still sound as hot as ever, something dawned on me. A question. Three, actually.

“Wait, what the f*ck is he talking about? How the f*ck do you go from Jesus to shooting random n*ggas in a 13 word stretch? And, what’s the connection between Jesus’s age and the number of bullets you needed to murder this anonymous crew?”

Now, I’m not saying this to pick on Nas. He remains one of my favorite rappers. But, songs like One Mic and my reaction to it remind me of one of the first things I learned about rap:

Rappers are prone to say shit that sounds smart and clever and intellectual and witty but makes no f*cking sense. You could even argue that a very, very, very high percentage (I’d guess somewhere between 40 and 60) of the most clever, rewindable, and “higher-level” sounding bars are created because…

A) It sounded good

B) He figured out that “euphemism” and “new religion” kinda rhyme with each other, and thought it would be cool to find a way to put that in a song

Mind you, I’m not saying that all rap is like this. Most of the best rappers put a decent amount of thought and effort into constructing their lyrics, and even the nonsense is somewhat intentional. But, when an art form is based on braggadocio and hyperbole—and prominently features (relatively) uneducated street dudes—sounding “cool” and “clever” is going to take precedent over “making sense.”

I’m not making any new revelations here. People who follow rap are generally aware that what I’m saying is true. But, while the concept and the awareness of this concept aren’t new, the pushback they’re beginning to receive is. Yes, rappers have always come under fire for their lyrics, but between Rick Ross’s date rape anthem, LL Cool J’s bizarre forgiveness of slavery, Lil Wayne’s reference to Emmett Till, and Nicki Minaj calling herself as a Republican, there have been at least four instances in the last six months where a throwaway lyric from a popular rapper became headline news.

Making this pushback even more unique is that it isn’t really coming from people like Dolores Tucker or Tipper Gore but actual fans of rap music.

At the moment, I’m somewhat ambivalent about this trend. While a part of me is encouraged to finally see rappers asked to answer for their lyrics, this criticism seems a little disingenuous, and raises more questions than it answers. For instance, why now? We’ve all heard worse and more socially irresponsible lyrics than the ones being criticized now, so where is this pushback coming from?

Also, when does it stop? If we took a fine-toothed comb and went through the catalogs of each and every one of the 100 or so most popular rappers—even “conscious” and (generally) socially palatable ones like Lupe Fiasco, Talib Kweli, and Common–with the goal of boycotting the ones with questionable lyrics and content, rap would be left with exactly zero rappers.

Lemme put it this way: Rappers like Rick Ross and Nicki Minaj are easy targets anyone with a blog and a petition board could hit with a blindfold; low-hanging, resume-building fruit. Taking shots at them will give you quick praise and easy co-signs among most educated Blacks and non-Blacks. But, if we’re going to do that, why not also go after Jay-Z for making half a billion dollars off of selling crack, writing music about selling crack, and writing more music about how he got rich from writing songs about selling crack? Or the Obamas for inviting him to the White House? If you’re going to boycott Lil Wayne, will you also delete every Wu, Biggie, Nas, Tupac, Snoop, and Kanye song from your iPod? Does Nicki Minaj really talk more shit than Lauryn Hill did?

Even everyone’s favorite rap band has a song with a couple lines that, if taken literally…

And when I’m breaking it off
Its no denying the fact it’s wrong
‘Cause you got a man who’s probably playing his part
You probably breaking his heart

“You want it gripped up, flipped, and thrown
And get stripped and shown, the way to get in the zone”

…would play out pretty much exactly like the oft-criticized rape scene in Temptation. 

Again though, I don’t necessarily think that it’s a bad thing that rappers are facing some heat now. Whether it’s music, words, or just energy, we all should be responsible and accountable for what we put out to the world, and artists are no different. But, a part of me looks at the type of rappers being called out—and the people doing most of the calling out (college educated writers and bloggers)—and can’t help but wonder if there’s some intellectual class bias going on here. Basically, “smart” rappers—or, more specifically, rappers “smart” people like—are generally immune, while rappers we’re not supposed to like or support seem to be the targets.

As Nas would say…

Jesus was born in a barn

“Blog” starts with the letter B

so does bitch, Bane, and HBCU

Y’all need to listen to me!!!

Nasspeak translation: I have a tendency to include some pretty racist and misogynistic nonsense in my raps. But, as long as it sounds “smart”—and as long as I make the occasional song about my daughter—it’s all good.

-–Damon Young (aka “The Champ”)

Why Nas’ “Daughters” Is 100% Right And 100% Wrong At The Same Time

Full disclosure: I’m a “Nas guy.” 

What this basically means is that even though I recognize the fact that Jay-Z has had a (much) better career, better albums, and generally seems like he’d be a better person to be around, I’m more of a fan of what Nas represents. Now, what the hell does Nas represent? I have no f*cking clue. But, whatever it is that he represents, I’m more of a fan of that than I am of what Jay-Z “represents.”

If this makes no sense to you, good. It makes no sense to me either, but it helps explain why I still feel in my heart that “Ether” was a better song than “Takeover” even though I know in my brain that “Takeover” was better.

I’m bringing this up because, “Daughters” — Nas’ recent ode to fatherhood and raising a daughter — is not a good song, and it truly pains me to admit this. It’s pandering, saccharin, cringe-worthy, awkward, and just overall freaking annoying. Yes. Annoying. This is an annoying song. This song annoys me.

Thing is, although this song annoys the hell out of me, I appreciate it. I appreciate what Nas was attempting to do here. I appreciate his effort. This — the effort — is probably what it is about what Nas “represents” that connects with me in a way that doesn’t with Jay-Z. Basically, Jigga’s a chess player, a person who doesn’t seem to do or say anything without processing the dozen or so moves that will come afterwards. While this has definitely helped him craft the best career any rapper has ever had and become a true “business, man,” there’s a certain tinge of inauthenticity that permeates much of what he says and does. Jay-Z may in fact be a “realer” person than Nas, but Nas’ penchant for artistic implusivity makes him feel realer.

And, despite the fact that it’s pandering, saccharin, cringe-worthy, awkward, and f*cking annoying, “Daughters” is a real song. It seems to come from a man genuinely concerned about the type of example he’s set for his child, and genuinely concerned about his daughter’s well-being.

Now, you can make the argument that this concern may be self-serving. Perhaps he cares so much because he’s aware of how a daughter’s (mis)behavior reflects on the father, and he wishes to spare himself the embarrassment of hearing rumors that his daughter is becoming the type of woman attracted to men who treat women the way he has. Even if this is true, though, this feeling comes from a genuine place, a real place, and it’s understandable and laudable.

Nas’ implusivity gives him huge blind spots though, and none are bigger than the fact that “Daughters” — a song Nas made to protect his daughter and profess his love for her — shits on his own daughter!  He leads both of the song’s first two verses with information putting his daughter’s business and, ultimately, her reputation on full blast.

From verse two:

This morning I got a call, nearly split my wig
This social network said “Nas go and get ya kid”
She’s on Twitter, I know she ain’t gon post no pic
Of herself underdressed, no inappropriate shit, right
Her mother cried when she answered
Said she don’t know what got inside this child’s mind, she planted
A box of condoms on her dresser then she Instagrammed it

Forget about cutting off your nose to spite your face, “Daughters” cuts off his face to spite his face. Mind you, his daughter isn’t a seven year old who won’t quite grasp what her dad is rapping about or a grown-ass 27 year old who could deal with it, but a 17 year old girl — a person at the age where something like this has the best chance of having a negative impact on her life. Oh, and how do I know she’s a 17 year old girl? He leads the video with her f*cking birthday!

I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised by the cognitive dissonance Nas’ exhibited when creating this song and the accompanying video. It’s typical Nas (shit, it’s typical “rapper”) and, with all this being said, I do definitely appreciate the idea, effort, and (presumed) intent behind “Daughters.” As far as “rappers rapping about their kids” goes, it’s not in the same league as “Retrospect for Life,” but I do think it has a bit of a chance to eventually become (slightly) less annoying with repeated listens.

But, while I forgave Nas for “Braveheart Party,” “Nastradamus,” and “You Owe Me,” I don’t know if I can forgive him doing the ultimate disservice — making me agree with Carmen Bryan. 

—Damon Young (aka “The Champ”)

On Saturday, June 2, 2012, we’ve got another edition of REMINSCE at Liv Nightclub coming up! Except this time, we’re gonna be celebrating Panama’s birthday! Please come out and hang the VSB team. Plus, it’s free before 11pm w/RSVP (reminiscedc.eventbrite.com) and $10 after. AND there’s an open bar from 930-10:30 WITH NO DRESS CODE. You can come in shorts because it gets HOT in there.

False Victories Wrongly Decided By Public Opinion

On “tha twittahs” a few days ago, I questioned how it was possible that Pitbull could still be relevant in any way shape or form and T-Pain can’t get a song on the radio. As was expected, folks rained down upon me (no pr0n, R. Kelly, or Mother Nature) the fact that Jay-Z killed T-Pain’s career with his track “D.O.A. (Death of Autotune)”.

Poppycock. Jay-Z didn’t kill T-Pain’s career. Changing musical tastes did. Jay-Z just made the right song at the right time to take credit for the demise. Think about this. T-Pain came onto the scene in 2005 with both “I’m Sprung” and “I’m In Luv (With A Stripper)”. For FOUR solid years T-Pain was EVERYWHERE on radio. “D.O.A” didn’t even come out until the second half of 2009 well after T-Pain was already on the decline; fact is, that’s a long time to sell karaoke for anybody. Yet, Jay-Z is awarded the victory for murking auto-tune and simultaneously T-Pain’s livelihood (though Mr. Pinnedherazzdown did release and sell albums since then, just not nearly as successfully as his 2005-2008 run). And it’s a false victory. Jay-Z just put the stamp on public opinion. Period.

And in contrast, 50 Cent absolutely did murder Ja Rule’s career. I’ll bet Ja has been constructing a voodoo doll in 50′s likeness since the moment he went to jail.

But Jay-Z killing auto-tune (1) is first up in the line of not quite victories wrongly decided by public opinion.

Here are a few others.

2. LL Cool J besting Canibus in their “battle”

Make no mistake, Bus’ “2nd Round Knockout” was by far leagues better than LL Cool J’s response record “The Ripper Strikes Back”. Canibus lost OVERALL because his career sucked. First he blamed Wyclef for creating the the dismal Can-I-Bus album, which was actually terrible. After that travashamockery, people kind of assumed that because Canibus career sucked despite his abilities, that LL Cool J – who has released more clunkers of albums than dope ones, let’s be real – couldn’t possibly have lost. Even now I’ve got somebody telling me that LL won that battle. He did not. But the people spoke and it was so. Even if it wasn’t.

3. Jay-Z vs Nas

Look, I liked “Ether”, the sheer venom in it made it a worthwhile listen. And it was the resurrection of Nasty. For that I’m happy. But the ONLY reason Jay “lost” that battle (he didn’t) was because he released “Super Ugly” and then tried to take it back. John Coffey. That’s the ONLY reason. “The Takeover” is SUCH a better song overall. And Jay didn’t resort to rote disses like “you’re gay” and “you suck” blah blah blah…he hit Nas where it hurt…with facts. And with only one vesre. But because “Super Ugly” comes out and people were happy to hear Nas so inspired, Jay “lost” that battle to Nas. Never happened.

4. The NAACP versus The n-word

Oh wait…the NAACP didn’t win did it, public opinion or otherwise. My bad. Those n-words were trippin.

5. The McRib’s existence vs common sense

Look, there is no motherf*cking reason why The McRib should exist. I’m fairly certain that even the marketing staff at McDonald’s is baffled by this one. But for some reason, despite the fact that its 1) not a rib; 2) is mystery meat; and 3) comes with pickles and onions; every time they drop the McRib, people lose their sh*t and buy them at an alarming rate making health care practioners who run HMOs happy. So somehow, the McRib continues its reign of terror on our arteries (kind of like the Baconator) because the people have created a false sense of demand for a product that nobody in their right mind needs. See also: The McGriddle. If McDonald’s isn’t the devil, then I don’t know what is. But the McRib stays around anyway. Because we have willed it so. Shame on you.

Alright, those are a few examples of false victories decided by the court of public opinion. What else do you have? VSB, let’s call out the fakers, posers, and bullishers.

And yes…I fully expect to get a gang of comments disagreeing about Jay vs. Nas. You may disagree with me. You will be wrong.

WHAT!

-VSB P aka THE ARSONIST aka MR. DO YOU WANT A VICTORY! aka GIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIRL HE A 3

 

10 things we’ve willingly seen that we never need to see again

562-SOSA-FOTO.SFF.embedded.prod_affiliate.56

while the replies generated from monday’s ‘precious’ post were predictably split into “i saw it and i’m still verklempt” and “you’d have to drag me to the theater with eight horses and staple my eyelids open” camps, everyone agreed that its not the type of movie that’s conducive to repeated viewings.

thing is, ‘precious’ isn’t alone in its utter unrewatchability. while life gives us many things we can watch over and over again (apatow flicks, the evil eye baby, drunk snizzles reciting biggie lyrics, etc) without fatigue, there’s some sh*t we’ve all willingly seen that require absolutely no need whatsoever for repeated viewings, things that we’d probably be better off if we could unsee forever.

1. the r.kelly sex tape

after remembering that each of my three college teammates who owned this tape have been incarcerated at some point since then, i’m now convinced that “seeing how long someone can sit and watch this until getting up” should replace the myers-briggs as the go to personality profile test.

2. anything starring hilary swank

at this point, any theater showing one of her movies should come equipped with shower stalls so that moviegoers can get naked and cry in them when its over

3. childbirth

a process that cements the idea that pessimistic men aren’t built for relationships. put it this way: only a true optimist would willingly continue to eat p*ssy after witnessing that.

4. ‘the passion of the christ’

along with bad tipping, non-social crack smoking, and sending me tExT mEsSaGeS lIkE tHiS, owning the passion of the christ on dvd is a definite unconditional deal-breaker.

why? well something has to be seriously off with a person who thinks to themselves “hmmm. it’s been a stressful day today. maybe i’ll pop in a dvd after dinner to help wind down. ‘anchorman’ is always cool, but i think i’m in the mood to watch three consecutive hours of subtitled torture, gore, and bloody agony in high definition”

5. ‘rosewood’ and ‘three little girls’

“one-time only” viewing requirement for anybody who has gone their entire lives without wanting to kill a white person, and would like to keep that streak going

6. sammy sosa’s “new” face

“one-time only” viewing requirement for anybody who has gone their entire lives without wanting to kill a white person, and would like to keep that streak going

7. the evil device used for endoscopies.

wait, ummm, you're putting that where again?

wait, ummm, you’re putting that where again?

8. the storage room of any supermarket

lets just say that anyone who’s struggling to lose weight would reach their goals much easier if they toured the basement at walmart. seriously, you’ll see more mystery meat, one-eyed roaches, and and blue tomatoes than in the lake outside of chernobyl

9. a female pornstar in person (this also applies to seeing a stripper in daylight doing normal non-stripper things)

a couple years ago i met cherokee d’ass in a shoe store in pittsburgh. apparently she was in town promoting her calender.

she was actually much smaller and un-rough looking than i assumed she would be, but whenever i see her “working” now i can’t help thinking about the “so, how many times have you j*rked off while thinking about me” face she was wearing when i shook her hand

10. nas in concert (actually, pretty much every hip-hop act other than the roots and busta rhymes)

for whatever reason, hip-hop usually just doesn’t translate well live in concert. and, while i love nas to death, you’d have to threaten to kill me if you want me to go to one of his shows.

people of vsb.com, i’m curious: what have you willingly seen that you wish to never, ever, ever, ever see again?

—the champ

the vsb do’s and dont’s of making a sex tape

kim_kardashian

although actually watching them was like watching paint f*ck, kim kardashian and ray j are concrete proof that a sex tape can benefit both parties. slutty celeb ambition aside, a properly made video recording of you and your lover’s most intimate moments can be a private, visual confirmation of your mutual love and affection, a relevant boon in moments of libido recession, or an audition tape to host 106 and Park.

while i’m assuming most of us haven’t actually recorded ourselves, i’m 100 percent sure everyone has thought about it at least once. with this in mind, the champ has decided to bring you ten vsb do’s and dont’s of making a sex tape. take notes. Continue reading