By Tony Muhammad
This morning I woke up on my good side
Life is just a race against time so have a good time
Heart racing, thoughts racing
I turn around, run backwards
To see what second place look like
Oh Lord, what are we running from?
The police, cause’ they already killed enough of us
Stay out them streets cause’ they don’t f___k with us
They hunting us
We in a race against racists, that’s a color run
I keep my feet above the ground
We gon’ run the town
Heart racing on, beat-beat-beating, knock and pound
Love marathon, getting deeper by the mile
I see no finish line — On your mark, set, pow
– Lil’ Wayne – My Heart Races On
In 2015, Lil’ Wayne was conscientious enough to write and perform these lyrics (on the Free Weezy Album) and communicating to the world about the horrific condition of terror that Black people and other non-whites experience daily at the hands of police in the United States; a condition that is not a recent “out of the blue” phenomenon, but rather have its antecedent roots in 300 years of chattel slavery and colonialism and over 150 years of mistreatment, murder and abuse of Blacks and others. Flash forward, in the beginning of September 2016, while being interviewed on ESPN and asked questions about what he felt about San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s position of refusing to stand for the American flag because of the way that Black people and other non-whites are treated in the United States, he responded that he feels “blessed” that as an artist he has not personally experienced racism because white people along with people of other backgrounds attend his concerts. If our initial disposition of mind as Black people and non-whites was anger upon discovery of this news, I would
propose that we as a people change our mindset and take more the
approach of scientists. The more important question and answer we need to be focusing on is “Why is ESPN interviewing Lil’ Wayne?” After all, he’s not a professional sports athlete. “Is it because he has much influence on the youth as a rapper?” I believe that is simply part of the reason. “Was he prompted to give the spineless response he gave?” I believe nothing is by coincidence, especially if we continue to study a matter until we get to its roots.
For those of us that watch ESPN, we may have noticed that Lil’ Wayne’s song “Undisputed” is the theme song for ESPN2 sports commentator Skip Bayless’s News FS1 show. If Lil’ Wayne would have responded differently to the question would have his song been removed as Bayless’s theme music? If so, Lil’ Wayne’s royalty checks for ESPN’s use of his song may have been put to an end.
A week after Lil’ Wayne’s comments, Fat Joe, a Bronx, New York native, joined the bandwagon by Tweeting (with typos) “Having thout about it, I ain’t with protesting the #NationalAnthem. Soldiers died fighting 4 our freedom not cops. Why disrepsected them?” Soon after a wave of Tweets followed, many of them Hip Hoppers blasting him for his complacent stance. The Tweet has since been deleted. The most important question in this scenario is “What was the motive?” Did Fat Joe act on his own or was he prompted as (more than likely) Lil’ Wayne was? Is it a coincidence that Fat Joe’s All The Way Up, probably his most successful hit since Lean Back (in 2004), is the theme song for the current ESPN Sunday NFL Countdown show?
Mary J. Blige recently became the center of attention to many of us for conducting an
interview with Presidential Candidate Hillary Clinton for her Apple sponsored show “The 411.” While seemingly begging Clinton (like a slave would her master) for a solution to the rampant nation-wide police killing of Blacks she sang the lyrics to Bruce Springsteen’s 1999 Amadou Diallo inspired song American Skin, singing these words:
Is it a gun, is it a knife
Is it a wallet, this is your life
It ain’t no secret (it ain’t no secret)
It ain’t no secret (it ain’t no secret)
No secret my friend
You can get killed just for living in your American skin
Clinton, in turn, is regarded by many observers to have had a stoic unemotional and uncaring reaction. After receiving a flood of criticism for her singing, Blige explained that she is an artist and that is the only way that she knows how to express herself. The true question we must ask in this case is “How does corporate America want us to express ourselves and for what purpose?” “Is it to pacify us?”
One of our major downfalls historically has been putting money before principle confusingly thinking that corporate financial success is our ultimate success. History has shown us too often that when it comes to many of our own high profile artists and athletes, their money runs out after a period of time and they end up running back to our former slave and colonial masters (presently corporate masters) for more. The same is when we rely on politicians for answers while our collective condition in the midst of it all continues to be in peril and is worsening day by day. When we receive notification almost daily of one of our own (Black, “Latino,” Indigenous or others) being killed by police somewhere in this country we must reason that this is not the time for selling out. Our longevity lies with our firm belief in The Divine Supreme Being (by whatever Name we call Him), demonstrating the fact that we are His Chosen People and exercising the act of depending and supporting one another.
Hip Hop and Hip Hoppers needs to evolve from the status of Culture to Nation. But this will not transpire until we realize our True Divine Origins and our True Divine Purpose, as we are taught Scripturally that The Chosen People themselves would come through “the furnace of affliction” (Isaiah 48:10). Where was ESPN (which is in part owned by Disney) or any corporate establishment, Donald Trump, Hilary Clinton or any politician when poor Blacks and Latinos were suffering in the South Bronx in the late 1960s and early 1970s, where whole communities were allowed to dilapidate by politicians and urban planners, barely leaving any legal economy left, drugs purposefully
allowed and conflicts among the various street organizations at the time purposefully instigated with the intent to destroy us. After our culture was birthed through the uniting of the Four Elements (DJing, MCing, B-Boying/B-Girling, Graffiti) through Knowledge (The 5th Element) we overcame our condition through our efforts of divinely making “something out of nothing” (i.e. stealing electricity from a light pole in order to power up our sound systems if we had to) and our support of one another. After signing major corporate deals throughout the 1980s up to the present many of us forgot where we came from and we are not actively doing enough to change our condition. As illustrated in this BBC video by Chicago rapper Bo Deal, communities nation-wide continue to be allowed to become dilapidated, drugs are allowed to filter in, street conflicts continue to be instigated and guns are easy access because they are being dropped off by the crate load on our door steps. In many of our communities we have more access to military type weapons. Can you truly reason with this? Can we attempt to argue that our open enemy is not involved? How much longer can we continue this way?
We have to stop supporting politicians that make promises to us using our most beloved artists and in the end experiencing conditions that are worse than before the election. We have to stop supporting corporate establishments that care little to nothing about us and work harder at supporting our own.
What is our own? In the early 2000s Chuck D of the Legendary Rap Group Public Enemy was (and continues to be) a visionary with his well-balanced independent Slam Jamz label and Rapstation on-line radio, giving shine to artists that would not normally gain commercial exposure. Chuck D continues to commit himself to exposing the truth and reality of the system that opposes us not just through music, but through radio commentary. He is a living example that the answer lies not with any corporate backed politician to resolve our problems. The answer lies among us! More of us need to support entities such as Slam Jamz and Rapstation and develop more independent means of success as we work to champion the cause of our people in this very dark hour of American History. This is the true mark and the beginning of the establishment of the concept of Nationhood.
I close this article with inspiring words by Teacher and Philosopher KRS-One from The
Gospel of Hiphop:
“It is a complete waste of our revolutionary effort to complain about issues we ourselves have not matured beyond. When we protest unjust situations we should be able to do better than the situation we are protesting against. We should not just culturally scream out when we are hit by injustice, we should take the hit as an act of validation toward our authority to speak into existence a new nation.”
Until next time (God Willing), Peace, Love and Light!
Tony Muhammad has been teaching Social Studies and Humanities in Miami-Dade County Schools for over 17 years. Tony is most noted for his work as publisher of Urban America Newspaper (2003 – 2007) and co-organizer of the Organic Hip Hop Conference (2004 – 2009). He has also designed curricula in the area of Black, Latino and Hip Hop studies for Miami-Dade County Public Schools. He currently serves as a student assistant minister to Student Minister Patrick Muhammad at Muhammad Mosque #29 in Miami, Florida.