Thursday, February 1, 2007

The Big American Rap Star

Artist on Aritst: Al Gore and Mos Def

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The first thing that struck me when I watched this video was pride. I was proud of Hip Hop for becoming the HUGE global force that it did. I had to reflect on how amazing it really is that a true MC, a real Brooklyn boy, is holding his own next to the man who was elected president. It shows, in a way, how legitimately Hip Hop is respected in American Culture. What was dismissed as a fad that would fizzle out, later a scourge to be banned and censored, would persevere and end up changing the world (and then die. Hip Hop Is Dead.) A culture invented by children raised in poverty grows up to stand toe to toe with great power. It almost made me proud of America.

Then I had a second thought and wanted to contrast it with this video:

For those who don't know
Mos Def, on the night of the VMA's, pulls up outside Radio City Music Hall with a giant rented truck and starts performing for the crowds of star-gazers, autograph hounds and weirdos waiting outside of the venue.

He performs his song about Hurricane Katrina for about 12 bars before the cops bum rush the stage and rip the mic out of his hand.

First of all - can we give it up for Mos Def. He is a fucking Movie Star. He's INVITED to stuff like the VMA's. He could be inside with a tux on sipping cognac with David Bowie. Instead he's outside, bandito style handkerchief on, singing protest songs. Coming out of his pocket to rent this huge mobile stage and knowing he might spend the night in jail (or get manhandled and hassled until he can post bail). He doesn't HAVE to do stuff like that. In fact it would be EASY not to. That's why I love Mos Def.

My thoughts:

1. Would they treat Beck or Timberlake the same way if they pulled a stunt like that? No. Of course not.

2. The disconnect between what Mos was doing (singing a song) and the reaction of the cops (violently pushing him and ripping the mic out of his hand) is crazy! Watching him being hand-cuffed all up against the car like a fucking drug dealer or something - It made me think of that song "Mr. n***a" where he says: "no evidence, no apology, and no regard, even for the big American Rap Star"....and he wasn't even that famous when he wrote that.

3. That's the contradiction of America. It's virtues and it's festering rotten underbelly all at the same time. In one situation a man can be honored as a great artist known the world over and in another instance he can be just another N***er.

Mos Def: Dollar Day For New Orleans

Mos Def: Crime & Medicine
Mos Def:Sun, Moon, Stars
From: True Magic (Geffen: 2007)

Mos Def:Umi Says (Zero 7 Mix)

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