Protest has been around since the inception of America, but like all other things once deemed unpopular, the idea is at the mercy of a common scourge of the oppressed — gentrification.
Last week hip-hop icon Eminem performed at the BET Hip-Hop Music Awards and through a mediocre freestyle, gave a scathing indictment of President Donald Trump and the rapper’s own fans who may have supported his candidacy.
While I respect the “8 Mile” star’s enthusiasm in policing his own brethren, the reaction to his freestyle by fans and pundits alike serve as, at worst, the Christopher Columbusization of politically-inspired lyricism and, at best, a blatant attempt at gentrifying a lane that since the birth of the genre, has never been left unoccupied.
The list of politically conscious rappers, mainstream or underground, is too long to list. Hell, the genre was invented to bring true stories of people in the nation’s urban jungles to the general public.
Hip-hop rose to prominence at a time when those issues rarely saw the light of day.
Tons of television’s talking heads gained negative attention for making statements like that of Keith Olberman, who tweeted, “After 27 years of doubts about rap I am now an Eminem fan. Best political writing of the year, period.”
How would he know — he, like many, have spent the last 27 years (or more) blinded by white noise.
Hip-hop has been a part of the American music landscape since 1973.
Lauding Eminem as a hero for spitting politically- motivated verses is akin to honoring Jerry Jones (owner of the Dallas Cowboys) for taking a pre-game knee as a standard bearer for social justice.
Hint: Jones couldn’t care less about social justice and only knelt after Trump gave instructions to football fans to boycott games if players continued to disrespect the American flag.
When Jones’ bottom line was threatened, he co-opted #takeaknee.
Now, because of Jones and others, kneeling as a form of protest is tainted. But since the systemic oppression at the root of the gesture has been left unaddressed, new forms of demonstrations on the nation’s largest platform (professional athletics) will surely arise.
In the same co-opting vein, although I respect Eminem for admonishing his own fans for supporting Trump, the rapper failed to show respect to the many performers, before him and currently, who dedicated their talent, to the detriment of their pocketbooks, to the task of tackling social issues in rhyme form.
Eminem essentially gentrified the space of conscious rap and will reap the rewards of an opportune climate for doing so when he finishes his highly anticipated album, alleged to be released before the end of this year.
The rapper’s last project, “The Marshal Mathers LP 2,” was released in 2013.
Crowning the native Michigander as the king of progressive messaging does a disservice to progressive messengers, in any genre — ever.
The 44-year-old rapper’s verbal quip on Trump is best left to be judged by its own merits.
This is a portion of his so-called evisceration of the president:
“But we better give Obama props, ’cause what we got in office now’s a kamikaze that’ll probably cause a holocaust. And while the drama pops. And he waits for sh** to quiet down, he’ll just gas his plane up and fly around ’til the bombing stops.
Unimpressed? Me too.