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Kelis’ interview with Hollywood Unlocked mixed with Kanye’s political meltdown on twitter is bringing us to the precipice our rap heroes self-destruction before our eyes. In the age of social media, we have been privy to our rapper’s idiosyncrasies and demons. As we open that door, it’s a scary sight. These are things that were hidden and revealed long after an artists relevance or even lifetime. We’ve always been obsessed with celebrity, and now our ugly obsession is becoming a mirror to our equally ugly inner voyeur. How did we get to this point where two of our conscious personalities are an alleged domestic abuser and an avid supporter of white supremacy?

Kanye has garnered the most attention because of his ‘fire’ tweets in support of MAGA and #45. There is some granular level of truth to what he’s saying. We need more free thinkers. We need more people to challenge the status quo of what we think is right or even real. I interpret that as what’s he’s trying to illustrate. Because Kanye loves to be cryptic and loves the news cycle to be about him – he won’t clarify and gives us any type of explanation. He’ll speak in news bytes and think it makes perfect sense. Aligning himself with any of Donald Trump policies is idiotic – for anyone that is not white and/or rich. Yeezy being a Republican makes sense. He’s rich; he wants lower taxes. That’s often where the Republicans plant their flag.

This seems to be apart of a larger vision for him. He views Trump as a disrupter and through that lens he is correct For all intents and purposes 45 has disrupted our normal politics and brought a sense of chaos and negativity that hasn’t been seen in generations. While past presidents have worn their racism on their collars behind closed doors, Trump and his acolytes prefer to wear them out in the open. In an interview with Charlamagne the God, he said he views himself as a Trump and Bernie Sanders hybrid. He views both through that prism. In a most simplistic and nascent ideal – he’s partly right. Just getting a slightly macro view the difference between these people are night and day, and even that is being too generous. This is the problem with Kanye. He extrapolates the smallest of similarities into these grandiose ideas which have no concrete meaning behind them. He slaps a label of “free thinking” onto it. I can think 2+2=5 but the reality is it equals 4 and no amount of ‘free thinking’ can get me around that principle.

The Nas thing is one of the most disheartening discoveries. It brings me to the hypocrisy of my thoughts.

Harvey Weinstein. Bill Cosby. Russell Simmons. Louis CK.

No questions asked.

But Nas. Not Nasir. Not Mr. Black Girl Lost. How Sway? How can someone so invested in the upliftment of not just the black community but black women be an abuser? You have to ask yourself, how could he not be? He comes from a broken home in an underserved community from education to mental health. He became famous and wealthy at the age of 19 and was anointed the Savior of rap since.

How can we expect him to have any real awareness of anything? It’s not an excuse, its a statement of fact. At the same time — it’s up to him to emotionally grow from his upbringing. The fact that we are now just really hearing about this is more remarkable than anything. Kelis is such a credible witness I have a hard time suspending reality and saying she’s making this up. There is the custody battle that is brewing in the background which sets this interview up. She not only called him a domestic abuser she added the cherry on top of being a deadbeat dad. How can I reconcile the fact that the man who made “Illmatic,” the most important musical event in my life, is at the same time the type of person I detest.

It’s painful. It’s like that moment you find out Santa isn’t real.

The music is still timeless and important, but the man is flawed. While some will go as far as to say he is irredeemable, I don’t believe that. Mistakes can be made, but there needs to be an effort of correction, empathy, an apology. He doesn’t owe that to me. He owes that to his ex-wife and his son if these rumors are true. I don’t need him to go on an apology tour; I just want the man to get better so in turn, the music will continue to evolve.

Our heroes continue to fail us. Here’s to hoping their failures inspire true dialogue and betterment of mankind.

“They would rep but our heroes got their hands full” – Nas

Every July 16 and September 13th I take time to celebrate the life Tupac Amaru Shakur because he was a larger than life figure in my childhood. I have this complex love hate relationship with Pac (Mostly because his fans are the equivalent to Cowboy fans: Annoying AF). His legacy depending on who you are talking to portrays him to be a larger than life figure or the next Malcolm X that got gunned down before he could achieve his space in the pantheon of Black Activists. My memories of him as a fan is that of a bipolar top tier rapper who could not decide if he was the activist we needed or the gangster his friends/bosses wanted him to be. The genius thing is neither one of those characters are wrong or bad in anyway.

If anything 2Pac represented our truest self. The battle that rests inside of all of us. The war of fighting our inner demons but still wanting to have strength enough to leave a positive mark in the world. His actions were bipolar because the same rapper that penned “Brenda’s Got A Baby” also penned “I Get Around” and the ode to video groupies “”All About U”. Do you expect anything less from a 20 year old savant with money to burn? He is the same rapper that threatened to pillage a whole coast but still during his last days sought to rebuild bridges and relationships that his scorched earth policy destroyed. He is the essence of America, killing ants with sledgehammers and after seeing the damage realizing that we used the wrong tool.

Personally he’s the rebel of my adolescence years. He was my bridge between the positivity of Chuck D and the misogyny of Snoop Doggy Dogg. On one song he was teaching me how about the prison industrial complex on “Trapped” and then on the next album I’m dying to join him at a West Coast pool party like “I Get Around”. The flipside to the fun came via a sodomy charge and the infamous shooting at Baseline Studios in New York. While some saw this as strengthening his almost mythical presence for me it made a teenager have to evaluate his loyalties. While Pac spoke to my pint size revolutionary spirit, Puffy and Biggie represented the fly lifestyle that I aspired to have.  Let’s be honest, as a 16 year old, I wasn’t ready to save the world. I wanted to “fuck bitches, get money”.

2Pac isn’t my goat and depending on my mood he may not even be Top 5. But his impact on rap music and my life is undeniable. “Me Against the World” is the 2Pac I loved – this was the erratic writing Pac that I loved. He was angry, he was social, he was positive, he reminisced, and he checked every box and did it in a classic fashion. While “All Eyez on Me” was uneven because of its length, “Me Against The World” capitalized on brevity and quality.

He’s a convicted sex offender, philanderer, drug user and misanthrope. He’s also a creative savant who knew how to use his voice to get the most effect. He’s your drunk uncle. The one who gives you sage advice in between chugging 2 40oz of Colt 45. He’s the perfect slice of Americana, the conflicted hero. It’s hard to separate the wisdom of his words from the vileness of his actions. We have done that with many of our heroes and it makes no sense why he is no different. 2Pac is bigger than Elvis – in every sense.  He is the music of Marvin Gaye mixed with the militancy of Huey Newton. If anything – Pac is Black America at its finest and lowest.

This the ministry of street energy /The church of criminology, teaching my chemistries/Woo I’m the L. Ron Hubbard of the cupboard

Facts are facts. Deal with it. Not Kendrick. Not J Cole. Not Lupe. And damn sure not Drake.

The greatest rapper alive post 2002 is Terrence “Pusha T” Thornton. If you’re real with yourself you know he transcends any of his peers and it’s not even as close as you think.

He has given us the career that Andre 3 Stacks and Phonte wouldn’t. He has exceeded all expectations after splitting from a legendary group. Honestly, since The Clipse ended — he has gotten better. One of the few rappers that revel in being the bad guy. The character that doesn’t have any remorse for his sins and takes drug dealer braggadocio to another level. That is what makes his bars appealing. The drug dealer rapper is not a novel concept. He’s the conscienceless hustler that weaves heroin laced tales with dramatic imagery and sly wit.

There was this moment on “Fear of God” when I was listening to ‘Alone in Vegas” and I knew he was the best rapper on the planet and he was coming to prove it. This couplet “The self-righteous drug dealer dichotomy/I’m drawing from both sides, I am Siamese” is so profound especially if know the history and present of the Clipse and his relationship with this brother. While a part of him wants to be like No Malice and talk about the lighter side of life, he also knows that no one does this coke talk better than him so he voices the internal struggle.

Who else would use their songs co-star as a call to arms against fraudulent drug dealer rappers as he did to Rick Ross on “Hold On”? On the same album he flips the script and talks about the choices hustlers makes when they get caught on “SNITCH”. The way he weaves a tale that was happening in real-time into one of the strongest songs on the album.

When you look at “Darkest Before Dawn” everything from beat selection to his lyrics were built to make a mood. He wanted a modern dark album in the vein of Mobb Deep’s “Hell on Earth” where the depth of album aurally surrounds you. Even through the darkness he’s able to make records like “MFTR”  and “MPA”. Both songs tackling light subjects but Pusha’s pen game makes it sound profoundly ill.

Pusha T is a rappers rapper. He takes seriously the mantra of no lines off. The lines that he uses to set up punchlines aren’t throwaway — they add to the image he’s painting. Check the catalogue. “My Name is My Name” is a classic. “Darkness Before Dawn” is a ridiculously dope project. Loosies like “HGTV” and “Lunch Money” are just bangers.

So why won’t you give Pusha T his due? Because all he raps about is drugs?  Really? He’s so materialistic. Really? The question should always be — Can he rap? Does he rap well?  The answer to those are a resounding Yes. Pusha T is the greatest of his generation because he embraces an image in his rhymes that makes people uneasy. He’s drug dealer turned good but still revels in his past — because he’s comfortable enough admitting that its was fun. It’s not full of remorse of lost friends it’s him reflecting on the good times. Now he’s got legal money to floss in your face and he’s always talking about fly shit. Now that’s a bad thing? Ughk!