JOHN: I've agreed with much of what's been expressed by Aqua, Dave, Andreas and Clover early in the discussion. The goal is public awareness, and while not every artist or celebrity is intellectually built to speak about societal ills and how everyday people can help change things in the community, something is better than nothing. These artists are making their livelihoods off the same people who are targets every day when walk out of their homes (sometimes home isn't even safe).
To me, it's not about being moved enough, or educated enough—these are their fans and many times their own loved ones who are most directly affected by police brutality. So if you're a rapper who wasn't raised by two parents in higher education like Talib Kweli was, or didn't rack up debt to Sallie Mae like J. Cole, and you're just not informed or eloquent enough to provide moving dialogue, you should still be using your platform to spread awareness. Wear a T-shirt with Eric Garner's likeness on the front. Tweet #justiceformichaelbrown. Use the power that's been given to you—it's your responsibility.
But can I take this somewhere else real quick?
We've been discussing all of the artists who obviously should be lending their voices to what's taken place in Ferguson and around the country, with the police abusing their power and the citizens they're sworn to protect. Of course Kanye West and Drake and Nicki Minaj and Jay Z should be vocal—these victims look just like them. But also, where are the Iggy Azaleas and Macklemores and G-Eazys? What rent are they paying to the culture that they're appropriating for their own fortune? Mac Miller tweeted something vague about Michael Brown's murder, but at what point do we start calling white hip-hop artists to task for their responsibility to bring awareness to the issues?
AQUA: Great point, JFK. Something from Macklemore may make what's happening resonate more with a demographic someone like Young Jeezy (who I don't think anyone has mentioned and was one of the first big rap artists to make a statement) may not ever reach. We should do our parts to big up artists who are willing to speak and act regardless of the ramifications.
GREGORY: John, exactly—this ties back to what I was saying about police brutality having to be intolerable for the society at large. As much attention as Eminem brought back to Detroit, that hasn't stopped the rest of the country from nodding and smiling at the Chrysler commercial then shrugging as the city's emergency manager is cutting water off in thousands of homes. Civil rights did not reach the tipping point in the national consciousness until it became not just a cause célèbre (though that helped) but a national embarrassment. I personally find the criminalization and killing of unarmed black youth to be a national embarrassment, as do many of us, but aren't we really all still in the minority, pardon the pun?
CHLOE HILLIARD: It's hard for artists to be socially and politically aware when they operate in a world of fantasy. Ninety-nine percent of their image, content and brand is about wealth (obtained by no legal means on wax) and laying out their competition. How can they encourage the masses to know their rights and demand better treatment from the police when they talk about killing or robbing their fellow man?
We can't look to the radio rappers to have an insightful view on how to handle the murders of Eric Garner, Mike Brown, Ezell Ford, John Crawford III because most of them aren't even connected to their communities. Did you see how long it took Jesse Jackson to come out of his Rainbow Push retirement home and say something? Damn near a week.
When was the last time Kanye stepped foot in Chicago? Jay Z hasn't been to Bed Stuy in how long but performs at Barclays. In hip-hop, the mentality is once you make money you are better than. Who has time to save or educate the hood when you have strippers to tip and whips to drive.
JOHN: Props to Jeezy for being proactive and actually going to the city of Ferguson to show his solidarity. But as you've said, Aqua, his reach a bit different than Macklemore's. These are the times where it becomes evident who's down, and who's just here because they need some "edge" or to reinvent their career. I don't care which rappers you're cool with or how spot-on your Southern accent is; if you're going to live in this culture, be hip-hop all the time, not just when it's convenient. You're "the realest?" Prove it.
And agree with Greg, this is a human rights issue just as much as it's a racial issue. We need all of these figures raising awareness, protesting or mobilizing the people if we're going to see true change.
KEITH: The way I look at it is we are all citizens of the world. Meaning that whether holding a microphone or pushing a broom, we should each raise our voice when we see an injustice. The problem arises when we place extra pressure on celebrities to speak out.
In other eras, celebrity was so larger than life that fame could be used as an impactful tool (think Harry Belafonte during the '60s civil rights era, the aforementioned Nina Simone, and Bob Marley linking Apartheid struggles with black and minority struggle all around the world in the '70s). Today, celebrity is boiled down to an Instagram posting. I'm happy to see J. Cole, Killer Mike and the like keeping up the good fight.
But yeah, fuck 2014 celebrity. I'm more concerned with everyday folks making a stand.
HILLARY CROSLEY: To Murph's point, I didn't even think about whether rappers had made any constructive comments around Mike Brown until yesterday, when I realized Nelly, the rap champion of STL, hadn't said anything. But you know what? I don't really care about their opinions at this point. I am more concerned with the actions of President Obama, Attorney General Eric Holder, Missouri Governor Jay Nixon, Captain Ron Johnson and Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson.
Right now, those are the players moving (and losing, on purpose!) the pieces in this game. I'd much rather focus my attention on where the hell Darren Miller ran off to, what supposed stolen cigars Thomas says the cops found on Brown's body and what happened during the altercation, once and for all.
Do you realize that it's Friday, nearly seven days after Brown was shot and no one's seen an official police report? What. Do you know that someone tweeted the entire incident but some witnesses still haven't been interviewed by the police? Huh. Do you know that Brown's shooter has been gone from Ferguson, where he shot a teen dead and is part of an on-going investigation in which his name was just released publicly today, for days? OK.
Do you understand that the Ferguson police released a surveillance tape of a robbery Chief Jackson admitted had nothing to do with Brown being stopped by Miller? Stop it. Do you know that means, if we believe the eye witnesses, Brown was literally shot dead because he was "walking in the middle of the street and blocking traffic," according to Jackson?
Forget a rap song, though it would be much appreciated, but I need justice. However, if Jay Z really does have Obama on the text, it'd be awesome if he could ask to speak with Attorney General Holder and get us, the Hip-Hop community, some concrete answers. This whole situation is like a wildly unfunny comedic spoof of "Ghosts of Mississippi" or something equally racist and murderous.
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