Probably Alecia Keys

So, folks are buzzing about some comments made by Alicia Keys in her interview featured in the latest issue of “Blender” magazine.

(You can find a portion of the interview here:

At any rate, here are a couple of Alicia’s quotes:

“Gangsta rap was a ploy to convince black people to kill each other”.

She also says that the East Coast/West Coast rivalry that eventually claimed the lives of The Notorious B.I.G and 2Pac was perpetuated by the government and the media “to stop another black leader from existing”.,2933,350916,00.html

While it might be easy to dismiss her remarks out of hand, there are truths hidden in each of her statements.

Gangsta rap (as with hip-hop in general) initially gave a much-needed public voice to disenfranchised black youth. Once artists like N.W.A. started seeing dollar signs, they went from being the disenfranchised black youth to exploiting disenfranchised black youth. Compare “Straight Outta Compton” with “Niggaz4life”. Both are based on reality, but the two realities are completely different. One is the viewpoint of the kid on the street trying to make people listen, the latter is the viewpoint of a superstar entertainer whose removed himself from that street and is now revelling in his spoils. As my friend Bryan (who I don’t always agree with, but usually makes valid points) has stated (and I paraphrase here), at some point it went from education to exploitation. And the majority of it is willful self-exploitation. Gangsta rappers are selling out their own. Soulless artists like 50 Cent, Fat Joe, Rick Ross, Lil’ Wayne and others promote violence, drug addiction and even gang ties (in how many interviews has Wayne admitted to being Blood-affiliated?), and something tells me that there’s no all-seeing “The Man”-type person behind the scenes pushing them to say what they say. And even if we’re gonna blame the suits behind the record companies for promoting this stuff, L.A. Reid is just as guilty as Jimmy Iovine, you know what I’m saying? At any rate, gangsta rap might not be an actually thought-out ploy to say “Hey, let’s release this music and watch the niggers shoot each other silly”, the artists are definitely complicit in the acts of violence that threaten urban communities, and the “cool” factor of selling drugs, violence, etc.

The second statement is a little less easy to explain away. While she gains points right away for suggesting the obvious (that the Big/Pac donnybrook was media-perpetuated), she loses major points by using the phrases “Notorious B.I.G” and “black leader” in the same sentence. While Tupac was undoubtedly charismatic, political and intelligent (before he became Suge Knight’s bitch), Biggie had no political opinions or aspirations whatsoever. While it’s tempting to say that Tupac would have matured into a black leader (he certainly had the skill set to), I think lumping Biggie in there is a bit laughable (hey, I love the man’s rhymes, but I didn’t listen to them to gain any profound social or political insight).

I think Alicia’s a little misguided (and certainly stands at risk of losing a substantial amount of her fan base), but I wouldn’t say her comments are entirely off-base. There’s a little bit of truth in every wacky statement, isn’t there?