Tag Archives: hiphop

Under-appreciated Greatness Vol. II: Yeah, Joe Budden is a legend.

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While some of you are ready to lose your mind, peep…

Budden came up in the last era of hip hop when bars were a necessity in route to respect. Joey stepped on the scene circa 2001-2002, the beginning of what is commonly  referred to as the “mixtape” or “punchline” era along side the likes of 50 cent, Lloyd Banks, Young BuckCassidyFabolous, the Dipset movement, to name a few. Seasoned players like Beanie Sigel, Cam’RonJadakiss, and Styles P, who were in the game for a little while, were beginning to flourish as well. This was a point in time when hip hop was changing, dudes were at eachother’s neck, turning interviews at radio stations to battlegrounds. The game was left to the wolves, whether it was Desert Storm (DJ Clue, Joe, Fab, etc), D-Block, State Property, G-Unit or The Diplomats, everyone had a team of lethal pens. Joey not only survived the times, but established himself as one of the more prominent spitters of the early to mid 2000s (hence why he’s still here almost 15 years later). He had one of the biggest hits of 2003, with “Pump it up”, which could have been a gift and curse, but that’s neither here nor there. The success he achieved in the mixtape circuit is what ultimately has defined his legacy. His “Mood Muzik” tapes, were a 4 part series that felt like it was being recorded from a psychiatrist’s couch more than a booth. The tapes were not only critically accalimed in the underground market, it also helped establish a “Joe Budden” brand, carving out his own lane of heavy-hearted and honest hip hop that you’d be hard pressed to find in any of his predecessors.

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To some of you, who didn’t really expereince the early 2000s and may only be conscious of  Drake-era hip hop (2009-current), being an emotional rapper may not seem to be anything special to you because you see it everywhere. Hip hop was once a genre based on the alpha-male and self-boasting bravado, where any type of vulnerability or fear was blood in the water to the sharks, and it could be the end of the road for a rapper. Regardless of the fact, Joe fearlessly turned inside-out, letting you into his personal space and speaking on everything from his relationship with a distant son, hatred for his baby mother, and detailed accounts of his trial and error with women, friends and family. He went into the depth of his personal demons and the likes of depression, drug addiction and suicidal thoughts more vividly than the game has ever seen. Joe Budden made it okay to be human in hip hop. Whether it was done purposely or not, this type of content helped him relate on an elevated level with listeners and gained him his cult-following.

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Building even more of a personal relationship with his following, Joe was one of the first people who noticed how important the internet and “visual” accesibility was, via vlogs and youtube. Now-a-days, its a regular marketing practice. Every artist  seems to have a vlog now, because they become more “human” and tangible when fans can see their favorite artist’s activities. In the years proceeding JoeBuddentv, an artist would never let their following look in that close, in fear that it would compromise their still-on-the-corner / superthug image that they were upholding. JoeBuddenTV documented any and everything from his relationship with Tahiry (and arguments), issues with fellow Jersey-native Ransom, one of the first interviews with Drake, or just a game of monoply.

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Of course that level of openness wasn’t only in regards to his own depth and personal life, he was never shy about his opinions on others. Joe Budden’s name is synonymous with rap beef, which is something that may have overshadowed his true talent. He has battled with Sean Price live on Hot 97 (& lost miserably, Rest In Peace SeanP!) and subliminally but not-so-subliminally battled Jay-Z on record after Hov tried juxing Joe for the Just Blaze produced “Pump it up” track (it became the “Pump it up” remix). Aside from that, he’s beefed with damn near everyone you can think of, from the likes of Saigon to the legendary tier of the Wu-Tang clan. Oh yeah, and Def Jam as a whole got it too (The Growth album?). Though a lot of these situations made for some classic records, they’ve also left a bad taste in the mouths of hip hop listeners and his piers alike.

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The reason why it may be tough to recognize how important Joe Budden is to hip hop, is because of unnecessary and immature antics that may have come from an honest place, but developed into a stigma on the Joe Budden brand. His unapologetic frankness, which is admirable to some (me), may have also stopped potential-fans at the door before even giving him a chance. Instances like calling out Method Man in an unnecessary fashion (also documented on JoeBuddenTv) made him seem disrespectful and wreckless. Of course, him popping up on Ustream with an icebag over his eye after  Raekwon’s people reacted, didn’t help much, either. It’s these “when-keeping-it-real-goes-wrong” impulses that have grown legs of their own and make some room to slight the Jersey emcee, regardless of his catalog and ability to push a pen.

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On a more personal level, his romantic-endeavors with well-sculpted Latinas were always on display for the court of public opinion. Though he’s given celebrity and careers to a lot of his ex-partners, the element of publicity in a personal relationship can turn on you, especially when there’s an ugly demise involved. There’s a trail of women, longer than any public assitance line, ready to drag Joe Budden’s name through the mud with accusations of domestic abuse, which is tough on public relations. Throw that in the pot with his denim vest collection on VH1’s “Love & Hip Hop” and the marriage prosposal gone wrong that made him the butt of memes all throughout IG, and you have a lot of distraction surrounding his actual wins.

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The open book that us Budden fans love him to be, has also made him a target and has given plenty of excuses to not recognize his caliber of artistry. All the controversy in the world, from verbal intercourse with the competition to his personal pitfalls, as well as the cliche “one hit wonder” claims, and Mr. Jumpoff Joe Budden has survived it all and remains a lot more relevant than most of his classmates (except Fab), 12 years later. The branch of emotion-driven hip-hop that he’s opened has had a major influence, whether directly or indirectly. The influence resonates with some of the biggest stars of today (He had Drake on JoeBuddetv in ’09). When the controversy quiets and all the claims against him become warn out, all you’ll have is his body of work. Remember, you can’t trust anything without a darkside…

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SideBar: All Love Lost 10/16 

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New New York 15: Harlem NYC Style: Dave East

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Name: Dave East

Stomping Grounds: Spanish Harlem

Breakout Year: 2014

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From the Eastside of the New York City fashion mecca, hails one of the more promising prospects from the 5 Burroghs. I was hearing the name “Dave East” for a minute, via blog sites (shout out to 2dopeboyz, catching everything OD early) and word of mouth. But in most cases, unless I trust the opinion of the source, I usually brush it off after years of being recommended and then disappointed. I admittingly did this with Dave East, and it wasn’t untill I saw Nas put him down with his Mass Appeal roster, that I was like “Hold up, if the GOAT co-signs….”

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To get a sense of where his pen was at, I immediatley went to his freestyles and heard him finessing the shit out of classics like NasLast Words” and Beanie Mack’sOnce again its on“.

A marksman with my target, I shoot awkward,

Shawn Marion, Bill Cartwright, by the park light,

It’s 33 for a gram, the shit slow,

Balmain denim lookin’ like I’m sellin’ dope

– “Once again it’s on” freestyle

Once I realized how sharp the sword was, I wanted to see what kind of artist he was. We all know there’s plenty of dudes, from our city particualrly, who can spit really well but can’t put together actual songs. I did my datpiffs and saw his most promising project was “Black Rose” mixtape, with no expectation at all, I sparked some potent product & took some time to see what these mean-internet streets were talking about. The standout factor of the tape & East as an artist, is that it’s well-balanced and diverse in sound. He could go with a banger like the RicoBeats produced “Red Bottoms” , which is more in the trap lane, and it sounds natural. On the other hand, he could spit over a drum-knocking New York record like “Fuck you think” and come with the vintage shit. My personal favorites were “Around here” and “The Town“, where the he takes you on a verbal tour through the not-so-gentrified & still grimey side of Harlem. He could talk the name-brand braggadocio, true to his Harlem roots, he can speak the word of the corner-bodega hustler or he could just let the bars fly to let you know where his minds at.

“Speak my pain
He got game, I feel like Jesus
Just couldn’t relate, ain’t never listened to Yeezus (never)
Still got connects with dope, Sour in the freezer
FoodSaver sealers and some scissors, thank you Jesus
I ain’t meet her once, tatted my name right on her cleavage
Kush got me talkin’ to nutso, like “are we even?”…”- “The Offering”

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Dave East hails very little comparison to anyone I’ve heard. The Spanish Harlem emcee seems more like an effortless fusion of the New York legends blended with today’s era in hip hop. He’s the artist whose got something for pretty much any fan of the culture, no matter what element of the game you fuck with. Get familiar with the name, the boy’s gonna be here for a while….

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Knowledge, God: Why isn’t Raekwon held in higher regard?

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The debate for the “King of New York” in hip hop is an unresolvable, pointless & compeltely subjective argument, but it’s fun none the less. It’s a conversation that’s been going on in barbershops since the days of Krs-One, Rakim & Big Daddy Kane. Nobody is ever going to change their mind whether they believe it’s Nas, Biggie or Jay, when it’s all said and done, opinions will remain unshaken and everyone will stick to their guns. That’s mainly because there are different reasons and standards regarding people’s opinions. My standard for the best in the town is based in longevity, as well as quality penmanship and product, for other’s it may differ. For instance, most people who say Jay owns the crown will support their argument with his accolades, how much he’s done not only for hip hop but on a business level too. For those who go the Biggie route, they’ll speak on him (and Bad Boy records) irrefutable dominance of Hip hop in the 90s, and his ability to crossover to the mainstream, while simultaneously maintaining his credibility on a street level. For those who say Nas, they will most likely bring up how his 1994 debut shook the grounds of hip hop, his uncontested pen game, How he ethered Jay and how he was regarded as the top rapper, lyrically, in the Golden-era of the 90s, when everyone had to be nice to survive. Regardless, it’s a cold case. Since the 90s other’s have been thrown into the discussion, but those 3 remain the top guns even in 2015. 50 cent, who specialized in the destructive competitiveness of New York Hip Hop, made the argument relevant again in a new era when he went on his tirade in the early 2000s going at everyone from Ja Rule, to Dipset, to The Lox, and Fat Joe, pretty much everyone in New York who was even remotely relevant. However, something that always amazes me, is that after the decades of debating and all of these bullshit back-and-forths I’ve been involved in or witnessed, nobody has ever brought Wu-Tang’s top swordsman up, The God, Raekwon.

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I won’t even use Rae’s countless amount of contributions on Wu-Tang projects as evidence to why he should be in the argument, I’ll focus solely on his solo career. Off top, the Purple Tape, his solo debut, the 1995 Classic “Only Built For CubanLinx”, widely regarded as one of (if not the) the best hip hop albums to ever bless the culture. It was more than an album, it was a moment, a turning of the tide in hip hop with an impact that is only rivaled by albums like Nas’ “Illmatic” or Dr.Dre’s 1992 masterpiece, “The Chronic”. The album established Raekwon (& Ghostface) as trail blazers, the influence was immediate, from the content to the slang Rae & Ghost were using. The album introduced a new subgenre in hip hop which was labeled mafioso-rap, the black Gambino. It’s the cross between Mob movies such as “The Godfather” and “Good Fellas”, intertwined with inner-city New York street life of the 80s and early 90s. The story-telling was vivid (Slick Rick/Kool G Rap esque) and RZA’s production was vintage. Aside from that, this album spawned a bunch of “A.K.A’s” such as Lex Diamonds for Rae and Tony Starks, for Ghostface, which set another trend in hop hop. Every major hip hop album that came out following OB4CL had traces and elements of Rae’s classic solo-debut. That includes Jay-Z’s “Reasonable Doubt”, Nas’ “It Was Written” and Big’s “Life After Death”. All 3 of those albums, undeniable classics (Stop hating on IWW), had some of Ghost & Rae’s recipe in them. For starters, the street narratives started to become more of the norm, with artists detailing violent, often drug related, tales heavily based in cinematically-influenced imagination (Biggie “Niggas bleed”, Nas’ “The Set Up”). Along with that, the nicknames that started to pop up (Nas “Escobar”, Biggie “Frank White”, Jay’s “Cashmere Brown”), as well as the Gambino talk. The influence didn’t go unnoticed, even Cappadonna stated on Wu-Tang’s “Little Ghetto Boys” (1997):

                                                          “You not a real brother you just a fake type
                                                          That get on the mic then throw your cliché
                                                           Half the East coast sounding just like Rae
                                                            If you a Gambino, give credit to the flow”

That’s a shot that could’ve gone in plenty of directions, but, I digress. Some will say, “Well, Okay, that’s one album”, true, and it’s absolutely the stand out of Rae’s 5 album catalog. Every artist has that one album that outshines the rest of their work, regardless of how much quality material they’ve put out . Rae has had his slip-ups, sure, like his second album “Immobilarity”. Though the penmanship was still there, the overall feel and quality wasn’t. The 1999 release had no Ghostface features or RZA production and the story telling wasn’t as sharp or abundant but the album still had it’s moments. His 2003 release “The Lex Diamond story” was another dent in the catalog because of a lack of cohesivness, giving it more of a mixtape feel, and a tracklist which should of been narrowed down. Rae should be granted his 2 mishaps just as Jay was with “Blueprint 2” and pretty much every solo album after “The Black Album” (minus “American Gangster”). Nas was excused of his 1999 fail “Nastradamus” and 2004’s “Streets Disciple”. While on the other hand it’s hard to judge Big on a level of consistency, when he had two releases (both classics, though) and in hinesight we barely had 3 years from him (unfortunately, Rest In Peace). Rae’s 2 most recent releases, the sequel to OB4CL (2009) and “Shaolin Vs. Wu-Tang” (2011) are both high-quality albums in an era when we saw plenty of our favorite rappers from the 90s completely fall off.

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Rae’s longevity speaks for itself, he’s still everywhere you look, he’s still relevant, and he’s still dressed dip (Follow him on Instagram). Raekwon has had impressive features on some of the biggest projects in the modern era, such as Kanye’s “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” (“Gorgeous”), French Montana’s “Excuse My French” (“We go wherever we want”), Schoolboy Q’s “Oxy-Moron” (“Blind threats”) and ASAP Mob’s “Lords” mixtape (“Underground Killa”), to name a few. He’s still sharper than his competition, even these days, and he’s more tangible to the younger generation of artists than anyone of the same legendary status. He’s not afraid to step in the box and hang with the new guys, which is testament to his consistency. All this to say, there is no reason why Raekwon should keep getting disregarded in the Mt. Rushmore of New York’s hip hop history, he has the albums, the penmanship, the timeless-influence, and the longevity to back his case up. I’m not saying he doesn’t get credit, because everyone respects Rae’s craft, but he’s not held on the pedestal that he’s supposed to be with the rest of the elite.

Sidebar: Raekwon’s sixth solo album “F.I.L.A (Fly Internation Luxurious Art)” is slated to drop this year, be on the look out.

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Drill Music: A Breath Of Fresh Air

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Say what you want about the violent nature of Chicago’s “Drill Music”, but its as authentic as it gets in today’s hip hop. “Drill” is apparently a commonly used slang term in Chicago, it could be used for pretty much anything. I’m “Drillin’ in my room”, but it originally started out as a term for fighting.  The architect behind the board is mainly Young Chop. He’s branded the sound, which has spread and been remade everywhere.  The main players in the eye of the lens are Chief Keef, Lil Reese, Lil Durk, Fredo Santana, King L, among others. The music is in your face, ignorant, violent, threatening to disconnected white people, but its a breath of fresh air. It’s shit like this that hip hop originated from. This is NWA, This is The Wu, this is hip hop. This Chicago sound is heavily intertwined with their signature talk, just the way Rae and Ghostface were telling a story of how they came up, with damn near their own language. It’s a group of people bringing their slang to your neighborhood, acting as an embodiment of the ugly south side of the windy city.  That’s what all the legendary groups in hip hop were doing. Before the News really brought cameras to the ghetto, NWA was reporting live from LA, just as Public Enemy was doing it for NY. These young dudes from Chiraq are showing you how the world looks from their perspective.

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Though the numbers are down, in not such ancient history, Chicago was the murder capital. Murder Capital or not, Chicago’s southside is still somewhere you probably don’t want to take your family to vacation. To put it in perspective, Chicago’s population is only one third of New York’s. In 2012, The rotten apple recorded 419 murders, while Chi-Town recorded 500. It sounds sick, but some of these kids in the lifestyle that Chicago breeds, probably have a better chance of being shot than graduating high school. This is the mentality, the backdrop, the visual of the Drill Music movement. Chief Keef really kicked America’s door down with the new wave, when he came out with “Bang” and “I Don’t Like”. You’ll notice, for such groundbreaking songs, the video probably didn’t take much a budget. It was him and his GBE squad gooned up in his grandmothers crib. The beauty of simplicity. But why such a setting?, because there wasn’t many other options. Cheif Keef was under restrictive living conditions by law after doing some time for an alleged shoot-out with police. This is raw. When a movement starts pushing boundaries and getting people worried for their safety, you know its a classic, genuine piece of hip hop. Hip hop hasn’t seen this in a while, a group of young cats actually becoming the voice of their not-so-pretty city (Chiraq, Drillinois), complete with a new sound and language. As much as I hate to hear fellow New Yorkers using OT slang as if they invented it, it goes to show you the wave is spreading.

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Reality strikes, when tragedies happen, such as 18 year old Chicago Rapper Lil Jojo being murdered. The 18 year old had a publicized fued with Chief Keef, and showed up dead in Downtown Chicago. The murder happened within hours of a video recorded from a cell phone of Lil Jojo in a car with his people. Jojo’s crew passed by Lil Reese, an affiliate of Chief Keef, shouting out a bunch of senseless shit, in which Reese responded “Jojo, Ima kill you”. Then the kid shows up dead. It’s moments like that when you realize that this is beyond music, like “Oh shit, so these kids aren’t just rapping”. Of course plenty of people are going to say it’s just “glorifying violence”, and to some degree it is. But someone has to show the darker side of the city. Common is a legend, but he’s not hanging out in Englewood, Chicago, drinking 40 ounces anymore, he’s probably more likely to be found in Hollywood. Kanye is too busy trying to rant his way into the fashion world, and Lupe Fiasco, who served as an articulate voice of the city, grew his hair out and is more concerned with his “legitimate 9-5” with Higi, a health and well being app. So the torch is handed down, and this is what the city looks like now. Dreads, guns, drugs and thots. As every other groundbreaking hip hop movement had to face, there will be mounts of criticism coming for Chief Keef and friends, depicting them as the reason for all the bad that goes on where they live. News flash: that violence they speak about, bred the music, not the other way around. In the words of Pac “Don’t blame me, I was given this world, I didn’t make it”. Side Bar: I may not be the biggest fan of the drill music sound, but I support the authenticity of the movement.

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“New Slaves”: A Calculated Contradiction

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Let me start this off by saying I have always been and continue to be a fan of Kanye West. I support his music, his creativity and even his rants. But the confusing message that his ‘Yeezus’ single “New Slave” presents, is too blatant to ignore. The concept of the song could be summed up in a bar that is in his second verse, “Fuck you and your corporation, y’all niggas can’t control me”. Kanye is making a very valid point about us as people, being slaves to material wealth and being pimped by big time corporations, who take advantage of that vulnerability. With Kanye & Nike’s latest collaboration dropping yesterday (Yeezys II), you have to question was his “New Slaves” campaign a genuine rebellion, or a business move?. Kanye may have left out two very valuable pieces of information. He is both, responsible and guilty of corporate pimping.

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Of course, as grown men and women, we have to own our decisions. At the same time, it would be stupid to act as if megastars in entertainment didn’t have any bearing or influence on the masses choice of style. This is part one of Kanye’s responsibility in this obsession of material wealth. Before Mr. West, us people of the hip hop culture were fine with the baggy jeans, the long shirts, the fitteds and air force 1s, all the things you could find in Jimmy Jazz. The most expensive piece of clothing we’d pick up (Pre-West), was probably a throwback Mitchell and Ness Jersey. Now, Kanye West comes along as a rapper in 2003. At first he was labeled by young and ignorant hip hop fans as a “faggot” or “Fruity”, because of his choice of style. Kanye West was rocking bright colors, smaller shirt sizes and tighter jeans. Judging off looks, you’d probably see him being from the village before you saw him in the projects. Kanye often rapped about high-end name brands from early on such as Ralph Lauren, Gucci, Christian Dior and Louis Vuitton (dubbed himself the ‘Louis Vuitton Don’). Slowly but surely, Kanye’s style started to spread. More and more people started saving up just for one Ralph Lauren Polo, that was probably worth the price of their baggy Rocawear jeans, Long tee and Yankee fitted all together. Of course, Kanye isn’t the first that was guilty of flaunting and giving free advertisement to these name brands. It was nothing to see Raekwon (Shout out to the legendary Snow Beach), Ghost, Nas or others from the Golden era (90’s) in some Tommy Hilfiger or Ralph Lauren (“Same damn ‘Lo sweaters, times is rough and tough as leather”- Rae in 1993).  But none of them were defined by fashion the way Kanye is. Kanye served as a mascot for bringing the fashionista element to hip hop, starting a revolution of vanity for the hip hop culture. The point is, the same man who brought so much attention to the more expensive side of clothing, and continues too, is making a song critical of us for being slaves to these name brands.

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You may be able to excuse Kanye for the first case I made, and simply write him off as just being a trend setter (who cares if he made a song talking about us being slaves to brands he advertised). But Kanye is also guilty of standing side by side with the same powers and corporations that he’s saying “Fuck you” to. If you were really trying to prevent this “slavery”, why would you make a sneaker with Nike, one of the wealthiest corporations out there?.  Obviously, the Yeezys, are not going to have half the success they had if Kanye partnered with a less known, more independent brand. Nike brings a bigger audience, a better marketing plan, and obviously more money. There is nothing wrong with taking the route that’s going to make you more money, that’s what America is all about. At the same time, don’t turn around and say fuck the corporation, if it’s only because you’re frustrated that they won’t let you release your second sneaker. Kanye is trying to open others minds, to a movement that he really isn’t willing to lead. “New Slaves” isn’t a genuine attack on corporations, it’s more so just an emotional ballad of anger caused by these corporations resistance to work with West. If Nike gave him the second sneaker without hesitation and the bougie fashion world would let Kanye work with them, we would have never heard the song. He wouldn’t lose too much sleep at the thought of our cultures tendency to be dictated by money and material slavery, if he was partnered with the slave masters. One of Kanye’s better known rants was at the legendary “Sway In The Morning” show. Yeezus vented his frustration regarding Nike and others in the epic interview, and then everything turned. When Sway asked him about considering another route into the sneaker/fashion world, Kanye (in Kanye/erratic fashion) infamously responded “You ain’t got the answers, Sway!”, multiple times. He even slightly mocked Sway, when the veteran host offered up advice from his own experience in the clothing business. Sway brought to the table how he managed to profit a bit off of his own clothing line, and Kanye’s response was “It Ain’t Ralph [Lauren] Though!”. In all fairness, he had a reason to feel gypped. The fact that the Yeezy 1’s flew off the shelf and Nike was not half as eager or passionate as Kanye about releasing the “Red October” sequel was a slight shot to the pride (Which Ye obviously has a lot of). Kanye eventually went as far as to even apologize to Nike, and The Yeezy sequel was released yesterday and sold out once again (Congratulations). However, in retrospect, “New Slaves” looks more like “Pay attention to me, Nike”.

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Now, I’m not going to split hairs, contradiction is part of the human dichotomy.  We’re all guilty of it and have all done something that we ranted against. However, Kanye making this song just seemed more calculated than a simple contradiction. This was like a neglected child (Kanye) acting out to get attention from his parents (The fashion world). Making this song, opened the door for his ranting campaign, an attempt at swaying momentum in his favor in the battle he was facing. He needed the public’s attention on this matter because everybody knows that there is power in numbers. There are people who genuinely mean “Fuck the corporations” and those people are so far removed from our world, that they probably never heard “New Slaves”, but if they did they’d laugh at it. They’re typically jaded Americans, who are now living in the woods or a distant second world country preaching against the New World Order. All in all, “New Slaves” is not an anthem of rebellion as its presented, it’s more so the cry of someone struggling to fit in. Side bar: I’m not the type of person who criticizes material fetishes. I love my name brands, my collection of nikes and making money. With that said, I also endorse practicing what you preach. If you make a big declaration (especially as a public figure), own it, wear it on your sleeve, let your words manifest into action…Statements should be commitments. Imagine seeing N.W.A chillin’ with a group of cops after “Fuck The Police”, or Chuck D becoming a crackhead after such a disposition towards drugs in the community. But Stars are humans, too, I forgive you Ye.

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