Words by Tony Grands
Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.
Rapper Beanie Sigel was scheduled to start a prison sentence in a couple of weeks, stemming from a tax evasion charge, which carried a penalty of two years. However, yesterday (August 29) he was approached by police & arrested on drug & weapons charges. This isn’t Beans’ first run-in with the cops, & his often-strained relationship with the authorities is well documented in his music also.
As news of Beanie’s arrest went viral, the internet backlash began, & the once highly regarded MC was relished to names such as “loser,” “dumb ass,” & “waste of a life.” While this type of online antagonism isn’t surprising, what is a bit odd is that rap fans constantly clamor about a rapper’s authenticity, yet when a guy like Beanie Sigel lives the exact life that he raps about, he gets insulted & dismissed.
As much of a 2 Chainz fan as I am not, I can appreciate the level of unwarranted ignorance he brings to the rap industry. (Truthfully, he’s not that bad, though.) Before I even ventured into his catalog, I’d hear his songs pumping from cars in traffic, so it was obvious that his influence is palpable & his demand is high. It was only a matter of time until bits & pieces of his personal life began bubbling to rap music’s gossipy surface. The two most eyebrow-raising facts about him that I’ve learned so far are A) he is thirty-six years old, & B) he graduated from Alabama State University. Yes, that’s a college. Talk of his outstanding collegiate career (he played basketball, too) eventually spread like wildfire & it appeared as though half of his fan base became detractors, due to his perceived level of intelligence.
Lupe Fiasco is probably the most popular case of rap music’s “Catch-22.” For every calculated step he makes to enrich & enlighten, he has to defend his position in all cardinal directions against political adversaries, rap revolutionaries, & self-indulgent imbeciles who prefer to be uneducated. His latest song, “Bitch Bad,” is a look at the complexities behind the urban usage of the word “bitch,” & what we can do to make things better for the future generations. However, when the video dropped (which featured actors applying Blackface make-up to their already Black faces), Fiasco was crucified by listeners & critics alike, for being too vocal – read: preachy – on Hip Hop’s responsibilities to the community. This singular, well organized song has polarized the rap world, jotting a thin line between Hip Hop holy men & rap’s propaganda pushers. Lupe Fiasco may be the most beloved & hated rapper in the business. At least until someone else grows a big enough pair of balls to fight the power in a similar fashion.
For what it’s worth, goon rapper Plies was a victim of the same irrational subjugation once it was discovered that he graduated from the University of South Florida & held a degree in nursing. For all the progression the culture has made, there are still numerous unturned stones that need tending to.
Rap fans may never totally unify on what’s important to the culture, but here’s a starting point; if you can’t keep it real, at least keep it right.
Words by Tony Grands