Sound Off | BET.com http://blogs.bet.com/music/sound-off Hear About It Here Thu, 31 Jul 2014 20:38:51 +0000 http://wordpress.org/?v=2.9.2 en hourly 1 Ray J, Please Stop… But, We Get It http://blogs.bet.com/music/sound-off/ray-j-please-stop%e2%80%a6-but-we-get-it/ http://blogs.bet.com/music/sound-off/ray-j-please-stop%e2%80%a6-but-we-get-it/#comments Thu, 31 Jul 2014 18:53:17 +0000 rconway http://blogs.bet.com/music/sound-off/?p=12327

(Photo: Neilson Barnard/Getty Images for BMI)

By Moriba Cummings

Brandy’s brother, reality TV bachelor, R&B star — these are all terms used to describe Williams Ray Norwood Jr., better known as Ray J. While he is well known for fulfilling these roles since his introduction to the world as Dorian (Mo to the…), his most infamous title unfortunately remains “Kim Kardashian’s co-star in their 2007 sex tape Kim Kardashian, Superstar. Aside from the intimate collaborative project being credited only to Ye’s wifey in its title, it’s safe to say that it’s been all about Kim ever since the tape dropped, and Ray J’s still salty about it to this day. He’s even dropped a new video chronicling his regret in his new song “Never Shoulda Did That.” So, in an effort to see Ray J. win again, we have some advice: let it go!

For any man, the ego is something that takes time to break down. For Ray J, that time period lasted seven years and counting. So, what has caused this ongoing harping of bitterness on the singer’s part? It’s simple: Kim’s “success.”

Kim, with the help from her notoriously business savvy — and power hungry — mother, Kris Jenner, manipulated the embarrassing situation into a multi-million dollar money-making venture. With the sex tape as her launching pad, the reality TV staple branched out into fashion, fragrances, television and, most recently, video games: She’s expected to pocket $85 million from her new video game/app!

In addition to her entrepreneurial successes, Kim even managed to marry one of the wealthiest and most respected rappers in hip hop, Kanye West. Furthermore, the couple had a gorgeous baby girl, completing Kim’s picture-perfect life. To make it all worse for the singer/actor, every morsel of Kim K’s life is documented on reality TV and is further covered across practically every major media outlet in the world, making it virtually impossible for him to escape her presence.

So, as if the immaculate flop that was “I Hit It First” wasn’t enough, Brandy’s little brother resorted to releasing another track aimed at his now-accomplished ex, titled “Never Shoulda Did That.” While “I Hit It First” saw Norwood attack Kim’s reputation, fetishizing her even more than she does herself, his new track sees him turn a new leaf, standing alone on the beach, watching the sun set, pondering life’s greatest questions. No, really. Just watch the music video.

In true Ray J fashion, he dishes out everything that we didn’t need or even want to know about his rendezvous with Kim. “I got drunk in the club, and yes, I f****d that b***h,” he said. “F*****g b*****s on camera, never shoulda did that s**t.” Yep. He’s a new man. All transformed and stuff.

If you’re feeling Ray J’s newest offering, you can cop his mixtape Unkut 2 — notice the substituted “k” for “c” in the word “uncut.” We see what you did there, Ray J. Also, sidebar: Is anyone else wondering when part one was released?

Anyway, these subtle hints that he is still incorporating the Kardashian brand into his, uh, efforts, prove that, though he outwardly expresses that he has moved on from sextapegate, he never has, and probably never will. This is clearly his bread and butter. Since the majority of the world knows of him as either Kim Kardashian’s forgotten sex partner or a failed reality star, this is all that he has left to secure his relevance in entertainment as, well, an entertainer. So, keep entertaining us, Ray J, keep entertaining us.

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Azealia Banks Starts Post-Hip Hop Music Career http://blogs.bet.com/music/sound-off/azealia-banks-starts-post-hip-hop-music-career/ http://blogs.bet.com/music/sound-off/azealia-banks-starts-post-hip-hop-music-career/#comments Mon, 28 Jul 2014 21:24:36 +0000 rconway http://blogs.bet.com/music/sound-off/?p=12286

(Photo: Donato Sardella/WireImage)

By Dominique Zonyeé

Based on countless testimony,  it is safe to conclude that the music industry is a hard industry to crack. Getting your foot in the door is one thing, landing a hit single another, but to maintain longevity by staying relevant and achieving an arsenal of hits with complimenting trophies is a status only few attain. But for MC’s like Trinidad James, Chief Keef (both members of the 2013 XXL Freshman Class) and femcee Azealia Banks, all of whom had noteworthy breakout singles and were pegged for mainstream stardom, the road to success has come equipped with its share of pitfalls and potholes.

With the July 27 release of “Heavy Metal and Reflective,” Azealia Banks’s first track since parting ways with Interscope and publicly quitting hip hop, she proves that you don’t need an album or a slew of mainstream hits to remain afloat in this fickle business. Yung Rapunxel has been doing this since she stepped on the rap scene in 2008 and signed with British label XL. Although she did not gain notoriety until 2012 when she took the Internet by storm with her debut single “212,” she secured a loyal cult following that wouldn’t allow her to disappear.

Career firsts aside Azealia’s eccentric Harlem meets London underground persona and her many Twitter beefs have helped make her one of the new age artists that have become the face of the rising trend of Internet rap sensations. The new path to stardom speaks volumes to the current state of the music industry with respect to the freedom an aspiring artist has to diversify his/her audience and set his/her own rules to remaining relevant. Banks, Keef and Trinidad climbed the YouTube charts before making it on the industry radar, setting a new trend in music culture outside of the traditional corporate route.

The release of Azealia Banks’s latest track is proof that the culture of music goes beyond hit songs and ultimately lies on how artists cultivate and connect with fans. It is Banks’s die-hard dedication to her Internet roots which has kept her alive and has us interested in the upcoming chapter of her success story.

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Nicki Minaj Goes Back to Basics http://blogs.bet.com/music/sound-off/nicki-minaj-cakes-fall-flat/ http://blogs.bet.com/music/sound-off/nicki-minaj-cakes-fall-flat/#comments Fri, 25 Jul 2014 23:21:41 +0000 rconway http://blogs.bet.com/music/sound-off/?p=12272 (Photo: Nicki Minaj via Instagram)

(Photo: Nicki Minaj via Instagram)

By George Chapman

Music is really in a huge rut these days, I get it. No one is really buying albums anymore, taking a much needed break for creativity (or to have a life outside of performing) may mean the end of your career, and if you’re not Beyoncé and Jay-Z you’re probably not selling out stadiums across the cities, every night. However, there is hope for you yet; especially if you happen to be in the elite class of artist who has a navy, a hive, or crazed fan base. Yet and still, many artists resort to getting low and spreading it all for a RT, insert Nicki Minaj.

By now, we’ve all seen the infamous cover for her new single, Anaconda, where the Young Money superstar adorns just a thong and some air Jordan VI’s . Squatting low from the back Ms. Minaj, entices on lookers with her perfectly “sculpted assets,” that have garnished her so much attention since the beginning of her career. At this point, I’m sure no one is surprised by the female MC’s tendency to be raunchy and suggestive given her sexually charged lyrics, and previous Lil Kim-inspired promo pics for her first mixtape Play Time’s Over, but I think enough is enough. With the slew of awards and accolades she has already received for the talent that she actually does have, I’m slightly perplexed as to why she needs to use these tactics to promote this new single. Swapping her typical cotton candy colored hair and circus clown uniforms for a new fresh faced, natural hair, toned down look was a move that many of her followers seemed to approve of. So why the need resort to basic sex kitten play?

At the top of her game, there is no other female MC competing with the first lady of Young Money. Yes, no one, not even famed impersonator Iggy Azalea. However, there is a difference between being suggestive and empowering women through sex and busting it open for the sake of busting it open.

Let us recall that in the July 2010 issue of Vibe Magazine, Nicki said, “ I made a conscious decision to try to tone down the sexiness, I want people—especially young girls—to know that in life, nothing is going to be based on sex appeal. You’ve got to have something else to go with that.” Why the sudden need to flip the script? When your music speaks for itself and you’ve already earned the respect of your peers, there is no need to sink this low for attention or promotion. Being sexy is one thing, but finding that balance between owning her sexuality without losing respect is key. And at this point in her career, Nicki should certainly know better.

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Iggy Azalea: The White and Wrong Reasons Behind Her Success http://blogs.bet.com/music/sound-off/iggy-azalea-the-white-and-wrong-reasons-behind-her-success/ http://blogs.bet.com/music/sound-off/iggy-azalea-the-white-and-wrong-reasons-behind-her-success/#comments Thu, 24 Jul 2014 21:39:17 +0000 rconway http://blogs.bet.com/music/sound-off/?p=12258

(Photo: Tim P. Whitby/Getty Images)

By Moriba Cummings

“First things first, I’m the realest” — This line singlehandedly stands as the most quotable yet most inaccurate lyric in music since the year’s commencement thanks to the No. 1 smash by recent hip hop phenom Iggy Azalea. While the catchy number is indeed a bona fide smash — c’mon, you know you bop your head when that chorus comes on — many fail to see it for the Australian native, thanks largely in part to the trusty writers at Forbes who deem her hip hop’s new ring leader. Let’s break down why this statement lacks on all fronts, shall we?

Firstly, Forbes — the source that researchers, account execs, company shareholders and celebrity net worth enthusiasts go to for their fix on the business world — posts a story on hip hop’s newest it girl and the question that immediately arises in many of our minds is “Why?” As far as respected musical opinions are concerned, Forbes is personally not my go-to reference, especially — and specifically — when it comes to hip hop. Therefore, their immensely and annoyingly attention-seeking headline, “Hip Hop Is Run By A White, Blonde, Australian Woman,” only seemed to be a ploy for website views when the grand scheme of the situation is assessed.

Now, we’re not done with Forbes just yet. An excerpt from the article attempts to flesh out some sort of reasoning for the claim that Iggy Azalea is the new messiah of the genre, claiming that the fact that she’s a woman in a male-dominated field makes her amazingly different: “Making a name for yourself as a woman in hip hop is laudable enough, forget the fact that she is a white, blonde, Australian woman. In a genre dominated almost exclusively by African American men, she sticks out like a statuesque thumb,” the article reads.

Newsflash to Forbes: welcome to the everyday woman’s daily struggle! It seems as the meritoriously intelligent author of this article has not been adequately acquainted with the notion of the glass ceiling, which affects jobs across the globe. In the particular case of music, hip hop, specifically, this has been the case for decades. When Queen Latifah, MC Lyte, Lil’ Kim and Nicki Minaj, to name a few, all singlehandedly annihilated their male counterparts in the hip hop genre with their material, Forbes failed to pen an outrageously unmerited praise-doused article knighting them the new “running” force of hip hop. So, why now?

Secondly, dominating any genre would require much more than the success of one single and, furthermore, the artist should, at least, boast an air of ingenuity in his/her craft. Many have criticized the “Fancy” rapper of adopting a “blaccent” when performing or spitting a few bars for a track: “Who dat? Who dat?” While these critics’ claims are indeed valid, the same was remotely said of Nicki Minaj during the height of her career where she incorporated outrageous voices — moans, grunts, scowls, you name it — into her raps.

However, what differentiates the two is Azalea’s use of a southern-identifying, quintessentially “hood” drawl that we all know is not natural to her native tongue. Some hip hop critics and enthusiasts go as far as to even deem the accent racist, claiming that it is a blatant mockery of the African-American vernacular.

Then there’s the recently discussed possibility that Azalea does not pen her own lyrics and hires a ghostwriter to compose her rhymes. Since this has yet to be proven, this should be taken with a grain of salt, but fellow femcee Nicki Minaj seems to think otherwise, hinting that there is some truth to the claim — No, no shade, though… No, no, no shade.

Thirdly, the elephant in the room remains that the sole reason why Iggy Azalea is topping the charts is simply due to her background. Though this is none of her fault directly, many are failing to realize that it is because she is white and blonde that she has “made a name for herself” in hip hop so quickly.

White privilege has unabashedly ushered her to the top of a genre that Black women have fought so hard to break into for decades. Therefore, no, her newly found shining glory in the name of hip hop does not make her a beacon for feminism in a male-dominated field. Instead, it reinforces the fact that white privilege is still very much alive in the music industry, and even though our people will continue to fight for recognition in a musical genre that is rightfully ours, this will always be the blueprint. It’s the American way.

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Snoop Dogg: The White House Cannabis Connoisseur? http://blogs.bet.com/music/sound-off/snoop-dogg-the-white-house-cannabis-connoisseur/ http://blogs.bet.com/music/sound-off/snoop-dogg-the-white-house-cannabis-connoisseur/#comments Wed, 23 Jul 2014 21:17:03 +0000 rconway http://blogs.bet.com/music/sound-off/?p=12244

(Photo: Vivien Killilea/Getty Images for Airbnb)

By Moriba Cummings

From gangster rapper to conscious lyricist — remember, it’s now Snoop Lion, ok? — it’s safe to say that there’s not really much that Snoop hasn’t done. I mean, let’s run down the list: He’s changed his name a couple of times; recorded a reggae album and subsequently changed his style; collaborated with Miley Cyrus; made a song with Psy; rapped about Santa Claus; and lit up in the White House. Yep, you read correctly. The Doggfather admittedly indulged in natural herbs at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., and here’s why, if true, he is awesome for it.

Now, keep in mind that this could all be a hoax concocted by Snoop himself, but, giving him the benefit of the doubt, let’s just say that it’s true. How fearless does one have to be to pull off such a gutsy move in the most protected residence in the nation?

The legendary rapper said in the latest episode of his Web series, “GGN,” featuring late night talk show host and comedian Jimmy Kimmel, that he tricked “the CIA or the FBI… the Alphabet Boys” — oh, Snoop — into letting him spark up inside the president’s living quarters. He made sure to point out, though, that he maintained his respect for the historic residence, limiting his smoking to just one room.

“Not in the White House, but in the bathroom,” he said. “’Cause I said, ‘May I use the bathroom for a second?’ And they said, ‘What are you going to do? Number one or number two?’ I said, ‘Number two.’”

He then cleverly intertwined his apparent need for a light inside the president’s house in his master plan, telling them, “Look, when I do the number two, I usually have a cigarette or I light something to get the aroma right.” The aroma? Alright, Snoop. Well, according to his account, they obliged, letting him light a piece of a napkin. After he agreed to their suggestion, he mentioned to Kimmel in the clip that he, instead, lit a blunt, making mmmm noises as he puffed away.

There are two ways that this could possibly be perceived. Firstly, if this story is indeed true, Snoop should be concerned about his public and national safety after so candidly sharing this with world. After all, this is the secret service, and judging from the reputation they hold, they don’t play — have you seen Scandal?

Secondly, and contrarily, if this proves to not be a fluke orchestrated by the “Doggystyle” rapper, this could arguably make Snoop one of the coolest celebrities known to man. While we, in no way, are endorsing the habit of smoking, the slightly satirical and unapologetic O.G.ness of this entire scenario makes Snoop all-mighty in the world of scandals. He achieved the impossible!

While we would love nothing more than for this to possess at least one ounce of veracity, we doubt that it does. However, just the fact that the rapper has the cajones to even publicly utter the words “I,” “smoked” and “White House” in the same sentence proves that he is and will always be deemed the O.G.

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The Public’s Unhealthy Obsession With a ‘Jayoncé’ Split http://blogs.bet.com/music/sound-off/the-public%e2%80%99s-unhealthy-obsession-with-a-%e2%80%98jayonce%e2%80%99-split/ http://blogs.bet.com/music/sound-off/the-public%e2%80%99s-unhealthy-obsession-with-a-%e2%80%98jayonce%e2%80%99-split/#comments Tue, 22 Jul 2014 21:10:35 +0000 rconway http://blogs.bet.com/music/sound-off/?p=12212

(Photo: Kevin Mazur/WireImage for Parkwood Entertainment)

(Photo: Kevin Mazur/WireImage for Parkwood Entertainment)

By Moriba Cummings

“Megastardom” is arguably the ultimate level of career success that every mainstream musician seeks to achieve. Often, in today’s modern landscape of music contemporaries, there are only two figures who reach this standard of megastardom without a flaw and, coincidentally, they happen to share the same household. Beyoncé and Jay Z have carefully and cleverly crafted a machine that is known today as their power couple union, and, much like everything else that tends to dominate in its respective field, it is met with an onslaught of detractors whose sole desire is for it to fail. Such is the latest case, as rumors have been swarming the Internet about a potential “split” following the couple’s On the Run Tour, which, to the contrary, artistically documents the fact that the couple is very much still deeply in love.

The last few weeks have seen several news outlets headlining the latest fabricated chain letter about Beyoncé and Jay Z’s marriage, claiming that the couple is set to part ways after the completion of their highly grossing collaborative tour. Though the reputability of the story is still in question due to the repeated use of the phrase “…a source claims,” highly respected news outlets have gone on to cover the hot topic, prompting many to believe that there may be some truth to this otherwise impeccably manipulated charade.

What this hyper-obsessive response to what could be considered one of the most destructive moments in a couple’s life says is that the world is unhealthily consumed with the demise of this particular couple’s marriage. Interestingly enough, supporters — or, “stans,” as they are often deemed — of each artist seem to stay away from the split rumors, forcing the “blame the stans” excuse to be invalid, as the super-fans of the power duo would know that the stemming reason for the hoopla is nothing new.

Weeks ago, during the commencement of the On the Run Tour in Miami, Beyoncé belted an emotionally-charged rendition of her B’Day cut “Resentment,” which tackles the topic of infidelity within a long relationship. Changing the words at the end of the song, she ad-libbed, “I know she was attractive, but I was here first/Been ridin’ with you for 12 years, why did I deserve to be treated this way by you?” The catalyst that broke the camel’s back — in the media’s eyes — is the time frame that she belted, since the song’s original lyric reads “six years.”  This change prompted many to believe that there was trouble in paradise, somehow implying that divorce was imminent.

However, fans of the 32-year-old performer wasted no time in pointing out that this is not the first time that Bey has manipulated the lyrics to “Resentment.” During her 2013 “Back to Business” stint at the Revel Resort in Atlantic City, New Jersey, Bey gave a similar rendition of the song where she added to its outro: “I’ve gotta look at her in her eyes/And see she’s had half of me/She ain’t even half of me…” The latter part of the lyric is not in the original recording.

Furthermore, attendees of the couple’s On the Run nationwide tour have seen first-hand that Bey and Jay are still deeply in love all due to the masterfully executed structure of the show. Dismissing all of the pretentious props, special guests and music video recreations, the show focused primarily and exclusively on the progression of their relationship. The concert showcased a gradually progressive story of early love, hurt, forgiveness, perseverance and fulfillment.

Each defining moment in their 10+ year relationship was documented in the show, beginning with the opening number “’03 Bonnie & Clyde,” which symbolized the early stages of their romance. Earlier cuts chronicling their courting days soon followed, including “Crazy in Love” and “Show Me What You Got.” The show then transitioned into a party-like atmosphere, introducing cuts like “Tom Ford,” “***Flawless” and “Naughty Girl,” which potentially highlights somewhat of a blissful phase in the relationship, supposedly considered the “newlywed” stage.

Following this segment, things began to get rocky with the incorporation of more emotional cuts, including a reworked version of “Ring the Alarm,” a cover of Lauryn Hill’s “Ex-Factor,” Jigga’s “Song Cry,” a crowd-rousing “Why Don’t You Love Me?” and the infamous “Resentment.” This portion of the show clearly showcased the relationship trials that they had experienced as their union progressed, potentially implying that there were hiccups along their journey of love.

The show then concluded with some of their most recent cuts which aptly demonstrate their love for each other and their daughter Blue Ivy Carter. The concert took a noticeable detour in tone from one of anger and somberness to one of reflection and self-actualization with performances of “Love on Top” (intertwined with a funky rendition of Michael Jackson’s “I Want You Back”), “I Just Wanna Love You,” “Part II (On The Run),” “Young Forever” and “Halo,” the final two of which featured a video montage of their family flashed across the Jumbotron screens.

This tour cemented the fact that they are indeed a real couple who has overcome real relationship obstacles. While we, the public, may remain oblivious to what those obstacles were — as we should be — that does not discount the validity of their relationship. Though they are public figures, they are certainly not entitled to publicize their personal lives away from their chosen profession, which is music. Due to this shortage of “material,” the public is somewhat understandably inclined to run with what they are given: the music. And, frankly, that is how it should remain.

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Aaliyah Biopic: To Be or Not to Be? http://blogs.bet.com/music/sound-off/aaliyah-biopic-to-be-or-not-to-be/ http://blogs.bet.com/music/sound-off/aaliyah-biopic-to-be-or-not-to-be/#comments Fri, 18 Jul 2014 18:38:02 +0000 rconway http://blogs.bet.com/music/sound-off/?p=12187

(Photo: Gregory Pace/Corbis)

It’s been almost 13 years since the tragic death of the late R&B superstar Aaliyah and her absence still haunts the music industry. In an effort to keep her presence alive, Chris Brown and Drake both lifted her vocals for tracks such as “They Don’t Know” and “Enough Said,” released as independent singles in late 2013. There were even rumors of an alleged Drake and Aaliyah album, which quickly took a sour note when fans discovered Missy Elliott and Timbaland, the hit makers behind so many of our favorite Aaliyah tracks, were not in on the details. Thus, it’s no surprise that the long-awaited biopic on the “More Than a Woman” singer would hit a snag or two, or three, when we first learned of its actual existence earlier this year.

Understandably, you can’t please everyone when producing a film about someone so adored, but when there are two sides to a story, whose do you side with?

When BET’s 106 & Park host Keshia Chante, front runner for the role of Aaliyah, decided to pass on the part out of respect for the family, the filmmakers behind the Lifetime-produced biopic pushed forward and cast Disney Channel star Zendaya Coleman. A triple-threat singer, actress, and dancer, it appeared that Zendaya would be perfect for the role. Except for the fact that the fans didn’t believe she looked enough like Aaliyah. Twitter was set on fire with an outpour of discontent from diehard fans who no longer stood behind the film. And not too long after, Zendaya removed herself from the film for “production” concerns. Now, with the announcement that the TV movie will be executive produced by Wendy Williams and feature Alexandra Shipp as Aaliyah, we must ask, with all the controversy, should there even be an Aaliyah biopic to begin with?

For starters, is it fair to shoot a biopic about someone without the consent of their family members? It’s been reported that Aaliyah’s family is still grieving and isn’t ready to see her life played out on television and have not supported the long-awaited film since its inception. With that in mind, how will personal moments, inside jokes, and the endearing parts of Aaliyah, which we only got a glimpse of, be portrayed without stories from the people who knew her best?

Secondly, the producers behind the film don’t have all of the rights to Aaliyah’s music, which means there will be plenty of moments that Baby Girl’s biggest hits will be noticeably missing — and that will not be easily stomached by fans. The music behind the game-changing star is what we celebrate and miss so much, and stand-ins for the original just won’t cut it.

However, in spite of the turmoil surrounding the look and sound of an Aaliyah biopic, we could all be surprised by how great the film could actually be. Looking at other great biopics for inspiration, we remember What’s Love Got to Do With It and Dreamgirls as some of our favorite biopics that were done very well. In one, we have a professional actress, Angela Bassett, who couldn’t sing or dance but she completely transformed herself physically and committed to the role of being Tina Turner in ways we couldn’t imagine. The other, a musical loosely based on Diana Ross and the Supremes, heavily focused on the role of Deena, played by Beyoncé. However, it was the rather unknown newcomer Jennifer Hudson who received critical acclaim for her powerhouse vocals and portrayal of Effie White, winning a Golden Globe and an Oscar following the film’s blockbuster success.

All in all, now that the film appears to be back on track for production, we can all agree that, if anything, the biopic should first and foremost honor the singer who brought us timeless music, amazing dancing and a beautiful spirit. If the filmmakers stay true to that task, the project could be better than expected. However, if they fall short and the naysayers are proven right, its not the end of the world. Someone else will come along and commit themselves to doing it the right way for Aaliyah. Look at how many movies have been made about the lives of Jackie Robinson, Martin Luther King Jr. and Nelson Mandela. Not all of them were perfect, but they all served a purpose. Each one carried on the legacy of an influential figure, whose story was well worth telling.

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George Zimmerman vs. DMX Is an American Nightmare http://blogs.bet.com/music/sound-off/george-zimmerman-vs-dmx-is-an-american-nightmare/ http://blogs.bet.com/music/sound-off/george-zimmerman-vs-dmx-is-an-american-nightmare/#comments Fri, 07 Feb 2014 16:04:17 +0000 rconway http://blogs.bet.com/music/sound-off/?p=12177

(Photos from left: WENN, Joe Burbank-Pool/Getty Images)

By Gee King

Some have argued that the American psyche has been diseased since the country was founded. But at least we used to pretend to have dignity. This week, our culture’s thirst for violence, ignorance and race-based controversy exposed another symptom of our insanity. The George Zimmerman vs. DMX celebrity boxing match is the latest wake-up call to America’s malignant madness. We are sicker than we realized.

The disease is caused by fear. Even though our society is mixed and our president is bi-racial, Americans are still afraid of each other. We joke about it in movies and gawk at each other’s idiosyncrasies on reality TV and viral videos, but it goes much deeper than laughs and stares. 50 years after the Civil Rights Act of 1964, our minds remain segregated. And our fear keeps us focused on negativity. That’s what guided George Zimmerman’s vigilante mission in February of 2012. When he saw Trayvon Martin, he saw the cultural cues for “thug.” When Trayvon saw him, he saw the cultural cues for “creepy cracker.” They both saw their cultural counterpoints and acted accordingly.

The same fear-based perceptions led to Jordan Davis’ murder. Just the sound of a loud bass line thumping from an SUV full of Black teens was enough to push Michael Dunn to the edge of paranoia. The idea of a White man telling them to turn their music down was enough to enrage the teens. Tensions rose, then Dunn heard the lyrics “kill that b—h.” His fear took over. He saw a phantom shotgun barrel through the window and fired his 9 mm handgun four times, killing Davis. Like Zimmerman, he is claiming self-defense. Like Zimmerman, he acted on fears that society had programmed him with.

The promoter of the Zimmerman fight, Damon Feldman, is blissfully ignorant to the damage his work is doing. When pressed by Hot 97’s morning show to explain why he would promote a child-killer as a celebrity, he played dumb. “I didn’t follow the whole [trail]. There’s a lot of stuff going on in the world,” he mumbled dismissively. If Feldman’s ignorance didn’t free him of moral obligation, he believes his financial interests do. “I’m a business man,” he said matter-of-factly, dropping the classic American trump card that, if played right, can excuse slavery, sexism and child abuse.

Feldman has made a living promoting fights between has-beens like Jose Canseco and the late Rodney King. When Zimmerman approached him hoping to get in the ring, he quickly received 15,000 emails from people eager to take him on. Feldman told Hot 97 he chose DMX simply because he was the most controversial option. “I’m giving the platform for DMX to get in there and get revenge,” Feldman explained. But can justice be served through absurd racial theatrics?

DMX as the angry Black man will only confirm the racial prejudices that drove Zimmerman’s attack on Trayvon. Zimmerman will play the evil White man, stoking anger and fear through his lawlessness and showing people of color how little their life is worth to this country. This will only open more wounds, create more fear and encourage the next George Zimmerman to act on his perceptions.

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Should Jay-Z Say Goodbye to Barneys? http://blogs.bet.com/music/sound-off/should-jay-z-say-goodbye-to-barneys/ http://blogs.bet.com/music/sound-off/should-jay-z-say-goodbye-to-barneys/#comments Tue, 29 Oct 2013 17:48:11 +0000 rconway http://blogs.bet.com/music/sound-off/?p=12163

(Photos from left: Brian Ach/Getty Images, Jay-Z Apparel via Barneys)

Jay Z has taken a lot of heat this year for what many people perceive to be his increasingly corporate presence or “Empire State of Mind” if you will. First it was his media-induced feud with Harry Belafonte who accused Hov and ‘B’ of not doing enough to give back to their community, to which Jay Z responded with the now infamous “My presence is charity” line. Then there was the Magna Carta Holy Grail/Samsung experiment which turned out to be a gargantuan data mining operation employed by the cell phone giant to gather consumer information.

Most recently Jay partnered up with upscale department store Barney’s for a holiday collection introduced by some of their top designers. But when the upscale clothing superstore was accused of racism by an African-American customer, who was harassed over a belt that he had purchased, by store employees who thought he stole it, the public has demanded Jay to sever ties with the store.

Jay Z has opted to keep his partnership, which is a smart move. First of all, because the story as a whole is still developing we don’t have all the facts. And making a judgement based on limited facts is an assumption and we all know what assuming can do. As a rapper and entrepreneur, Jay has fought to combat prejudice, so it is only right he hold off on passing judgement before he finds out all of the facts. How bad would it look if it turned out the story was fake? Secondly, as one of the most influential public figures of the last decade, Jay’s influence carries a lot of weight. So whereas some D-list pumping a startup project can call it quits with minimal backlash, everything Jay Z does is put under a microscope and met with an exponentially greater amount of public scrutiny.

The main reason he is right to stick to his guns on this one is the example he stands to set even if everything does turn out to be accurate. Being the bigger person is a role Jay has filled quite a bit over his career and this would be no different. As much as he means to American pop culture, Jay Z sets an example for young people whether he wants to or not, and to show that people or even companies can come together to resolve their differences, learn a valuable lesson and show some semblance of harmony. Peaceful, innovative and diplomatic solutions are increasingly rare, and this is an opportunity for Jay to show his power as a leader. The jury is still out on the situation, but hopefully Americans will learn to seek facts before making judgments.

Jay Z has taken a lot of heat this year for what many people perceive to be his increasingly corporate presence or “Empire State of Mind” if you will. First it was his media-induced feud with Harry Belafonte who accused Hov and ‘B’ of not doing enough to give back to their community, to which Jay Z responded with the now infamous “My presence is charity” line. Then there was the Magna Carta Holy Grail/Samsung experiment which turned out to be a gargantuan data mining operation employed by the cell phone giant to gather consumer information.

Most recently Jay partnered up with upscale department store Barney’s for a holiday collection introduced by some of their top designers. But when the upscale clothing superstore was accused of racism by an African-American customer, who was harassed over a belt that he had purchased, by store employees who thought he stole it, the public demanded Jay sever ties with the store.

Thus far, Jay Z has opted to keep his partnership, which  is a smart move. First of all, because the story as a whole is still developing we don’t have all the facts. And making a judgement based on limited facts is also known as prejudging and is plaguing America. As a rapper and entrepreneur, Jay has fought to combat prejudice, so it is only right he hold off on passing judgement before he finds out all of the facts. How bad would it look if it turned out the story was fake? Secondly, as one of the most influential public figures of the last decade, Jay’s influence carries a lot of weight. So whereas some D-list star pumping a startup project can call it quits with minimal backlash, everything Jay Z does is put under a microscope and met with an exponentially greater amount of public scrutiny.

The main reason he is right to stick to his guns on this one is the example he stands to set even if everything does turn out to be accurate. Being the bigger person is a role Jay has filled quite a bit over his career and this would be no different. As much as he means to American pop culture, Jay Z sets an example for young people whether he wants to or not, and to show that people or even companies can come together to resolve their differences, learn a valuable lesson and show some semblance of harmony. Peaceful, innovative and diplomatic solutions are increasingly rare, and this is an opportunity for Jay to show his power as a leader. The jury is still out on the situation, but hopefully Americans will learn to seek facts before making judgements.

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Nipsey Hussle and the New 360 Deal http://blogs.bet.com/music/sound-off/nipsey-hussle-and-the-new-360-deal/ http://blogs.bet.com/music/sound-off/nipsey-hussle-and-the-new-360-deal/#comments Fri, 25 Oct 2013 17:04:29 +0000 rconway http://blogs.bet.com/music/sound-off/?p=12156

(Photo: All Money In Records)

By Jacob Rohn

Last week L.A. rapper and entrepreneur, Nipsey Hussle garnered national press when he released his latest mixtape, Crenshaw for the modest price of $100. The headline was strategically deceiving. Who would pay $100 for what is normally a free mixtape? Wait, Jay Z bought 100 of them?

People were so intrigued they had to check out the story even if they were not a fan of Nipsey Hussle. With the limited edition mixtape (only 1,000 were made available) mixtape, you also received access to a private show that would be held exclusively for those that paid the $100 sticker price. Not such a bad deal anymore is it? Nipsey sold out of the mixtapes in just one day. (That’s $100,000 for those counting). Did he just give the independent musician the greatest idea since the internet? Possibly.

Currently companies like Live Nation and AEG are signing artists to “360 deals.” which gives the artist an upfront singing bonus. Jay Z’s most recent deal with them was for $150 million. The company, however, gets a chunk of everything from merchandise, to album sales and of course, live shows and the ensuing live show DVDs. The rapper Game once said of the all-encompassing agreement, “If I find a dollar on the sidewalk I gotta give (the label) half.” So it’s not always as lucrative for the artist as it looks.

But if, Hussle, a moderately popular artist (though his name rings out in his native California), can make $100K in a day, what would happen if someone like Jay-Z or Kanye West followed suit? The press coverage wouldn’t cost a dime. Your marketing and advertising budget would be zero! The artist could actually lower the price of the CD/concert ticket and STILL make more money. That’s a win/win.

We gotta give it to Nipsey–he has always been ahead of the game from a business perspective. In addition to rapping, the 28 year-old also owns a successful cell phone store and clothing store in his LA neighborhood. On this one, he deserves some serious props. He just did what comedian Louis CK did for comedy when he released his standup special for $5 on his own website. Gave artists an avenue to make money without the corporate middleman and in a way that also benefits the fans.

Other rappers and musicians in general should applaud Nipsey Hussle for deciding not to allow himself to become another corporate victim.

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