Monthly Archives: December 2012

Transforming Misogyny into Homo-Eroticism: The Full Spectrum of Sexual Dominance in Hip-Hop

When you hear critics of hip-hop talk about the problems with hip-hop music “these days,” the prevalence of misogynist lyrics—lines overtly boasting a man’s masculinity through his dominance over women—surfaces as a serious issue within the genre.  Aside from the occasional R&B love ballad (i.e. any track by Miguel, Frank Ocean, or The Dream), women only appear in mainstream hip-hop as one of essential items on a rapper’s to-do list; it goes: get money, purchase some fresh Jordan sneaks, fuck bitches, and then rap about the journey.  Not necessarily in this order, but for simplicity’s sake, that’s usually how it goes.

Rappers find something evidently comforting in telling the world of their hyper masculine habits of objectifying women, whether it be ordering “hoes” to get into their cars, teaching “shorties” how to perform proper oral sex, collecting “a group of bad bitches” for poly-amorous pleasure, or why not all three?  Aside from Wiz Khalifa bragging about how he smokes more weed than us (wooptie-doo), you’ll never hear a rapper assert his bravado with his drawing or cooking skills.  The hip-hop world doesn’t find value in being able to drive a stick or change a flat tire.  God forbid, rappers start showing off their ability to raise children or cook a meal for their family.  While masculinity can certainly be proven with all of these skills, sexual dominance over women continues to pave the easy route to being a “certified G.” In a mainstream cycle where materialism is the only material, rappers have established women as the hot item.

The fact that hip-hop is primarily dominated by men is, to me, the root of the problem.  When women surface as mainstream rappers, they spend far too much time vying for the spot of the top woman in the game, or as the men would say, “the baddest bitch.” Even in one of Nicki Minaj’s best verses, her feature on Kanye West’s “Monster” that boasts the line “you can be the king, but watch the queen conquer,” her video performance shows Minaj’s evil persona avowing sexual dominance over her other self, her Barbie persona.

Men will not fully understand how their misogynist lyrics affect women until women can successfully turn the table and find a way to brag about their sexual dominance over men. For now, sexual domination over men is entirely absent from mainstream hip-hop.This got me thinking, what about about queer rap?  How would straight men, ever-concerned with their masculinity, feel about men rapping in their ear about their ambition to objectify other men? We have small samples of queer rap, with artists such as Le1F and Cakes da Killa emerging as gay rappers, but the likelihood that queer rap will surface to the mainstream in the near future is dim. Instead, I’ve decided to take matters into my own hands with an experiment: what if we changed the lyrics to mainstream rap so far as to make the songs about men objectifying men?

Let’s take the chorus of Lil’ Wayne and Drake’s hit single “She Will” as an primary test.  After all, the song only needs a simple change in pronoun to transform into a homo-erotic anthem:

Uh, he just started to pop it for a nigga

And looked back and told me baby it’s real

And I say I ain’t doubt you for a second

I squeeze it and I could tell how it feel

I wish we could take off and go anywhere

But here, baby you know the deal

Cause he bad, so maybe he won’t

Uh, but shit, then again, maybe he will

Do it for the realest niggas in the fucking game right now, he will

Do it for the realest niggas in the fucking game right now, he will

Maybe for the money and the power and fame right now, he will

Do it for the realest niggas in the fucking game right now, he will

All you straight guys out there: is this making you uncomfortable?  Are you squirming at the thought of a man sexually dominating you? Do you think you can keep reading?  If not, maybe you should consider how the original lyrics make women feel on a daily basis. Let’s continue the experiment, this time with something a little more jarring.  Some tracks don’t even need to be changed to be about a man; all it takes is imagining the subject as a man.  Here is the first verse from Trillville’s radio hit “Some Cut,” appropriately rapped over the sound of squeaking bed springs:

You looking good, I think I seen your ass in the hood

With your friends dressed up, trying to front if you could

But anyway, gone and drop a number or something

So I can call you later on, on your phone or something

Take you home, and maybe we could bone or something

It’s no limits to what we do, cause tonight we cutting, gut busting

I’m digging in your walls something vicious

With your legs to the ceiling, catch a nut something serious

You delirious, or might I say you taste so delicious

With your pretty brown skin, like almond joys and kisses

And you a certified head doctor

Number one staller that takes dick in the ass and won’t holler

Bend you over and I”ll follow you straight to the room

Where it goes down lovely in the Legion of Doom.

Whew, how many straight guys do we have left reading after that trial?  After hearing about men calling them a “certified head doctor” in the “legion of doom,” ready to “catch a nut something serious.”  Women who listen to hip-hop have to hear about themselves getting sexually dominated in almost every song, but if men had to hear the same, the song wouldn’t gain a single spin on the radio.  I’m not necessarily trying to make men uncomfortable, or shove homo-eroticism in their faces. Hopefully this experiment offers a change in perspective, a baby-step for men to understand how it feels to hear men threatening sexual dominion. Perhaps we can soon change the culture of hip-hop, in so far as rappers feel comfortable bragging about other qualities that prove masculinity.  Perhaps we’ll reach the point where rappers are no longer concerned with their masculinity in the first place.  For now, a simple change in the gender of the song’s subject provides a small glimpse into the issues within hip-hop’s misogynist material.

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Thoughts on Gun Violence, Hip-Hop, and the Hood.

In the aftermath of the tragic Newton Elementary School shooting, we are, as a nation, attempting to recover from the traumatic shock of such a terrible event.  A collective cry in favor of stricter gun control has emerged from the tears and bewilderment.  Here I am wondering why it took the death of 20 children and six teachers, and the shooter’s own mother for us to finally call for stringent gun control. We have children dying every day from gun violence in urban communities in senseless fashion.  We have a video game culture that promotes opening fire with assault weapons on crowds of oncoming humans.  Yes, we have a huge problem with gun violence in the United States, but why have we waited for an elementary school shooting to ignite urgency?

Ravaged by gang violence and crime, many of our nation’s urban neighborhoods face the tragedy of senseless murder on a daily basis. Whereas we were rocked as a nation from the Sandy Hook massacre, families in city limits face the constant fear of gun violence with no end in sight.  Chicago, for example, faced 36 homicides in the month of November, 33 of which were at the face of a gun barrel; that’s not even a high-mark statistic.  November was actually one of the safer months, with August calling in 57 bodies, 49 of them from bullets.  I’m not trying to minimize the tragedy of Sandy Hook, but there are two very different reactions to gun violence, differentiating school shootings and gang violence.  When a white man murders 20 children, we cry for gun control.  Yet, when gang violence causes over 400 black-on-black murders in Chicago, we blame black culture and hip-hop music?

And yet, the NRA and its army of second amendment disciples continue to spew their argument for liberal access to firearms. The most entertaining argument I’ve heard is, to paraphrase, “if everyone had a gun for protection, the shooter would’ve been stopped much earlier.”  Ah, so we’ve gotten to the point where we should arm elementary school teachers (and perhaps, the promising sharpshooters of the next generation) to prevent school shootings?  Certainly not.

The thing is, many of the Americans who stand against gun control are the same people who blame hip-hop music for perpetuating a culture of urban gun violence. To these people, I say listen to the music that you consistently blame to deter attention from the real problem of remarkably easy access to firearms. Then, maybe you’ll discover that we already have an relevant example of what happens when everyone has a firearm for their so-called “personal protection” in urban communities.  Clashing gangs have their members armed with weapons to protect themselves against enemy fire, but all that results is murderous crossfire.

Hip-hop doesn’t get a free pass from perpetuating inner-city violence, but it certainly shouldn’t take all the blame.  Crime didn’t come from hip-hop, but music can certainly glorify and magnify the reality of gang violence.  Rappers can also be, in a sense, reporters of crime from the streets, going along with Chuck D’s claim that hip-hop is “the Black CNN.” Just as hip-hop could take more responsibility to criticize gun violence, we could take more action as listeners.  The fact that gun violence is glorified is not a problem of hip-hop, but rather a problem of gun prevalence in urban communities.

We can continue to blame our nation’s “culture of gun-violence,” but in reality, the only action that will effectively reduce the violence is a firm set of restrictions on gun control.  Whether these guns get into the hands of young brainwashed gang members in the inner-city, or a troubled man who intends to shoot up a school of children, they are equally damaging weapons that rob innocent lives. We can continue to point fingers at hip-hop music and blame some vague problem with our nation’s gun culture, or we can take action now, and ensure that assault weapons stop hitting the streets, for the sake of innocent children in the inner-city and the suburbs.

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“Gasoline Dreams,” and “Gorgeous:” A Comparative Essay on the Unattainable Black American Dream

One of the greatest aspects of hip-hop,or any form of artistic expression for that matter, is the bridge we build between the past and present.  I’ll listen to an album solely to detect how its creator was influenced by his or her peers and role models.  I can imagine a young Wiz Khalifa, for example, listening to Bone-Thugz n Harmony on repeat, plotting his own ascent to hip-hop stardom. I find a new appreciation for artists and their music, just by tracking their inspiration and motivation.

In the case of hip-hop, the genre’s heavy reliance on sampled music makes this activity less of a guessing game, and more of a jumbled set of puzzle pieces. Every sampled beat, remixed song, and recycled lyric, contributes to a diagram of the artist’s childhood aspiration, and inspiration from current peers.  After Drake released Take Care, I pictured the Toronto child star with his headphones blasting Juvenile and Jon B, wondering how he might manage to blend hip-hop and r&b into one sound. Drizzy transformed Juvenile’s “Back That Ass Up” into the boastful sex ballad “Practice,” and on “Cameras,” rapped about the troubling difference between ideal and realistic images of women over a sped up Jon B’s “Calling on You.”

Now that I’ve ranted a bit about traces of the past in current hip-hop, I’d like to compare two songs that have a bit of a subtler connection than the aforementioned examples.  First, you’ll have to listen to them. First, we have “Gasoline Dreams,” the first track off of OutKast’s 2000 funk-rap masterpiece, Stankonia.  

“Gasoline Dreams” is a song of defiant protest.  Andre 3k and Big Boi scrutinize the racial inequalities of American society, angrily underlining how the black youth face a daily struggle that makes the “American Dream” an unattainable ideal. The chorus embodies the song’s message and explains the title: “Don’t everybody like the smell of gasoline? Well burn motherfucker, burn American dreams.”   In their verses, the Georgia duo cite racial profiling within the war on drugs, child support, and the general lack of opportunity for the youth as the large contributions to the burden blacks face from birth.

As a whole, the tracks shines a light on daunting perspective of black youth.  Initially hungry to ascend from poverty and racism, blacks are ultimately struck down by the systemic racism hidden within American society; as the final lines of the chorus cry out: “The highway up to heaven got a crook on the toll/youth full of fire ain’t got no where to go, no where to go.”

Now, have a listen to a song made 10 years later, Kanye West’s “Gorgeous,” the second track off of his 2010 album My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.

After the first spin, similarities between these two tracks aren’t exactly transparent.  Yet, lyrically, both songs accomplish a similar commentary of racial inequality.  With “Gorgeous,” Kanye highlights similar disparities between black and white youth, questioning racial profiling, mass incarceration, and mis-education as contributions to the inevitable failure of blacks in American society.

Take a look at the first verse:

Penitentiary chances, the devil dances
And eventually answers to the call of Autumn
All of them fallin’ for the love of ballin’
Got caught with 30 rocks, the cop look like Alec Baldwin
Inter century anthems based off inner city tantrums
Based off the way we was branded
Face it, Jerome get more time than Brandon
And at the airport they check all through my bag
And tell me that it’s random
But we stay winning, this week has been a bad massage
I need a happy ending and a new beginning
And a new fitted, and some job opportunities that’s lucrative
This the real world, homie, school finished
They done stole your dreams, you dunno who did it

Right off the bat, Kanye argues that blacks are plagued from birth by “Penitentiary chances.” Constantly fighting off the “devil” in the form of a  “cop” who “look like Alec Baldwin” (meaning: he’s white), a large portion of the black youth is inevitably doomed by systemic racism. “Lucrative” job opportunities are scarce, especially amid stereotyping and persecution from the justice system. “All them fallin’ for the love of ballin'” criticizes how  black youth are made to aspire to be professional athletes to escape poverty, only to find out that success in that playing field is almost always an unattainable ideal.

The songs present parallels outside of lyrical commentary, as well. Consider that the voices on both tracks have a muffled tone, as if the songs are being broadcast over a PA system at a school.  I interpret this effect as a call to arms to the youth, envisioning the rappers taking over the principal’s office as their personal studio to send their message of racial injustice to classrooms across America.  While “Gasoline Dreams” isn’t Stankonia’s only track with political value, it’s lyrical commentary poses the album’s boldest claims against racial injustice in a loud, fiery manner.  “Gorgeous” faced a similar impediment as the most political track on My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. Perhaps their blatant call to arms message against racism is a credible reason as to why these songs received very little mainstream recognition, a common treatment for songs deemed too infuriating for radio play.

Created 10 years apart,we see vast evidence that “Gasoline Dreams” could very well have played a large part in inspiring Kanye West to create “Gorgeous.”  What I find more intriguing is how this comparison accentuates how racial injustice as transformed from 2000 to 2010.  While racism certainly hasn’t dissolved, the ways in which our society perpetuates black oppression has evolved.  “Gorgeous” is a much louder track than “Gasoline Dreams,” as Kanye explains current racial injustices in much more detail.  Perhaps, this augmentation was intended to match how the subtle nature of contemporary racism.  Given that our racial caste system has been buried in nuance, Kanye feels the need to make an even bolder statement, to ensure that his voice is heard against the wrongful claims that America has reached a post-racial society.

“Gasoline Dreams” paints a bleak, picture for the black youth, while Kanye West provides a glimpse of hope ten years later. As Kanye does best, he uses himself as a model for the youth, exemplifying his own defiance of oppression to succeed despite ‘the way he was branded.”  Where any notion of the black “American Dream” was burned with OutKast’s gasoline, Kanye leaves his listeners with a lingering motivation to rise above. Perhaps, in another 10 years, we’ll see a new artist create a song that attains the infuriating political value of these tracks.  Then, we can take another glance at our past, to see how we have been inspired, how we have evolved, and how we are still facing many of the same problems.

Waiting for Weezy: Homophobia in Hip-Hop

I was in a bit of shock when Frank Ocean revealed to the blogosphere that he had been in a romantic relationship with a man. In part, because no one in the hip-hop community had ever openly identified as anything other than vehemently heterosexual, let alone one of the younger, more promising icons of the new generation of hip-hop. The black community–a group inundated with homophobia–finally had a voice singing boldly against homosexual discrimination. Frank Ocean gave the young men and women singing along to “Thinking About You” a chance to empathize with his ballad, and understand his perspective, regardless of their sexual orientation.

For me, the news also hit a more personal nerve. I had slowly embarked on a journey to discover my own identity as a gay man, moreover a gay man obsessed with the lyrics of hip-hop. I grew up with rap streaming through my ears. On the bus, in the hallways, and pretty much any other place you can imagine young Pittsburgh kids gathering, we found a way to play blast our favorite artists: DMX, Lauryn Hill, and Lil Wayne, to name a few. For years I turned a blind eye to the homophobic remarks littering the verses of almost every artist I admired. “Faggot” this, “No-homo” that. Surely, my role models were just trying to assert their masculinity, a mindset that plays a tremendous part in a rapper’s persona.

Years passed before I realized the cowardice of homophobic slang. To repeatedly boast their bitch smacking, pussy popping journeys wasn’t enough: Lil Wayne had to reassure us even after he degraded “his” women, that he most certainly wasn’t a faggot. We get it, Weezy, you’re heterosexual; but, I wouldn’t go so far as to say you love women, as you spend far too much time telling the world how much you disrespect them. Lines like “You homo niggas getting’ aids in the ass while the homey here tryin’ to get paid in advance,” slowly began to make me cringe; Dear Mr. Carter: was it really necessary, in 2005, for you to perpetuate the myth that HIV is limited to homosexuals, solely to clarify your money-making ambition? No, Tunechi, it most certainly wasn’t.

I single out Lil’ Wayne here, primarily, because he shares an intriguing connection to Frank Ocean. Both men were raised in the “Creole Cockpit” of New Orleans, equally emerging from their hometown into the spotlight of hip-hop at a very young age. I only came to realize this upon revisiting Lil’ Wayne’s track “Tie My Hands,” his cry for help in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The song is refreshingly moving for Weezy, providing a hometown commentary to the racial undertones of the disaster, voicing a message of hope for New Orleans natives struggling to survive. Here, we see a brief example of Lil’ Wayne lyrical promise when he chooses to portray a motivational message in his music.

The opening lines, spoken softly by Robin Thicke, “We are at war with the universe, the sky is falling/And the only thing that can save us now is sensitivity and compassion,” speak against the Lil’ Wayne’s entire catalogue of hatred and discrimination. Offering “sensitivity” as the savior, Wayne speaks up against blind hatred harnessed in racism, ultimately blaming a lack of “compassion” for his personal struggle.

With the third verse, Wayne offers his final point of hope to the oppressed youth of New Orleans:

And if you come from under that water then there’s fresh air
Just breathe baby God’s got a blessing to spare
Yes I know the process is so much stress
But it’s the progress that feels the best
Cause I came from the projects straight to success and you’re next
So try they can’t steal your pride it’s inside

With each line, Wayne portrays an encouraging voice of “progress” and “pride” amid personal struggle. If he could only apply this message to his own homophobic views, he might understand Frank Ocean’s brave proclamation . Alas, Wayne only felt compelled to speak out against discrimination when it hit his hometown. Yes, Frank, “it’s the progress that feels the best…so try they can’t steal your pride it’s inside.” Indeed, Lil’ Wayne’s hands are tied. They are lashed with a blind homophobia that could easily be freed with “sensitivity and compassion.”

After Frank Ocean’s announcement, several hip-hop moguls–Jay-Z, Russell Simmons, and Busta Rhymes to name a few– stepped bravely to the forefront in support. And there I was, waiting patiently for Weezy to denounce his old ways. Instead, the hip-hop world got an affirmation that Lil’ Wayne was stuck knee deep in his homophobic mindset. Featured in Future’s “Turn On The Lights remix,” Weezy rapped “Tell her I skate/I ain’t got no worries/No Frank Ocean, I’m straight.” Finding a new, uninventive way to say “no-homo,” Lil Wayne’s croaky voice made me cringe yet again. Armed with blind hatred, Mr. Carter passed up an opportunity to support a fellow New Orleans native to yet again assert his masculinity.

For the hip-hop community, a group already behind the times with regards to sexual discrimination, the self-crowned “best rapper alive” wouldn’t budge. He turned his back to Frank Ocean, cowered in the face of progress, and let me down. Perhaps Lil’ Wayne will come around; maybe he’ll wake up one day and realize how wrong he was to denounce Frank Ocean’s moment of pride and progress. If not, he’ll slowly fade out of the spotlight, along with the archaic, discriminatory views of older generations. Until then, I’ll just keep listening to Channel Orange.

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Swimming Pools (Drank): The Recipe for Radio Play

swimming pools drank

Given the title of my blog—a reference to the sixth song on Kendrick Lamar’s second studio album good kid, m.A.A.d. city—a post about KDot seems appropriate for a debut essay (I hope you weren’t expecting a review of the 1993 Tupac Shakur drama/romance).  GKMC presents several talking points for the issues prevalent in present-day hip-hop.  Here, I’ll focus on the rapper’s ability to garner billboard success with a socially conscious album, by means of Kendrick’s radio hit “Swimming Pools (Drank).”

Early on in his career, Kendrick’s lyricism earned him great promise as a young artist.  In his premier album Section 80, the Compton rapper confirmed that he wouldn’t follow the typical path for young rap artists who sign to major labels: he refused to give up his conscious lyrics for the sake of commercial success.  With Section.80, Kendrick built on his foundation, adding a collection of soulful tracks that put his ambitious vision of success in the spotlight. Alas, the album received no mainstream attention, didn’t manage to break the Billboard 100, and produced no radio hits. Kendrick was forced to rely on his underground fanbase and a strong group of followers in the blogosphere for quality reception. As of 2011, few in the mainstream audience were familiar with KDot.

One year later the first single from GKMC, “Swimming Pools (Drank),” was released with an accompanying video, and completely different sound than Kendrick had produced prior. Upon first listen, the song might sound like a typical radio single party anthem.  The distorted “Pour up, Drank” call and answer precedes a sing-song hook about diving into a pool full of liquor. You can picture a private pool party  where the “girls wanna play baywatch,” and Kendick diving off the rooftop. But is that really the song’s subject matter?

Let’s close read the song’s first verse:

Now I done grew up

Round some people living their lives in bottles

Granddaddy had the golden flask

Back stroke every day in Chicago

Some people like the way it feels

Some people wanna kill their sorrows

Some people wanna fit in with the popular

That was my problem

With a closer look, the song’s hook is only a magnified example of the dangers of peer pressure and substance abuse. Kendrick discusses his childhood, growing up around his grandfather’s “golden flask.” Kendrick becomes a victim of peer pressure, succumbing to requests to binge drink to “fit in with the popular, that was my problem.” The “swimming pool” is not a symbol of the party lifestyle, but rather the deadly, drowning effects of alcohol abuse.

In the song’s second verse, Kendrick’s conscience voices a final plea:

(Okay, now open your mind up and listen to me Kendrick

I am your conscience, if you do not hear me

Then you will be history Kendrick

I know that you’re nauseous right now

And I’m hoping to lead you to victory Kendrick)

If I take another one down

I’mma drown in some poison abusing my limit

Begging Kendrick to halt the peer pressure, his conscience asks him to put down the bottle so he can “lead you to victory Kendrick.”  Listening to his conscience, Kendrick comes up for air before he “takes another one down” and “[drowns] in some poison].”  Kendrick uses his conscience to show how he had to look within himself to rise above peer pressure and avoid a dangerous lifestyle of alcohol abuse.

The lyrics aren’t particularly encoded—if you listen even remotely carefully, the song’s message is clear—but the song’s catchy hook was enough to gain substantial radio play and earn much deserved hype for his album.  Kendrick disguised the song as a party anthem, essentially tricking the mainstream into listening to a radio single that is really about the dangers of substance abuse.  Moreover, the song was KDot’s demo test to his new listeners: if they found the song catchy enough to play on repeat, could they also appreciate the deeper meaning to his lyrics?

We’ve seen the demise of several rappers– i.e. Wiz Khalifa, Wale, Plies, and Flo Rida–when they surrender their lyrical soul to make radio hits.  On the other side of the coin, some of the best lyricists in hip-hop have yet to reach billboard success.  Artists like Common and Talib Kweli stand firm that the lyrical quality of their music will always trump commercial fame.  Yet, in an industry where radio play stands as the only source of mainstream recognition, temptations to make radio hits come frequently. Few artists find the recipe to produce socially conscious hits that can also earn radio spins; Kanye West, OutKast, and Lupe Fiasco are scarce testaments.  I argue that Kendrick Lamar deserves to be on the short list. By camouflaging his radio single as a party anthem, Kendrick tricked listeners into appreciating a socially conscious message.  “Swimming Pools (Drank)” effectively gained radio success, building a solid groundwork for the billboard success of GKMC.  While the entire album deserves legitimate lyrical analysis, his radio single alone is proof that KDot has found the recipe to maintaining his lyricism in an industry littered with sell-outs.

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Mystikal Resurfaces with “Hit Me!”

Mystikal

Just when you thought the last you’d seen of Mystikal was “Shake Ya Ass” (WATCH yaself!), the king of loudmouth aggression comes out with a preview track “Hit Me,” leaked from his so-called “comeback album” Original, expected to arrive in 2013.  Two years out of the Louisiana State Prison, Mystikal’s new jam has a James Brown feel, taking this hit in a refreshing direction that distinguishes “Hit Me” from his other attempts to resurface in the rap game.

Have fun waking up to lines like this: “We go together like stinky and smelly, tummy and belly, peanut butter jelly!”

It’s 2012, and Mystikal is still making noise! Hit me!

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A Serious Case of Cabin Fever (Two!)

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While the hip-hop world awaited the release of Wiz Khalifa’s debut studio album Rolling Papers, the Pittsburgh rapper was hard at work; Wiz assembled his crew of Chevy Woods, Juicy J, and a few others, and decided he was hungry for more than pop success. What emerged, Cabin Fever, was a collection of bangers. The 9-track tape was Wiz’s proof of his consistent ability to make money with pop hits, while grounding his fan base with complementary mixtapes. Featuring the freshly-surfaced producer Lex Luger, Cabin Fever embodied the raw, careless feel that Wiz’s veteran fans had waited for since the days of Prince of the City (1 & 2), Star Power, and Flight School. 

The mixtape was as unexpected as it was satisfying for the TGOD followers who smelled the Rolling Papers sell-out pop feel from a mile away. Cabin Fever was certainly no Kush and Orange Juice, but for Wiz, it was his chance to jump on the Lex Luger wave, and show the doubters that he could still make beats you can play in the hood. It wasn’t long before we heard “Taylor!, Gang!, Taylor!, Gang!” shouted in the streets.

Cabin Fever is, by definition, the “extreme irritability and restlessness from living in isolation or a confined indoor area for a prolonged time.” The mixtape boasts the Taylor Gang’s newly caught fever.  Trapped in the studio with Bombay Gin and their essential ounces of weed, the crew clearly had an itch to show their critics that Rolling Papers wasn’t all that Wiz had to offer. “Black and Yellow” could have its radio play, while “Phone Numbers” could have its own underground space.

So, two and half years later, when Khalifa announced the release of Cabin Fever 2, fans of the Taylor Gang built up the same excitement that came from the mixtape’s predecessor. We thought that Wiz, who grew in two years into somewhat of a pop-idol and expectant father, was back to his old formula.  Anticipating his second studio album O.N.I.F.C., CF2 gave his hungry fans something to satisfy the TGOD munchies before finding out if Mr. “Ink My Whole Body” could make a quality album.

To much disappointment, the sequel to Cabin Fever shows more of a belligerent, burnt out sickness than the itching fever of the original tape.  Not only does CF2 lack the Lex Luger production that was often the crutch of Cabin Fever, but the silly, confident, catchy lyrics are gone as well.  Wiz is much less the boasting, upbeat rapper on the rise; instead, he’s a wasted celebrity, stumbling into tracks and rambling out of them.  If anything, we can tell that Wiz has been spending way too much time with Juicy J.

There are some bangers—don’t get me wrong—but not nearly enough to tide a loyal fanbase over until the release of O.N.I.F.C., no less build any excitement for the album.  “Ridin Round” has a nice vibe with the appropriate Juicy J. feature.  “100 Bottles” and “Stu” stand out for their upbeat braggadocio.  But as a whole, the mixtape lacks consistency, and is too often dampened with Wiz’s drunk and high mumbling.   

The only hope here is that Wiz responds with a stellar follow-up album.  O.N.I.F.C. has some promise, and we heard on his Taylor Allderdice mixtape released earlier this year that our pot-head pal wants to return to his roots, responding to countless critics who labeled Rolling Papers as a disappointing, sell-out album.  If O.N.I.F.C. lives up to the Taylor Gang hype, Cabin Fever 2 will be merely a drunk memory, a weekend’s worth of partying too hard in the studio.  For now, we just know what happens when Juicy J brings too much gin.

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Hello world!

Greetings, Blogosphere!

I’ll be using this space to post reviews, essays, and other thoughts on hip-hop music. Specifically, I’ll focus on lyrical analysis, trends, and themes to unveil the social and political issues encoded in hip-hop.  I find that the socially conscious messages of the genre are often lost, misinterpreted, or misunderstood. Ideally, this blog will push these messages to the forefront, shining  a better light on the genre’s relevance to American current events: i.e. racial tension, mass incarceration, homophobia, and misogyny to name a few. I hope you join me in this journey, to discover–to quote Kendrick Lamar–the “goldmines in these lines” of hip-hop. Let’s attain poetic justice for the rebel lyricists of our generation. Together, we can gain a better understanding of hip-hop’s potential impact on our world.  As always, stay fly.

-Mike