The Rise of G-Eazy and the Death of the Traditional Oakland MC

G-Eazy

I’m a town dude. There is no doubt about it. What I mean by that is the lens through which I view the world is totally Oaklandcentric. So, if you ask me Jason Kidd is the best point guard of all time with Gary Payton being a close second, Oakland completely shaped Tupac Shakur, and the Bay Area sound deeply influenced the present-day Atlanta hip-hop scene via local producers like Ant Banks and Zaytoven. In general, Oakland has always been the most popping place on the planet—that’s just my totally biased opinion. Oaklanders are very prideful but we demand that our representatives remain humble. And dare I say that if a celebrity claims to have the town on their back then we believe that they should actually be deep in the trenches putting in work. The self-styled rapper turned pop star G-Eazy does not do that. His relationship with Oakland is largely touch and go. And one gets the overwhelming sense that Oakland has never really been enough for him but rather it’s just extremely marketable for him to continue to claim it.

 

There is a line that triggered me from his most recent single 1942. In his laid-back braggadocios flow he spits “Flooded all my diamonds, Poland Spring/ Back in Oakland I’m a king” and when he said it I cringed. My reaction was so visceral because G-Eazy moved from the Bay as soon as his career took off. One cannot be a king and reside 400 miles outside of one’s kingdom. Also Oakland has never been a place that has had a king. There is an ongoing debate about who is the reigning King of New York. Snoop Dogg once declared that he was the king of the Westcoast but no artist from Oakland or the surrounding Bay Area has ever claimed this title for himself. We historically have never played that game. We have always preferred a person’s character to be thorough rather than their appearance to be flashy, but alas the Oakland of old is gone.

Gentrification has nearly chopped the cities African-American population in half since the days when Too Short was a fixture on the Foothill strip and in Eastmont Mall. We no longer demand that our MC’s be down to earth players that don’t like drawing unnecessary attention to themselves. This code was so strictly enforced in the early 1990’s that many in the town renounced MC Hammer and deemed him a sellout because of his shiny hammer pants and multimillion dollar Pepsi deal, even though he went broke trying to uplift the city and built a mansion in nearby Fremont in order to stay close to his family. But now Oakland has become a trendy town with countless brunch spots and beer gardens, and G-Eazy is Oakland’s trendy MC.

 

G-Eazy stated on his breakfast club interview earlier this year that he’s always wanted to be a superstar outside of the Bay. He also alluded to wanting to be as big as Kanye West. And as I watched I wondered when did my hometown full of contradictions, replete with the most positive vibes yet satiated with crime that used to sit a world apart from the high society bohemian snobbery of San Francisco, become a place where our most popular rapper can get away with speaking this way in a studio in New York before flying back first class to his mansion in Los Angeles? Why is there no accountability? I mean surely there would have been a backlash if Keak Da Sneak would have taken the same approach after he dropped “Super Hyphy” in 2007 following his massively successful feature on E-40’s “Tell me when to go” the previous year. Can you imagine Keak saying that he wants to be the biggest name in entertainment and although he loves Oakland he always wanted more for himself? The hate would have been so real. But we let G-Eazy claim our struggle all the way to the bank, give us crumbs, and go back to LA.

And this is why I don’t view him the same way as I view all of the other rap legends to come out of the town. From the Mobb Music era through the Hyphy Music era to say that you were from Oakland meant that you spoke for the people in the hood in a way that no one else could. The Oakland that I love will never be a place that accepts pop star rappers who never come to the ghetto. I could never stand behind a hometown MC who flies into the town, gets the bag, and leaves. G-Eazy represents the coopting of the town swag and as I look at the world through my Oakland lens I look right past him and back into the past. For if he represents the future of Oakland hip-hop then I will not be able to watch this mockery for much longer.

-YB

 

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Perhaps Rick Ross is Addicted to Opiates

Ross

It has been reported that Rapper Rick Ross was found unresponsive in his Miami home. Friends said that they could not wake him up and that he was foaming at the mouth. Rick Ross has also had a history of seizures. In 2011 he suffered from back to back seizures on an airplane that caused the plane to have an emergency landing. All of the articles that I have read on the situation read exactly this way. They also say that Rick Ross may have pneumonia, what these articles do not do is make the connection between his poor health and his addiction to cough syrup.

 

Drinking “lean” causes all of the symptoms that Rick ross is suffering from. One would think that after the recent lean related death of Chicago Rapper Fredo Santana media outlets would be more emboldened to make this connection. To suggest that Rick Ross couldn’t wake up and that he was rushed to the emergency room because he may have pneumonia is absurd. Rick Ross, along with an entire opiate addicted nation, needs help. It’s amazing that even President Trump can call America’s problem a crisis, which it is, while the media fails to apply this term when it comes to hip-hop artists.

 

People who take opiates in the form of pills, cough syrup, or heroin are drug addicts. It shouldn’t matter if the individual is a multiplatinum selling rap artist—a junky is a junky. And I don’t mean that in a dismissive way. I value the artistry as well as the humanity of Future, Lil Uzi Vert, Lil Wayne and Rick Ross, however, if you are an addict then you need help. The media should not be making excuses for young black entertainers randomly having seizures. It isn’t exhaustion, it isn’t epilepsy, it isn’t due to any missed medication—rappers are having seizures due to drug use. The media needs to call is what it is and stop enabling a dope fiend culture.

-YB

Telling OUR own Stories OUR own Way

I’m tired of being a ventriloquist dummy in the movies. We do have our own voices you know? We do have beating hearts and amorphous souls. We exist in every dimension. We exist at great distances and we exist in focus. We do not want to rape your virtuous young maidens (Birth of a Nation, 1915). We are not your ride or die servants (Gone With the Wind, 1939). We are not your wise yet shockingly docile sidekicks (Casablanca, 1942). We are not here to prostitute the innocence of your daughters (The Mack, 1973) and kill your hardworking, blue-collar, tough, rugged, but loveable fathers (Colors, 1988). Nor do we want you to make us feel good (Monster’s Ball, 2002).

We are not circus lions who only roar when cracked by the lash but are otherwise harmless creatures (Ali, 2001) and our stories don’t necessarily end happily when we finally achieve your capitalistic wet dreams (Ray, 2004 The Pursuit of Happyness, 2006).

Our stories are told in beauty shops, on front porches, and in barbershops. They’re told at bus stops, in county lines, and in the county jail. They’re told in study groups, at Baptist churches, and in hot kitchens. And our stories are told the best when you aren’t there; therefore, you really don’t know us. What you do know is essentially nothing more than a shadow. Yes this shadow is dark like us but it is not nearly as soulful. It is not nearly as dynamic. It is not complicated nor is it multifaceted. It’s not multidimensional or unique. It isn’t bodaciously shy or passionately indifferent.  See the thing is that when you tell our stories you are guessing and we know that. We also know that when you tell our stories you’re telling them to an audience of your own peers and that we really don’t matter. We know what’s real.

We can tell the difference between your voice and Big Mama’s. We know that our stories come from Arkansas and Tennessee. The Delta here and The Delta back there. Our stories were carried up the river by Pharaohs before they were carried down the river by slaves. Our stories are told with fingers in faces, knuckles slapping against hands, shoulders rolling, and tongues clicking. Our griots spit game to judges and parole officers and for the most part they never make it to Hollywood because they’ve been trapped in the hood.

Granted, sometimes when you tell our stories you get it right but you are still guessing (I suppose that some ventriloquist are better than others). And let me just say that when you do your film on Nina Simone The High Priestess of Soul, I hope that you get it right for your sake. For the time is rapidly approaching when we will be speaking for ourselves and we will leave you to your own guessing games. Yeah, imagine that? Close your eyes and try to guess how our voices sound when you are not around. Imagine a day when we control our own bodies, our own minds, our own shadows, and our own reflection, and all you can do is sit in the back of the room and listen to us speak. I can only smile at the thought of such a revolutionary exchange.

-YB

Trying To Keep My Little Girl Off The Pole

I expose my 7-year-old daughter to as many things as I possibly can. We go to the Museum of African Diaspora together, and she has already been to several readings and open-mics. The girl paints, creates music, plays soccer, and loves math. Like all good fathers I try to be as supportive as possible. Even though her mother and I split several years ago I have always been a consistent presence in my little girl’s life. This is mostly because of my love for her and my strong desire for her to one day be a successful woman but it is also driven by an uncontrollable fear. I want my daughter to be talented and I want my daughter to be artistic but I do not want my daughter to become a stripper.

Over the past decade no institution –besides the penitentiary—has come to symbolize the failure of African-American father’s more than the strip club. Stripping is big business in every American city but it is even more lucrative in the Southern United States where a disproportionate amount of blacks either reside or send their children to Historically Black Colleges and Universities to be educated. There is a whole subgenre of hip-hop music made specifically for strippers to dance to; Pop Lock and Drop It, Rock her Hips, Shake it Like a Salt Shaker, Back That Thang Up, and a dozen other booty worshipping songs that cause me to quickly change the dial every time my daughter is in the back seat. “But I like that song Daddy,” she often says. “Well I don’t,” I tell her. At least not with her in the car I don’t.

The role of the stripper in society has been reinvented in the modern-era which adds a whole different dimension to my worst parenting nightmare. No longer is the stripper’s pole reserved for the neglected, tragically beautiful, young lady who grew up in foster care. Instead there is a huge cross-section of sisters who find themselves flinging their bodies from the stainless steel sphere and landing in a perfect split. There are graduate students, daughters of the bourgeoisie, former high-school athletes, and aspiring entrepreneurs all collectively making it clap for crisp new bills. Alas stripping has become a completely socially acceptable profession.

Not that I have anything against these women. I honestly believe that it takes a tremendous amount of swagger for these ladies to dance naked in front of total strangers as if they were dancing alone in front of a mirror. So many women have extreme insecurities about their bodies that it is somewhat refreshing to see females shake it with pride. My only issue is that I am scared that the incessant stream of black women dancing half-naked in music videos, and on billboards, in magazines, and in low-budget hip-hop movies, will force a whole generation of girls to think that is their only option in life.

No longer will young African-American females want to win gold medals like Dominique Dawes and Gail Devers. They won’t know that they can go to outer-space like Dr. Mae Jamison or make millions of dollars by starting their own business like Madam C.J. Walker. Instead they will think the only way they can get rich is by catching a hand full of bills thrown to them by some drunken rapper who was gracious enough to “make it rain” all over their once sacred bodies.

Needless to say I do not want that for my little girl. I want her to defy societal expectations and choose her own path. I want her to be socially outgoing yet ferociously independent. I want her to be proud of her culture while at the same time being aware that her people need her help. The last thing I want to do is fail like so many other black men.

Sometimes I close my eyes and I am haunted by the fact that every stripper had a daddy once. It is oh so troubling.

YB