Tag Archives: puffy

The Hip Hop Purist: The Devil and Ms. Monae

“The dichotomy in me knew something was fishy.” – Saafir
I recently went to a Tribe Called Quest show in Atlanta. It was wonderful.
They performed all of their popular songs and then some. Jarobi even came on stage. Of course, Jarobi was supposed to be there. But someone else was not.
At the end of their set, Q-Tip announced the foreigner. I became a xenophobe, hoping for a Trouble T-Roy moment when Puffy grabbed the mic and said “Wassup, New York”. Boos were automatic. So were obscene finger gestures. I even participated in the fun, myself.
Puff, as hip hop’s Antichrist, has more than one reason to be hated (besides cheesecake delivery). He is the sole reason I check for the 7 Daggers of Megiddo on ebay. But this ain’t about him. It’s about his motives.
I recently had the pleasure of listening to ArchAndroid for the first time. This album snuck up on me completely accidentally. I heard good things about it so I decided to give it a listen via illegal download.
I bought Badu’s first album when it came out based on the strength of her first single. She was sneaking 5%-er mythology into mainstreamer-isms. I thought that this might be the thing that would change the R&B genre into something listenable. I bought the album and noticed it was replete with love songs and immediately gave it away. Lauryn Hill did something similar to me. I really want a female MC to be in my top 10 list. Medusa is the closest thing, but she just does not have enough material.
So in steps Janelle Monae. “Dance or Die” has her flowing her ass off over a fast, pop-y beat. I was impressed. I was even more impressed when I read the lyrics.
Then I noticed she had some videos. “Tightrope” seemed to have the most Youtube hits, so I gave it a try, still expecting the worst. Sometimes I love being wrong. The video was dope. I think I get the concept. The mental institution is symbolic of the mind. She starts off in her room and then sneaks into a hallway. She (Janelle) is symbolic of a thought. She is met by more thoughts (her dancers) and they start having a good time. Not sure about the minions dressed up as the grim reaper with mirrors for faces. They seem to be symbolic of convention or pragmatism.

Lyrically, she touches on the balance of emotions. Life is full of highs and lows. You have to know that either is on the horizon at all times. So don’t get too caught up in either the highs or the lows — thus the balance of tipping on a tightrope. She even shows that you can escape your mental state and go other places you have never seen before.
“I learned to relax in my room and escape from New York and return through the womb of the world as a thought.” – Rakim
She danced right through the wall of the institution and into the wilderness while gazing with what seemed to be awe. The mirror-faced minions followed her though and guided her back to her room in the institution.
Even if I am completely wrong about my interpretation of the video, it still provokes thought and discussion. Try to get that from Nicky Manaj (am I hating?).
So after I watched that video a number of times, I clicked on the next one. At first glance, it seemed much shallower than the previous one. It is one take of her singing “Cold War” with different camera angles focusing on her face. But she seems to go through a range of emotions during the take. There is one point where she even starts crying, although she tries valiantly to hold it back. When she says “I was made to believe there’s something wrong with me,” I completely felt her. I, too, was taught that there had to be something wrong with me through elementary, middle school and high school. I met up with a bunch of other weirdos in college, though. But those memories do hit hard and they hit randomly and they evoke an emotional response. She forced me to deal with those emotions while showing her own. Again, I was impressed.
I have not fully digested ArchAndroid yet. I really want to buy the album but I am torn. I want to show this talented young person that I respect her voice and her imagination. But I do not want to put one red cent in the pocket of the Antichrist.
Why would Puff sign her? Is he trying to add some sort of legitimacy to his legacy by promoting someone with actual talent? Naw, he is the Antichrist, and he has no soul. Right? Or could he be trying to prove a point? He signs a person with originality and imagination and throws his marketing machine behind her just to get a mediocre return on investment (on purpose, maybe) to show that the marketplace has no urge to be moved by thought.
I have read on some sites that the record sales have been pretty bleak. Janelle is a superstar. She is a role model for young women. She shows them that they can still be beautiful without being scantily clad. Having an imagination is a virtue! Having independent thought is not a crime! Fuck convention! Be the person you are supposed to be.
She should be selling out arenas. I checked her tour dates and she is merely opening up for other groups in small venues.
When I get my paycheck Friday, I will ask the Hip Hop Gods to forgive me in a moment of weakness. As a crusader constantly compelled to seek justice, I will spend my hard earned money to buy a copy of ArchAndroid, giving Diddy more power to destroy the art form I hold so close to my heart. Hell, I may even buy 2 copies.

Post to Twitter

HOT 5: 5 Rappers Who Ain’t Really Rappers

Top 5 Rappers Who Don’t Really Count As Rappers

You know that summer job parking cars downtown that on your resume magically became an internship at the Mayor’s office? Or that “fine dining management” experience you got at Taco Bell? It’s not technically lying on your resume, it’s just stretching the truth like Laffy Taffy. Well, at some point these people below all went into the studio, blessed the mic, and came out with Top 20 hits. Despite that, most heads don’t even consider them when listing even the most rudimentary emcees. We present to you the Top 5 entertainers who can put “rapper” on their resumes, but that might be, you know, stretching the truth just a bit.

5. Sean “Puffy” (he’s come full-circle, ya know) Combs
Major mogul, yes. CEO, right-O. Tastemaker, check. Rapper. Rapper? Um, about thaaat… Now, there are several bonafide hits—even classics—out there that Puffy raps on, like All About The Benjamins or Dolly My Baby. He has recorded three rap albums. But Puffy always seemed like he got into rappin because it was something to do. Honestly, I always thought Puff started rapping and dancing in videos to get more girls, because even when the artist is getting pimped, the executive producer just doesn’t get the same level of groupie love. Imagine, women were pushing past him to get to Craig Mack! You know a brother had to rectify that situation. Besides, Puffy said it best himself: “Don’t ask if I write rhymes. I write checks.”

4. That Guy from Snap
I Got the Power was hitting hard in 1990. Black stations, white stations, BET and MTV—everybody was rocking that song, except me. As a young Hampton University (HU ’92 Go Pirates!!!) hip-hop snob in 1990, I refused to play it at parties, opting instead for the OTHER I Got The Power, by Chill Rob G.* He wrote the original song that Snap bit, stole, swiped and made into a hit, but I digress. Does anybody really remember Turbo B. from Snap? Did any of y’all know all the words to his rap? Do you miss him? Rumor has it Turbo was the cousin of the producer, but he left and they got somebody else, then HE LEFT and they found somebody else. Sad thing is nobody noticed or cared.

*Editor’s note: Gawd, you’re still whipping Chill Rob G’s dead horse? He’s made peace with that. You should too. No more blood on the dance-floor of life! –Resident Alien

3. Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch
Mr. Mark Wahlburg has to his credit The Happening, The Departed and, a favorite around here at GH Headquarters, The Italian Job. But mysteriously missing from that list is “Can’t Stop the Funky Bunch.” Everybody has mercifully forgotten that Wahlburg got his showbiz start as a rapper. He was nice on paper: he could stay on beat, was one of a very small handful of white rappers in ’91, and even had some street cred, coming from Boston (that last bastion of ‘hood whiteboys), but only MTV took him seriously. Even Mr. Wahlburg is trying to forget. A few years ago he and Eminem appeared on TRL together, and Marky Mark looked ready to choke out Marshall when Em jokingly referred to his former group. Now, it could have been a case of Funky Bunch love, like Don’t put my crew’s name in your mouth, dude. Or it could be now that he’s an ahc-tor, he no longer feels the “Good Vibrations.” (But his remake was the first time I heard that Lou Reed song.)

2. Freedom Williams / C+C Music Factory
Don’t act like you don’t know. No, not Blackbox, the group that did that OTHER “Everybody” song, C&C Music Factory, fool. Back in ’93 when they hit with Everybody Dance Now and Gonna Make You Sweat, they were all over the radio and in the club. For countless interviews, Freedom (the perpetually shirtless light-skinned brother) was represented as the rapper in the group. Yeah, he rapped, but we all know he damn sure wasn’t a rapper. I always thought of him as just a mainstream-friendly pretty boy the studio picked out, so I was shocked to learn that Freedom really considered himself a serious rapper. Around 1993 a colleague of mine, VA-radio legend Chester Benton, put on a showcase in Portsmouth (home of Missy Elliot and Timbaland). One of the acts to audition was a then-unknown Freedom Williams. He didn’t make the cut, but it hints that the cat actually put in work, paid his dues and spent years practicing. HE STILL SUCKED. What’s funny is supposedly one of the reasons he left C&C Music Factory was because he felt he wasn’t getting the credit he deserved for the group’s success (kind of an Eddie Kane Jr. reaction). To prove his skills to the world, Freedom dropped his solo project. And it dropped, and it dropped, and it kept on dropping. It may have been the worst-selling solo debut of all time. Guess he showed them.

1. Ya Kid K / Technotronic
Pump up the Jam! Pump it up, while your feet are stomping! And the jam is pumping!
You know the line, don’t front. Technotronic’s esteemed “lyricist” was an androgynous, decently monikered rapper named Ya Kid K. I remember heated discussions on whether he was a she or she was a he. Ya Kid K had one of those weird, low-pitched female or high-pitched male voices. Anyway, these British invaders (you knew they were from England) had some other minor hit and K even flopped a solo joint. K had to marvel at her countrywoman Moni Love, who remained a following even without a hit solo. On the other hand, hip-hoppers largely ignored K after Pump Up the Jam. Why did hip-hop reject her contribution? Was it believed that she purposely kept her gender under raps in order to reach traditional male rappers’ sales numbers? Or did heads simply recognize that, in the Book of Hip-Hop, her name need not be recorded?

We noticed a trend on this list (maybe you took note also): it seems like most of the offending “rappers” appeared on dance or club hits, instead of actual hip-hop songs. While this seems a little unfair (like exactly what do we expect from a club/dance song), they did take the job. If I become the quarterback for a mini-minor league football team called the EastSide Po’Boys and I suck, I can’t use the excuse, “Well its only a mini-minor little league football team.” Like Coach always said, You take the job, you do it right.

Post to Twitter

BOUGIE – Bespoke Budget

Bespoke Budget

“Make a list of your income. Make a list of your expenditures. Track your spending. Save a portion of everything you bring in. Spend less than you make. Take your lunch to work. Stop eating out as often.”

I’m sorry, but if I read any more of this dry, white-bread financial advice, I’m going to slit my wrists AND my neck. Pretty gruesome, but you get the idea. If advice like this really resonated with people, there would be an army of brown-bagging cubicle warriors taking public transportation to work every morning—and they’d look just like you and me.

But you and I are still out at the clubs. Still at the liquor store buying top-shelf. Still using our online bank statement as our spending record. Still thinking that the money in the account IS equivalent to our budget. Hey, once it’s gone, it’s gone!

I like my budgets like I like my Pumas and Nikes customized just for me. I can’t be the only person who’s looked at one of those budget worksheets and felt my head start swimming with all the line items I need to account for: Professional dues. Property taxes. Car registration. Replacement tile grout.
I know that we have to take into account those things that don’t occur on a regular basis so we won’t be blindsided. But when you’re trying to make ends meet, association dues can seem so irrelevant and far away that the mere thought can get you to hyperventilating.

From Basic to Magnums

So, to help with your breathing, I’ve created 5 types of budgets that you can use depending on where you are in life. These budgets reflect what’s REALLY good in your life and allow you to focus on where you are. They also help define the next level in your financial life. So one day, you’ll have a line item for Cayman Island tax shelter, and it’ll be all good!

The Bare Bones Budget:
Food. Lights. Gas. Pretty much this is the budget for when you’re in survival mode. I don’t advocate riding dirty, but car insurance and registration don’t make the cut on this
budget. This is the on-your-knuckles version of maintaining. Think ramen noodles and dollar store. Your bills might not be current, but your services are working and not cut off.

The Breathing Room Budget:
You can upgrade from bologna to turkey ham. This budget includes the necessities of life, plus one of two little extras, like a bottle of wine to split if friends drop by with a bucket of chicken. Your bills are caught up, nothing’s past due.

The Cruising Altitude Budget:cruising1
This budget is when you can kick off your shoes, if not kick your feet up. You might be able to afford a mini-vacation, someplace domestic. You can do little extras, dinner at a nice restaurant, getting the hair done more often, gifts for more than the kids in your family. This budget is probably where most people without financial problems find themselves.

The Life is Good Budget:
Affluence. This budget is when you truly begin to invest and start adopting a tax strategy. The wine is nicer, the vacations more exotic, the toys are shinier. Let’s call it hood-rich, but this budget is where you’re not hurting for anything.

wildout2The Wildin’ Out Budget:
This is the Oprah/Puffy budget. This is where you start having libraries named after you and establishing rec centers in your neighborhood. This is where you have the Gulf Stream and work really IS a four letter word in your vocabulary. Your money duplicates while you dream and your kid’s kids will be trust fund babies.

Post to Twitter