“You wonder why you don’t hear no sounds on the air
And it’s clear that your sales going down
Down by law then you found the raw
On a message board and you sounding off
These niggas get the whole world, but what’s the cause?
No wonder why these niggas be sounding lost”
– Talib Kweli, “State of Grace”.
If I had a classroom full of kids and I was trying to explain that well before flat, emotionless auto-tuned robotic voices rhyming about bitches, money, gold chains, guns and cars that cost more than what most people will make in a year (or 3), Hip Hop was the language of a subculture originating from the South Bronx. It was once a form of street poetry that aired serious issues from a class of peeps that had previously had no way to vocalize the harsh realities of everyday life in the ghetto. Then, I would tell the kids to watch the following video. Talib Kweli takes aim at the modern day commercialization of hip hop in State of Grace, underlining some of the major faults with the contemporary scene including money grubbing, violence and the objectification of women.
She grew up loving hip hop
Now all her daughter got is “Love & Hip Hop”
Clearly Kweli takes a jab at Love and Hip Hop, yet another corporate owned, train wreck of a reality show, this time chronicling the lives of several heavy hitters in the contemporary hip hop community from a female perspective. The same week Kweli’s video for State of Grace got released, one of the reality show’s stars, Mendeecees Harris got out of jail on bail from alleged connections to a drug ring, while another cast member Benzino (former owner of Source Magazine) was shot while driving in a funeral procession for his dead mother, allegedly by one of his own family members. You can’t make this stuff up. VH1 have recently announced a fifth season for the series.
This is brave stuff for rappers to take on. The golden age of rap is a time long since passed. Sure, there’s always a strong underground scene…but most of the stuff we hear on the radio and see on tv are punctuated by deafening gun shots, explicit sexualization, and corporate excess that flows and drowns you out like a case of Cristal. It’s nice to hear some sober introspection on how Hip Hop got to where it is currently, and rare to hear voices like these. I guarantee this track won’t get the airplay on the radio it deserves. The video itself also has a really vibrant look to it, illustrator/animator Daniel Cordero apparently used the work of Jean-Michel Basquiat to inspire him. To pick up a copy of Kweli’s latest album Gravitas, go here.
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