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In the wake of the civil unrest in Ferguson, the Game and an assortment of industry heavyweights, including Rick Ross, 2 Chainz, Fabolous, DJ Khaled, Swizz Beatz, and Diddy,  have released a protest track called “Don’t Shoot.” Although admirable in its goal of raising awareness and money for the family of Michael Brown, the track is a mess of hypocrisy, rhetoric and poorly thought out ideas.

The Game

Let’s start with the Game. Is Game really lecturing people about violence and justice? His entire career was built on an image of violence. Aside from his well documented gang affiliations, he’s been arrested for making criminal threats and investigated for domestic violence. With a resume like that, you’d expect the Game’s opening verse to be fire. But it’s surprisingly flat.

The Game comes off sounding like a politician. He does a great job of empathizing with the people of Ferguson while avoiding anything controversial. Particularly deft was his sidestep of the entire looting issue:

Mothers crying “Stop the riots”, we ain’t got to chalk the city

If you didn’t know better, you might think the Game cared about how mom’s feel. But if you’ve followed Game for a while, you remember lines like this from Untold Story back in 2004:

When shit get thick, niggaz start dyin
Bodies pop up in dumpsters, mothers start cryin
Payback come through violent, nigga
We hit blocks, bust shots, leave ya whole block silent, cause

Or this one, from You Know What It Is Vol. 3 in 2005:

That’s Lloyd Bank’s momma singin’
You betta tell your boy to keep his mouth closed
Or he gon’ get a black tux

Knowing the Game’s history, it’s hard to take the message in his verses seriously.

Rick Ross

On the other hand, it’s hard to take anything about Rick Ross seriously. Whereas Game was careful to avoid endorsing looting and rioting, Ross openly advocates it:

Black dress code now we looting in the night
Now we throwing Molotovs in this holocaust

Not surprisingly, the rapper advocating the most violence is also is the fakest gangster in the lineup. For years, Rick Ross tried to hide the fact that he used to be a Correctional Officer, until 50 Cent outed him with the song Officer Ricky. Ross didn’t even earn his own name. He stole it from a real criminal, Freeway Ricky RossFreeway Rick Ross sued the rapper Rick Ross and recently lost the case. But do you know what the defense was? In the Judge’s words, Rick Ross the Rapper won because he was a fake:

[The Rapper Rick Ross] was not simply an impostor seeking to profit solely off the name and reputation of Rick Ross. Rather, he made music out of fictional tales of dealing drugs and other exploits –some of which related to plaintiff. (emphasis added)

So we have a real gangster talking peace and a fake gangster talking violence. Not an auspicious start.

DJ Khaled, King Pharaoh

Khaled’s verse starts out promisingly, but stalls when he drops this line:

Rest in peace Mike Brown
And all the young soldiers out there

Pharaoh picks up the imagery in a later verse:

(Rest in peace to Mike Brown)
(And all the other fallen soldiers)

So now Mike Brown is being portrayed as a soldier. What’s the battleground, then, the community? And who are they fighting, the police?  This choice of imagery is a horrible idea. Advocating the militarization of urban youth only serves to justify the militarization of the police. As the demonstrations in Ferguson proved, community violence is what justifies the police and their tactics. You can’t defeat a frame by adopting its terminology.

Diddy, 2 Chainz, Curren$y

Surprisingly, some of the better verses on the track come from Diddy, 2 Chainz and Curren$y. Diddy was the only rapper who referenced specific cases and presented a reasonable response:

I’m talking bout Emmett Till, I’m talking bout Ezell Ford
I’m talking bout Sean Bell, they never go to jail for
Trayvon over Skittles, Mike Brown Cigarillos
History keeps repeating itself, like a Biggie instrumental
America’s a glass house and my revenge is mental
Rather use my brain than throw a cocktail through a window

And, for a rapper that some people have said “consistently produces some of the most idiotic verses the mainstream music industry has ever seen“, 2 Chainz provided some nice observations on corruption and militarization:

Got us tryna protest, it’s a slow process
Heard it’s a lot of rotten eggs in the crow’s nest
People praying on they feet, police holding on they heat
Turned on the news and seen a tank rolling down the street

Possibly my favorite verse on the entire track came from Curren$y:

I heard he surrendered but we all saw how they did him
Television broadcasts, a confused country
I’m a resident of a nation that don’t want me
What’s done is done, the town erupts in fury
And I’m already hearing bout this lopsided jury
Three faces like his, the rest another story
A lot of motherf*ckers need to act more worried

It’s personal and measured. And whether or not you agree with him, you get a real sense of emotion and perspective, something that’s missing in a lot of the other verses.

Fabolous, Wale

In spite of the importance of the topic they were discussing, both of these guys found time in their verses to take shots at the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. Fabolous fired off with this:

Yeah, I seen a lot of ice water tossed, and I know it’s for a cause
My only question is, what we doing for the loss

And Wale came up with this:

I’m sure the general population trying to be more active
But when the light finally catches you, you ice challenge

Negativity in the service of positivity never works. That’s especially true if you’re a millionaire celebrity and the targets of your ire are people dying of an incurable degenerative disease. It comes off as jealous and petty. Instead of wasting time worrying about what other people are doing, these two should have used their bars to offer ideas and solutions of their own.

Swizz Beats & Problem

No doubt the worst bars of the song belong to these two, and both failed for the same reason: hyperbole. Swizz beats came up with this gem:

It’s going down, Armageddon right here
Right now, not on TV, but right

Thanks for clarifying. I now understand that you are trying to tell me that end of the world is happening, at this moment, in Ferguson, and that you are not referring to the Bruce Willis movie of the same name.

Not to be outdone, Problem came up with a few classics of his own:

The revolution has been televised
If I sit here and do don’t do nothing, homie, that’s genocide

Where to begin?

First off, doing nothing isn’t genocide, it’s apathy. Genocide is the systematic murder of a large group of people, usually of a specific race or ethnicity. True genocides kill hundreds of thousands, even millions of people. What happened in Ferguson was a lot of things, but a genocide it was not.

Moving on, you can’t say Ferguson was a revolution until you can point out what it revolutionized. So far, nothing has changed. A black man gets killed. People protest. Police respond. The media gets tired. The status quo is maintained.  Until things actually change, not only has the revolution NOT been televised, it hasn’t happened.

Problem seems to understand this argument, because he contradicts himself with it later in his own verse:

All that marching and that peace ain’t gonna f*cking do nothing

So how does he reconcile his thoughts? He doesn’t. He just tries to sound really angry:

F*ck it, my moms, sorry, I’m ready to rage
The police done let the animals out of the cage

That’s the last image in the song. Raging animals bursting out of their cages. And yet, just a few weeks ago, there was national outrage when a police officer called the protestors animals. Does Problem not see a problem here? I do, and the problem is this: rappers don’t stand for anything anymore. So, when it’s time for them to stand up, they can’t say what they stand for. They may be rich, but because of their actions, their words lack the authority to speak meaningfully on these topics.

One Response

  1. jerry jones

    everyone has got to make money on this tragedy. Is eveyone really that frikin greedy?


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