I like Classical, Punk rock, New Wave, Big Band, Reggae, and so on. I have no problem listening to Black Flag or Alicia Keys or Johnny Cash one minute, Billie Holiday the next and Mozart's Mass in C Minor or The Gypsy Kings right after that.
Music movements are historical markers. When I hear "To Begin the Beguine", I immediately picture a Depression-era ballroom in my mind. If CCR's "Senator's Son" is playing on the radio, I think of U.S. soldiers jumping out the side door of a Huey in Vietnam.
Music movements come and go. But there's one music movement that just never seems to go away. It has been going strong for over 30 years now. Can you guess which one that is?
You guessed it..."Gangster Rap". I can already hear the cries of "RACISM!" from the peanut gallery...
But consider this...
We are not talking about an institution that promotes the finest, most redeeming qualities of the Black community. On the contrary, we are talking about an institution that promotes its lowest common denominators.
We are talking about the promotion and glorification of gang culture, drug trafficking and organized crime. This is a view that academics Michael Eric Dyson, Patricia Rose, Todd Boyd, Bakari Kitwana and Nelson George have also expressed concerns about.
But would it come as a surprise to most that Russia, perhaps the most racist nation on the planet, is associated with a 30+ year cash-cow campaign to portray American inner-city blacks as gang-banging, drug-peddling murderers and welfare recipients?
You may recall Vladislav Surkov's recent comments, in response to U.S. sanctions against Russia:
"I see the decision by the administration in Washington as an acknowledgment of my service to Russia. It's a big honor for me. I don't have accounts abroad. The only things that interest me in the U.S. are Tupac Shakur, Allen Ginsberg, and Jackson Pollock. I don't need a visa to access their work. I lose nothing."
What Surkov is telling us is that Tupac Shakur represents an ECONOMIC component to Russia.
Let's take a closer look at Tupac Shakur...
Although Wikipedia claims that Tupac Shakur (born Lesane Parish Crooks) took his stage name in honor of Túpac Amaru II, leader of the 1780 Peruvian rebellion against Spanish rule, details of Shakur's life suggest that he instead had Peru's Túpac Amaru Revolutionary Movement in mind. In fact, between the two sources Wikipedia references, only one even makes reference to Tupac Shakur the musician, and it associates him with the revolutionary organization. Tupac Shakur's parents were Black Panthers and Shakur's music was sympathetic to the organization.
If people are unfamiliar with the Black Panther Party's associations with the Soviet Union, it's likely due to the shocking degree of intellectual and academic bias, favoring the sympathetic view that the government's Cointelpro program committed a series of abuses against the Black Panthers. It's difficult finding sources interested in discussing the organization's international associations. To this day, there are ongoing efforts to attempt to whitewash various aspects of the Black Panthers' violent and murderous history. The problem that the sympathizers cannot overcome is that the links DO exist, even if people have forgotten them. In fact, it should be noted that the only international chapter of the Black Panthers operated out of Algeria, a close Russian and former Soviet ally. Brian Burrough brings to light many of these obfuscated links covering, among other things, Eldridge Cleaver's ties to the Soviet Union, North Korea and Algeria, in his book, Days of Rage: America's Radical Underground, the FBI, and the Forgotten Age of Revolutionary Violence. It should be noted that Israel's Black Panther Party and Russian Panther Party have direct ties to Russia.
Shakur also gave members of his band, "The Outlawz", stage names representing the names of puppet dictators of Soviet satellites, like:
- Yaki Kadafi (Muammar Gaddafi)
- Komani (Ayatollah Khomeini)
- Kastro (Fidel Castro)
- E.D.I. Mean (Idi Amin) and,
- Hussein Fatal (Saddam Hussein)
There is significance in Shakur's rebranding of Tyruss Hines ("Big Skye") as "Mussolini", but I will cover the relationship between Italian Fascism, Russia/Russian organized crime, Japan and the Yakuza another day.
Shakur was murdered in a drive-by shooting in 1996, but his legacy apparently still resonates in Russia. And perhaps even the CIA understands that Tupac Shakur represented something more significant than just merely a "gangsta" rapper.
And few could forget the conspiracy theory purporting that the CIA created the inner-city crack epidemic in order to subjugate the American black population. You may recall the role played by The San Jose Mercury News, in propagating this conspiracy theory, the narrative arc of which suspiciously resembles the 100+ year old narrative arc of Soviet and Russian "Whataboutism".
But an interesting statistic popped up in the 1990s, related to Tupac Shakur's and Snoop Dogg's music sales.
"Record label executives began to define the primary hip hop audience as white, suburban, wealthy, teenagers who, since 1991,have been estimated to purchase between 60 to 80 percent (a debated statistic) of all hip hop music (Kitwana 2005:82, Sullivan 2003). The record label executives also determined that this white audience was primarily interested in hip hop music which is produced in its one-dimensional negative formats of gangsta rap, misogynistic, materialistic, and violent (Rose2008). These one-dimensional representations of hip hop music began to be performed as if they were self generated from within the black community (Rose 2008) and performed as authentic representations of the Black culture (Neal 1997, Rose 2008)."
You may recall how the client-base among many of the nation's large shopping malls began to shift in the early nineties, when a seedier element began to move in. As time went on, this created a downward nationwide trend in many of the nation's shopping malls. Speaking from personal experience, I remember seeing this happen to malls in and around Milwaukee, WI.
As a college student in the early 1990s, I can easily recall the reputation certain suburban shopping malls had, if you were looking for some nickel and dime drug pusher with whom to score some weed.
It's not too difficult to imagine a scenario in which the purchase of music CDs might represent payment for drug transactions, under the right conditions. Of course, nowadays it would be even easier, given the massive popularity of prepaid gift cards.
For example, it would likely be fairly simple for a motivated party to set up an offshore corporation (or not offshore...doesn't matter), produce a series of really stupid in-game apps or music MP3s and list them in iTunes, hence allowing certain purchasers to effectively use prepaid cards to wire cash from point A to point B.
I would like the reader to sit back and think about the scenario I just presented for one moment.
Can you imagine the potential scale of a money-laundering operation, if someone was using such a strategy?
Ah....but the 1990s are over now. So let's talk about Jay-Z, The Kardashians, Kanye West, Bruce Jenner, Mikhail Prokherov, Crimea and ISIS...