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Fighting the Power

By vaguely_aware in Media
Tue Jan 02, 2001 at 06:42:54 PM EST
Tags: Culture (all tags)

Due to an illness I was stuck at home this New Year's Eve, watching TV and mostly being bored out of my skull. While I am typically loathe to do it, I was watching MTV's coverage of the "event"; mostly for comic relief. The usual bland progression of teeny bopper celebrities shouting drunken drivel over the din of crowd noise and pseudo-talented flavor of the month band performances had almost forced me to change the channel when they cut to a gansta rapper doing something that shocked me.

I'm not the easily shocked type. Gangsta rap is not the thing that surprised me. What surprised me was Xzibit's cover of Public Enemy's "Fight the Power". The cover itself wasn't even the strange thing, it was the fact that Xzibit (who had been wearing a fairly innocuous sports jersey during his previous performance) performed the song wearing a homemade T-shirt with the slogan "FU*K NAPSTER" on it.

I don't particularly care to discuss the pros and cons of the Napster debate again, but I thought it interesting that Xzibit chose to express his opinion on this issue while covering that particular song. For the uninitiated, Public Enemy was co-founded by Chuck D, whom many consider to be a pioneer on the electronic music front. He is pro-Napster and has written articles, started websites and made headlines while trying to push the online music industry forward.

The song itself has nothing to do with online music, Napster or anything of the sort. But the underlying message to the song is pretty clear, even by the title alone. Xzibit's choice to cover this song seems to be his way of making a statement, saying that there is an oppressive power out there and it needs to be stood up against. His wardrobe change just before the performance leads me to believe that he may be pointing to Napster as the oppressive power that should be fought against.

This to me, was where it got very surreal. Here we have a song written and originally performed by one of Napster's strongest and most vocal advocates being covered by a guy wearing an anti-Napster slogan on his chest with a straight face. I had to wonder if there was some sort of irony I was missing.

On one hand, I could say that the song and it's background were independent of the T-shirt and it's message. This would have been a lot easier if the song were something less powerful or with a different message. But there's just a certain context to "Fight the Power" that makes me think this wasn't just a coincidence. The question is, is the message lost or confused because of the conflicting aspects between performer, message, song and original intent?

I certainly felt the message was lost. Obviously Xzibit is anti-Napster. Fine. Then why not cover a Dr. Dre tune? He's anti-Napster as well and has plenty of rousing songs that were ripe for covering and would have fit perfectly in with the message that was trying to be conveyed. Was it a barb against Chuck D then, pointing out a hypocrisy that one could write a song about standing up against those who try to keep you down while embracing a technology (and company) that could be construed as keeping black musicians down? I find it difficult to believe that the point was intentionally that subtle. Gansta rappers aren't famous for subtlety, although it would be foolish to discount this theory completely without further evidence.

The most likely truth is that Xzibit never considered the implications of the song... he probably picked it because it was some tough sounding, rabble-rousing stuff to go along with his tough-sounding, rabble-rousing T-shirt. I can't think of anything less appropriate than using any work outside of its creator's philosophy and intent out of sheer ignorance. That's like people claiming a Beatles song inspired them to kill someone. Hopefully the incident was a clever, satirical poke at Chuck D and/or Public Enemy because I can respect that, at least it shows a willingness to be subtle even on MTV (aka The Shiny Things Network). Still, call me cynical, but I think that the likelihood of someone who makes a living as a gangsta rapper being that sardonic is slim.

Honestly, I was pretty annoyed by the spectacle. It just seemed wrong to me, somehow. Then I remembered the debate between Chuck D and Lars Ulrich wherein Lars declared that the suit against Napster wasn't about money but rather was about control. The point was that the anti-Napster camp dislikes losing control over how their music is used or presented. I suppose you could deduce that Napster supporters should feel the opposite, that it is irrelevant how music is used or presented. But in this case I think if I were Chuck D, I'd be in an interesting position of feeling like my music had been misrepresented and yet what can he really say? "You used my music in a way that I don't like!" Join the club, fella.

Next year I expect to see Eminem covering an Elton John song while wearing a "No Fags" T-shirt. I figure it'll become the biggest trend in hip hop since gold chains and cars with hydraulics.


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Xzibit was...
o Being ironic 2%
o Confusing his messages 11%
o Just being a performer 9%
o Being unintentionally brilliant 4%
o Ignorant 52%
o Drunk 20%

Votes: 95
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
o Xzibit
o Fight the Power
o Chuck D
o pro-Napste r
o Also by vaguely_aware

Display: Sort:
Fighting the Power | 41 comments (34 topical, 7 editorial, 0 hidden)
A Lot of Assumptions (3.60 / 5) (#3)
by eskimo on Tue Jan 02, 2001 at 04:39:54 PM EST

I'll be the first to admit that I fell off the hip hop bandwagon about the time Digital Underground imploded, begatting Tupac, yada yada, but you seem to make a big assumption that might not be true.

While their style may be over the top, I don't think that disqualifies hip hop artists from being subtle. Remember how funny we all thought it was when Offspring started selling unlicensed Napster merchandise online? Why can't this be a similar jab.

One of the biggest reasons I sort of strayed away from hip hop was that it seemed to me that as a form, there was no growth or evolution. It didn't seem like they were building on their traditions, so much as razing rival traditions and staking out a new homestead, trying to fend off attacks from other camps: East Coast, West Coast, different labels, etc.

But that was a pretty 'eskimo-centric' position. They weren't building on the foundations I appreciated, is all. In short, it seemed to me like De La Soul, PE and A Tribe Called Quest lost out, and N.W.O. and Ice Cube won. The groups I enjoyed were still popular, but they weren't the foundation hip hop evolved from. There was no longer a viewpoint I easily identified with.

And here comes the point, finally. To the hip hop community, there are bigger issues than Napster. While I am sure Chuck D perhaps wondered why Xzibit chose to wear the shirt, I don't think it in anyway relates to Chuck Manson claiming the Beatles inspired him to kill. Napster simply isn't an issue that will or should define the hip hop community. The form was born of more serious issues. 'Fight the Power' is just as important now as it was in 1989, and it has very little to do with Napster.

I am my own home. - Banana Yoshimoto

check out.. (3.50 / 2) (#6)
by spacejack on Tue Jan 02, 2001 at 04:50:58 PM EST


Good writeup on the past few years of hip hop! What I think is interesting is that now that samples are so expensive, most of the instrumental backdrops are original these days. So it definitely changes the flavour, but I'm hoping it inspires some different creative directions. Like Outkast :)

[ Parent ]
Re: Assumptions (3.66 / 3) (#8)
by vaguely_aware on Tue Jan 02, 2001 at 04:52:44 PM EST

Of course I assumed that Xzibit wasn't being subtle, but I went out of my way to try and point out that the possibility existed that I was mistaken in my assumption. Hence the poll. I will concede that it's not out of the realm of even casual possibility, but I think the difference between this and the Offspring thing is pretty vast.

In this case, you would have to know that a) "Fight the Power" is a Public Enemy song, b) Chuck D was a founder of PE, c) Chuck D is a pro-Napster spokesperson in order to understand the irony, if that is the intent. The Offspring jab is pretty obvious. You use our stuff without permission for gain, we do the same to you. Not exactly a brain-bending point being made there.

Also, I agree that "Fight the Power" is still relevant and has nothing to do with Napster, but don't you think that it's strange that Xzibit would try to make it have something to do with Napster?

"...there are lots of shades of brown, but not too many shades of balls. - Kwil
[ Parent ]
Maybe pretty clever (2.33 / 3) (#11)
by spacejack on Tue Jan 02, 2001 at 05:04:27 PM EST

Also, I agree that "Fight the Power" is still relevant and has nothing to do with Napster, but don't you think that it's strange that Xzibit would try to make it have something to do with Napster?

It's not strange at all. In this context it's brilliant. This is exactly the kind of mis-appropriation and out of context usage of art we'll see everywhere in a world without IP laws.

Wouldn't it be funny if neo-Nazis could use the song "Fight the Power" and there was nothing Chuck D could do about it?

[ Parent ]
Kind of like My Great Idea... (5.00 / 1) (#14)
by eskimo on Tue Jan 02, 2001 at 05:13:56 PM EST

I think it would be funny for African Americans to have bumper stickers on their cars that said, 'Black by birth, Southern by the grace of God.' That would definitely confuse the 'heritage vs. hatred' issue.

I am my own home. - Banana Yoshimoto
[ Parent ]

Re: Kind of like My Great Idea... (5.00 / 1) (#19)
by YellowBook on Tue Jan 02, 2001 at 05:56:05 PM EST

Heh. Here in South Carolina we've got something like that. Confederate Flags in African colours (Red, Black, and Green). Big during the "debate" over the Notorious Symbol of Opression last year.

[ Parent ]
one more (none / 0) (#40)
by spacejack on Mon Jan 08, 2001 at 09:32:41 PM EST

And of course as Canadians know, it's never hard to find a green Canadian flag with a slightly different leaf.. :)

[ Parent ]
Well... (4.00 / 3) (#13)
by eskimo on Tue Jan 02, 2001 at 05:10:20 PM EST

You did a good job of pointing out that it was possibly a jab. My point though, was that it probably was. I think the Offspring jab took a little more understanding than you grant. It was certainly directed more at fans, but most people in the record buying world are not as conscientious of the whole Napster issue as you or I, or definitely Xzibit or Chuck D.

In short, I think there is a pretty good chance that Xzibit didn't care if the peanut gallery caught the irony (short term effect, 'dear music fan, I don't like Napster.'). I DO think he expected Chuck D and other artists to, though.

To me, the issue has always been pretty clear from both sides. Chuck D worked hard to build a fan base, and enjoys a certain level of celebrity at the expense of control of his intellectual property. Lars/Xzibit/Dre do not feel the same way, though they have worked just as hard. I am a writer, and I agree with Chuck D, and I find Lars personally repugnant, but there are artists out there who I am sure could convince to at least question my viewpoint.

Picasso and Matisse used to mock each other in their paintings until they became friends. Things like this have been going on for thousands of years. But just because Xzibit made the jab does not mean he doesn't understand the significance of the song or its message.

I am my own home. - Banana Yoshimoto
[ Parent ]

A minor nit... but I can't resist... (2.50 / 2) (#41)
by SvnLyrBrto on Wed Jan 10, 2001 at 12:49:15 PM EST

Sorry, but I thought this was funny when I read it:

>and N.W.O. and Ice Cube won.

You've got two different mindless, pop-culture drivel genre's confused. I think you mean NWA-- they're the rap (or if hip-hop is the politically correct term for rap nowdays, so be it, I don't really give a crap what rappers want to call their so-called "music") group.

The NWO, on the other hand, is a faction in professional wrestleing. It includes many of your older "big-name" wrestelers like "Hollywood" Hulk Hogan, Randy "Macho Man" Savage, Kevin Nash, and The Giant. Actually, I think there are two *different* NWO factions now, each with different colors and music or something like that... this is if my playstation wresteling game is correct.

It does seem tho, that those old-timers have been put out to pasture in favor of the newer ones like Goldberg, "Stone Cold" Steve Austin, and The Rock... who, I think they've written into the #1 slot now... he's got a ST:Voyager episode, is starring in The Mummy sequel, AND has a NY Times Bestseller book!?!?!?!

(none of those new guys made into my the PSX game I have tho... my how wresteling's writers are fickle)



Imagine all the people...
[ Parent ]

Interesting (3.66 / 6) (#4)
by spacejack on Tue Jan 02, 2001 at 04:41:44 PM EST

This to me, was where it got very surreal. Here we have a song written and originally performed by one of Napster's strongest and most vocal advocates being covered by a guy wearing an anti-Napster slogan on his chest with a straight face. I had to wonder if there was some sort of irony I was missing.

I think the T-shirt/anti-Napster sentiment is interesting too. Either they're very politically clever to put the shoe on the other foot for a change by calling Napster "the man", or like you said they just went out on stage wearing whatever and made a Hollywood-style celebrity appearance.

But what I hope it illustrates is that being pro or anti-Napster has little to do with being pro or anti-RIAA. That is, it shouldn't have anything to do with what you think about the RIAA; if it does, you've misplaced your opinion (or you work for the RIAA or Napster in which case it's not your opinion at all). It reflects one's personal ideology towards copyright.

Those who embrace Napster because they hate the RIAA are naive, and would throw away more than they could possibly gain by destroying the RIAA this way.

Clothing (none / 0) (#20)
by kagaku_ninja on Tue Jan 02, 2001 at 05:56:38 PM EST

I seriously doubt he just wore "whatever", knowing he was going to perform on MTV. The anti-Napster shirt was a deliberate statement made by the artist and/or his managers.

[ Parent ]
He probably did it intentionally (4.42 / 7) (#5)
by 0xdeadbeef on Tue Jan 02, 2001 at 04:50:20 PM EST

because that sort of ironic juxtoposition has great value as propoganda.

I was incensed when I saw a Tommy Hilfiger commerical that appropriated the Creedance Clearwater Revival song "Fortunate Son". They used only the first line: "Some folks were born, made to wave the flag, ooh, that red, white and blue". The commerical was otherwise typical, showing preppy plastic people and imagry of the American flag. The meaning of the song, and irony of its use in this way, is probably completely lost on the target audience, who will now forever associate it with Tommy jeans when they hear it again. Score one for the pushers of ignorance and conformity.

The difference (4.00 / 2) (#9)
by spacejack on Tue Jan 02, 2001 at 04:58:36 PM EST

..is that Tommy Hilfiger would play "Evil Empire" or "Fuck the Police" uncut if it sold more clothes. They have no political ideology other than to sell clothes and make money for the company.

Xzibit may have worn the shirt to improve his image, get more sales, etc. But considering the popularity of the software with the public (or is that the mob?), I don't see how anyone could think it would "improve" their image. He most likely has a real opinion about Napster Inc.

[ Parent ]
La même difference (4.00 / 2) (#21)
by 0xdeadbeef on Tue Jan 02, 2001 at 06:33:35 PM EST

But what is ideology but the rationalisation of a vested interest? I don't think there is much difference there, but there is a difference in that I don't really think Tommy H. is trying to undermine the credibility of John Fogerty or trying to steal some of the cultural ammunition for criticism of the "establishment" and the Vietnam War.

But I'm sure the sleazy Madison Avenue huckster who came up with the spot was probably beside himself for cleverly turning a song of individualism and defiance into a patriotic jingle selling commercialism and mass conformity. He has an ideology, and he subverted the song in a way similar to the way Xzibit used "Fight the Power".

[ Parent ]
You raise a good point... (4.00 / 8) (#12)
by Zeram on Tue Jan 02, 2001 at 05:05:45 PM EST

The thing is mostly in mainstream hip hop (I know it's a generalization, but go ahead and try and prove it wrong) guys like Xzibit are all about the money. A nice cash advance a little bling-bling... Anyway the question of intent is a good one, my theory though is he probably thinks napster is taking money straight out of his pocket and thus the anti-napster t-shirt, and at the same time he's all about the power of the social aspects of the message in "Fight the Power". I don't think the the irony of it seriously dawned on him (however anything is possible) or if it did only marginally and he didn't even consider it worth a second thought. It is rather funny and in it's own way thought provoking.
Like Anime? In the Philly metro area? Welcome to the machine...
Rebellion is cool! (4.16 / 12) (#17)
by ObeseWhale on Tue Jan 02, 2001 at 05:40:32 PM EST

Sorry if I make some false assumptions as I have never heard of Xzibit or his music.

Regardless, this all comes down to "rebellion is cool". By bearing the message "fuck napster" on a t-shirt he believes he is being Mr. Rebel, by singing "fight the power" he believes he is Mr. Rebel. It makes him cool, gives him a tough guy image.

Pretty simple theory eh? Well, it makes the most sense. In my high school it is "cool" to be a skateboarding punk. Thus, kids run around wearing anti-flag shirts and listening to leftist punk music. Many of these kids proudly bear t-shirts with the anarcho-communist red O and A logo (Anarchy is Order) without even understanding the very ideas they support. In fact, I was entertained when our government class took political tests and they all ended up being conservatives. These kids don't understand the messages of their music, and don't know the first thing about anarchy. However, wearing the AO logo is "cool" and listening to the music is "cool", it gives them a false, rebellious image, when really what they are doing is just being conformist, and actually marginalizing the views of true anarcho-communists and punks.

The same goes for XZibit, who, because of his utter ignorance, is marginalizing Public Enemy's anti-establishment message by trying to be the cool rebel.


"The hunger for liberty may he suppressed for a time; yet never exterminated. Man's natural instinct is for freedom, and no power on earth can succeed in crushing it for very long."
-Alexander Berkman
About anarchy (none / 0) (#26)
by lastwolf on Wed Jan 03, 2001 at 06:08:50 AM EST

You're right, today it's cool to be a "rebel", by sporting T-Shirts who offend your parents and teachers. That all what is is though.

"Dance and laugh and play. Ignore the message we convey.
It seems we're only here to entertain.
A rebellion cut-to-fit. I refuse to be the soundtrack to it."
Propaghandi - Anti-Manifesto

People looked strange to me I said I wanted to become more political active this year. They look strange when you actually talk about stuff that doesn't appear on TV.

For those of you who want to know what Anarchism actually is about, read this. Click here if you want to know about it's current state.

Punk-bands like Propaghandi are trying to get people politically active, something which punks today are not even identified with anymore! That's too bad. Nowadays, punk is just another system you've got to fit into, commercialised. I just can't stand it much longer. My uncle is a politician, so I asked one friend to join me to talk with him. Let's hope, let's fight to actually get somewhere, instead of only sporting cool symbols and wearing cool clothes.

Sorry for this somewhat stupid rant, but I had to, I guess.

"Take your wings, go out and fly. Learn, read and soar the sky."

[ Parent ]
My fave rebel song (5.00 / 1) (#27)
by error 404 on Wed Jan 03, 2001 at 10:06:47 AM EST

Kind of old, but Adam Ant (an obvious and honest poser in the original punk scene, back in the late '70s or early '80s) had a hit song titled "Stand and Deliver" in which he pretty much said "give me your money, you idiots". And they did.

Delicious pop culture hack and fine irony. And a decent tune, as well.

It's damned hard to be a legitimate rebel in a culture that encourages rebelion. I learned that from my very conservative grandfather, who referred to my jeans and t-shirt (yeah, I'm old enough that that was rebellious) as my uniform. What can you do when The Man wants you to be a rebel? My answer is a very polite "nein, danke". And yes, I have worn a suit and tie to piss people off.

Electrical banana is bound to be the very next phase
- Donovan

[ Parent ]
my f5 avorite rebel songs (5.00 / 1) (#28)
by Anonymous 242 on Wed Jan 03, 2001 at 12:50:41 PM EST

(1) The Beatle's Revolution is my all time favorite rebel song. Why? Because its so misunderstood. The song is basically a rebuttal to a would-be revolutionary. Lyrics like "We all want to change the world, but you'd better change your mind instead" and "But when you talk about destruction, don't you know you can count me out!" cement my interpretation. And yet, up and coming revolutionaries use it as some sort of theme song. Oh, the humanity! John Lennon cracked me up when in Revolution 1 he hedged and changed the lyric to "don't you know you can count me out (pause) in." Make up your mind, Johnny boy.

(2) The Dead Milkmen's You'll Dance to Anything is awesome for the miniscule amount of time it could clear a dance floor (even in the hey day of DM's popularity). I think the lyrics struck a little to close to home for the average alternative boys and girls.

(3) The Dead Kennedy's This could be anywhere (this could be everywhere) still gives me chills.

(4) The Sex Pistols Seventeen is the perennial song of the up and coming punk rock youth's. "I'm so pretty, we're so pretty, pretty, pretty vacant" says it all.

(5) NIN's Head like a Hole describes the Man (or the Woman) all too well. It also sums up the nihilistic image of rebellion all too man subscribe too in youth. "I'd rather die than give you control" has been the sentiment of rebellious youth for how long? And what happens? The man who penned "I hope I die before I get old" is now a multi-millionaire and pretty darned old.

[ Parent ]

Dead Kennedys (none / 0) (#29)
by kallisti on Wed Jan 03, 2001 at 01:35:23 PM EST

AS long as you're bringing up anti-rebel songs, what about "Chickenshit Conformist", "Nazi-Punks Fuck Off" and "Anarchy for Sale"? The thing I really liked about DK is that they were perfectly happy to skewer their own audience. It did earn Jello a very severe beating, however.

[ Parent ]
punk rock and Jello Biafra (4.00 / 1) (#30)
by Anonymous 242 on Wed Jan 03, 2001 at 01:40:44 PM EST

The thing I really liked about DK is that they were perfectly happy to skewer their own audience. It did earn Jello a very severe beating, however.

True, anyone accusing the punk rock movement of coherency and/or consistency doesn't know what he or she is talking about. "Look at all the young punks, they've got new boots and contracts. . ."

[ Parent ]

dk politics (none / 0) (#33)
by Delirium on Thu Jan 04, 2001 at 12:52:43 AM EST

The thing I really liked about DK is that they were perfectly happy to skewer their own audience.

Yeah, one of the most interesting things politically about the Dead Kennedys is that they were one of the first to recognize that the controlling fascism of the liberals is just as dangerous as the controlling fascism of the conservatives, while most punk bands were just predictible anti-conservatives (witness the myriads of anti-Reagan songs, while the Dead Kennedys were one of the few to pen an anti-Jerry Brown song).

[ Parent ]

The Beatles as revolutionary (none / 0) (#36)
by blixco on Thu Jan 04, 2001 at 03:51:45 PM EST

See, I think Anyone Not In Marketing understands that Revolution is about a *personal* revolution being necessary. At the time, the focus was on pushing for revolution in society with no clear goal: fight everything, beat everyone, gain the power....then what? Fall down to the next group?

I think the "count me out....er...in" line is pretty damn funny, and I think John meant it that way. He was a known goof, especially in sessions.

Hrmmm...dead milkmen. Damn, I'm gonna' have to dig up those albums now. Bitchin' Camaro is stuck in my head.

The root of the problem has been isolated.
[ Parent ]
Anarchists and "conservatives". (none / 0) (#34)
by Brandybuck on Thu Jan 04, 2001 at 01:09:11 AM EST

In fact, I was entertained when our government class took political tests and they all ended up being conservatives. Not really surprising when you think about it. Most political tests are really lame (the Nolan Chart included). A two dimension axis is most likely going to have liberals leaning to more government and convservatives leaning towards less. My guess is that the anarchists' dislike of government skewed them more to the right than to the left.

[ Parent ]
What are you saying? (2.00 / 1) (#22)
by malikcoates on Tue Jan 02, 2001 at 07:49:51 PM EST

Umm, I don't get it. What gives the impression that using Public Enemy's music has anything to do with agreeing or disagreeing with Chuck D's political stances? I would think there are plenty of simpler ways to look at this.

This is Rap we're talking about. Rap uses other peoples music is used all the time. Sometimes without the permision of the music's creators. Most of the time it just means they like that sound and is not meant as a political statement of anykind.

When Xhibit says, "Fuck Napster" maybe all he's really saying is "Shut the Fuck up about Napster", instead of "Stop Napster". It's just that "Shut The Fuck up about Napster" doesn't fit too well on a T-shirt. I for one would agree with him if that's what he meant.

One more thing, Xhibit is gangster rapper? I guess you could call him that but it's a label that doesn't mean much anymore.

Fuck Napster (none / 0) (#23)
by malikcoates on Tue Jan 02, 2001 at 08:08:27 PM EST

Of course "Fuck Napster" might have also meant, "Hey ladies.. go fuck that napster kid, Shawn Fanning". Or it may have meant "I'd like to fuck Shawn Fanning".

That's what makes "Fuck" one of the most popular words in the english language.

[ Parent ]

All in the context (4.50 / 2) (#24)
by vaguely_aware on Tue Jan 02, 2001 at 08:52:42 PM EST

Okay, I wouldn't argue about politics in rap music under ordinary circumstances. Did Puff Daddy really care what The Police meant with "Every Breath You Take" when he bastardized it into "I'll Be Missing You?" Doubtful. But the difference is that the context of the original tune is irrelevant to the new one because it is an adaptation, not a cover. Xzibit covered "Fight the Power," word for word.

As such, he had to know the politics of such a song are a part of it. He chose to either use those politics to give a message about something he had an opinion on or as a counterpoint to the politics of the song's creator. I find it hard to believe that when Xzibit (whom I believe had his last album produced by Dr. Dre) says "Fuck Napster" that he's saying anything other than "I am angry about Napster and wish it ill on all levels." However, that too doesn't fit very well on a T-shirt.

For the record, I called Xzibit a gangsta rapper only because I put most rappers in that category save for a few "novelty" acts like Will Smith. Perhaps it doesn't mean much anymore, which is why I do it. If it's incorrect, I apologize.

"...there are lots of shades of brown, but not too many shades of balls. - Kwil
[ Parent ]
just one point (4.00 / 3) (#25)
by streetlawyer on Wed Jan 03, 2001 at 03:56:34 AM EST

I wish I'd had time to submit this as an editorial, but celavie. "Fight the Power" is not a gangsta rap. It's got the Bomb Squad production rather than the Dre style, it's not about any gangsta topics, and IIRC it predates the first NWA album by about a year (I might be wrong on this one). But referring to it as gangsta is a bit like calling Bruce Springsteen thrash metal (take that how you will)>

yeah, I know, nobody asked, back in my box again.

Just because things have been nonergodic so far, doesn't mean that they'll be nonergodic forever

Okay... (none / 0) (#31)
by vaguely_aware on Wed Jan 03, 2001 at 01:47:00 PM EST

Just for the record, I never said "Fight the Power" was a gangsta rap song. I said Xzibit was a gangsta rapper who covered the (no label applied in the article) song. Actually, it has even been disputed as to whether or not Xzibit is a gangsta rapper, so I guess that's what I get for labelling.

"...there are lots of shades of brown, but not too many shades of balls. - Kwil
[ Parent ]
The Irony You Missed.. (none / 0) (#32)
by concept on Thu Jan 04, 2001 at 12:41:12 AM EST

The irony you missed is that you are probably the only person who noticed the hyprocrisy/ignorance in that performance...

The 'dumb consumer' state of the majority of the populace is truly saddening...

Yeah, well... (none / 0) (#35)
by vaguely_aware on Thu Jan 04, 2001 at 01:52:00 PM EST

Either that or I was the only one watching MTV on New Year's... :P

"...there are lots of shades of brown, but not too many shades of balls. - Kwil
[ Parent ]
some incorrect assumptions (none / 0) (#37)
by suntzu on Thu Jan 04, 2001 at 10:52:58 PM EST

really, you should know more about your subject. yes, gangsta rap is definitely still a meaningfull term. no, xzibit is definitely not a gangsta rapper. listen to at the speed of life (his first album), esp. songs like paparazzi and the foundation. also, check out the video for what u see is what you get, which flavor flav appeared in (i have a digital copy of it, and yes i will send it, email requests to suntzu@freeshell.org). flavor flav is one of the other founding members of public enemy. this was a cameo where flav didn't even have a vocal part in the song, so my guess is there's some sort of a decent relationship between the artists. and yeah, xzibit's very smart, smart enough to be that on point and subtle. he's, IMNSHO, one of the most talented rappers out there (btw, his new album is the first w/ dre). unfortunately, i missed his cover (i heard him say he'd do it, waited a little while, and still missed it, so i'm pretty disappointed), so i can't directly assess the situation. it sounds like even if i caught it, i might have a hard time judging the intent. but don't write off something you know nothing about, that just shows ignorance. xzibit's no cash money artist simply after cash (like i said, listen to paparazzi off his first album). although i disagree w/ the viewpoint, seeing napster as the power has legitimate arguments (esp in it's partnering w/ BMG). so #3 and #5 are invalid poll options, IMO. drunk is possible (he was a guest on a lotta alkaholiks tracks), but i doubt that would change things too much. people don't get that stupid when drunk (unless they're stupid to begin w/, see above comments on intelligence).

Assumptions from the typical viewpoint (none / 0) (#38)
by vaguely_aware on Fri Jan 05, 2001 at 01:03:49 PM EST

I appreciate the insights. I do think that you are making some assumptions here, too. First of all, I am not a rap fan. I listen to enough to know what I like and what I don't, but I never claimed to be any sort of an expert. My first error was categorizing Xzibit as "gangsta rap." But that ins't really even a point in the article, just a harmlessly false label. Exchange the term gangsta rap for whatever Xzibit should be classified as in your head if you like.

In some ways, this is precisely my point. I hadn't really even heard of Xzibit before his performance and if I had it was in a peripheral sort of way and I hadn't taken a marked interest. The information I have about him I garnered after the performance, for the purpose of the article. I doubt if I am alone.

From the average viewer's perspective we have this fairly typical rapper doing a performance with a "FU*K NAPSTER" shirt on. The message seems clear. "I hate Napster."

The points you bring up actually prove my point, which is that the message becomes muddled the more you understand to be true about Xzibit, "Fight the Power," Public Enemy and so on. Xzibit had a recent album produced by Dre. That's not incedental to me. Public Enemy was founded by Chuck D, who happens to be a Napster advocate (and vocal at that). Now you say that Flavor Flav, also from PE, is on presumably good terms with Xzibit. So what gives?

I admit I also made a mistake by assuming I could discern intelligence from occupation. That was wrong (and I'm surprised few others called me on it. I guess it's a common mistake). But I'll assume that Xzibit has the capacity to understand the implications of the song coupled with the T-shirt message; in light of what you suggest, what could his motive have been? Do you happen to know if Flavor Flav shares Chuck D's opinions on Napster?

"...there are lots of shades of brown, but not too many shades of balls. - Kwil
[ Parent ]
re: Assumptions from the typical viewpoint (none / 0) (#39)
by suntzu on Fri Jan 05, 2001 at 11:18:41 PM EST

well, it's a good start that you know enough about hip hop to know chuck d's position on napster. i guess it isn't a question of what gives. people who are on good terms can disagree like that, so i don't really see it as a conflict of interest.

here's the thing though: hip hop is very much an artform saturated w/ underground knowledge and inside jokes. so i don't think it's necessarily a bad thing that xzibit was possibly making a statement that went over his audience's heads. you at least noticed the irony, which is way better than the typical mtv viewer. i mean, fuck that, in my opinion, the artist is out there to do what he wants, not cater to the mtv fans. his performance got at least one person to start a discussion, and outside of the typical rap community at that (correct me if there really are a ton of other k5 hip hop heads). so i'd say something was done right. whether or not the screaming 13 year old n'sync fans got it is beside the point. that may be a lost cause anyway. so i don't think i'm proving you're point. you're point didn't seem to be that he was sending a muddled message, it seemed to be that he was being a jackass w/o a message (again, correct me if i'm wrong).

i'd assume chuck and flav share the same view on napster, since chuck hasn't said otherwise in his website's writings, but i honestly can't say for sure. either way, rap has a tradition of subverting the old to make a new point, so i doubt chuck would have a problem if he thought the point was argued genuinely and intelligently. i'll also admit, there's a good chance that xzibit's viewpoint on napster isn't incidental considering the team up w/ dre.

so maybe i missed the point of the article. if it was that xzibit did something outright stupid and inconsiderate i think i proved my point. if it was that xzibit shouldn't have been so subtle and unclear, well i stand by my point anyway, because i don't think that should be the artist's primary consideration. if it was something else altogether, well, sorry for misunderstanding. anyway, some people learned some new things about a rapper that'd been fairly underground until recently, discussion was sparked, etc, etc. so i think chuck, xzibit, and the k5 readership should be somewhat happy about the whole thing at least.

[ Parent ]
Fighting the Power | 41 comments (34 topical, 7 editorial, 0 hidden)
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