Truth, Poets and Money

June 26, 2007

A little rant about the rhetorical okeydoke Russell Simmons keeps parroting about "the poets who speak the truth you don't want to hear." In fairness I gotta say that if you really listen to everything Russell says on the topic, he's actually offering a nuanced position, not far from what I'm saying. But this 10% of his rap is so blatantly corny I'm afraid it drowns out everything else.

Posted by jsmooth995 at June 26, 2007 5:25 PM


Posted by: darksunn at June 26, 2007 7:16 PM

Excellent and true.

Posted by: Still Love at June 26, 2007 8:06 PM


Break it down! HAHAHA Can't wait for the OPRAH episode! :D

Why don't you throw in that minister that was steamrolling cassettes or CDs while you're at it! :D

Posted by: Bill Cammack at June 26, 2007 8:25 PM

imagine that jeezy a poet?! thaaaaat's riiiiight.

Posted by: zillz at June 26, 2007 8:56 PM

I'm definitely showing this to my class tomorrow, dude!
Also, nice Zappa reference (what, you thought I wouldn't catch it?): "I may be vile and pernicious but you can't look away/I make you think I'm delicious with the stuff that I say..."

Posted by: Joe Twist at June 26, 2007 8:58 PM

And thats the Truth, Ruth

Posted by: Belve at June 26, 2007 10:53 PM

Very on point Jay, Ru$$ell $immon$ fashions himself to be the official spokesperson of rap music just like Sharpton does with black culture. Both are out to exploit and make dough and come with self-righteousness. Just cause dude runs a popular poetry show doesn't mean he has the authority to dictate to the public his views on how rap and art converge.

Posted by: Jay B at June 26, 2007 11:30 PM

Your flippin awesome!

I think I just might link you to my site. I hope your new blog does well Jay.

Posted by: Don at June 27, 2007 1:07 AM

real pumped for this site
there's a ton u can do with this and you've already made some very crucial points
keep up!

Posted by: newby at June 27, 2007 3:00 AM

You're criticizing Russell for what he does best, staying on message.

Posted by: Clyde Smith at June 27, 2007 4:04 AM

stop hatin on me man, artist like me are the truth

Posted by: killa BH at June 27, 2007 9:53 AM

absolutely brilliant...

Posted by: Cheynne at June 27, 2007 12:46 PM

I hate that it seemingly always come back to a small group of 'poets', but Common has continually represented his reality without neglecting the the role that commercialism plays in hip hop. It was a bit of a shock when he appeared in an ad for The Gap (last year?) but after time I had to come to realize that this was in no way shocking or criminal. Common was representing himself in a tasteful situation in which both he and the clothing company profited from his appearance. The Gap seemed less Caucasian (not a bad thing, right?) and Common was exposed to an audience that may not have seen or heard of him otherwise (plus maybe there was a little monetary benefit in it for him ;-) )

For Simmons to continually bastardize the term poet he is doing little to expel negative feelings surrounding these rappers, or the rappers' vocabulary. Rather he is proliferating people's apathy regarding the situation instead of what he should be doing; in this case that might just be calling it like it is - flossing and skrilla, tricks 'n hos, all of this isn't necessarily the poetry of the streets, it's closer to the Women's Health magazine that unrealistically drives young girls to lose weight to 'better' their image.

Anyways, thank you for creating this discussion J-Smooth, I respect your words and look forward to future episodes.


Posted by: Chris at June 27, 2007 4:29 PM

haha flatlinerz, crazy hooligans

basically, Russell is on TV for the same reason. He wants to be able to portray a man who is deeply concerned with the wellbeing of hip hop, but ultimately going on Oprah is a good PR move for anyone at anytime, so he's still making that money...

but I'm surprised that this Don Imus thing is still carrying on, I mean, hip hop has been downright cruel to women since its beginnings way back before i was a fetus, and all of a sudden Oprah decides to take this opportunity to make a stand...come on lady, too late...

but once again, she's probably just tired of talking about how random chicks are in the middle of baby daddy drama everyday, and having a somewhat interesting (albeit a little stale) topic to talk about now will bring more viewers, and thus bring us back to the money...

so we got a show making money off of a guy coming on who's making money off defending a genre who is only out to make money

make money, money, go shoooooopin, take money, money, go shooooopin

Posted by: B Boy Cereal: Snap, Crackle, And Ya Don't Stop at June 27, 2007 5:53 PM

another thing, besides gravediggaz how many successful horrorcore groups were there? and did they all had to have the word grave in them?

Posted by: B Boy Cereal: Snap, Crackle, And Ya Don't Stop at June 27, 2007 5:57 PM

"another thing, besides gravediggaz how many successful horrorcore groups were there? and did they all had to have the word grave in them?"

Posted by: B Boy Cereal: Snap, Crackle, And Ya Don't Stop at June 27, 2007 5:57 PM
These were successful groups with the horrorcore tag:
Flatlinerz, Gravediggaz, Ganxsta Nip, Insane Poetry, Brotha Lynch Hung, Esham, Non Phixion and Necro. If you even want to umbrella Insane Clown Posse under the rap banner which they godforsakenly are in most record chains then boom!

Posted by: Jay B at June 27, 2007 11:01 PM

Oh yeah, i forgot about brotha lynch, esham and those other cats

i was never into that crowd

mostly becuase i was scared that if i listened big lurch would come at me all high on angeldust and eat my liver

Posted by: Tucan Sam Ain't Nuthin ta F Wit at June 28, 2007 8:45 AM

yo jay man, this is gold.

Posted by: julien at June 28, 2007 11:27 AM

Caught this of an Oh Word drop. NICE ONE. I'm the slime is the perfect intro. Well done. Well effing done.

Posted by: ream-team at June 28, 2007 10:33 PM

Ill Doc is dope. Hate to be a whiner, but I want more updates, faster! Serious, great stuff.

Posted by: Bobby Rockwell at June 29, 2007 2:37 PM

dude, you did it again! Man, they should put you on a panel. I think its just time we admit, that Russell knows hip-hop is as much of a cash cow as anyone else. Lets not pretend like he isn't a LABEL exec, like clive, and the rest. He's like the Michael Eric Dyson of this thing, cling to the side of the rapper so you wont lose credibility. Hell, he's like some of these rappers, say whatever to maintain street cred! (sigh) $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$

Posted by: Jason Reynolds at July 1, 2007 5:32 PM

Jay, Thanks for breaking it down for us... The way Russell dances around questions regarding issues with the culture of Hip Hop, Gregory Hines probably rolls over in his grave everytime Russell answers a question.

Posted by: DJ DRES at July 2, 2007 4:53 PM

Jay, I've never been to this site before, and was lured in by a friend of mine w/ a link to the i has a flavor music video. As I listen to what you have to say, I'm ecstatic to hear someone address hip hop culture as a whole, and the ugly side of humanity for what it is, humanity. I'll be adding a link to this site from my music blog


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Posted by: Gregory at July 17, 2007 6:31 PM

I'm with Jay but with reservations. If there is a hierarchy on the list of people and/or entities to target for the negative issues with hip-hop and misogyny, Russell Simmons isn't at the top of the list. He isn't in my top 50. MTV, Sony, Time-Warner execs will come before Russell. Actually to be fair, I don't know who profits and sits at the top of hip-hop projects. But I'd be willing to guess that Russell isn't in it alone and he isn't at the top. And he's not creating demand, he's supplying demand. So his lines ARE tired but why go after him and not the 100 board members you will never see? Oprah can't get those people to go on her show. They're in Bora Bora right now ignoring us while we tear each other down. I can feel it coming... Read the 1st line again before you torch me.

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Posted by: DesireG at September 27, 2007 7:55 AM

To be perfectly honest, I used to iodiolize Russell Simmons to the point where it was creepy. After reading his article in I believe XXL upon which he discusses his call to rap labels to sensor their music and is using the exact profanity that he is opposing to it naseauts me. It's like if Chamillionaire (who if you don't know has stopped cursing on all of his records, very admirable) were to start cursing in his interviews. And to be perfectly honest, the "reflecting their reality" excuse is just overly played-out, these "gangster" artists are commercial thugs, look at Talib Kweli, Pharoahe Monch, Saigon who reflect their reality but don't hype it... I'm not gonna say "F" Russell, because Russell is one of the founding fathers of hip-hop. What I am going to say is, hypocrite.

Posted by: G-Harp The Producer at October 10, 2007 6:01 PM

Hold Up! I've gotta say this cuz I think we've lost our way some where in the language in Hip Hop debate. Why is it that we've fallen victim to this simplistic explanation of word usage in rhymescapes and meaning in Hip Hop lyrics? The music and it's layers of meaning and its strytelling has always been more complicated than that. The arument is so oversimplified and we're slowly drinking the Civil Right Generations Kool Aid. Because you use those words does not mean you are talking about womankind collectively. Is the word woman synonymous by default with the words "Bitch" and "Ho"? At an early age I could discern that the word Bitch and Ho spit by s rapper didn't mean the my girl, the women in my hood, the women in the black community or my family. When a rapper rapped about bitches and hos in their music... they were talking about REAL Bitches and Hos. Do these people not exist anymore is there a shortage have they escaped to another planet? The Prostitute, the Groupie or the Gold Digger... so drunk off of the culture of materialism (Superhead anyone?) she'll do WHATEVER it takes to be with a man jus cuz he's got power or fame? And the same words and/or meanings can be attributed to men who behave like bitches or hos. Come On People! Let's not oversimplify this shit and throw the truth and/or simile out with the bath water.

Posted by: Kevski at October 19, 2007 2:06 AM

are you going to transcribe all these vids?

"reality-flavored cheeseburgers" - classic...

Posted by: hmmm at November 17, 2007 6:29 AM

Well Russell Simmons never actually specifies the type of Hip Hop artists that he is referring to. We know that Oprah, and the critics of "Gangster Rap" are referring to a particular type of rapper, but Russell Simmons has a broader view of Hip Hop. He is being vague on purpose. Some of the poets on Def Poets are Hip Hop artists. The attack on Hip Hop culture is based on the fact that highly visible and wealthy rappers such as Jay-Z, Nelly, 50 Cent and many others are broadcasting falsified images.

I do think that he has benefited from the exploitative aspects of the genre as its commercial appeal has grown. However, Russell is one of those guys like Rick Rubin that can truly say they fostered Hip Hop artists and the entire culture when nobody else would nurture it. Now he is wavering and that is not good.

Plenty of rap artists are business men, and I have no doubt that 50 Cent, Young Jeezy, Jay-Z and a host of other rappers are trying to double their dollars by putting out material that they think will sell. Nevertheless, the majority of the lyrics are self-deprecating and misogynistic. Gangster rap is the personification of black self-annihilation verbally through sound and the majority of the consumers are white. They are basing their stories off real individuals that dealt a lot of destruction. However, many of those men are dead or doing hard time in prison. Their impact was for a specified period of time. Rappers on the other hand are keeping these ideas and images alive without actually representing the truth of the matter. A lot of the gangsters the rappers like to emulate have a different take on life. Rap about it and become a multimillionaire, the guys who really did it never rapped about it and got death or life in jail. No real comparison. The kids emulating the rappers are prone to be far more misled than a kid actually learning about the real gangsters, their rise, and ultimately their fall. The rappers for the most part get to uphold the glamor and never face the consequences.

There is something inherent within American culture that loves to watch Black men engage in self-destructive behavior. They don't mind if they get wealthy doing it because they figure they will make a mistake and they can come take it all back from them. I don't think all Hip Hop should be personified the way Immortal Technique or Talib Kweli does it, I think it should be reflective of the artist's perspective. Most rappers are not artists, they are jive talkers. The truth does not sell as much as fantasy because the people whom the truth represents is living proof of it. The attraction of the marketing push to sell these images comes through attracting those people that will never experience anything quite like what the rapper is talking about in their lives. So a larger than life figure of a black man that was shot turned superstar rapper seems like something to people that never lived through such things. To the actual ghetto, he is just another black dude that got shot, it happens all the time. You can't market that to the "hood" because it's nothing special. Great vlog Jay. We need more sites like yours where intelligent people can discuss Hip Hop. Most Hip Hop sites are inhabited by kids that have not learned to think for themselves yet.

Streetweyez Sayles

Posted by: Streetweyez Sayles at November 18, 2007 6:55 PM

mad skilllssssssssssssss i dig your reporting

Posted by: curtis at November 19, 2007 6:32 AM

In Ref. what is percieved to be the TRUTH and Who are the POETS.
Ok but wait Jay,
didn't we just talk about "Group Home- realities" and the tramatic experiences in which some ghetto youth encounter? Did you not state that these youth develop coping mechnisisms to deal with the atrocities in which they've witnessed or been subjected to? Is hip-hop not considered to be one such coping mechnisim, stating what you know to be your perception. Isn't that, by definition the art, the core of hip hop. Isn't that why we love SLick Rick,the master storyteller,'cause he spun the story HIS way. Even after he got outa jail and made some homosexual reference. Yo, that was that man's story. If this is the case, why are we surprised that hip-hop has become the ghetto Hans Christian Anderson collection of hardships, b*tches, & other disturbing villans that these guys have encountered. Even Cosby can tell you something just 'aint right in our neighborhoods. Now if we're talking falsehoods such as the case of (what was that catholic school girl that was rapping all hard and her mama was like, "I don't know what happened she came from a loving family) can't recall her name- we'll then I feel you, to some degree. Now, why don't we the listeners take some responsibility in this. When suburban folk like WIll Smith tried to rap about what he knew- girls, mama's who don't understand, beautful summer memories- we called the shit corny. It's like the Enquirer, you think it's BS, you hate the way Paparazzi hazes celebs over- but when you're at the checkout, you acquiesce. Ok, Ok and what about those rappers that pay tribute to their cracked out Mamas on one album and flip flop and call somebody's daughter a b&tch & and a h*e on the next. It's like that Mad At Miles theory. Do you love the genius of the poet and hate their tulmultous ways or do you hate the genius and the poet and their ways. Wouldn't we be writing almost everyone in the hip hop world off. Jay you know I love you babe, so correct me if I missed the point, but when rappers stress misogynistic lyrics isn't it because there's a line of half-dressed Superheads tryna' get in the door. Hit me back with the Catholic school rapper's name- it's really bugging me. (sorry 'bout any misspelled words).

Posted by: Nyra-Jane at December 28, 2007 11:16 PM

hey i like this video russel smmonds to me never represented hip hop he just gave it commercial glory
i dunno what the hell common was doing there
but umm ya
hip hops problems are way beyond just lyrics
i dont think its beyond music , to me music has no limits
i listen to lots of genres metal, progressive,punk ,reggea , rock from south america(im spanish) overall i listen to good shit
my freinds are all hip hop or should i say hip pop enthusist to the point where they can say really ignorant things like
i was listening to this band called killswitch engage and the singer of this metal band is black
when i told them this they made the most racially ignorant comments like "hes white washed " stuff like that
and thats where the problems begin at a social level
black ppl are looked at as ppl who listen to hip hop and only hip hop and this is really bad for other races that wanna just listen to what they want, here nobody bags on me cuz im from south america so HA! but theres always some ignorant dumbfuck who says something about me not being "latino enough" he he
if your reading this jay i think you should cheak out the documentry "afropunk" its about black ppl who listen to punk cheak it out
at a musical level hip hop is very limited
rappers can barely keep their own live
not just that the whole producer thing is fucking it up albums no longer have a mood/theme to them it just sounds like a compilation of songs done by different producers, bands have only 1 producer per album and sometimes you cant tell the producers work cuz some bands have complete control over their musicianship that the producer doesnt need to tweak their instrumentals
on the other hand in hip hop the producer has COMPLETE control
to me this is why hip hop is so limited musically rappers work on theor freestyle but they really need make their own sound like play a guitar or something
wheres the hip hop version of Ben harper ?
wheres the hip hop version of incubus ?
wheres the hip hop version of the mars volta?
all great live artist that i believe very few hip hop artist can compete with live
ya the roots but we need more than just the roots !

Posted by: Diego at March 4, 2008 12:46 AM

they're out there diego. check out Murs for starters.

Posted by: bigD at March 9, 2008 9:51 AM

OK - about Russell's rhetoric on that Oprah episode - I thought it was just me, and thank God it wasn't. But can we also talk about him saying, in that same Oprah episode, that "Hip Hop did more for Black folks than Civil Rights"? WHAAAAAAAT??? Just 'cause HE and a few others made $$$? I love the music, and I go as far back with it as he does, but I also saw that, in 1989, after "Fight The Power", the industry quickly "shut it down" in terms of Hip Hop consciousness. And unfortunately, millions of young impressionable Black men's minds went with it. I watched in horror while, after all the rights we struggled for, instead of going to college, almost every young Black man in the early 90's - even in my own family's household - thought they could stay home and write rhymes instead. And we have the numbers - in jail and out of college - to prove it. Where does Russell think he - or any of us - would be without Malcolm and Martin?

Posted by: KPL at October 28, 2008 6:06 PM


Posted by: Tyson Woodard at November 13, 2008 3:32 AM

too the person who said, if there names has the word "GRAVE" at the end of them. not many & some had the letter "Z" at the end of there names tho?

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