I’m convinced, after her segments on Troy Davis and The Jena Six, that Amy Goodman is a superhero and is singlehandedly saving the country, one day at a time.

Her interview with Dyson, which has him responding to statements by everyone from M-1 of Dead Prez to Mumia Abu Jamal, actually manages to inadvertently point out why people hate Jay-Z and explain why Bill Cosby is as sexist as Young Jeezy, and all in one interview.

On Jigga:

MICHAEL ERIC DYSON: Yes, ma’am. It was very kind of him to say. Another great genius, one of the great geniuses in this art form, and Nas, of course, is acknowledged for his rhetorical power and depth and the way in which he’s able to reach back to these traditions of black revolution and protest. Jay-Z is seen as a commercially viable rapper selling, you know, some of the best tracks and records in the history of hip-hop. But sometimes people sleep on. They think, well, he’s clever, but his cleverness sometimes obscures the kind of genius that he possesses that speaks to some of these political situations, you know. “All my teachers couldn’t reach me, / and my mama couldn’t beat me / hard enough to match the pain of my pops not seeing me. / So with that disdain in my membrane, / I got on my pimp game, / f— the world, my defense came.” That’s an explanation for what happens when fatherless-ness besieges a young black man and leaves him psychically vulnerable. So, Jay-Z is an incredible artist, who, yes, is commercially viable, but if you listen to the b-sides, “ I’m from the place where the churches are the flakiest, / the people been praying to God so long they’re atheist.” He really has an intelligence that you have to listen to.

That’s why people hate Jay-Z. Because he takes a line like “I’m from the place where the churches are the flakiest/the people have been praying to God so long they’re atheist” and sticks it on a B-Side.

Religion is one of the subjects in which Jay has been particularly prescient. Any economist can tell you why there are so many churches in black neighborhoods, and it’s not because they help people. It’s because they make money. That particular line reminds me of what Jay said about Nas during their battle:

Can’t y’all, see that he’s fake, the rap version of TD Jakes
Prophesizing on your CDs and tapes
Won’t break you a crumb of the little bit that he makes
And this is with whom you want to place your faith?

The verse is as much of a critique of Nas as it is of the megachurch phenomenon, and the use of religion as a hustle.

Dyson also has kind words for Nas:

Nas is one of the great rhetorical geniuses that this art form has produced. “It’s only right that I was born to use mics / and the stuff that I write is even tougher than dice. / I’m taking rap into a new plateau / through rap slow. / my rhyming is a vitamin, hell, without a capsule.” An incredibly fertile artist, a man who has been obsessed with trying to join political sensibility with street-thug truth and not celebrating it, but try to interrogate it, trying to ask questions.

At their best, these rappers are like ethnographers, you know, searching anthropologists trying to figure out the folk ways and the mores of the culture that they emerge from. And they’re spitting truth for those, witnessing for those who are left behind. And I think Nas is one of the greatest ever to do so and has written such a powerful music that has been balanced between high cerebral art and the kind of street vitality that it takes to make that music viable.

I like the identification of Nas as a rhetorical genius, since his skill with rhetoric rather than writing is what allowed him to Ether Jay-Z.

I actually believe Dyson is mistaken, that the line Nas spits is “the stuff that I write is even tougher than dykes.” Take that for what it is; a homophobic but witty line complicated by the fact that the toughest people Nas can think of are women.

Despite the fact that the entire interview is worth listening to, Dyson’s comments on Cosby are the most striking. Here, he makes it clear that you don’t have to call a woman a ho to treat her like one.

MICHAEL ERIC DYSON: Yeah, just turned seventy years old. Yeah, we’re still hearing a lot more from Bill Cosby, and look, God bless Mr. Crosby’s heart. He obviously has the right to say what he says. The reason I wrote that book is to argue against the demonization of poor people. My Bible tells me that to whom much is given much is required, and if you’re going to start beating up on black people who have failed, you can’t start with the poor. They have been failed. Now, of course, they have flaws like anybody else. But it’s the black bourgeoisie, it’s the upper middle class, it’s the rich black people who have sold their consciences at the price of silence in the face of denial of opportunity for their lesser-well-off brothers and sisters, and yet they would take the media spotlight that is hugely focused upon them to beat up on vulnerable black people.

There is nothing brave about demonizing poor black women. And if you talk about hip-hop’s demonization of black women, listen to Bill Cosby’s speech and tell me you can tell the difference. “These people and women having sex with the people coming through.” That’s gangsta rap against and vicious vitriol against poor black women. “The people have one daddy and two daddies, and so pretty soon you’re going to have to have a DNA card in the ghetto to determine if you’re making love to your grandmother?” That’s pretty vicious.

Dyson is observing that the reasons behind disgust over sexism in Hip-hop have more to do with Hip-hop’s overt evocation of our own sexism, rather than discomfort with sexism itself. Nothing Jay-Z or T.I. could say about black women is as devastating as what Cosby says, especially given his role as America’s surrogate black father figure. Cosby is no less patriarchal than Nelly, but he has infinitely more credibility. His understanding of a woman’s worth is the same as any music video.

Related Posts with Thumbnails