Originally posted June 4, 2012
…and that’s sad because clearly there aren’t enough Black people dying in America.
Don’t be alarmed. The title of this post is just a lyric from Pusha T’s newest diss record aimed at Young Money. A quick background because you can get the super fun details elsewhere, Pusha T (one half of the rap duo The Clipse) has beef with Young Money. Specifically Lil Wayne. Probably Drake. Maybe The Weeknd? Whatever. Lil Wayne tweeted in response to the song, “F*k Pusha T and anybody that love em”. To which the other half of the Clipse, Malice tweeted in response, “Well I LOVE Pusha! That’s my blood and I ain’t never kiss em”, a jab of course at the fact that there is a picture of Lil Wayne aka “Weezy F Baby, please say the Baby” kissing rapper Baby on the lips which is hilarious if you’re homophobic. Just kidding. It’s hilarious because Lil Wayne spits homophobic rhymes yet arguably has some of the most homoerotic lyrics in all of rap music. But while a fun topic to explore, that’s not the topic of today’s post.
The topic of today’s post is Pusha T’s video for his diss track, “Exodus 23:1″. Specifically, how Pusha T showed more in the 4 minutes and 23 seconds of the video than any 60 minutes segment or documentary on American hoods in recent memory. Pusha T just issued the most targeted and widespread anti-drug and anti-gang PSA ever. Clap for Kanye West for funding this community service. Here’s what I mean.
Now, one may have seen the video and thought Pusha T was trying to prove he’s harder than Lil Wayne and the rest of Young Money. That’s a possibility. But that’s not what I got from the video. I think Pusha T was tired of the lying in rap. (Exodus 23:1 states, “Do not spread false reports. Do not help a guilty person by being a malicious witness.” [NIV] ) He was sick of rappers claiming to be gangstas and drug dealers. I think he decided to shoot a video showing what the hood that rappers rap about really looks like. It’s not beautiful.
From a purely aesthetic perspective, the video is different from everything out right now. It’s gritty. It’s dark. Many shots are in black and white. Most importantly, it’s solemn. This video was a gritty unveiling of the REAL hood versus the glamorized facade of “gangsta” perpetrated by Young Money and the rest of the rap world. That’s certainly purposeful. Most portrayals of the “hood” and “ghetto” in rap videos today feature the protagonist rapper pulling up in a shiny new whip while looking over the hood almost in gratitude for making them real. They pull up and get respect from drug fiends. There’s a false narrative put forth that the hood loves them when they come back after they supposedly sold all these drugs which, in case we forgot, breaks up homes and ruins black bodies.
Compare it to Rick Ross’ video for “BMF” for example, above. You see the random flashes of money. The shiny car. The hood approval. The transition from Anyhood, USA to the big city with no repercussion. You see no consequence or impact of the drug game. This is astonishing given the chorus, “I think I’m Big Meech, Larry Hoover.” With so much effort put into aligning himself with major convicted drug traffickers, you’d think he’d show the aftermath of drug-riddled hoods. But instead you have the flaunting of wealth purportedly accrued from selling drugs.
Now I look at Pusha T’s video and I see weak crack fiends and downtrodden residents. I don’t see pretty women, nice cars, and a 24/7 block party as portrayed in countless videos prior. Scenes of flickering TVs instead of HD screens, seasons old Rocawear instead of new Rolexes, an old Mitsubishi instead of a Maybach. Not a single “yellow model chick”, but instead a barefoot overweight cracked out white man. Pusha T took the glory out of pushing. The irony is clear. When the last time you heard it like this? It’s been awhile. But when you have Lil Wayne casually dropping gang affiliations in songs and Drake may or may not be throwing up those signs as well, it leads to an accessibility that we don’t really need. (This isn’t the first time mainstream rap tried to commercialize gang affiliation. Remember when we were all doing that crip walk dance? Yeah. Awkward to think about now, isn’t it?) It’s easy enough to get involved in some unsavory activities to make ends meet, do we really need to glamorize it and make it accessible? Pusha T challenged that narrative. Oh you want to shoutout your gang in a song? You want to claim to be a drug kingpin? You want to aggrandize it in videos, songs, and overall lifestyle? You want to make drugs and gang warfare an element of hip hop culture instead of a symptom of a greater disease of income inequity and achievement gaps? Fine. Just make sure you show both sides.
Not everyone will take from the video what I took from it. And that’s fine. But I think it’s gonna save lives. Everyone can’t be the kingpin. There have to be pawns.
Update: Almost a year later, I was right… Pusha T decodes “Keys Open Doors”