Oct 9, 2015

Pain & Perseverance: a mix by @FEELZ_

Pain & Perseverance.

I always love any chance I get to write a thought piece. I'm just glad I get to link that with my first love, music. Kafele came to me a few months back asking was I attending the Million Man March. I wasn't sure but he proposed we used our talents to curate a mix for the people. So with this platform and his skills behind the wheels of steel I couldn't refuse. With this mix we'll revisit old jams to contemporary songs that represent our struggle and what it means to be black and in America. So we empty into our nation's capital for the 20th anniversary of the Million Man March enjoy these tunes. Our cries over time have been reprised in protest and also in music. Join us in a trip from Jay-Z and Lupe Fiasco to The Roots and Mos Def. This was an amazing way to combine the two, and as always, Justice or Else! Below is the mix and a track listing containing a synopsis of its relevance to the mix written by Kafele Thomas.

Room 306 - Mickey Factz

"You know we are kings and queens/mistaken for the enemy/You know we will overcome/We won't stop 'til the race is won"

The story of Pain & Perseverance begins with the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Many people point to this event as the beginning of the dissolution of the Civil Rights Movement. After the assassination of many prominent African American leaders, the movement dissipated due to a lack of centralized leaders.

Minority Report Jay-Z ft. Ne-Yo

“Then it wasn’t on the nightly news no more/Suddenly, it doesn’t matter to you no more"

Hurricane Katrina was a tragedy for America as a whole, but especially devastating for the black citizens of New Orleans. Due to decades of redlining and discriminatory housing practices, blacks in New Orleans were forced to live in the lowest lying neighborhoods such as the 9th Ward. When Katrina hit, those neighborhoods were the hardest hit and unfortunately the least cared for. Media coverage was specifically naming African American citizens as “looters” and “refugees”, when they were simply people trying to survive after their countrymen abandoned them. This built up to Kanye West’s penultimate moment and one of the most important events in TV history “George Bush doesn’t care about Black people.” Even though we can all agree “Kingdom Come” was a dud, I think this is low-key one of Jay’s best tracks. You can hear his pain and disgust. Hov has never been a rapper who shows his emotion through his rhymes so the rawness of the track really pops out at you.

Don’t Feel RightThe Roots

“When the fridgerator’s nekkid and the cupboard’s is bare/People gotta strip nekkid and stick’ em up in the air”

Black Thought has always been an MC who always is in tune with current events and uses his music as a social tool. Don’t Feel Right describes one of the biggest issues affecting the black community – the lack of opportunity. Institutional racism keeps African-Americans segregated in communities with low property value, a small amount of jobs, poor schools, and crumbling infrastructure. The old saying “If I can’t work to make it, I’ll rob to take it” is one of the unfortunate laws of life in the inner city, which is the story of the next track…

A Tale of Two Citiez – J. Cole

“I look around like ‘Do you wanna be another nigga who ain’t ever have things? Guess not/ Last night, we pulled up on a nigga at the light like../ ‘Nice watch.. Run it."

Cole’s story shows how “If I can’t work to make it, I’ll rob to take it” sucks all people forced into these communities to play the game, whether willing participants or not. Cole tells the story of being broke in the hood and realizing that dire situations bring out the worst in people. Cole’s boy got jacked for his watch in the first verse, but by the end of the song Cole and his boys are the ones pulling the stick up moves, due to a lack of opportunities to get out of the hood the legal way. The rules of street life are messy and bloody, which in turns creates the biggest media farce of our time “Black on Black Crime”

Blacker the Berry Kendrick Lamar

“You sabotaged my community making a killing/ You made me a killer/ The emancipation of a real nigga”

K. Dot’s track is raw anger. He lashes out at America for putting the African-American community in the lose-lose game that it’s in and also his fellow brothers for perpetuating violence. In the track Kendrick refers to himself as a hypocrite for being mad at white America at large when black men and women kill each other every day. “Black on black crime” is a nonsense term that permeates through society as an excuse for why black people haven’t received our inalienable rights provided to us by the Constitution. Throughout history, violent crime often occurs in poor communities and crimes are committed by those who live in close proximity. Since most black people have been institutionalized into ghettos via the government and banks via predatory loans, most violent crime in the inner city is committed by those of the same racial background. “Black on Black crime” is the same as “White on White crime”, or “Asian on Asian crime”, but unfortunately, only one ethnic group gets that tag from the media.

Freedom Ain’t Free Lupe Fiasco

“Say that we should protest just to get arrested/ That goes against all my hustlin’ ethics/ A bunch of jail niggas say that’s highly ineffective/ Depart from Martin/ Connect on Malcolm X tip.”

Lupe’s track that samples the classic Pete Rock jam T.R.O.Y shows how the “American Dream” sold to us is fool’s gold. Not only does it leave behind many Americans behind, but America is built on resources from poor countries full of black and brown people via globalization. The realization that to fund the pockets of the 1%, billions of people are being shut out of prosperity to keep the machine running is disheartening. This track came out right after the Occupy Wall Street Movement and showed the violent response by the police to protesters and the trampling of our rights to assemble. The cold hard evidence that the powers that be aren’t interested in improve the lives of many is the root of this track’s feeling of futility and hopelessness.

The Pessimist Wale ft. J. Cole

“Got a pocket full of lint again, but it make no difference to me/ Fallin’ out with my friends again, but it makes no difference to me/ Goddamn, I’m hopeless/ Oh man, I’m hopeless”

The Pessimist is the build-up of all these issues. The feeling of hopelessness and despair is soul-crushing. Wale points to how so many different things are holding him back and not knowing how to find the silver lining. Life as a black man in America often feels like everyone is aiming at you and trying to kill you and your success. Your own community might throw shade at you for being one of the few to make it out of the hood, while you are facing institutional racism and a lack of acceptance by mainstream America unless you agree to fully assimilate into their culture. Cole’s line in the hook “still I pray” speaks to the church as a sanctuary for blacks throughout our history. The ability to pray for a better day shows our perseverance through all this pain we endure.

Don’tJuicy J

“They talk about peace/but how that’s gon’ be/ when police leaving young niggas dead in the street”

Juicy J’s track Don’t is short, but powerful, especially coming from a supposed Commercial artist like him. The track speaks to the overflow of anger at police brutality and how as Martin Luther King Jr. stated “Riot is the language of the unheard”. In Baltimore, Ferguson, New York, Charleston, Los Angeles, and countless other cities and towns throughout America, black people are often looked at as menaces and terrors for how we dress, act, and talk. We’re always followed in stores, stopped unnecessarily by the police, stared at when we’re somewhere we’re “not supposed to be”. Our mothers warn us about interactions with the police every day when we leave the house as children not knowing whether we’ll make it back in safely. America’s innate fear of the black body causes tension and hostility that builds up and boils over during these senseless killings.

AnimalsDr. Dre ft. Anderson.Paak

“Please don’t come around these parts/ And tell us we’re a bunch of animals/ The only time they wanna turn the cameras on/ Is when we’re fucking shit up”

During the protests this summer, media coverage and social media was filled with people from outside the African-American community judging us for our anger. A lot of these people forget that America was founded off of violent protest (Boston Tea Party, anyone?). The issues that go on in the inner city aren’t spoken about and addressed by the mainstream media, but when the riots occurred that was where all of the media focus was. This only serves to perpetuate the stereotype of violent scary nature and that an angry black populous is something for White America to be very afraid of. Most of the media and talking heads, don’t care about the systemic issues plaguing our community, but are only interested in the reaction for TV ratings. It speaks to America’s obsession with addressing the symptoms of the disease of racism, rather than focus on a cure to eradicate it.

Mr. Nigga Mos Def

“They say they want you successful/ but then they make it stressful/ You start keeping pace/ and they start changing up the tempo”

Mos Def in his classic, witty way describes how even when a black man manages to use his abilities to be one of the few to escape the perils of the ‘hood, he is faced with a world who doesn’t accept him. If one doesn’t conform to mainstream America, he is combated with multiple micro-aggressions every single day. From media persecution, not being able to sit in first class, eat at fancy restaurants, or drive luxury vehicles without being stared at like you don’t belong, even with the “American Dream” achieved, we aren’t accepted.

ForeclosuresRick Ross

“The white man call us stupid niggers/ We spend it all, nothing for our children”

“Foreclosures” by Rozay is the other side of the tale “Mr. Nigga” told. In the black community, we have a culture of materialism. Because we’ve never been able to achieve proper wealth, we spend our money flossing. We take pride in jewelry, cars, and, clothes more than stocks, bonds, and real estate. Financial education is severely lacking in our community, so that when we finally do hit our payday and get money, there’s a good chance that it will disappear just as quickly due to poor decisions. We’ve all seen the statistics on athletes and musicians blowing their fortunes. This stops us from building generational wealth that can further advance our communities.

Murder to ExcellenceJay-Z & Kanye West

“Only a few blacks, higher I go/ What’s up to Will/ Shoutout to O/ That ain’t enough/ We gon’ need a million more”

Jay and Ye dropped a gem speaking of learning to love ourselves and achieve our greatness. Very few blacks have been able to hit the heights of Jay and Ye and Hov laments that the more success he achieves, the fewer of his people he sees at that stature. It really speaks to the exceptionalism that one has to reach to attain that level of success from one of our communities. Unfortunately, the cards are stacked against many of us. Many black children are told as kids that we need to work twice as hard to get half as much, due to the circumstance of the world we live in. Belief in one’s self and trusting your ability to succeed and persevere to rise to excellence should be commended.

AlrightKendrick Lamar

“And we hate po-po/ Wanna kill us dead in the street fo’ sho’, nigga/ I’m at the preacher’s door/ My knees getting weak and my gun might blow, but we gon’ be alright”

K. Dot’s track speaks to the ability to look at the darkness of life, stare it in the face, and walk boldly ahead. Through all the adversity and pain, we’ve still managed to accomplish so much. There is a lot to take pride in from our community. Our culture has persevered through out countless assaults and is a living, breathing testament to our ability to withstand and remain firm. I left in Kendrick’s poem because although it’s a personal story, I feel it relates to all of us in our search for understanding and a place to belong in this world.

Hood Now (Outro)Lupe Fiasco

“What do you do when it’s so unequal/ Wear Michael Jordan’s with your tuxedo’s/ It’s hood now/ It’s hood now/ Yeah, yeah it’s hood now”

 Lupe’s track is fitting to close with. We’ve left an undeniable mark on not only pop culture, but America as a whole. Our ability to make lemonade out of the sourest lemons ever created is to be celebrated. Although fought a long, exhausting fight.. a fight where we’ve been knocked down repeatedly, we’ve never been knocked out. We’ve taken haymakers, got back up, and kept on swinging. Chipping away at the roadblock of racism in our way with jabs and hooks. Every generation before us has weakened it and left our mark on this world and it’s our duty to continue the fight.
Jonathan C. Ramsey
Jonathan C. Ramsey

Multimedia Journalist, Founder and Chief Editor of WTM Host of A-Side B-Side Podcast and more. I like to talk about stuff and write it down. Sometimes to a microphone. Either way, I need you to feel this.

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