FNV NEWSLETTER #112
December 16 2002
In This Week's Issue
*Eminem vs Benzino on Hot 97
*The Source vs Eminem
*Bill O'Reilly Vs Jay-Z : He Debates The Source Editor
*Notes of a Hip Hop head by Kevin Powell
The FNV Newsletter c 2002
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EMINEM VS BENZINO ON HOT 97
Last week Eminem calls into Hot97 and speaks on Benzino Beef
Apparently, it was not a scheduled interview, he just called in to
talk, Transcript courtesy of Credit to D12World.com
EMINEM: I'd like to comment on this lil whateva
ANGIE: Feud ... I saw it on Mtv the other day , it's official
EMINEM it's crazy his 1st time on Mtv & he was on 106 & park too. I'm
bringing him success. I buried him already
ANGIE: Would you be referring to the song on the Green Lantern
Mixtape? EMINEM: I would be referring to the new one that he has with
the fake victory beat , I think he calls it "I Lost".... And all this
gangsta stuff he talks about , Mr. Tough Guy , & this & that , this
dude talks about killin my daghter on a record ... he does not want
to take it there ... if he really wanted to take it to the street
level then he wouldn't have went back to the studio.
ANGIE:Did anything happen for you to spark this? EMINEM: I swear on
my daughter's life Angie , I have never met this Man ... this girl
... Woman ,... she is obsessed with me... I think since I been out
for 4 years people forgot that I came from the bottom ... I remember
Kon Artist told me back in the day when we wuzz flippin burgers that I
was sayin ... I can't get a deal cuz I'm white , it's cuz I'm white ,
. but you know what I flipped the cards ...that I was dealt in life &
now I'm sellin more records becuz I'm white ... & this dude is a fat
40 year old shriveled up prune with big puffy clown hair , so take
them cards that your dealt & try to flip them cards.
Don't blame me cuz you suck , cuz you can't flip the cards .. this
dude Angie ... after hearing his last record could possibly be the
worst rapper in the world.
ANGIE: In your opinion? EMINEM: In a lot of people's opinion...I
never would think I would see the day when I seen the worst rapper in
the world ... goin against one of the best ... I'm makin the beats
too now... I did a tracks for Jay , Nas , for X for free... I don't
even charge for the track , cuz for me it's not about the money it's
ANGIE: Eminem's on the phone EMINEM: They say when you hit 40 that you
go through your second childhood , I think that's what this man is
goin through ...
ANGIE: Have You ever spoken to him? EMINEM: I never even spoke to
this man .... you can't speak to this man cuz he records
conversations ... what if I call this man & threaten him?
ANGIE: How do you know that? EMINEM: becuz he took a tape & called
Paul ... Angie you know Paul , he's not a fighter , it's his job to
descalate it ... I think it's a midlife crisis , he's done everything
from Will Smith records "Rock The Party" ... tryin to come back to
ANGIE: Is he really gettin under your skin EMINEM: The only reason I
answered this clown is becuz of the extortion ... going on between
him & Dave Mays , nobody wanted to address it in the business , you
talk to anybody in the business & I'm not going to put you on blast
Angie .. We all know what's goin on at The Source ... Ray Benzino
got Dave Mays shook , you can't be a rapper & own half of a magazine
cuz what happens is , when you call rappers to do a guest appearance &
they don't want to do it cuz you Suck, then he's gonna shut you out of
his magazine ...
ANGIE:So that's what motivated you EMINEM: That's what motivated me
... you know what bothers me is the mic rating system ....when i was
growing up The Source was a bible to Hip-Hop their word was Gold. He
even said in his song he's the five mic giver ,you can't do that , you
can't play both sides ... he's ****in the game up ...
ANGIE: I know you have yet to see a 5 mic review in The Source ...
EMINEM: I have yet to receive a 4 & a 1/2 ... everybody gets a Four ,
... that's the standard if you get a 4 1/2 it must mean Benzino wants
you on his album ... & as far as him calling me a Culture Stealer ...
as far as my contribution to Hip-Hop .. what's the difference between
Dave Mays & Jonathan Schecter when they started The Source 13 years
ago ... was to make hip-hop bigger , if can take Hip-Hop & open it up
to White People ... so that artists like Nelly, Ludacris , Nas ,
Jay-Z , Ja Rule , Cam Ron can sell more records than that's my
He can scrounge up change & call you from a pay phone ... he can
scream , & jump up & down .... go back into the studio & make a
100,000 more records about me & base his whole life about me , I WILL
NOT MAKE ANOTHER SONG ABOUT THIS MAN , ... This Guy is so Wack , I
can't even get D12 to do a song with me , their like why are you
wasting energy this guy is wack ... I'm in a position the more
attention I pay to something .. the bigger that it gets.
ANGIE: How are you not, what if the dude keeps makin song after song
after song EMINEM: he's done ... He's speakin from the grave ... I
put the Nail In The Coffin , I buried him wit Dirt ... I'm not even
sure he's in a coffin , I just put him in a hole .... & threw Dirt on
ANGIE: What would happen if you see this dude man? EMINEM: I'm on
probation .. so I would really not like to comment on that ... I
will let it be known that I got 3 months left on probation
ANGIE: Your song is # 1 today
EMINEM: that's a beautiful thing.
ANGIE: How do u decide who you respond to? EMINEM: If I get 10 people
coming to me on the street sayin why is such & such dissin you , if it
gets to the point when I hear it everywhere I go.....but this Woman
here she is done ... she is outta my life ...
THE SOURCE VS EMINEM
by - Gotti of The Source Magazine Online
TO THE SOURCE FAM:
As the only independent voice for hip-hop, THE SOURCE has a
responsibility to remain somewhat of a passive observer and cover
events from an objective standpoint. But certain situations require
us to speak out and take a more active role. And the ongoing battle
between Eminem and Benzino has taken to task issues that we feel
affect each and every member of the hip-hop community-and therefore
must be addressed.
First of all, the songs aimed at Benzino recently released by Eminem,
which attack THE SOURCE's credibility in the process, are propaganda
designed to deflect attention from the real issues. Raymond Scott,
aka Benzino, has indeed been a business partner and close friend to
THE SOURCE co-founder Dave Mays for a long time, and throughout the
years, Dave has supported his music. But don't get it twisted;
Benzino and THE SOURCE are not interchangeable. THE SOURCE has always
made it a point to keep Benzino's music career and the magazine
business from interfering with each other. The editorial staff,
including the controversial 5-mic committee, has, and always will,
operate independently of any outside influences.
THE SOURCE was started out of passion for hip-hop and love for the
hip-hop community. Being accepted as the "bible" of hip-hop by over
seven million fans monthly is something we take very seriously. Our
credibility with the hip-hop audience is the cornerstone of what makes
our brand so powerful. THE SOURCE is the only voice that has, for 15
years, accurately chronicled the growth of hip-hop culture.
So when Eminem claims that he's received unfair treatment in THE
SOURCE because of a conflict of interest, where is his qualification?
Marshall Mathers was first discovered in THE SOURCE's Unsigned Hype
Column and was given credibility by The SOURCE, throughout his career,
through covers, SOURCE Awards, etc. Most recently, in the August '02
issue, he was given a highly respected 4-mic rating for his latest
album and he even graced the cover of the May '02 issue.
But unfortunately, even though he seemed to be down with us in the
beginning, it appears that Eminem may be becoming a part of a
dangerous, corruptive cycle that promotes the blatant theft of a
culture from the community that created it. Willingly or not, he is
being used as a tool by the corporate machine to steal hip-hop and
make it their own. Not since Jazz and Rock'n Roll has a culture
influenced so-many people, so quickly, worldwide, the way hip-hop has
done, that the powers-that-be felt threatened enough to take it from
Hip-hop is the voice of a generation who struggled to make something
out of nothing. But now that mainstream media has become extremely
comfortable with hip-hop, it's clear that they've begun changing it to
fit their standards. Eminem's blonde-haired, blue-eyed persona has
been unanimously accepted, and as a result, he's become the machine's
poster-boy to influence an audience completely enamored in a once
forbidden, predominantly Black and Latino culture.
Just like generations past, when Jazz and Rock'n Roll were lost, it
seems that hip-hop culture is being snatched right out from under us.
The way things are going, ten years from now, when the mainstream
media looks back and explores the topic of hip-hop, it's quite
possible that the important accomplishments of some of our culture's
strongest artists, from Kool Herc and Afrika Bambattaa, to KRS-One to
Tupac, will be ignored in favor of familiar faces like Eminem.
As the only truly unrestricted voice for the hip-hop community, THE
SOURCE is the one medium that can accurately document and protect our
culture's growth and achievements. With that power comes the
responsibility to expose any person or company who affects our culture
negatively. In light of the recent chain of events, hip-hop must heed
the wake up call. We can't just sit back while our culture is raped
and pillaged. Hip-hop is all we have. We must remain steadfast in
our beliefs and ideals.
Hip-Hop's integration into the corporate world and mainstream society
is a testament to the strength of our voice-one that speaks to and for
a generation of young people from all backgrounds, ethnicities and
social conditions. But as our culture's power grows, we must be ware
of those that would take it away from us.
The music industry is feeding a lot of people right now-THE SOURCE
included, and everybody gotta eat. But what price do we put on our
culture? It's not an easy question to answer. Stay tuned to the
February issue of THE SOURCE as we offer testimony from people like
media assassin, Harry Allen, who are unafraid to address hip-hop's
current state of emergency.
O'REILLY VS JAY-Z
Last week we told you about Jay-Z being dissed by conservative
blowhard Bill 'OReilly. Here's a transcript of that show for you to
BILL O'REILLY: In the Children at Risk segment tonight, once again, an
display of inappropriate behavior by some public schools in the USA.
The rapper Jay-Z selling millions of records with corrosive lyrics
that demean just about everybody, same old story. A couple of
examples, if you aren't a big fan of his: "It's big pimpin' baby, you
know, I thug 'em, f-'em, love 'em, leave 'em, 'cause I don't f'n need
'em." All right. Another example: "Keep it moving face off with the
.38 scraped off. Keep shorty maced can't throw a 4-4 eight ball know
Those are gun slang. Sex, violence, the usual from Jay-Z.
In addition, the man was convicted of stabbing a record producer in
1999 and is a self-admitted crack dealer. Now here's the outrage. On
a recent promotional tour, the rapper was made an honorary principal
at 12 high schools across the country.
Joining us now from Detroit, Bill Johnson, columnist for The Detroit
News, who wrote an article entitled, "Who Let Jay-Z Into Detroit
Schools?" And here in the studio, Kim Osorio, the editor of the
hip-hop magazine, The Source.
Mr. Johnson, we'll begin with you. How do you see this?
BILL JOHNSON, COLUMNIST, THE DETROIT NEWS: This was a total breakdown
in school accountability, Bill. First of all, the school
administration made -- was irresponsible, as a matter of fact, for
leaving it up to the principal to make the decision to let Jay-Z into
the schools. The parents bear some responsibility as well for not
raising hell when they found out that Jay-Z was on the way to the
classroom. As you pointed out, anyone who would take the time to read
his lyrics, anyone who would take the time to look at his life history
would not think that he was the kind of guy you want to hold before
kids, hold as a role model before kids, or have kids emulate. It was
a total system breakdown in the Detroit public school system.
O'REILLY: All right. Kim, you want to respond?
KIM OSORIO, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, THE SOURCE: Yes, Jay-Z is someone that
the kids in Detroit can relate to. He's coming from the same
background. You know, he's representing the hip-hop community. And,
you know, I think we need to look at him for what he's doing for the
community in trying to uplift the community by going into the schools
and talking to the kids, speaking from experience, and saying, you
know, what's right and what's wrong.
You know, obviously, Jay-Z is, you know, one of the biggest rappers
out there, and he can have that sort of impact on the kids because...
O'REILLY: Well -- but I don't know if he said anything to them like --
give them any life advice, did he? Are you aware that he said, well,
OSORIO: Well, I know Fairmont Heights High School in D.C. had sent a
letter the next day saying that behavior had actually improved.
O'REILLY: All right. Mr. Johnson, did you hear what the man's message
was as principal of the day? I mean, we're -- we're not -- we're
getting conflicting reports here about what his message to the
children actually was. Do you know?
JOHNSON: I don't know what his message was, but it doesn't matter. He
shouldn't have been allowed in the school.
For many of these kids in Detroit and in urban areas across the
country, the rap music -- gangsta rap becomes a soundtrack for their
lives, and they're acting out in -- not only in the schools, but in
the day-to-day activities. Detroit is undergoing a major, major spate
of violence among teenagers, and I'm inclined to think that some of
that is the result of gangsta rap.
O'REILLY: Sure. There's no question about it, that it is, and that
this is a corrosive -- even if it's not leading directly to gangland
activities or shootings or stabbings, it's certainly coarsening
children, giving them bad words. We know from teachers say who have
come in here and said, "Look, we have 10-year-olds calling other
little 10-year-old girls bitches." And, if you incorporate this into
your presentation, you will not succeed in this society. You know
OSORIO: It's a form of entertainment, and I think for...
O'REILLY: But is a 9-year-old kid going to understand that? It's a --
you know, it's a lifestyle.
OSORIO: His parents should make sure that he understands that.
O'REILLY: What if he doesn't have good parents?
OSORIO: It's -- it's the parents job to raise...
O'REILLY: What if he doesn't have good parents?
OSORIO: ... the kids. It's not Jay-Z's job...
O'REILLY: Whoa, whoa, whoa.
OSORIO: ... to raise...
OSORIO: I'm a mother myself, so I know.
O'REILLY: OK. Yes. And I assume that you're a good mom, right?
OSORIO: I hope so.
O'REILLY: OK. Well, what if your child didn't have you there? What
if you died tomorrow and didn't have anybody responsible to raise your
child, and they start listening to this at 10 and 11 years old and
start to say those words? Would you be happy about it?
OSORIO: Jay-Z is speaking from the hip-hop community. You know what I
O'REILLY: All right. You didn't answer my question. Is there a
reason you didn't answer it? Would you be happy if your child...
OSORIO: Would you like to let me finish answering it?
O'REILLY: No, I would like you to answer the question because it's
very easy. Do you want your child to use the language that Jay-Z
OSORIO: No, I would not like my child to use language that Jay-Z uses.
O'REILLY: OK. Now if you weren't there...
OSORIO: But that's not the issue here.
O'REILLY: Yes, it is. Sure, it is. The issue that Mr. Johnson is
trying to get across is that for the public school system to endorse
this man, to give him an honorary principal title, all right, is
basically sending a message that his behavior is OK.
OSORIO: What behavior? Jay-Z is speaking from experience and coming
from the neighborhood that he came from, from Marcy Projects in
Brooklyn -- You know what I mean? -- turning his life around, is
showing that, look, I had to come out of that. He wasn't born with a
silver spoon in his mouth.
O'REILLY: That's fine. You can have an inspirational rags-to-riches
O'REILLY: ... without calling women hos and using people and this and
that. Am I...
OSORIO: I mean, it's a form of entertainment.
O'REILLY: I understand that.
OSORIO: You know, it's not always that a woman is being called a ho.
I-- what about Hollywood and the way that they depict women?
O'REILLY: Well, you can't justify anybody's behavior by pointing to
somebody else's worse behavior. I think that's...
Where is she going wrong, Mr. Johnson? Where is Kim going wrong?
JOHNSON: I have nothing -- I have absolutely nothing against gangsta
rap or hip-hop, the hip-hop culture. I think it's -- if people want
to accept that -- it's part of a genre -- that's fine with me. My
point is that it doesn't belong in the schools.
If -- the language is reprehensible, it denigrates women, it glorifies
rape and violence, and it just simply doesn't belong in the schools,
and any school administrator or an official that lets it into the
schools ought to be sanctioned themselves.
O'REILLY: OK, but Ms. Osorio is saying, to get through to these kids,
you've got to use somebody that they trust and admire, and they do
trust and admire Jay-Z.
JOHNSON: I think that's nonsense. I think they would have more
respect for someone like Colin Powell or Condoleezza Rice, someone who
has made an outstanding contribution to society.
O'REILLY: Do you really? Do you really think that they would respect
them more than Jay-Z? They probably wouldn't even know who those
people were, Mr. Johnson.
JOHNSON: Well, I think it's the failure of parents. If Jay-Z becomes
the icon, it's the failure of parents.
O'REILLY: Yes. That's for sure.
JOHNSON: Pure and simple.
O'REILLY: Now do you understand that the public school might not be
the right place for Jay-Z to show his wares? Do you understand that?
OSORIO: Why not?
O'REILLY: Because, as Mr. Johnson pointed out and I concur, he brings
a message of the street, and the school really isn't a place for that.
The school is to try to uplift you, to try to educate you, not to
teach you how to say the F word 15 times in a sentence.
OSORIO: I don't think that Jay-Z's message is teaching kids how to say
the F word in a sentence.
O'REILLY: But that's what he does. That's all he does.
OSORIO: Oh, that is not all he does.
O'REILLY: Yes, it is. That's pretty much all he does.
OSORIO: That is not all he does.
O'REILLY: I've got his lyrics here of seven songs, and there's an F
word in every single sentence.
OSORIO: And what lyrics are those? Like from what album? And I think
of him growing as an artist...
O'REILLY: Well, I've got "Missy Misdemeanor," OK. That's his new CD.
I've got "Life & Times of S. Carter."
OSORIO: Let's talk about...
O'REILLY: I've got all the ones your magazine pump out like crazy.
OSORIO: Let's talk about the "Missy Misdemeanor one where, you know,
he actually calls you out on attacking the hip-hop culture.
O'REILLY: Yes, he called me out and called me an F name, right?
Didn't he? There you go. Made my point.
OSORIO: Oh, no.
OSORIO: Come on. Oh...
O'REILLY: Kim, thank you.
O'REILLY: All right. Mr. Johnson, we'll let the audience decide.
Jay-Z did say F me, OK? But I don't care. You know, that's all
right. Not in the public school
This is an excerpt from the book 'Who Shot Ya Three Decades of HipHop
Photography' by Ernie Panicolli and Kevin Powell It gives us alot to
think about plus the book makes a wonderful Holiday gift...
Enjoy the reading..
NOTES OF A HIP HOP HEAD...
by - Kevin Powell
This thing, this energy, ghetto angels christened "hiphop" in the days
of way back is the dominant cultural expression in America, and on the
planet, today. You think not, then ask yourself why business
interests as diverse as McDonald's, Ralph Lauren, Sprite, Nike, and
the National Basketball Association have all, during the course of the
past decade and a half, bear-hugged the language, the fashion, the
attitude of hiphop to authenticate and sell their products. Or why,
if you are a parent, your child, be you a resident of the Fifth Ward
in Houston or an inhabitant of Beverly Hills, routinely strikes a
hiphop pose and dons mad baggy clothes when leaving home for school on
the daily, or when cruising a mall on the weekends. The rapper Ice-T
said it best near the beginning of the 1990s: "Hiphop is simply the
latest form of a 'home invasion' into the hearts and minds of young
people, including a lot of White youth." Ice-T should be crowned a
prophet for that proclamation. Sure, hiphop still rocks the
boulevards but it is so much a part of American culture-hell, it is
American culture, with all the positives and negatives attached to
that reality-that even the bourgeois reach for it and stake claims to
Therefore we can comfortably say that hiphop is bigger than ever. (If
bigger is better is another essay altogether.) Just as we have
witnessed the globalization of the economy, hiphop is global, making
heads nod from Cleveland to Tokyo to Paris to Havana to Capetown,
South Africa. Who knew that this thing, this energy, started on the
streets, in the parks, of New York City, circa the late 1960s through
the decadence of the 1970s, by working-class African Americans, West
Indians, and Latinos, would surpass jazz, rock 'n' roll, and R&B in
popularity and come to be the gritty, in-your-face soundtrack of a
generation, of an era? From where did hiphop emerge? Think
institutionalized White racism as the midwife for poor neighborhoods,
poor school systems, poor health care, poor community resources, and
poor life prospects. Think the United States government's slow but
sure abandonment of its "war on poverty" programs (sending more money,
instead, to that war in Vietnam) as the Civil Rights Movement came to
a screeching halt. Think the material and spiritual failures of that
Civil Rights Movement: the disappearing acts of leaders of color, the
fragmentation of communities of color due to integration, lost
industrial jobs and new migration patterns, and colored middle-class
folk jetting from the 'hood for good. Think the New York City fiscal
crisis of the early to mid-1970s, and the effects of that money crunch
on impoverished residents of color in the Bronx, Harlem, and other
parts of the metropolitan New York City area. Think of slashed art,
music, dance, and other recreational programs in inner-city areas due
to that fiscal crisis-homies had to make due with what they had, for
real. Add these factors together, multiply by, um, field hollers,
work songs, the blues, Cab Calloway, zoot suiters, bebop,
jitterbuggers, low-riders, doo-wop harmonizers, jump-rope rhymers,
lyrical assassins like the Last Poets and Muhammad Ali, Nuyorican
salsa and soul, Jamaican dub poetry, Afro-Southern sonic calls and
responses in the form of James Brown, the wall carvings and murals of
Africans, Latinos, Native Americans, and the drum, the conga, the pots
and pans, being beat beat beaten here there everywhere and it all
equals hiphop. Part of a continuum: magical, spiritual, a miracle
sprung from the heavy bags and hand-me-down rags of those deferred
dreams Langston Hughes had sung about years before.
Maybe it is no coincidence, then, that 1967 is not only the year that
Langston Hughes, the great documentarian of ghetto life, died, but
also the year that Clive Campbell, aka Kool Herc, came from Jamaica to
New York City, to become widely regarded as a trailblazing DJ and one
of the founding fathers of hiphop. Maybe it is no coincidence that
the last political act Martin Luther King Jr. attempted-his famed
"Poor People's Campaign," which essentially ended when he was murdered
on April 4, 1968-was aimed at the same subgroup-and their children-who
would ultimately drive hiphop culture. Maybe it is no coincidence
that when Marvin Gaye asked the question on his landmark 1971 album
What's Going On "Who really cares?" and, later, pleads "Save the
children" he was talking about, well, these forgotten children, the
"throwaways" of post-Civil Rights America, who would merely need
courage, imagination, one mic, two turntables, spraypaint and magic
markers, and cardboard or the linoleum from their momma's kitchen
floors, to not only make a new art, but a cultural revolution fueled
by four core elements, in no particular order: the DJ, the MC, the
dance component, and the graffiti writing.
Accordingly, we have not been able to avoid dreaming of a hiphop
America since, nor the ubiquitous image of a b-boy standing in a b-boy
stance. Ain't no secret that hiphop is a boys' club. No denying,
either, that the ladies have been in the house from jump. Pioneers
include graf legend Lady Pink, Sha Rock (from the seminal rap group
Funky Four Plus One More), the Mercedes Ladies, and entrepreneur
Sylvia Robinson, whose Sugar Hill Records label scored hiphop's first
commercial hit with the Sugar Hill Gang's "Rapper's Delight" in 1979.
And, yup, gotta speak it as I see it: "Rapper's Delight" shamelessly
borrowed Chic's "Good Times" rhythms and straight jacked the Cold
Crush Brothers for lyrics. So while a momentous disc, not mad
original. And the rest, as they say, is a very short herstory, with
names like MC Lyte, Dee Barnes, Lauryn Hill, Fatima Robinson, Gangsta
Boo, DJ Kuttin Kandi, and Missy Elliott. Exceptions to the rules,
these women have been blips on the testosterone screen. It be like
that this go-round because, I submit, there is a direct link between
'60s souls on ice like Malcolm X, Stokely Carmichael, H. Rap Brown,
Huey Newton, and Eldridge Cleaver, and all that posturing by brothers
around the way-the afros, the dark shades, the black turtlenecks and
black leather jackets worn, even in the summer, for the right mix of
rage and cool-at hiphop's break of dawn. In fact I think it kinda
deep that the 1960s marked the first time that rank-and-file Black
people, especially Black men, used the word to tell it like it is,
holding back nothing. Replicate Nat Turner by thousands of suddenly
fearless coloreds and you begin to understand them was some angry,
Kinda deep, again, that the Civil Rights era literally overlaps with
hiphop 's first boom-baps and public-surface scrawlings. Might it be
possible that them brothers scared White America so bad that as the
movement was ending it was them same brothers who were
disproportionately left behind? I'm not declaring brothers got it
worse than sisters-nope, not me; we got it bad equally, just
differently-but I am declaring that it is wild, when you really stop
to ponder this, that Blackbrownbeigebutterpecan men, principally the
younger ones, have always been viewed as dangerous by this country and
that a concentrated effort to hush these cats through police force and
a whole bunch of other things you can find in those FBI files did
leave a whole bunch of Black cats, and their Latino brethren,
invisible, unseen, gone, with the sounds of silence clanging in the
air. So hiphop, to me, is about these males, with names like Lee
Quinones, Seen, Crazy Legs, Dondi, Afrika Bambaataa, Cowboy, and Pete
DJ Jones, shining light on their invisibility. Think a merger of
Ellison's Invisible Man, Wright's Native Son, and Thomas's Down These
Mean Streets and you begin to get the complexities of the heads who
have populated the hiphop nation.
So, yeah, no question, hiphop owes a debt to the best and worst of
being so dude-centered. On the upside it is about male-bonding,
autobiographical vulnerability, reportage you don't see on your local
news, and, if you are truly willing to listen, some of the best
speak-to-the-times poetry this side of Shakespeare, the Beats, and
Sonia Sanchez. I cannot tell you how many White devotees have told me
they knew nothing about Blacks and Latinos until they began absorbing
hiphop culture. Nor have I ignored the throngs of Asian hiphoppers
who assiduously study and manifest the culture better than the Black
and Latino folks who birthed it. It is an organic cultural (self)
education for insiders and outsiders and self-empowerment in the face
of impossible odds. At its worst hiphop serves up some of the most
destructive and myopic definitions of manhood this side of all the
caveman-like things Mick Jagger, Sid Vicious, and other drugged-up and
oversexed rockers said and did in their prime. Indeed, like rock 'n'
roll, hiphop sometimes makes you think we men don't like women much at
all, except to objectify them as trophy pieces or, as contemporary
vernacular mandates, as "baby mommas," "chickenheads," or "bitches."
But just as it was unfair to demonize men of color in the '60s solely
as wild-eyed radicals when what they wanted, amidst their fury, was a
little freedom and a little power, today it is wrong to categorically
dismiss hiphop without taking into serious consideration the
socioeconomic conditions (and the many record labels that eagerly
exploit and benefit from the ignorance of many of these young artists)
that have led to the current state of affairs. Or, to paraphrase the
late Tupac Shakur, we were given this world, we did not make it.
Which means hiphop did not breed ghettos, poverty, single mothers,
fatherlessness, rotten school systems, immorality, materialism,
self-hatred, racism, sexism, and the prison-industrial complex that is
capturing literally thousands of young Black and Latino males and
females each year.
What hiphop has spawned is a way of winning on our own terms, of us
making something out of nothing. Hiphop is a mirror for the world to
look at itself, for America to take a good look at the children it has
neglected, to see the misery it has been avoiding or covering up.
And, no, it is not pretty nor pristine. Hiphop is the ghetto blues,
urban folk art, a cry out for help. The same cries that once emanated
from the mouths of a Bessie Smith, a Robert Johnson, a Billie Holiday,
a Big Momma Thornton, a Muddy Waters. Hiphop is rooted, to a large
extent, in traditional African cultures and the Black American musical
journey. Thus, no big surprise that the face of hiphop's songs has
mainly been Black, although others have grabbed the mic as well.
Hiphop is an unabashed embrace of the past, sampling any and
everything at its disposal, the world clearly its altar of worship.
Booker T. Washington once urged his peeps to cast their buckets where
they were. Hiphop, in its purest form, is about ghetto youth casting
their buckets into dirty sewer water and coming up with hope, new
identities, fly names, def jams, acrobatic dance moves, cutting-edge
art, and, if we are lucky enough, something other than lint in our
pockets, anger and confusion on our brows, and hunger in our bellies.
Given the mass appeal and multiple layers of hiphop, you can
understand why the images of Ernie Paniccioli are so incredibly vital.
I call Paniccioli the dean of hiphop photographers because I don't
know of any other person who is as uniquely qualified-and
positioned-to dramatize the culture as Paniccioli is. Nor do I know
of any other photographer who has single-handedly built a visual
vocabulary for hiphop as Ernie Paniccioli has. Recall James Van Der
Zee's majestic portraits of Harlem in the 1920s and you begin to sense
the breadth of Paniccioli's life-calling. We cannot think of that
Harlem without thinking of Van Der Zee, and we cannot think of the
first three decades of hiphop history without referencing an Ernie
Paniccioli print. His art and his personal saga are that intertwined
with hiphop's evolution.
For here is a man spit from the pig guts of New York City in 1947,
predating hiphop by twenty years; a man who was not supposed to have
had much of a life because of the price of the ticket given to him; a
man who learned the art of war, during his formative years, on the
concrete floors, in the libraries and museums, during his
socialization amongst hustlers and musicians, gang members and street
dancers, and as a sailor in the United States Navy. That Paniccioli
is Native American, yea, suggests he understood, the moment he could
decipher the world, what it meant to be marginalized and an outsider
in his own country.
It is this outsider status that has propelled Paniccioli's craft-first
his sketches and collages while in the navy during the 1960s, then his
photography beginning in the early 1970s. We know that some of
America's greatest artists-Zora Neale Hurston, Thornton Dial Sr.,
Prince Paul, to name three of thousands-have been folks beyond the
margins for much, if not all, of their natural lives. That
marginalization is a wide canvas on which they interpret their
realities and conceive new possibilities. An artist cannot do this if
he/she ain't got what painter Radcliffe Bailey labels "grit." And an
artist cannot do this if he/she has not been touched, cosmically, by
ancestral hands, to feel, to see, to be, freely. Amiri Baraka said it
best: All important art is self-taught and the most significant artist
is the one who feels he/she has nothing to lose and everything to gain
from a relationship with the soul, with the community, with the
universe. By self-taught I only mean that Paniccioli is an eternal
student of politics, the visual arts, literature, religion and
spirituality, science and mathematics, the JFK assassination, music,
love, peace, and war. Academia could not have molded an Ernie
Paniccioli just as no university molded Gordon Parks. There are
artists who do it because they are told to do so by an instructor; and
there are artists, like Parks and Paniccioli, who do it, and have done
it, because their work is blood, bone, breath, to them. Or: more
often than not school trains us to be something for someone else.
Self-education demands we train ourselves for ourselves and for the
people. Hiphop is a self-taught art because the MCs, the DJs, the
graffiti writers, and the dancers nurtured themselves, and each other.
So as Paniccioli was learning how to use a camera, he found himself
recording the biggest cultural phenomenon since rock 'n' roll.
Paniccioli knew it intuitively because he had seen Little Richard,
Chuck Berry, Bob Dylan, live. It was the same power, the same
passion, the same rebels without a pause. And like the pioneering
hiphoppers, Paniccioli's work was not sanitized. When you look at his
photographs you see warmth, camaraderie, texture, detailed
composition, an insider's raw, painstaking truth. Just as Edward
Curtis's iconic offerings of Native Americans presented them as regal,
proud, defiant, so too does Paniccioli's work portray hiphop society
as human, dignified, remarkable, as survivors, winners, and losers,
all of it brewed as uncut funk. It does not matter if a shot is at
the dance club or in an alley, at a video shoot or in a studio,
Paniccioli's pictures are murals, snapshots of history, reflections on
urban American fashion trends, and love-soaked tributes to this thing,
this energy, called hiphop. No matter how much bigger hiphop gets, or
if it one day returns to the margins, like the blues and jazz before
it, we will always have the photography of Ernie Paniccioli as a
reminder of what it was we created and what it was like for us hiphop
heads to dream our own worlds.
Ernie Paniccioli can be reached at email@example.com
Kevin Powell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
WHO SHOT YA? Three Decades of Hiphop Photography (Photographs by
Ernie Paniccioli, Edited by Kevin Powell)...the FIRST major pictorial
history of hiphop culture IN STORES NOW or ORDER at www.amazon.com
The FNV Newsletter c 2002
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