It is now time to finally put this issue/topic to rest. Hopefully by now the message has been loud and clear. If there still remains doubt, confusion, or lack of clarity from these posts, I have indeed been unsuccessful in trying to make people realize the severity of the implications of a mindset, and lifestyle that has plagued our society for more than two decades. I truly believe that the lyrics posted are relevant to today’s problems, but who wants reminders about illnesses in a culture, a society? It’s like getting a bill in the mail that you’ve never really had intentions on paying. It’s there. You know that you used the service, product, or resource. You knew it was coming, and you were fully aware that money would eventually have to be forked over. The same applies here. You know what these problems are. So long as you/we keep ignoring them for the bliss of drama, and fulfillment through amusing distractions distorting our reality, these problems will continue to go unchecked. Common’s track was a reminder as well as a sign for hope and inspiration. He talked about three very important topics (absence of good character/morals, further devaluing of one’s already unbalanced self-worth from extreme adoration of material possessions for acceptance and strong desires for approval/acceptance from intimate relationship partners, and inspirations/aspirations to solve these problems by way of understanding, counseling, guidance through the art/craft of his music), and the obstacles that blocks one’s vision and ambitions. His first verse touches on many problems that he has observed in the ghetto (i.e. “I search for love throughout the ghetto/young girls is thick, but righteousness narrow, Blunted eyes of the youth search for a guide/A thug is a lost man in disguise, I walk through the valley with a life-preserver/Feeling like at times I might just murder“). This example clearly can not be over stated, as we are still, twelve years after this release, seeing these same exact things in many communities. What makes matters even worse is the state of our economy and job market. These things make it almost impossible to escape the many problems observed by Common in his verse. If we have no solutions or plans “in play” to rid of us of such things, what will the next ten years look like? Not all will be lost however. Some of our impoverished neighborhoods where these problems once ran rampant are indeed improving. The improvement has come by way of realtors, investors, “true visionaries” that realize, “it don’t take a whole day to recognize sunshine” . Moreover, since the early nineties, many of the universities in Philadelphia have been racking up properties at dirt cheap prices. How did they end up dirt cheap? Crime and poverty lowered home values. It goes back up once the area is cleared out, and makes way for new homes, businesses, and college students/graduates that look to enjoy the many joys and benefits city life offers. Gentrification? Possibly, but not likely. Many of the properties and areas where left unkept, unoccupied, abandoned, and uninhabitable. This process has been nearly ongoing for almost thirty years. So, what will the next thirty years bring us?
Common’s second and third verse indeed painted a more pivotal illustration by empathizing, guiding, and advising the far too often victimized women from their many, many vices influenced by a culture of poverty, and his own trials and ambitions as an artist wanting more out of life than what one may possess with his hands.
“Talkin to a friend about what love is.
Her man didn’t love her cause he didn’t love his (i.e. Lord, self)
Hugged her from a far, said what I felt.
You never find a man til you find yourself.
Time helps mistakes you can learn from.
Cuz one man (expletive) up, men you shouldn’t turn from.
You want a certain guy, (you) gotta reach a certain point too.
At that destination a king will anoint you.
Going through the storm many bodies seem warm.
That relationship died for you to be born.
You (are) worth more… than anything that you can cop at a store.
For you to grow, he had to go. So, what are you stopping him for”?
This verse has the most weight due to the fact that it can be used in a variety of ways. While it is clear that he is advising a woman about how to pursue a relationship with a certain type of male love interest/life companion/potential spouse, he also guides her on what she should be considering as one of life’s many lessons in order to not repeat the same mistakes. Furthermore, he helps her to realize her own self-worth, and how to look at a failed relationship as a new beginning, opportunity for something (or someone) better. Mos Def provides a similar example that reinforces this message, as well as give this verse a different vibe by applying another aspect of life to it. In the movie “Brown Sugar“, Taye Diggs is a talent scout for a record label looking to bring “true hip-hop” to mainstream America while battling with his truly genuine passion to create real hip-hop music, and dealing with the image driven record label executive who only seeks to profit from today’s “artists” gimmicks and hype. After abruptly resigning from his record label position to begin his own, he addresses a group of friends at a party about his decision(s) and how he has moved on. While mentioning that it has been about a few months to a year since he “lost” his job, Mos Def interrupts him and says, “You didn’t lose your job, the job lost you”. By adding this spin on the verse to imply an employer vs. a failed relationship gives it a new definition to which the same message should be heard, and a very similar solution can be applied.
The final verse in this song displays what Common would like to do with his art, his craft by reaching out to his listeners.
“Dealing with crab rappers, and groupie broads…
(and) record execs. At times it do be hard.
But, to choose words and be heard across waters…
doing something you like to support daughters.
Keeping your guys from collecting court orders.”
There really is no evidence or clarification needed to explain, or illustrate to both the intended and unintended audience what his mission clearly is.The agenda has been stated. Inspiration leads to aspirations. This brings us to the last group of artists that have/had the same types of messages and agendas in their music. De La Soul first jumped into the realm of hip-hop back in the early nineties with tracks such as, “Me, Myself, and I”, and the radio friendly collaboration with the Flava Unit/Native Tongues ”Buddy”. These were indeed those “innocent” tracks for many listeners that steered clear of the popular influences within hard-core rap music and gangsta rap. In the mid to late nineties De La soul released their “Stakes Is High” album which also debuted the self titled track addressing the many (growing number of) negative influences, overly exaggerated fictious lives of corner boys/hustlers, and the dangerous consequences when misleading the young and impressionable listeners. While the three songs used in these posts are relevant in the case against “Mr. Hip-Hop’s Savior”, this track has one line that I often say to young children, teens, and adults. It is indeed very basic and so true. And that, perhaps, is what indeed makes it so sad. The obvious is right in front of us, yet we don’t see it. It is the truth, but yet we avoid it only to enjoy the thrill as the victim being chased, or for the love of/for drama that comes with hate.
Stakes Is High
(Posdnous, verse one)
“The instamatic focal point bringing damage to your boroughs.
Be some brothers from the east with some beats that be thorough.
Got the solar gravitation, so I’m bound to pull it.
I gets down like brothers are found ducking (from) bullets.
Gun control means using both hands in my land.
Where it’s all about the cautious livin’.
Migrating to a higher form of consequence.
Compliments… of strugglin’ shouldn’t be notable.
Man, every word that I say should be a hip-hop quotable.
(Dave immediately following, verse one)
I’m sick of b****** shaking a****.
I’m sick of talkin’ about blunts.
Sick of Versace glasses, sick of slang.
Sick of half (expletive) award shows.
Sick of name brand clothes.
Sick of R & B b****** over (expletive) tracks.
Cocaine and crack which brings sickness to blacks.
Sick of swoll’ head rappers with their “sicker-than raps”.
Clappers and gats makin’ the whole sick world collapse.
The facts are getting sick, even sicker perhaps.
Stick-a-bush to make a bundle to escape this synapse.
(Posdnous finishing verse one)
Man, life can get all up in your (expletive). Baby you better work it out.
Let me tell you what it’s all about, a skin not considered equal.
A “meteor” (i.e. rock, stone, diamond, platinum jewelery) has more right than my people.
Who be wastin’ time screaming who they’ve hated.
That’s why the “Native Tongues” have officially been reinstated.
Stakes is high.
Higher than high.
Yon know them stakes is high.
Higher than high.
We talkin’ bout the…
Stakes is high, you know them stakes is high.
When we dealin’ with the…
Stakes Is High.
(Dave begins intro. to verse two, “Hey, yo! What about that love”?)
(Posdnous, responds, begins verse two)
Yo, it’s about love for cars. Love for funds.
Love for MAD sex, loving to love guns.
Love for opposite, love for fame and wealth.
Love for the fact of no longer loving yourself, kid.
We living in them days of the man-made ways…
Where every aspect is vivid. These brothers no longer talk (expletive).
Hey yo, these n***** live it!
‘Bout to give it to you 24/7 on the microphone.
Plug One translating the zone.
No offense to a player, but yo, I don’t play.
And if you take offense, (expletive) it! Gotta be that way!
J.D. Dove show your love what you gotta say?
(Dave, verse 2)
I say, G’s making figures at a high regard,
and n***** dying for it nowadays ain’t odd.
Investing in fantasies and, not God.
Welcome to reality, see times is hard.
People try to snatch the credit, but can’t claim the card.
Showing out in videos, saying they cold stars.
See, (expletive) like that will make your mama cry.
Better watch the way you spending cause the stakes is high
Y’all know them stakes is high.
When we talkin’ bout the…
Stakes is high.
(Dave begins final verse)
I think smiling in public is against the law.
Cause love don’t get you through life no more.
It’s who you know, and “How you,son”?
And, “How you gettin’ in”? And, “Who the man holding”?
“Hey yo, and how was the scams, and how HIGH”…?
“Yo, what up”!? Huh? “I heard you caught a body”.
Seem like every man and woman shared a life with John Gotti.
But they ain’t organized.
Mixing crimes with life enzymes.
Taking the big scout route.
And, n***** know/no doubt better than they know their own daughters and sons.
(Posdnous finishes final verse)
Yo, people go through pain, and still don’t gain…
Positive contact just like my main man
Who got others cleaning up his physical influence.
His mind got congested, he got the nine and blew it.
Neighborhoods are now ‘hoods cause nobody’s neighbors.
Just animals surviving with that animal behavior.
Under I, who be rhyming from dark to light sky.
Experiments when/where needles to skin connect.
No wonder where we live is called the projects!
When them stakes is high, you (expletive) sure try to do anything to get a piece of the pie.
ELECTRIFY! Even die for the cash.
But, at last I be out even though you wantin’ more.
This issue is closed like an elevator door,
but soon re-opened once we get to the next floor”.
Stakes is high.
Y’all know them stakes is high
When we talkin’ bout the…
Stakes is high.