Rhymefest gets his activist on

A couple weeks back, I wrote on the debate over hip-hop and gun culture. Anyone who spends any time tracking press coverage of hip-hop knows that when it comes to this issue, absurdity rules. In one corner of the ring: hysterical politicians that know nothing about hip-hop, but are perfectly happy to condemn it. In the other corner: die-hard rap apologists that are determined to defend even the most regressive elements of the culture.

Joining the fray now is Rhymefest, steadfastly refusing to ride for either position.

In an open letter to David Cameron, leader of Britain’s Conservative Party—who recently attacked BBC radio for playing music that “encourages people to carry guns and knives”—Fest defends rap and, hilariously, offers to discuss the topic over a cup of tea.

The Chicago rapper challenges Cameron to spend some time exploring hip-hop, promising that he’ll discover that it’s much more than “murder music or knife culture.”

Fest doesn’t let rappers off the hook though. Far from it. He believes that the hip-hop community is “definitely in a state of denial about our complicity in the glorification of drugs and violence.” And, in an interview with the British press, he debunks the lines so-called gangsta rappers use to defend themselves against their critics:

1. I’m only reporting what I see on the streets.
“It’s old, it’s tired, it’s not true. It’s an excuse to keep making money off the backs of the people and keep doing what I call poverty pimping.”

2. I gotta eat.
“I understand that but do you have to eat at the expense of my child? At the expense of minds and souls? It’s the same mentality as selling drugs. That’s why a lot of rappers are ex-drug-dealers. Even though you’re not killing us with crack you’re killing us with music.”

3. If you don’t want your kids to hear it, turn it off.
“I say to that: black families are born to a 70% illegitimacy rate. The father’s not in the house, the mother’s working or on drugs, so who’s raising the kids? You, the community, TV, radio. So what you’re telling them is how they’re [learning] who they should be when they walk out into the street. So does rap affect the behavior of children? Yes it does.” 

As extreme as some of these statements may be (I don’t like the generalization that single moms are always at work or on drugs), this is the closest I’ve seen yet to carving out a middle ground in the hip-hop and gun violence debate.

And, personally, I just love the image of Rhymefest sitting down for a tea party with David Cameron. This is either the oddest publicity stunt ever or a refreshing approach to dealing with C. Delores Tucker-style rap critics. It’ll be interesting to see if the politician invites him across the pond. He would have to be an idiot to turn down a photo op that golden.

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  • slap fire out a blog



    first dammit

  • http://rodneydugue.blogspot.com RD

    Say something of substance ( to the person who posted above me). Anyway, Fest does a commenable job in playing the buffer role but I fear he may be treading the dangerous waters of Cosby Territory with his shtick on the single-moms epidemic. Watch Out Fest, we want you as our ambassador, not as Bill Cosby.


  • thoreauly77

    that letter from fest WAS hilarious, wasnt it? just when he was taking himself a little too seriously, the tea party comment, and bam! the tone became more likeable. i am glad this is what youre writing about again miss henley. no more etherfest!

  • sandino

    damn yo, you don’t get NO comments

  • http://www.allhiphop.com Rey

    Good job, ‘Fest.

    Kudos to you, Miss Henley. I found this way more interesting than whatever the hell it is that Kris Ex talks about.

  • Jay W

    This post reads like a book report. You might as well have just posted the letter and the interview word for word. (Or better yet posted a link to the original article, about this letter that came out over a week ago.) Your commentary hasn’t added anything to this discussion. Im still waiting for you to step it up Tara.

  • tHe tRaNsIeNt

    tara..dont u know already u can only get replies on hea if u make your post about game/50, weezy, da south and lil’ brother?

    i kno u women have smaller brains but if even a dumb ass nigga like sickamore can realize dis then u can 2

  • Boner Jams 03

    Finally talkinb about something of substance..keep up the one good blog streak

  • Sonny Cheeba

    tell him to sell some records, then SOMEBODY will talk to his broke ass….

  • Meka Soul

    nice post. co-sign on all of this.

    now if only he didn’t go triple-3LW his 1st week out.

  • pop a poppa



    tell that Ryhmfest fag to sell some records, first then people will pay attention to his broke ass

  • http://www.ohword.com rafi

    Ha, dope move by rhymefest. Nice find Tara. I hadn’t heard about any of this.

  • http://silk.wirehotmail.com silk.wire

    if you ain;t a gangsta then shut up you brand knew ass nigga

  • NickeNitro

    Here’s something that never seems to get noted in any of this discussion: more non-poverty striken kids are listening to the [overblown] violent, misogynistic, drug lyrics than poor kids. And none of those more well-off kids seem to be feeling the “negative effects” of these lyrics.

    Isn’t it time by now that we all realize the the problem isn’t the music; that the real problem is the people in power in this country have gradually eroded any social safety net we’ve had, leaving people to live in inhumane conditions in ghettos.

    Don’t let the powers that be distract you into believing that people are poor and uneducated because of rap lyrics. People are poor and uneducated because of socio-economic policy, and all these negative conditions are a direct result of that, not rap lyrics. Fight the brainwashing.

    And if you’re a columnist for a nationally-syndicated magazine, you should be smart enough to or know better than to take words out of context. There was never any generalization about single mothers made – he simply stated the basic fact there are a lot of poor kids whose moms are forced to work too many hours or on drugs. That’s not a negative statement about anyone, that’s just how it is in really poor neighborhoods. No one’s saying it’s the fault of those moms or single mothers in general.

    Since you’re writing happens to deal with poor areas sometimes, maybe you should actually visit one someday instead of just sitting in your corporate office all day.

  • http://www.myspace.com/shahyadg Shahyad

    Uhhhhh, what does this all have to do with Canada? Isn’t that why this is called Northern Touch?

  • http://www.facebook.com DEDICATION

    WHO CARES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!SEL

  • Big J

    This was a great article. Now e-mail it to some label heads, and Radio Program directors.


    you know his album sold like 20k first week.Thats beyond a flop and on j Records.this dudes a clown its just music.Its like when you go to the movies if a movie is violent we dont blame the starring actors.Period i respect rhymefest but im an 80s baby and let me tell you not to many cats in the everyday struggle like myself are listening to rhymefest.I thought his song brand new was a joke or something.