by G. Brown
Hip Hop has taken center stage in the music world the last few weeks thanks to three artists in particular–Childish Gambino, Drake & Pusha T. One of these artists brings a searing commentary while the other two are a reflection of the reason for that searing commentary.
Twitter, IG, YouTube users and all of social media have been glued to their smart phones and devices to see the next punch thrown in the rapper on rapper fight unfolding between Drake and Pusha T.
The memes have been brutal and publicity gold. Buzzfeed says of this latest ‘he said, he said’ “rap beef”…”The rap feud has always been a spectator sport which demands participation from those who are consuming the action. An audience, somewhere, has always played a large part in determining a victor. ” The article continues musing if musical beefs have gone too far with lyrics like Drake’s “Duppy Freestye” rebuttal mentioning Pusha’s fiancee by name and Pusha talking about Drake’s absentee father, his Jewish Canadian heritage and posting a picture of Drake in blackface.
For the massive fandoms of both artists, the beef was dramatic and entertaining, but when placed against the backdrop of music as a message or motivational, then both Drake and Pusha should drop the mic, take a seat and take note of Childish Gambino.
As Slate magazine observed, “This Is America,” is “the most, minutely …examined four minutes of the month” of May. Actor Donald Glover apparently wanted to broaden the conversation from his critically acclaimed FX show “Atlanta” which focuses on being Black America, so he allowed his musical alter ego Gambino to come forth with a satirical look at being Black in America and how other races and cultures perceive it.
The official video for this song is as beautifully hypnotizing as it is hauntingly horrifying. In its first week, the song shot to number one and has reached more than 218 million views on YouTube. It’s message is so riveting, dark and transparent that everyone from metal heads to your grandma is diving in to dissect it. The song is prompting reactions world wide from YouTubers in Great Britain, Korea, Pakistan and Africa. Many are praising the message even if don’t fully understand it, but they get the point enough to know this not your typical ‘my car is bigger than yours, my bankroll is bigger than yours and I got all the baes chasing me’ hip hop bluster.
Gambino goes in raw, unfiltered and head on for a collision with your consciousness. The video is rife with symbolism permeating American centuries of racism, violence and bloodshed. The lyrics tell of misplaced ambition and dreams with lines like “…Get your money, black man” while onscreen dancers party to try and distract us from all the horror happening in the background. The imagery gives us glimpses of gun violence, racism and police brutality while Gambino sings and dances to get that money.
The Drake vs Pusha brouhaha against the Gambino backdrop looked like another metaphor of this America. As two of hip hop’s biggest stars sling mud on record after record, their musical minstrel routine distracted millions of people from looking at the real issues facing Black America. As social media fed on the Pusha/Drake drama, all the social chatter also fueled each punch leaving the artist backed into a corner to punch back or be embarrassed. Buzzfeed says ” Drake has nowhere to go but lower, and I imagine I will watch this continue to spiral, with both excitement and concern.”
Controversy sells and Hip hop is not immune to it. So expect the music world to keep serving up beef as rappers try to prove who’s bigger, badder and the best.
Fortunately for music lovers, artists like Gambino are also on the menu risking record sells and being ‘unfollowed or unfriended’ as they pass on the beef and bring hungry listeners some brain food.