Dead Presidents

Historical facts, thoughts, ramblings and collections on the Presidency and about the Presidents of the United States.

By Anthony Bergen
E-Mail: bergen.anthony@gmail.com
Posts tagged "Rap"
Asker Anonymous Asks:
You haven't been posting as much hip hop stuff lately as you used to do but I'm curious about one question - Nicki Minaj or Iggy Azalea?
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

I don’t know what you’re asking me to do. All you did was throw out the names of two human beings and expect me to just make some magical connection or infer the intent of some question that you didn’t even ask. This is where I answer questions, not decipher what the questions might be.

I do know one thing is certain. I know that you’re not asking me to compare Nicki Minaj and Iggy Azalea as MCs. I know that you’re not asking that of me because I don’t have stupid readers and that would easily be the dumbest question that I’ve ever been asked.

Nicki Minaj is an MC. Nicki Minaj is a rapper. Nicki Minaj is a hip-hop artist. Nicki Minaj is all of those things (and many other things, too), and I know that you are not comparing her with Iggy Azalea, or asking me to compare them. Because Nicki Minaj is all of those things, and Iggy Azalea is none of those things.

The only similarities between what these two women do is that they make noises with their mouths into microphones and people give them money and recognition for doing so. But one of them also gets — I’m sorry, one of them “earns” respect. And one of them is just on TV and the radio constantly.

Nicki Minaj is a hip-hop artist, a rapper, an MC. Iggy Azalea is not. Iggy Azalea is a performance artist, and that’s the choice that she made and the choice that millions of people seem to support, just like millions of people supported performance artists like Bozo the Clown or Gallagher or Al Jolson. There are many performance artists in the world and many of them work hard. Some of them are talented and some of them are terrible. Some performance artists are respectful, culturally significant, and can be educationally important; some performance artists are offensive, either purposely or cluelessly ignorant, and, quite frankly, in certain cases, seem to be just a can of shoe polish away from performing in blackface.

Nicki Minaj is a hip-hop artist; Iggy Azalea is a performance artist. They do not do the same thing and they certainly are not at the same level. One of them does not deserve to be compared to the other or use the word “realest” in reference to herself. And, to be honest, one of them has fans who should be embarrassed for allowing music they think is catchy to blind them to blatant and shameful cultural appropriation.

This isn’t my area of expertise, though, so what do I know? I’m just a guy with opinions who knows hip-hop when he sees or hears it, and likes to think that authenticity is one of the most important factors behind making a hip-hop artist a hip-hop artist.

Asker Anonymous Asks:
Favorite rap song to name drop or reference a president?
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

Oh man, I’m not sure.  There are a lot of rap songs that mention Presidents that I really like!  And that’s not even counting songs that just mention the word “President” like Eric B. is President from Eric B. & Rakim or Jay-Z’s Dead Presidents.

I really like the whole song Mr. President from 2Pac — the version from the Happy Home single, not from the Still I Rise album (which was retitled Letter to the President).  It’s not really specific to an individual President, although it’s a song about the dangers and difficulties of life in the inner-city and addressed to President Clinton.

And because I am, deep down, a 19-year-old punk, I still enjoy these lyrics from Eminem’s Criminal:

"My morals went (fart noise) when the President got oral
Sex in his Oval Office on top of his desk off of
His own employee, now don’t ignore me, you won’t avoid me
You can’t miss me, I’m white, blonde-haired and my nose is pointy”

However, the best history-related rap song ever is the song from the Hamilton Mixtape that Lin-Manuel Miranda performed at the White House:

"The ten-dollar, Founding Father without a father,
Got a lot farther by working a lot harder/
By being a lot smarter, by being a self-starter,
By fourteen they had placed him in charge of the trade and charter/
And every day while slaves were being slaughtered or carted
Away across the waves, our Hamilton kept his guard up/
Inside he was longing for something to be a part of
The brother was ready to beg, steal, borrow, or barter”

If you haven’t seen or heard Lin-Manuel Miranda’s performance, go track it down now because it’s brilliant. 

Actually, I think it’s been totally over-hyped and blown way out of proportion.  It’s certainly not a diss song.  2Pac’s "Hit ‘Em Up”, Jay-Z’s "Takeover" and “Supa Ugly”, Nas’s "Ether"those are diss songs.  K-Dot’s verse in “Control” is just him dropping some names and basically saying that he wants to be the best MC.  I mean, he even says “I got love for you” and one of the names he drops is Big Sean’s, who shares the track with him.  Maybe hip-hop is so desperate for a beef or an old-fashioned battle that this got folks excited, but it was a roll call, not a diss song.  Even 50 Cent’s "How To Rob" which was obviously done tongue-in-cheek was more vicious than Kendrick’s verse in “Control”.

Also — and maybe I’m just getting old and clinging to the same hip-hop that I’ve always loved — I think Kendrick Lamar is kind of overrated.  I have Section.80 and good kid, m.A.A.d city on my iPod and certainly think he’s better than Drake or Rick Ross, but I see lots of people saying he’s the best rapper around right now and there’s no way.  Even if you take some of the major stars who have been around for a while (Jay-Z, Eminem, Kanye, etc.) out of the equation and just look at young guys or people who are just breaking out on their own as solo acts, I would put B.o.B. and Pusha T way ahead of Kendrick.  And that’s coming from a hip-hop lover who is also unabashedly biased toward acts from the West Coast.  I don’t think Kendrick is terrible or anything, he is just overrated.  In my humble opinion.

Yes, I do enjoy hip-hop.  I post tracks that I enjoy all the time!  If you do search my Tumblr with the tag “hip-hop”, you’ll see some of the songs I’ve posted in the past.  I’ll be sure to try to post something today.

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Tomorrow is the 18th anniversary of Eric “Eazy-E” Wright’s death.  The rapper died on March 26, 1995, about a month after checking himself into Cedars Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles and finding out that he was suffering from AIDS, not asthma as he had suspected.  Eazy-E became a hip-hop legend after bursting out of Compton as a part of the revolutionary group, N.W.A., along with Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, DJ Yella, and MC Ren.  The controversy stemming from N.W.A.’s gangsta rap classics such as “Fuck Tha Police”, “Gangsta Gangsta”, and “Straight Outta Compton” led to the FBI actually sending a letter to Ruthless Records in 1989 condemning the content of N.W.A.’s music because they felt it encouraged violence against law enforcement.

So, what’s that have to do with Presidents?

After a $2,490 donation to the Republican Party, GOP heavyweights Bob Dole and Phil Gramm invited Eazy-E to the National Republican Senatorial Committee Inner Circle’s “Salute To The Commander-in-Chief” luncheon on March 18, 1991 in Washington, D.C.  Senate Minority Leader Dole sent the gangsta rapper and former drug-dealer the invitation himself on February 8th, writing, “Elizabeth and I are looking forward to seeing you in Washington on March 18.”

Rocking a black leather suit topped off by his trademark Los Angeles Raiders hat, Eazy-E enjoyed lunch with some of the GOP’s top brass — people like Dole, Gramm, Arnold Schwarzenegger, George Schultz, and Sam Walton — and a speech by President George H.W. Bush.  While the voice behind “Boyz-N-The-Hood” didn’t get a chance to actually meet President Bush, Eazy-E made it clear that he was a fan and was even disappointed that Bush didn’t speak for longer.  While he famously rapped “Don’t quote me, boy, cuz I ain’t said shit” in “Boyz-N-The-Hood”, Eazy-E’s spokesperson said that the rapper “Loves the President.  He thinks he’s a great humanitarian and that he did a great job with Desert Storm.”

That might seem like something that would take away Eazy-E’s street cred.  Ice Cube certainly thought so, as he made clear after leaving N.W.A with his diss song “No Vaseline” when he repeated, “I never had dinner with the President!” and accused N.W.A. of ditching Compton.  But maybe Eazy-E and George H.W. Bush had far more in common than most people would imagine.

See, Eazy-E and Ice Cube and Dr. Dre and DJ Yella and MC Ren aren’t the only people to come “Straight Outta Compton”.  In 1949, George Herbert Walker Bush and his family (including another future President, George W. Bush) lived in the Santa Fe Gardens in, yes, that’s right, Compton, California.  The second child of George and Barbara Bush, Robin, who tragically died at the age of 4 of leukemia, was born in Compton.  So, while Compton was a different place in that era, two Presidents of the United States represented the “CPT” — at least for a short time.  And, as the photo at the end of this post demonstrates, young George W. was even strapped — more cowboy than gangsta, not surprisingly — as many young people have long been on the South side of Compton.

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Asker Anonymous Asks:
Which member of the Wu-Tang Clan (past or present) would you want to be the president?
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

Interesting, I was just debating this very question with distinguished scholars from the American Antiquarian Society.  And before he passed away, Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. and I frequently argued over whether Masta Killa should be considered a full-fledged member of the Wu-Tang Clan. 

Anyway, GZA has the nickname of the “Genius”, but RZA is obviously the leader, the true brains of the clique, and the the sun in the Wu-Tang Clan solar system that the other members draw their energy from and orbit around.  If we’re doing an old-fashioned Wu-Tang roll call (“The RZA, the GZA, the Ol’ Dirty Bastard, Inspectah Deck, Raekwon the Chef, U-God, the Ghostface Killah, and…M-e-t-h-o-d MAN!”), we have a lot of talent, but RZA has to be the President.  The great thing is that President RZA has himself a built-in Cabinet with his fellow killer bees!

And, if RZA is in the top spot, I’d want Ghostface Killah as his VP.  As I said, RZA is undoubtedly the leader, and while I’m a big fan and think highly of everyone in the group, I think Ghostface’s talent level is above and beyond any other Wu-Tang member.  I’d want him right at the top with RZA, ready to take over, if necessary.

(By the way, I’d like to see Eric Foner or Cornel West or H.W. Brands try to answer this question.  WU-TANG!) 

31,391 plays
C-Bo,
Enemy of the State

C-Bo (feat. Daz Dillinger): Crippin’

In honor of my fellow Del Paso Heights native, Donté Stallworth, who was re-signed by the New England Patriots last week and who caught a beautiful touchdown pass from Tom Brady last night, we show some love to our boys on the other side of Sacramento: C-Bo, the Garden Blocc, and any friendly faces on the Southside — even though Donté’s in Boston, I’m in St. Louis, and Cowboy is locked up in Federal prison in Arizona until May 2013, I’m sure 24th-through-29th Streets are still as strong as ever.

For any C-Bo or West Coast hip-hop fans, I’m sure Cowboy would be happy for the words of support or to hear what you think of his latest album, Orca.  He’s got nothing but time right now, so you can drop him a line:

Shawn Thomas
#46116-048
FCI Safford
P.O. Box 9000
Safford, Arizona 85548

Okay, we’ll now return to our regularly-scheduled programming.

559 plays
Wyclef Jean,
Wyclef Jean Presents the Carnival (feat. Refugee Allstars)

Wyclef Jean: Gone Til November

Fun fact about your beloved, brilliant, awesome, handsome, kind-hearted (I’d keep going, but I’m not one for bragging) Tumblr Presidential historian: This is definitely in my Top 5 list of favorite songs of all-time.  The order of the Top 5 (and even some of the songs in the Top 5) shifts around, but Gone Til November has a permanent spot and it’s usually near the top of the list.

For those of you wondering why I’ve been posting so many songs recently from Wyclef’s The Carnival, it’s because I’ve been on 1990’s hip-hop kick even more than usual lately. The Carnival is one of the greatest hip-hop albums of all-time, and I can’t believe that it’s been FIFTEEN YEARS since it was released.  All of the songs on The Carnival spotlight a memory for me and, listening to them together, I’m reminded of 1997 overall, which was a very good year.

So reminiscing on the good times is part of the reason, but part of the reason is also because I want to educate some of you youngsters on real hip-hop.  Put down the T.I. and step away from the Young Jeezy before somebody gets hurt.  Go ahead and spend some time with Wyclef and Lauryn Hill, De La Soul and A Tribe Called Quest, and dig around in the “R” section of hip-hop in your local record store (do they still have those?) because that cool house band on Jimmy Fallon’s TV show have a pretty good body of work to show for them, too.

10,439 plays
Daz Dillinger,
Only On the Left Side

Daz Dillinger: Only on the Left Side

1,169 plays

Tupac Amaru Shakur: June 16, 1971-September 13, 1996

(From my AND Magazine article on the 15th anniversary of Tupac’s death in 2011)

"When I was a little baby, I remember that one moment of calm peace, and three minutes after that, it was on.” — Tupac Shakur

Wait a second…I’m the guy who usually writes about Presidents, or reviews really stuffy political books.  What am I doing writing about music?

Well, I’m sure that some of you know that today is the anniversary of Tupac Shakur’s death.  I’m sure many of you have heard ‘Pac’s music and appreciate a few of his songs.

For me, however, Tupac Shakur was a big part of my adolescence.  I’d guess that many of my readers are either too old or too young, but Tupac was what I listened to throughout high school.  My younger readers just don’t understand and older readers just don’t get it — the East/West thing was huge when I was a teenager, and it was real.  I didn’t own a Jay-Z album until 2002.  I didn’t even buy Biggie’s albums until after he was killed.  My friends and I believed in the beef — as silly as it might sound now — and for impressionable teens growing up on the West Coast in some of the rougher neighborhoods in California, my friends and I were 100% in 2Pac’s corner.

Now, of course, we know that the whole West Coast vs. East Coast thing was silly, even dangerous.  The two best rappers of that time ended up murdered.  Nothing good came out of the rivalry besides some great records.  What’s most upsetting about the beef is all of the things we missed out on — Tupac and Biggie maturing, evolving, and becoming better at everything that they already did so well.

Why did I identify with Tupac?  I don’t know exactly, but I did.  I still do.  I still listen to All Eyez On Me constantly.  I still am mesmerized by his words.  There was poetry in everything that Tupac did.  Even when he was frustratingly stubborn and acting like a crazy man, there was always a twinkle in his eye that said, I know what I’m doing.

I don’t think ‘Pac was a gangsta.  I think he was an artist who went to extreme lengths to evoke an emotion from everyone.  Somewhere, in those last months of his life, the line became blurred.  I think Tupac had lost his way, and he was just about to find it when he was shot in Las Vegas.  I wish ‘Pac was still around.  I miss his music.  I miss the words that he was able to weave together in such a unique way.  Maybe 2Pac wasn’t the best rapper of all-time, but he was the best poet of my generation.

It’s strange — my generation was short-handed in heroes.  When we found people we looked up to, they either fell back to earth quickly, or they died.  I won’t go so far to say that Tupac was a hero to me, but his words helped guide me through some pretty rough formative years.  He made me realize that, even if I couldn’t get out of the place I was in, I could at least do something to fix the place.

Tupac Shakur was gifted and frustrating, and I guess I relate to that because that’s probably how my friends and family would describe me.  I am now seven years older than 2Pac was when he died on September 13, 1996.  I remember where I was when I heard he had been shot after the Mike Tyson fight in 1996, and I remember that I immediately thought what many of ‘Pac’s fans thought:  “He got shot again?  It’s ‘Pac…he’ll be fine.”  I remember being at a high school football game in Northern California on Friday the 13th when I found out that he wasn’t going to be fine — that he was dead.

Tupac Shakur was 25 years old when he died, and I wish he had as many years as I have had.  I wish a 40-year-old Tupac was making music, writing poetry, filming movies (remember, he was an amazing actor), and playing with the kids he never had.  I wish I could explain in a better or more eloquent manner why it matters to me that a rapped died sixteen years ago.  I guess it’s just this:  he wasn’t a rapper.  This wasn’t Lil’ Wayne or Drake or even Kanye West.  Tupac Shakur was a philosopher and he made my life better.  I wish his life had been longer, and since it wasn’t, I’ll play his music (as I normally do) and cap the day off with Tupac’s personal favorite — Don McLean’s “Vincent”, which is filled with lyrics that could have described ‘Pac himself:

Now, I understand, what you tried to say to me
And how you suffered for your sanity
And how you tried to set them free
They would not listen, they did not know now
Perhaps they’ll listen now

And, if you’re out and about tonight and want a drink, here’s what you should order:  one part Alizé, one part Hennessy — Thug Passion.  But don’t pour it out for ‘Pac; he wouldn’t want you to waste it.

How do you feel about Masta Ace and SlaughtaHouse? I think he's a totally underrated MC, and his latest album Son of Yvonne (a collaboration with MF Doom) is the best rap concept album I've ever heard. It's all about how much he loves his mother, and to me there isn't a better premise for a concept album anywhere :U
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

Masta Ace is extremely underrated.  I really like his stuff, although I don’t listen to it all that often, if that makes sense (same with MF Doom).  I’m never big on the hip-hop concept album deal solely because I have such a short attention span when it comes to music and I almost feel like I’m not getting the proper experience if I bail or skip through songs on an album that the artist intended for you to hear as a whole in order to understand what they were attempting.  Still, Masta Ace and MF Doom are both underrated in my opinion, and because I’m old-school, I’ll always have a soft spot for Ace’s Take a Look Around.

110 plays
Mos Def,
The New Danger

Mos Def: Sunshine

I don’t hate players, I don’t love the game
I’m the shot clock, way above the game
To be point blank with you, motherfuck the game
I got all this work on me, I ain’t come for play
You can show the little shorties how you pump and fake
But dog, not to Def, I’m not impressed
I’m not amused, I’m not confused, I’m not the dude
I’m grown man business, and I am not in school
Put your hand down, youngin’, this is not for you