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.
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”
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.
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!)
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.