(Todd A. Smith)
One of the best things that comes from regularly appearing on the news talk show “Isiah Factor Uncensored” on Fox 26 Houston and Fox Soul is the who’s who of celebrity guests that might appear on the same day that I appear.
Just limiting the celebrity guests to hip-hop artists, I have gotten the chance to meet Willie D of the Geto Boys, Bun B of UGK and Lil Troy of “Wanna Be a Baller” fame.
However, the artist that stood out the most was New Orleans Christian rapper, Dee-1.
Sure, I had heard of Dee-1 before and knew who he was when I saw him.
But my preference for Christian music usually limits my fandom to contemporary and traditional gospel not Christian rap.
However, when you meet Dee-1, you know the brother is something special and that God definitely has His hands on him.
Furthermore, what makes Dee-1 special is that he knows who he is.
Dee-1 knows to whom he belongs.
And he knows what his calling is in life.
Many Christians know their calling.
But peer pressure and fitting in causes many to compromise their Christianity sometimes.
Not so with Dee-1.
He knows his mission is to clean up hip-hop music, which hopefully could spark a change in the African-American community because many young people are enamored with the criminal tales from the streets that are often glamorized in hip-hop.
What makes Dee-1 unique is that he is a younger artist, not an old head that is out of touch with the younger generation.
Therefore, his criticism of negative music hits harder than it would if it was someone from our parents’ and grandparents’ generations.
While some rappers have taken offense to Dee-1’s criticisms, many others like Benny the Butcher have acknowledged that there is much truth in Dee-1’s message of shifting the negative messages in rap music to more positive ones.
While rappers never created the problem in the inner city and other African-American communities, they have glorified the problem.
Musician Lonzo of the World Class Wreckin’ Cru, who gave Dr. Dre and Ice Cube their starts in the music business, said that before N.W.A glamorized the gangsta persona and lifestyle on records, his Compton, Calif. nightclubs had a few gangsters to attend frequently.
However, gangsters represented a very small percentage of his clientele.
But when N.W.A took off, many of his patrons wanted to act gangsta suddenly.
With gangsta rap, the paradigm totally shifted in a way in which many more people wanted to be street guys when back in the day real street guys tried their best to get people to stay away from the streets and on the straight and narrow.
Famously, street guys would give Tupac Shakur money to go to the recording studio when he was a fledgling artist instead of letting him sell drugs because they recognized his potential as an entertainer.
Street legend Big U would not let rapper Kurupt from Tha Dogg Pound go on a gang mission because he knew Kurupt possessed the talent to make himself a star in the music industry.
Gang members in Los Angeles would not let people bother singers like Montell Jordan because they knew they sang in the church, and they were off limits to street dudes.
And before N.W.A blew up, many record companies would not touch an artist rapping or singing about killing people, selling drugs or bad b******.
Now, it seems that if artists do not promote that negativity, they do not get the necessary promotional money, radio spins or even a record deal.
Even when N.W.A blew up, hip-hop had balance with conscious rappers like Public Enemy, lady’s men like Big Daddy Kane and LL Cool J and more pop rappers like The Fresh Prince, Young M.C. and others.
So, what happened because N.W.A probably did not know the effect they would have on the industry or the community because they did things for shock value even though what they rapped about was real for many who came from their background?
What happened was the industry saw that there was money in promoting death and destruction to the African-American community and they went all in.
Entertainment executives knew that they could get rich off our ignorance and make sure that our own ignorance kept many in the community down and out.
And while leaders from Louis Farrakhan to Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton have spoken out over the years, never have I seen someone my own age, and from the industry for that matter, show so much dedication to changing the downward trajectory that many see from the hip-hop culture.
And if some young artists did speak out against gangsta rap, it was not on the same consistent basis as Dee-1’s movement.
While I like Dee’1 song “Ready for You,” which he performed that day on “Isiah Factor Uncensored,” I love his movement and his dedication to the uplift of the young generation and our community.
Most importantly, I admire his courage.
It takes guts to go against what’s popular.
It takes conviction to know that staying true to your morals might not get you the credit you deserve in your field.
But it would take much more away from him if he lost his morals and convictions for fame and fortune.
Many entertainers like Tyler Perry and others have shown that a person can stay true to their morals and faith and become successful in the business.
Now, hopefully Dee-1 will show the next generation that a rapper does not have to spit poison to the community to be deadly lyrically on the mic without promoting actual death.