April 10, 2004
The New Dead Prez Video
I've always respected Dead Prez and thought it was good for hip-hop to have them around, even if I found some of their analysis short-sighted (such as their "f*** they schools" stance later adopted by Kanye). We've had them on the radio show and they impressed me as deeply, sincerely committed to making a difference for their community. Plus their music is funky.
But their new song and video "Hell Yeah?" Umm, I don't think I like it.
I'm all in favor of encouraging kids who think they are gangstas to show and prove by "banging on the system" instead of each other. But you need to know the difference between riding against the system and riding off a cliff with all the other lemmings.
Violent robberies of pizza delivery people, carjacking a family simply because they are white and drove into a black neighborhood, these are not revolutionary acts. They do not make you a freedom fighter. Far from pimping the system, this is doing exactly what the system wants you to do. This is obediently following the path laid out for you, straight into the bowels of the system until you are too deep to ever escape.
I'd like to think their intent is to draw in kids who are caught up in that cycle, so they can expose those kids to a broader vision and help them to elevate. But where is that broader vision expressed in the song?
I'd like to think the last ten seconds of the video are meant to indicate we shouldn't take the rest of it literally, that they're not actually condoning all the actions they describe and it's really meant as a cautionary tale, or something. But if that was their intention then they're basically saying their own song is BS, because on the record itself nobody gets arrested and nobody wakes up from a dream.
Can somebody dissuade me on this? Cuz right now "Hell Yeah" strikes me as Bill O'Reilly's wet dream.