'Diss' track posses do little but disappoint
The “diss” track. So now we know what they're doing in their downtime — when they're not shooting, looting and looking to turn an illegal profit by pushing illicit drugs into the mouths, noses, arms and other assorted body parts of the weak.
The weak come in different forms: those looking for a good time; those following the crowd; those who are down on their luck and have nothing better to do than smoke a joint, shoot up or snort some “blow” to arrive at a different reality or “consciousness”; those who have become addicted; those who want to try something new in the misplaced hope that they do not become the former.
Meantime, the druglords, and their underlings, are getting fat on the takings, with a collection of lawyers on speed dial should they need to outfox the Department of Public Prosecutions, which is developing an unwanted reputation for being a bit of a soft touch.
Any threat to this, or their territories, leads to violence, the sort of which has been threatening to ruin Bermuda's beautiful landscape since assorted groups of youthful nonconformists became “gangs” sometime early in the previous decade.
That they have chosen “diss” tracks to get their points across to one another before taking it to the next level only provides more ammunition to the lazy and uninformed among us who declare that rap music is nothing but a pile of rubbish and should not be circulated among our youth.
They said the same thing about reggae music, too.
But each music form has its champions whose body of work comfortably outweighs the negative connotations brought by the black sheep — the gangsta rappers and dancehall sounds whose proclivity for violence and abuses of women in their music run opposite to our sense of decency and respect.
Bob Marley, the most famous reggae star of them all, would be supportive of ragga music were he with us today, but not necessarily of all that comes out of the mouths of its modern practitioners.
So, too, Tupac Shakur, with rap; he who represents perhaps the greatest contradiction. Murdered at the age of 25 after a life that touched all the depths and most of the heights, much of what he once preached is not what we want for our children.
But, as with any young person who reaches maturity — some much later than others — he arrived at a period in his life, near the end, when he craved to remove the noise around him and focus on the good that he could do.
In that, whether it be his music, his writing or his movies, he was magical; and, posthumously, his thought-provoking raps and poetry are as much sought-after as any.
Much of Tupac's early career revolved around his upbringing: single-parent household, crime, drugs, racism, the Civil Rights Movement. He rapped and wrote about his life, so it was no small wonder that he started out as a militant musician. But what he would become was an icon; perhaps more so in death than in life.
“From the moment he was born, I measured his life in five-year periods,” his mother, Afeni, told Vanity Fair five months after Tupac's death. “When he was 5, I was so grateful. When he was 10, I thanked God he was 10. Fifteen, 20, 25, I was always amazed he'd survived. He was a gift.”
A month later, Christopher Wallace, aka, Biggie Smalls or The Notorious B.I.G., was shot and killed in Los Angeles, and with it went any chance of unpopularising the gangsta rapper from within.
But that is America. Blacks there have had to contend with the overtly racist South, the Ku Klux Klan, segregation, refused voting rights, the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr — all in our very modern history.
These things did not happen in postwar Bermuda; they are so not Bermuda. Which is not to say there was no cause for the 1959 Theatre Boycott to become an inextricable part of our history; we are ever so grateful that it happened, and we are eternally grateful to those who sacrificed so that we could be directed on to a more appropriate path and that every individual can strive to be the best that they can be.
But no crosses were burnt on the lawns of our “black” homes.
No “black” churches were bombed.
No black man has been hunted down like a dog.
No black person was ripped away from their family, never to be seen alive again.
No police officer shot and killed an innocent black man and got away with it; no white citizen did, either.
No one died.
So America has a lot of bad history of its own making that would spawn the gangsta rapper and, ultimately, the “diss” track when blacks began turning on one another. But that is not our history. Why have we borrowed it and attempted to make it our own, in a very schoolboy kind of way?
Like most things that cause division on this island, we have taken the worst of American culture and have attempted to play it off as our reality.
It is as disingenuous as Miley Cyrus would be were she to come out with a rap video depicting the “mean” streets of Franklin, Tennessee.
Our gang bangers and the wannabes in the “diss” tracks may not have been born into a life of affluence, but few in Bermuda can say they were destitute, either; not with our enviable standard of living for much of the second half of the 20th century.
So there is good cause to argue against the justification for these tracks, which have been circulating in Bermuda over the past three to four months, for there are no compelling social reasons.
If anything, other than betraying a lack of authenticity in their message, they prove only that we can copycat the worst of the vile language coming out of America. Which is a shame because there lies a modicum of ability in the “acting”.
However, on an island where offence is taken in a New York minute when there is never any intended, incitement of this sort is wholly unproductive. Especially with a few nutters having taken possession of weapons that can end once-promising lives in an instant.
Put alongside parts of the world where there is genuine strife, suffering and bona fide gangs, these “diss” tracks — a few mothers with blinkers on should be aghast now to discover what their “good sons” have been up to and where the Hennessy has gone — lack real street cred and might as well be the works of Miley Cyrus.