Sunday, August 12, 2018


The death of democracy is not likely to be an assassination from ambush. It will be a slow extinction from apathy, indifference, and undernourishment.
 Robert M. Hutchins

For far too long, Black life in America has this perpetual feeling of a deepened, dark state of dispiritedness.  We wake-up (if we are lucky), climb in & out of the shower then migrate to the kitchen for a jolt of morning coffee. As the morning ritual continues, we turn on the morning news trying to either; avoid, justify, denounce & sometimes perpetuate, how Black people in America are being portrayed & betrayed by the corporate-owned news networks in their desperate attempt to make America white-er again.  The morning continues with a wink at the weather, a dose of celebrity gossip, before finally squeezing OFF on the flat screen’s remote right before Kayne West says something more stupid than his spousal choice. 

The journey continues by traveling over an hour to a job (if we are lucky) that we often hate or tolerate—just to be surrounded by a group of people [that if given a choice] we’d never hang out with voluntarily.  As noon hits, it’s lunch and lattes lazily, clock watching and  desperately awaiting the evening horn to sound.  Before night taps us on our tired shoulders, we try to hang out with or talk to or text the actual people we really love and want to spend time with…, just before tucking a loved one in bed—only to hit repeat for four more days.

At our society’s worse, we are often seen marching on T.V.’s evening news, wiping the tears of the new nightly social injustice.  At our community’s best, we are often cheering for people that abandoned the community five years before their celebrity & elite drugs ever kicked in.  The marches, despite the emotional optics, won’t (independently) change or fix much…, until we put our collective money where our overworked mouths and feet are.  Good luck explaining that "freedom plan" to the loved one that is on a line holding an iPhone, waiting to buy an iPhone, while Tweeting about the long line, online. Sure the “Likes” and the “Tweets” are considered (for some inane reason) the social norm of modern communication, but what are the people saying and who are they saying it to and, more importantly, who’s responding to timelines of extraneous, unfiltered, inconsequential rhetoric?

And, oh by the way, there is a fucking idiot in the White House with the keys to a nuclear bomb!!  If you are still wondering how the Adjective-in-Chief got in the Oval Office, look no further than the Hollywood’s ‘hood' orator, Spike Lee and his newest release BlacKKKlansman.  I feel like Spike’s body of work is becoming so extraordinarily, effortless, that we are taking his vivid, unapologetic, portrayals of black life for granted.  Much like we did to the work of a Nina Simone or a Mos Def, or a Bill Russell or to a lesser degree Donald Glover. 

BlacKKKlansman is one of Spike Lee's best films and it flowed fluently, like a Black Thought freestyle.  This is one of the rare Lee films that didn’t need Spike’s heavy-handed, socio-political thumb prints, as the plot needs no extra seasoning. The dichotomy-famed John David Washington was simply outstanding as the Black man, infiltrating the hate-based Ku Klux Klan.  

Washington got plenty help from the well-balanced cast, led by co-infiltrator, Adam Driver, whose performance was literally and figuratively toe-to-toe with Washington’s.  The insanely dope music cupped your ears between the ignorant oral tsunamis of hate speeches.  
Stars of BlacKKKlansman: JD Washington & Adam Driver 
Somewhat surprisingly, Spike was able to stay out of the way of this storyline that seemed to be pilfered from an old Chappelle Show skit, but far more real, while somehow managing to be equally funny. We can thank the satirical brilliance of Jordan Peele for those incredible captured moments.  
There are long, pin-dropping moments in the film where you can almost hear your theatre mate’s heartbeat, trying to grasp how humans can behave this way.  The gut-wrenching, hate-spewing, anger seemed so outlandishly-extreme that you’ll say to yourself, there is no real life,  industrialized nation that could ever withstand a group of mentally-deranged, lily-white lunatics until we near the end of the film when Spike Lee poetically spins America’s Oval Office chair around…, then the real tears start to flow... if you are lucky. 

1 love,
Ray Lewis

Saturday, July 01, 2017


“Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep.”

Scott Adams

Apparently, Shawn Carter nudged Jay-Z to wake him outta a typical Big Pimpin’ dream to spark a more culturally relevant Hip Hop project.., his lucky 13th.  This 10-track project, which could’ve been Tidal-ed “Keeping Up with the Carter’s” is actually pretty good. It’s not great and it’s definitely NOT a classic (Twitter era ears please put down your phones and pick up “Reasonable Doubt,” “ATLiens,” “Like Water for Chocolate” or a “Black on Both Sides” or a book, any book).., but it's definitely not wack either.  

I think 4:44 is above average. It sort of feels like watching Michael Jordan play a game left-handed to raise awareness for Sprint victims that lost their right arm when they purchased the Note 7. Jay-Z has always been wisely witty and exceptionally subliminal.  Back when he was lyrically atop of this Hip Hop game, he would take shots at emcee foes, who would have bled to death dancing to a track he dissed them on.  Today’s penthouse pimp seems more concerned with amending his broken marriage vows and destroying Eric Benét family reunions.

From Finish to Start

The last track “Legacy” is the Jay-Z I have been annoying my nieces and nephews about for years.  Blue Ivy opens the single with a simple question and then the Donny Hathaway sample explodes the inner soul. This sample is DOPE BEYOND WORDS.  

Jay’s blueprinted, storytelling is what makes me such a fan of the genre. From intro, Mr. Bey loosens the cufflinks and shares his recipe for the Carter’s future, while exposing some dark secrets regarding mainstream religion that has handcuffed many black families to this day.   

The project begins with the Shakespearian inspired, double entendre laced track “Kill Jay.” This single opens the barbershop doors to a sea of women that aren’t always privy to such honesty.  This track has so many confessesions and subsequent apologies that you would think Usher wrote it.  As barbershops become more co-ed, our cultural Queens may start to understand that spending 445 mortgage payments on wedding dresses isn’t nearly as productive as paying closer attention to the ingredients that make their men grow naturally—like real Hip Hop.  

1 love, 
Ray Lewis

Friday, May 20, 2016

The Don of a New Day

None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free.
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Like most people, I have given a great deal of thought to the rise of Donald Trump, yet unlike most, I am not really surprised that we are here. No one ever went broke underestimating the foolhardiness of the populous. As for the rise in Trump’s polling, I am more curious as to why it took so long? Let’s face it, the United Stated is anything, but… In fact, this one of the most uninformed, xenophobic, segregated, altruistic and polarizing societies the free world has ever known.  And, Donald Trump simply underscores those facts. Even when there should be unanimous unity, the residents of the US find a way to be divided and the authority tasked with the only goal of solving the obvious issues, becomes a larger part of the problem. Let’s enter police brutality, as Exhibit A:

More unarmed black people are killed by police officers than any other ethnicity in the county. 

Black victims launched an on-line campaign, called Black Lives Matter to highlight, combat and subsequently rectify the issue.

All Lives Matter. 

The liberties of a people never were, nor ever will be, secure, when the transactions of their rulers may be concealed from them. 
Patrick Henry

 Let’s pretend, for a second, that the statistical information is slightly skewed and there are actually other communities that suffer from a similar fate; at the bloody hands of those sworn to serve and protect.  That community’s verbal protest would probably be very similar to that of the black community’s Black Lives Matter mantra. What is incredibly inconceivable is…, a country where 62% of its states mandate a Death Penalty as a solution…, and the same nation that are instigators in a half dozen current world wars, offering an All Lives Matter rebuttal.

Predatory lending of financial institutions caused a massive crack in the country’s economic foundation.

US residents were forced to accept lower paying jobs, or working longer hours, or have stopped looking for jobs altogether.  Many residents turned to alternative means of survival and most of them aren’t legal. Even the least astute financial analyst will tell you violent crimes rise, when economic opportunities falls.

LEADERSHIP REACTION (this was a 3 point plan)
1.      Bail out the financial institutions that caused the economic meltdown.
2.      Appoint the chief executive hunters, Lawrence Summers and Timothy Geithner, to the current administrator’s cabinet.
3.      Allow those bailed-out institutions to buy back the bad debt and sell it for a higher premium to those most adversely effected.

You may be asking, what does any of this have to do with Donald Trump?  Well if you listen really closely, you can almost hear the chapped lips of Middle America (and beyond) humming the chorus to DMX’s 90’s hit single, “Y'all gon' make me lose my mind up in HERE, up in here.”

Enter Donald Trump to said theme music.

Trump is the American pimp that comes along at the perfect time.  He shows up right after the ole pimp slapped the shit out of his employee because she was riding on a tardy bus that brought her back late from her last trick.  Candidate Trump promises to make street prostitution great again—like the Marilyn Monroe John F. Kennedy days.  He wants to build a better brand of street walkers when whores were worth something to their masters. Then Donald wants to make better trade agreements with steel barrel manufactures, therefore, when the oldest professional’s unviel their naked breasts to the winter elements, the bigger barrels will help the burning flames burn much brighter and more vigorously. 

Donald Trump wants to lower the cost of white wall tires and car windows with diamonds in the back. He will make bigger and better hotels for the prostitutes to rest their mostly blonde heads.  Finally, Trump will do his best to repeal Obamacare, because the last thing a street hooker needs is medical advice from an African. 

Hillary Clinton is about to find out why one of the most loyal Clinton contributors is about to beat her in a general election.

And the only thing worse than standing idle, while her husband was screwing an intern, is pretending you care about the rest of the world that keeps getting screwed, while the price of Vaseline rises more than the apathy of the authority that should’ve addressed the raped victims when we all were in the Bushes.

1 love,
Ray Lewis

Wednesday, March 02, 2016


Malibu Anderson Paak Release Date: January 15, 2016
Label: Steel Wool / Obe

“Music is a moral law. It gives soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and charm and gaiety to life and to everything.” --Plato

There is something that is really, really special about this Malibu LP by Anderson .Paak.  I encourage you to spend the $12 and change; which is a tremendous discount in this era of downloaded noise. 
I believe when it’s all said and done this release will be on the same musical flag pole as D Angelo’s “Brown Sugar”, Kendrick Lamar’s “To Pimp a Butterfly” or Marvin Gaye’s “Trouble Man”.   

“Malibu” is a 16-tracked, groove gumbo plate of funk, blues, Hip Hop, folk, Jazz, and R&B.  This musical journey will raise the brow of everyone from: Sly Stone, Van Hunt, Bilal, Lupe Fiasco & J.Dilla and when the journey is complete you will only need a wash cloth and cigarette. 
This gem has solved my nightly commuting quandary between The Karen Hunter Show (Urban Radio, Sirius XM) and Bomani Jones (ESPN)—two great shows that I haven’t listened to in 2 weeks. 

The production credits of: Hi-Tek, 9th Wonder, DJ Khalil, Madlib, Chris Dave (just to name a few
) is proof of Anderson’s indiscriminate approach to this amazing 61 minute ride. .Paak's semi-autobiographical depiction isn’t always pretty, but it’s justly poetic.
I can’t begin to pick a favorite track.  However, I am positive that my next speeding ticket can be directly traced to “Without You” f. Rapsody—which has an out-of-this-world sample by Hiatus Kaiyote.  That song should come with a neck brace and an alibi.

The vibe on “Room In Here”, is on some straight, Brut by Fabergé; subwoofer in the trunk, early 90’s R&B tip. Then with little warning, The Game grips the mic with his best Nas impression to transform the already brilliant track into this K.Dot-like era. Game’s sophomoric description of some California Dyme who dropped by the studio wasn’t anything new and the song could’ve held its own without him.  His bars was less than necessary but it certainly wasn’t wasted and it definitely added to unpredictability of the journey through Malibu—thus making a near miss incredibly dope.

After 50+ minutes the CD is highlighted with “The Dreamer” (featuring Talib Kweli) which feels like an ode to the Black Panther Party Movement.  I am here to tell you; you could not tie a neater ribbon on this party gift even if Michelle Obama, Oprah Winfrey and Mother Theresa collaborated on the invitations.

 Soul music is about longevity and reaching and touching people on a human level - and that's never going to get lost.  --Jill Scott

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

The King vs god

"Always remember others may hate you.  But those that hate you don't win unless you hate them.  And then you destroy yourself."  --Richard M. Nixon

By the time you reach your hump day destination at the watercooler or barbershop or some other social setting there is little doubt that the Michael Jordan vs LeBron James debate will take center stage—relegating the June Season 2 premiere of Power, the season finale of Scandal or the June expiration of the Patriot Act to the back pages of importance—the latter being worse than the ACT and the author.

The on-the-court debate is a fairly easy one…, Jordan is the best player to ever lace them up—and this is coming from a Knick fan.  

He is 6-0 in championship Finals runs and his tenacity to get it done is beyond question.  LeBron, who has a losing record on the Final’s stage is probably more gifted due to his size, speed and his desire to make everyone around him better (ala Magic Johnson).  Jordan’s approach to teammates was more like "get it done" when I need you or we’ll find someone else to replace you—and I may bone your wife in the process (I told you I was a Knick fan).   

I remember when Jordan was asked to voice his feelings on a number of subjects: Chicago teen murders (with the victims missing nothing but their air and their Air Jordans), the unemployment rate, racial discrimination, unfair housing, lack of minority owners (in all sports), and all Jordan could muster up was…, “Republicans buy shoes too” An obvious attempt to not anger the hand that could possibly feed or hang you.  LeBron appears to be different; and for me, that’s where the real debate begins and ends.


The year before James left the Cavs the unemployment rate in Cleveland was roughly 12.3% (and that’s just for the people that hadn’t given up yet). Naturally, you will need a much bigger calculator to account for the unemployed blacks in the same zip codes.  Upon his return, the unemployment rate fell to 8.4%.  Now only an idiot would think LeBron James (alone or at all) had anything to do with either.  

But, it would take a bigger fool to NOT understand that King James has a lot to do with where the employed spend their money.  The Cavs’ ticket prices have gone up 15% since the rebirth of James and the average attendance has gone from just over 17,000 per game, to an arena capacity of 20,562 or $129 Million more annually. The one year difference [alone] pays James' contractual obligation to the Cavs. Talk about an ROI.

In fairness, Jordan's numbers are probably similar—especially on the road, where he rarely played in front of a non-capacity crowd.  But, when Jordan left the Bulls for the Wizards (2001) I don’t think any major stores, car washes, restaurants, hotels, or parking decks batted an eyelash, never mind closing down entirely.  One could argue that fact says more about the (respective) cities than it does about the actual players.  But, you also get the feeling that it would ONLY matter to one of the players.
I mean, let’s face it, one player wore an “I Can’t Breath T-shirt” in protest of the Eric Gardner murder in NYC and the other player seemed more concerned with the shoes the cop had on when he killed him.  
Jordan’s Hall of Fame speech sounded like he will be waiting outside for his doubters.

LeBron’s memo regarding his return to Cleveland sounded like a high school baller asking the homecoming queen to go steady.    

Jordan once bet Pippen (his best friend on the Bulls at the time) a grand that his (Jordan's) bags would come off the plane first.   What Pippen didn’t know was, his good pal, Jordan paid a baggage handler $100 dollars to make sure his bags came off the plane first.  Jordan made a grand (extra) that day. Pippen said the money wasn't nearly as important as the revelation of the character he lost it to.  

I think Jordan is the greatest basketball player that ever stepped foot in the NBA, but there is something about him that just makes you feel like the community lost a bet.

1 love,

Ray Lewis 

Tuesday, May 19, 2015


"Men are able to trust one another, knowing the exact degree of dishonesty they are entitled to expect. "   

--Stephen Leacock


A.      Why is everyone tripping..., my tight end Aaron Hernandez killed somebody.

B.      Y’all should see what I do to my own balls.

C.      I can’t believe this attack on white American quarterbacks.

D.      The NFL defenses would be pissed if they saw what was in my cup.

E.      The Eagles signed Mike Vick.

F.      This fine only hurts the Boston strippers.

G.     You call this a punishment, 4 more weeks at home with my underwear model wife, Gisele?

H.     Do you know how many balls I would have to deflate to lose to the Colts?

I.        Y’all should’ve seen what I did to the balls in the Super Bowl.

J.       I wonder just how many jump-offs I will be able to smash now that I have four extra weeks.

K.      When the 2015 season kicks off, I will still look better than Payton Manning.

L.       The real losers are the gay camera men.

M.    Most Patriots fans are cool with cheating.

N.     Note to self…, I should’ve paid $2 Million to let the air out of Roger Goodell.

O.     What offensive doesn’t take advantage of the rules?

P.      Prince needs to do a concert on the attack of the white man’s freedoms.

Q.     You should see the other questionable shit in my phone!

R.      Did I hear Ray Lewis says something about my morals?

S.      When the season starts I will still look better than Shannon Sharpe.

T.      I often wonder…, when my nieces and nephews call me Uncle Tom… Joyner always answers.

U.     Under no circumstances will this keep me out of the Hall of Fame.

V.      We still have more Super Bowl victories than your team.

W.    What in the @!#$ is a Wells Report?

X.      If you saw where Bill Belichick steals his X’s and O’s from Goodell would really be pissed.   

Y.      Wait until y’all see the ratings for the first 4 Patriots games without me.

Z.      I am suspended for 4 games and Isiah “Zeek” Thomas is still coaching?   

1 Love,

Ray Lewis

Wednesday, March 18, 2015


"What lies behind you and what lies in front of you, pales in comparison to what lies inside of you."
--Ralph Waldo Emerson

This is a mildly peculiar position for me.  Upon first glance there is no way that I would’ve ever dreamed that I would say anything like this… okay, sit down…, ready, Black Entertainment Television (BET)—or as I like to refer to it—the Hospice of Hope; just may be the home of the  best show on television.  I know “best” is a very relative term.  Admittedly my euphoria could be tainted by the extremely low exceptional standard the network has proudly propelled to for the last 30 years. Ironically, we cannot even blame this horrendous history of neighborhood programming on “White Flight”— especially when you consider…, since Viacom’s Take Over (in 2001) I could make a case that the network’s programming has demonstrated a marginal improvement. I would have to receive some sort of immunity for that public testimony, though.

Anyway, enough of BET’s counterproductive history of cultural commerce, today I honestly believe that Being Mary Jane, starring the dimpled dyme, Gabrielle Union, is the absolute best show on TV.  I am not even talking about the fact that the show wins the Tuesday night rating’s wars in the advertiser’s dream demo Adults 18-49.  Impressive as it may be, what I find extremely alluring is the witty dialogue; the show’s approach to social issues and the extraordinary dope music.  Of course, to no one’s shock or awe, I will start there. 

The Music
On any given Tuesday you may hear the underground soul music sounds of the Swedish hipsters Little Dragon or you may involuntarily nod your dome to the Brooklyn-bred Stacy Barthe, one night you may even experience the earthy vibes of Emeli Sandé.  Whatever the night’s playlist selection, the music tends to be an unescapably, enthralling treat.   

Though I must admit (at times) the lyrical overtures seems overtly obvious; even somewhat anticipated—especially to the ear of a self-proclaimed supreme musicologists like myself. My delusions of grandeur aside, the fact that many of the artists that are sprinkled throughout the hour-long are mostly obscure to the average ear and the way the music nestled within the drama is really noteworthy.   Last night’s Erykah Badu-theme show almost made me R. Kelly the screen.  

The Plot
On the surface the story line seems fairly typical…, a successful black female fighting a daily battle for the illusive “corner office” in her glass ceiling stroll through the corporate chaos.  If you have been paying close attention, ever since the 1921 Black Holocaust bombing, America has been a constant reminder to the black life limitations of climbing this engulfed ladder. Today the reminders seem less and less subtle and it isn’t limited to the hours of 9-to-five.

Once Mary Jane’s corporate limitations are decidedly difficult to cope with alone, she finds an even tougher battle searching for the black male equivalent to add balance in her equally turbulent personal life. There is a constant theme that MJ’s highly visible position as a popular nighttime news anchor becomes a referendum on financially supporting her immediate family and the ‘hood champion aspirational carrot.  What uppity black clan has not had that conversation?

My preconceived notion of this “blah, blah, blah” storyline turned out to be beyond refreshing.  The current feel and the wonderful execution of characters is actually worth setting the DVR.  The cast is nothing of short of magnificent.  The Union-led team polishes the screen as a fresh, relevant and authentic day in a black life—unlike say…, ABC’s Black-ish, which has many noteworthy storylines, but comes off as a minor league Modern Family.

I am fairly confident BET has tried their darnedest to fumble this wonderful triangular blend of social, moral and corporate conundrums, but even their counterproductive Wharton Wannabes are having a hard time turning this into a Jailhouse Girl’s Rock!

Being Mary Jane has been inked for another season—it’s third—which will give the dynamic duo of Mara Brock Akil and (hubby) Salim Akil more than enough time to continue to entertain, educate and enlightened  the landscape of America on the Mary Jane in all of us.  

1 love, 
Ray Lewis

Friday, January 23, 2015


'You don't have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them."

--Ray Bradbury

Hip Hop -- This is an art form that is deeply rooted in an inner city, cultural fusion that was designed to embrace and enhance (said) culture which is typically ignored by those with no real VESTED interest (i.e. popular culture). The focus of Hip Hop music is generally (but not limited to) political accountability, social imbalance, street justice and it tends to be more intellectual in its lyrical content and wit. The artists are most often referred to as emcees, which is a rhyme skill that NOT every person that is standing on stage, rhyming into a microphone possesses.   

The quizzical nature of this subgenre is layered in utter complexity and cultural conundrums which is precisely why it’s not heard on the radio (anymore).  More plotting Hip Hop is not just limited to music.  The other aspects of the art form includes: graffiti artists, unique fashion, aftermarket car accessories, and most especially language, which all play a HUGE part in this art. Its cataclysm is often misunderstood by those with no desire to understand its origin since these loosely-termed analysts or pundits don’t live in or understand the environment that breeds a great emcee.

So, in short, Hip Hop music is much harder to marginalize using the magnifying glass of capitalism. 

Rap Music - This is an art form that is rooted in mainstream, popular culture and designed for MASS CONSUMPTION--similar to that of fast food and paper towels. Rap music was made, designed and sold strictly for entertainment purposes with little (if any) socially-redemptive value and/or shelf life, which makes it a gold mine for record label executives.  Most rap music is gimmicky in nature and unlike “the emcee” most rap artists sound and act similar which (naturally) makes them very interchangeable.  

There is no real substantive goal or allegiance to any particular culture…, as long as the listener is willing to consume its message or lack thereof, this art will always be there to take advantage of that their apathy—especially when you consider that rap music is the opposite of cerebral and is faddish in nature.  The typical rap artists’ goal is to make music for the radio and/or the adult night clubs; and in doing so propel and prorogate images that confirm the stereotypical mainstream exploitative aspirations.

In short, rap music is the epitome of capitalism.

Below are 50 alphabetical listed examples of both:


2 Pac
2 Chainz
Andre 3000 (Outkast)
50 Cent
8 Ball MJG
Al Kapone
Big Daddy Kane
Big Sean
Big L
Bobby Shmurda
Big Pun
Chief Keef
Black Thought
Childish Gambino
Busta Rhymes*
Da Brat
Chuck D (Public Enemy)
CL Smooth (Pete Rock)
Fat Joe
French Montana
Del La Soul
Gangsta Boo
Doug E. Fresh
Gucci Mane
Iggy Azalea
Goodie Mob
Jazze Pha
Grand Master Caz
Juicy J
Grand Puba
Heavy D.
Kanye West*
Immortal Technique
Kid Ink
Lil John
Lil Scrappy
Jay Electronica
Lil Wayne
Jean Grae
Mannie Fresh
Keith Murray
Master P
Kendrick Lamar
Meek Mill
Kool G. Rap
Missy Elliot
Kool Moe Dee
Nicki Minaj
Lauryn Hill
Lupe Fiasco
Rich Homie Quan
MC Lyte
Rick Ross
Mele Mel
Sir Mix-a-Lot
Method Man (Wu Tang)
Snoop Dogg
Mos Def
The Dream
Notorious B.I.G
Pharoahe Monch
Phife (Tribe Called Quest)
Trinidad James
Waka Flocka Flame
Royce Da 5’9
Wil I Am
Ying Yang Twins
Yo Gotti
Styles P.
Young Jeezy
Talib Kweli
Young Joc

* Denotes artists that are MORE comfortable living in both spaces.  

Then there are artists that have made a clearer distinction where they are MOST comfortable, but their plight deserves further context (see below):

·        Jay-Z:  Shawn Carter is the poster child for this duplicity.  He began his music career with one Hip Hop’s best LPs ever, Reasonable Doubt.  His pathway was paved with great aspirations.  The debut CD is full of rhyme twists and complexities that made it to most every Hip Hop fan’s collection.  

Jay-Z is one of the more witty emcees ever. His duets with Mary J. & Biggie underscored his charm, wit and charisma.  However, since his street credible classic, commerce has been Jay-Z’s goal and he is becoming less and less apologetic to his original fan base.  In fact some have embraced it.  His stance on social issues are muffled or compromise by his associations with corporations that clearly demonstrate an antithetical agenda to the culture.  While Jay-Z sometimes shows signs of cultural commitment (Open Letter) don’t be surprise if a war between corporate and culture erupted which side he would lend the knife to and which part of your back it landed.

·        Common:  Just like Jay-Z, Common began his Hip Hop career spitting out one classic after another.  His single “I Used to Love Her” is probably the single-best metaphor for the love and complexity under the umbrella of Hip Hop.  That single was also the catalyst to one of the best movies (Brown Sugar) in the history of Hip Hop. Then the Chi-town native decided to shred his cultural consciousness to appeal to wider array of "fans" that are more comfortable being called B’s and H’s versus queens and princesses.  What’s more troubling is…., his newfound fans are his loudest defenders AND actually the people he denigrates most often.

·        Ice Cube:  It is simply hard to imagine that a man that once (lyrically) threatened to burn down Hollywood for its lack of cultural support is now their box office meal ticket.  Ice Cube has cut his ties to South Central and comfortably moved up to Beverly Hills.  Only he knows how well that view helps him to rest at night.

·        Joe Budden:  Only Royce Da 5’9 tops the New Jersey native’s lyrical wit in their Detroit-stationed group (Slaughterhouse). Joe’s lyrical prowess is unquestionable.  However his reoccurring appearances on the cultural tidy bowl reality show, Love and Hip Hop makes it tough to defend or pledge his allegiance. 
·        Eminem:  He just may be the best freestyle rapper in Hip Hop history.  Once dubbed an irritating, commercial Midwestern with a boy-band look, Em has emerged as one of the best emcees the genre has ever spun.  He simply slayed Jay-Z on Carter’s “Renegade”.  He is the architect of Slaughterhouse Group and the mastermind behind 50’s In the Club.  At this stage one could argue he is MORE relevant in the Hip Hop game than Brooklyn’s own Jay-Z—which is another example of the ironic twists this culture continues to unleash.  

1 Love, 
Ray Lewis