Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Did He Go Too Far?

In Hip Hop there is always an artist that pushes the limits. The one emcee that stands out most in this respect is one Marshall Mathers. When he first stepped on the scene his lyrics made him enemies of lots of organizations. He was labeled as homophobic, mysogynistic and overall crazy.

Now its 2006 and the latest culprit is one John Austin, better known to the Hip Hop world as Ras Kass. Some of you may not know of him because he has been on a long hiatus (he was recently released from jail earlier this year).

In his latest mixtape song entitled "Gayme Over," in which he targets The Game, Ras references the late Steve Irwin (i.e. The Crocodile Hunter): "You're the waste of LA/You the Crocodile Hunter, I am the stingray." Besides Ras' neglect for being grammatically correct (I kid, I kid) this one bar bites very lightly and doesn't seem to be that offensive. Yet the manager of the late Steve Irwin, John Stainton, spoke out against Ras Kass: "I just find it a bit sad that people have to stoop to that. It is disappointing. I can't understand the point of it. There are other references they can make that will put the point across.I just think it is a pity that people do have to use Steve or anyone who has died in tragic circumstances ... as a form of entertainment," he said.

Ras Kass answered back in a letter addressing Mr. Stainton on hiphopgame.com.

Now I ask you all: Do you think Ras Kass stepped over the line? What did you think of his letter?


Brother Spotless said...

Ras' letter went directly to the point: since the bar did not speak negatively about the dead, no harm was done. It's just a guess, but my sense is that the Irwin manager did not want Steve's name mentioned in a rap song. Either that, or he only wished to have Steve's name mentioned in the context of high praise. Either way, the manager is ignoring the fact that Steve Irwin was a public figure; he had a TV show. If it weren't for Irwin's publicity, we would never have heard of him, nor would we have heard of his death. With that in mind, the event necessarily has historical context.

Rappers have always used historical context in their raps (at least the good ones have). As long as ill is not spoken of the dead, then I see nothing wrong with the Ras Kass bar.

Anonymous said...

Ras Kass' letter was very eloquent-- I havent heard the word malediction in a while-- and truly on point. Nothing is sacred in art. Everything is to be addressed in a way that will spark critical thinking.
next 10 years, we will be brought back to that memory, that time where we watched as Jermaine O'Neal ran up on a very suprised fan.

Art is make to poke at the heart of people. Art-- theater, dance, music, painting, photography, etc-- is all a performance. The painting performs. Before you reread that sentence in confusion, think of the different definitions of performance. You perform a service (accomplishment). Your performance is evaluated (manner of functioning). Not all performance takes place on a stage.

Whether by making the audience laugh or make disparaging (and often superficially political) statements, the response to these artful moves are just as much a reflection on the oversensitivity of the audience as it is on the irreverent artist. Such is the nature of performance.

Ras Kass did not go too far-- there's still so much farther to go. If nothing is sacred in art, nothing is protected. If nothing is protected, artists will be free to express themselves without fear of reproach.