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Yasiin Bey (formerly known as Mos Def) doesn’t have to do much rapping on his new PSA-style video. Punctuated by Bey’s signature ad-lib singing, he uses snippets from interviews with NYPD officers as well as some gut-wrenching audio from actual NYPD stops. In one clip, a young man asks an officer what he’s being arrested for, to which the officer responds “for being a f***ing mutt!”

There’s no question that the NYPD’s controversial stop-and-frisk policies have gone too far. Hopefully, the federal courts recognize this and the police can go back to making the streets safer, rather than intimidating and harassing people of color.

More here.

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The Chicago Tribune is reporting that rapper Chief Keef has added to his lengthy arrest record. The incident occurred in Atlanta yesterday, after security at a hotel reported the smell of marijuana coming from Keef’s room.

Since Chief Keef’s sudden explosion onto the rap scene, he has amassed a loyal following with his heavy-hitting trap beats, aggressive, straightforward lyrics, and violent, machismo-centric videos. If you're not familiar with Chief Keef's music or videos, watch his video for "I Don't Like" here.

The dedication and obsession of many young males with Keef’s music and persona is mind-boggling and troubling. I have spoken with several young men who follow Keef obsessively and consider him a role model, yet they are candidly unwillingly to defend his talent as a musician or rapper. (Indeed, these young men's most common response when I challenge Keef's skills is, "But you wouldn't say that to his face, though!", as if that is literally their measuring stick for a role model.)

But perhaps the most troubling aspect of this young man’s saga is this: Chief Keef is 17 years old. He’s a kid from Chicago who happens to be a rapper. To be fair, his musical output is just as much a response to his surroundings as fellow Chicago teenager Chance the Rapper’s, no matter how different.

A lot can be said about Chief Keef – his questionable talent, his massive following, the consequences of saturating the airwaves with violent imagery – but at the end of the day, this is a 17 year old kid. I can’t help but think of the trouble I would’ve gotten in, had somebody given me several million dollars at age 17.

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Chicago’s Chance the Rapper recently released his second mixtape, “Acid Rap”. He recorded much of it while on LSD, and it shows. While many of the tracks lack lyrical focus, they make up for it with fluid, RnB-tinged production. I recommend downloading the entire mixtape for free here, but I’d like to focus on one song in particular. The highlight of the album is the hidden track after “Pusha Man”, called “Paranoia”.

You’ve probably heard about the proliferation of violence lately in Chicago. What you probably haven’t heard, though, are the voices of those who live with the violence everyday. Despite a few noteworthy exceptions, the news coverage has overwhelmingly failed to shine any light on the humanity of inner-city Chicago. Perhaps you’ve heard one of the many “trap” musicians who have been signed recently out of Chicago, but rappers like Chief Keef use their questionable-at-best skills to promote violence, rather than challenge or question it. Indeed, much has been written about the link between the for-profit prison industry and the sudden explosion of such artists. Rapper Homeboy Sandman’s seething take can be read here, in which he argues that “[t]he people who own the media are the same people who own private prisons . . . and using one to promote the other [would be] very lucrative.” Ultimately, most Americans who know anything about inner-city Chicago have learned it from one of two sources: violent images and lyrics in music videos, or routine, emotionless headlines on the evening news.

That’s where Chance the Rapper comes in. At first, “Paranoia” sounds like a nice blunted-out ride through Chicago. But Chance is at his deepest on this track, reflecting on the psychological effects of growing up in a dangerous environment as he dreams of someday leaving for a “safer ‘hood”. The slow, tiring beat, along with the uninspired delivery of the hook, give the song an achingly vacant, discouraged quality.

Chance is angry, too, gritting his teeth as he laments that “they murder kids here”. He sounds on edge as he wonders why Matt Lauer hasn’t visited his neighborhood, before hopelessly admitting that he, too, lives in fear of his surroundings.

While many of us are relieved to finally see some nice weather, when Chance raps that “it just got warm out”, it serves as a warning, not a celebration. At the end of the song, Chance bemoans that “everybody dies in the summer, so pray to God for a little more spring”. Within the context of the more playful mixtape,  ”Paranoia” is a brief reminder that there are actual people living in war-torn Chicago.

Head over to The Blog End Theory to hear the song.

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Michigan state Representative and state Senate candidate Robert B. Jones passed away Sunday after a year-long battle with cancer.  He was 66 years old.  He was the Democratic nominee for the 20th District, which encompasses Kalamazoo County as well as Paw Paw and Antwerp Township in Van Buren County.  

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