The art of conversation is lost among many of us. At times it feels like the cost of the evolution of technology has been the regression of eloquence. For the black community, since 1979, hip-hop was our Silicon Valley equivalent for those who cared to craft words with the same attention to detail as Apple’s finest engineer. In 2017, the culture has, at times, felt more like the inner sanctum of a county funded drug rehabilitation center than a display of god-like oratorical ability. But rap deity’s still do exist.
The first time I heard of Joyner Lucas was listening to The Joe Budden Podcast last year. As an artist Joe has always been a truth teller, ‘Media Joe’ is more of the same, but the praise he lauded on Joyner felt like an embellishment, so I had to do my own research. I downloaded his most recent mixtape ‘508-507-2209’ and it wasn’t too far after hitting play that I realized “Oh, this n***a different.”
While many white media members and outlets chose Logic’s ‘I Don’t Wanna Be Alive’ as the recipient of the “Macklemore Tackle A Societal Issue In The Corniest Way Possible” Song of the Year, those who actually enjoy passion and ferocity (and were in the know) sided with Joyner’s ‘I’m Sorry’. An angry, honest and gut wrenching dialogue between two cousins dealing with the cause and effect of suicide. As someone who has lost two associates to suicide, it is the most accurate piece of work I’ve ever ingested detailing the aftermath of a loved one who has taken their own life.
If the first time you heard of Joyner Lucas was with his most recent piece of brilliance ‘I’m Not Racist’, I understand why you may feel like this is a forced piece of literature that comes up short in balancing the blame in an open dialogue between races. Sure, Joyner certainly could have mustered up a greater defense of the exhausting narratives that have been placed upon black people for centuries. And I’d be lying if I said the hug at the end of the video wasn’t a cringe-worthy level of cheesy. But if we are truly ready to fix our community, which I know we are, isn’t it time we are completely honest?
For some of us who have done decent for ourselves, it is easy to act as if a lot of the accusations and claims about our community are untrue. We can disassociate and distance ourselves from the hood, though we willingly dabble and embrace it at our own discretion and leisure. We sometimes glorify it and live under its codes and rules in our structured & moderately successful lives. It’s not unreasonable to suggest that from our childhood some us have known a murderer or two, but laughed it off as “that nigga crazy”; enabling homicidal maniacs in the same way in which we do misbehaving children. We embrace and promote the ills of our community through music and hood classic films. Too often our greatest form of entertainment comes from the exploitation or visualization of the worst parts of our community... So for me, it felt healthy for someone to finally recognize “yea we be wylin sometimes.”
Two days ago I attended a Jay-Z concert in Washington, D.C. in which he was flagrantly honest in saying “Black people, we need to get our sh*t together.” I’m as big a fan of Hov as anyone, probably bigger, but it took him a solid 20 years to deliver us an inward, self-reflecting album like 4:44. The result? A 48-year-old Jay looking freer than any of us can ever remember. But it started with the same kind of acknowledgment and honesty Joyner admitted on I’m Not Racist. Deity does, as deity sees.
I am the first to acknowledge that there are and have always been forces in place not to just stop or slow our progress, but also to enslave and eviscerate the very spirit of black people in this country for over 400 years. I am also humbly aware that that will not change anytime soon. I am not looking for white people to talk to other white people about how racism is wrong in order to ease the stress of being black in this country. I do not think it is healthy to compare our existence and oppression in this country to any other oppressed people around the world. We are unlike any other group of people on this planet.
‘I’m Not Racist’ shouldn’t remind you that white people are at fault, and we need their help to fix what plagues us. Nor should it serve to exonerate and excuse the behaviors of some in our community. It is an acknowledgement of a part of our truth, full of candor and transparency. As an artist, I’m sure Joyner is aware that his art is open for interpretation and thus, prone to criticism. So those who felt defensive enough about ‘I’m Not Racist’ to write a piece saying Joyner missed the mark, and should “try again”, are well within their rights… But me? Well I’ve always enjoyed the truth, regardless of how ugly it was or how much it hurt. So the only question I had about ‘I’m Not Racist’, was whether or not Joyner used some sort of technology, or a good old fashioned pen and paper to write it.
(Photo: Joyner Lucas YouTube screenshot)