Monday, May 01, 2006

Q: Why? A: Why not?: Explicating Jadakiss' "Why?"

Jadakiss' album " "Kiss the Game Goodbye" features a song entitled "Why?" This track features a series of questions regarding, this, our collective modern-condition. Jadakiss, query and postulate no more. I have taken the time to answer your questions, not to mention those of guest artist Anthony Hamilton, over a series of verse by verse installments. I apologize for the untimely response to your questions--I have had a lot coming across my desk over the last 14 months.

Yo, why is Jadakiss as hard as it gets?

This question can be approached from two different angles. On the one hand Jadakiss may be querying, “Why am I the toughest manifestation within what is commonly called ‘the rap game?’” This is not so much a question as it is a declaration of his own prowess in the field of hip-hop. Way to be full or yourself.
The other manner in which we can answer this question is through the lens of the artist's own self-examination. Perhaps he is asking “why is it so hard to be me?” This is a bit pedantic and self-absorbed—not unlike the previous assumption. To answer this I can only answer with another question: “Why is it so hard for you to remain relevant in the modern soundscape?” Maybe you should get together with a friend or two and have an honest discussion about your reasons for creating music and how prevalent you can be in terms of honesty and originality amidst a highly competitive field. And leave the high-dollar booze in the liquor cabinet. Just put on some soft music, have a moderate amount of wine, and just talk with each other . . . just talk.

Why is the industry designed to keep the artist in debt?

Here is a sentiment that perhaps Prince is more equipped to tackle than I, but I will give an earnest response. Music, mainstream music to be more precise, has become a business: that is to say an industry of supply and demand. The “industry” I think that our comrade is addressing here is the record company his music is released through—at the time of the release of the single “Why?” the Ruff Ryders/Interscope label, or perhaps the royalties battle that was spawned by Jadakiss’ departure from Puff Daddy’s (I’m sorry, P. Diddy) label Bad Boy Entertainment. I think that the latter is probably the impetus for this question, and one can only tell you, Jadakiss, that dealing with money-hungry, all business, bottom-line centered, corporate dick-head such as Puff Daddy was your first mistake. Furthermore, it appears to me that you’re not hurting that bad financially. Are you really in the red here? This is merely an assumption but maybe making some lifestyle decisions would help you climb back out of the negative in your back account. Scale back the tall-tee budget, buy cheaper baseball hats (stop leaving the New Era, 59/50, label on the bill and no one will be able to tell it’s not precisely the brand the pros wear), and maybe take advantage of public transportation on your big city visits. I won’t suggest cutting the “bling” from your wardrobe, as I know you need some kind of validation in the eyes of the materialistic urban youth.

And why them dudes ain't ridin' if they're part of your set? And why they never get it poppin' but they party to death?

I’ve taken the next two lines of the song, and thus the subsequent questions, and will delve into them at the same time due to their similar thematic issues. It’s hard to tell what is the hell is being asked here. What does he mean by “set?” I’m going to assume Jada means one’s crew, or “posse,” here. “Ridin’” is another part of the vernacular that I’ll take a stab at and say is referring to taking part in, whether through means of support and love, or being more physically proactive in one’s lifestyle/career path. The rap world seems to be centered on entourages—doppelgangers that are generally littering studios, limos, parties, and back stage areas wherever said artist might go. (Please note Mr. Jada: extraditing these individuals by as few as three to four would help you out in terms of your financial woes alluded to in your previous query). To go straight at this question I must respond by saying that “them dudes” are riding because you allow them to do such. It might be time to take a stand and say that you aren’t going to carry around dead weight anymore. Helping out friends is one thing, but in the end they won’t respect you (and vice-versa) if you continue coddling them. Help someone grow up. This might enable the persons in question to “get it poppin’” on their own two feet rather than merely taking part in the party.

Yea, and why they gon give you life for a murder?

Murder is illegal and carries with it a heavy sentence if convicted: death, or life in prison.

Turn around only give you eight months for a burner?

Smoking marijuana is also illegal, but when held in comparison with taking another person’s life is far less severe of a transgression. As such a lesser fine is levied.

Why they sellin' niggas CD's for under a dime?

If this is happening please show me where it’s happening. I love music but am not afforded the economic means to procure it at the moment. Amazon lists the price for a new copy of your album “Kiss of Death” at $13.98 as of the time I am writing this—roughly 140 more dimes than you feel your CD is currently being sold for.
(Writer's Note: It has been brought to my attention by Jeff that "dime" is referring to $10 and not 10 cents as I had assumed. I apologize for jargon-related mishap, or for merely taking Jadakiss' heartfelt ponderance too literally. Equipped with this new information I would still like to stress that at the time your CD is sold to distributors and various media outlets the price may dip slightly below $10. When I worked at a Tower Records I believe the cost was around $8.99 per CD. The mark-up for the consumer, however, is substantial. So, Jadakiss, your willingness to worry about the money in your pocket once again, and not that of the the average consumer--the one's who pay up to $17 in some instances for your music--is yet again paramount.)

If it's all love daddy why you come wit your nine?

Here is a very valid question. The tendency of some to express that “it’s all love,” or some variant of that phrase, to express their general benevolence only to contradict such by being “strapped,” whether literally or figuratively, is a conundrum that has remained at large in modern society. I do not presume to be the one to put these concerns to rest, but my thoughts on this issue are as such: Despite one’s willingness to remain peaceful and considerate of the world around them there are complications that arise from the inability of others to follow suite. This is certainly well documented, and perhaps nowhere more amplified, than in the genre of rap or hip hop. This is why an event like The Source Awards is such a volatile situation. An annual event mean to honor the artistic achievements of the year—for the purposes of my answer an event meant to shower recipients and even nominees with love and praise—suddenly turns into a trash-talking, feud-birthing debacle not unlike a weekly professional wrestling program. However, rather than resulting in a pay-per-view event that will settle the dispute a gun is generally waved about at an after party, or the artists in question release track after track of trite and boring material with wildly boring and non-purpose serving guests. This is most easily exemplified by Tupac and Biggie.

So where does this leave us? Where is the answer? It’s probably as simple as pointing to the urban zeitgeist in which many rap artists are reared. Perhaps, over time of course, those who have been subjected to violence by those who claim it’s “all love” could work proactively in the community to affect real change rather than making spectacles of themselves and others in videos, albums and in other public places.

Why my niggas ain't get that cake?

Chances are that certain goals aren’t reached in life due to many different circumstances. Whether these circumstances are within our realm of control or not is not up to us of course. The world sadly in not a fair or balanced place, and the figurative “cake” eludes many to most of us at best. The only piece-of-mind one can come away with is if they stop, look around, and realize that they’re probably ass-deep in “cake” but do not take the time to realize it.

Why is a brother up North better than Jordan/That didn't get that break?

In this life breaks are often hard to come by. Sadly making it in professional sports is frequently based on such a break. It seems to me that these days there are several instances where high school basketball players are being presented with the opportunity to forgo college and be drafted directly into the NBA. Whether this is a wise choice or not it a different debate all together, but many are not afforded “that break.” I would also site that in many instances showy street ballers (i.e. the entire And One demo team) that appear to have athletic abilities beyond Michael Jordan would not be able to function within the realm of the NBA because of the rules that govern game play (i.e. traveling, use of the feet in regards to ball handling, not to mention the team aspect of the sport on a professional level).

Why you ain't stackin' instead of tryin' to be fly?

I’m not sure what “stackin’” is supposed to mean, but by using context clues I’m assuming the Jada is referring to putting on fake appearances for others rather than being true to one’s self. I would refer Mr. Jadakiss to Paul Laurence Dunbar’s poem “We Wear the Mask,” a telling and gritty work that explicates the torment of putting on guises before terrible oppression. Dunbar’s poem carefully weaves its thematic truisms throughout its stanzas and stresses that despite the horrors of slavery the use of a guise is the only means of survival. While slavery is certainly more of a nadir than the current plight of the African-American experience in the 21st Century I would think that perhaps these individuals are “tryin’ to be fly” in an attempt to rise above certain injustices within the music industry, or in order to endure particular misfortunes—their “flyness” proving to the dominant forces that they cannot be broken emotionally or intellectually. However, I’m sure that this is not the case in the least, and to most simply looking cool is a source of happiness, despite how hollow their lives are.
(Also see, Ralph Ellison's spectacular work, "Invisible Man.")

Why is rattin' at an all time high?

If “rattin’” means turning people in, or “narcing” it may stem from the inability of the generally honest and good to put up with the stupid crap that the perpetually dishonest and malevolent through in their faces day in and day out. Just a thought.

Why are you even alive?

In my particular case a man named Tom Wood and a woman named Louise Wood engaged in the sex act during the magical August of 1980. I, the strongest of the sperm deposited into my mother that harrowed day, infiltrated my mother’s fertile egg—“conception” if you will—and eight months later (I was born exactly one month premature) I was birthed into this world.

Why they kill Tupac n' Chris?

In the years that have followed each person’s death this question has been repeated again and again. I would site Tupac’s tattoo that read, “Live by the gun. Die by the gun.” You talk enough shit and eventually someone gets pissed off, and sometime you piss someone off enough with that shit talking that they will kill you.

Why at the bar you ain't take straight shots instead of poppin Cris'?

Most of us can’t afford Cristal, and must turn to alternate means for unwinding with friends. It many cases taking shots is the quickest and cheapest means of achieving drunkenness. Particularly when you keep to the bottom shelf liquors. If you would like to give me the money to pop some Cris with I still wouldn’t be able to because that money would be promptly spent on rent and bills.

Why them bullets have to hit that door?

My assumption would be that the bullets were fired accurately and at a range in which marksmanship was no longer a factor.

Why did Kobe have to hit that raw?

There are times in which someone’s talent affords them great wealth, admiration, and respect. There are even times where this happens at an age in which the person is not equipped to handle the sudden attention and accolade because they are simply not mature enough to realize that poor decisions still carry with them consequences.

Why he kiss that whore?

Strong words Jadakiss. Please refer to the last answer.


Why not?

Please check back soon for answers to the rest of Jadakiss' song and questions therein.



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