We here in hiphop (it's a place and a culture and a monolithic mind-set, right you guys?) rightfully embrace contradiction as part of life. 2pac is often our go-to patron saint here, a sensitive soul who loved all people but could also be a nihilist scorched-earth warmonger. I think of this because I keep listening to Young Thug's "2 Cups Stuffed"—a great, crazy-ass song about the newest 1017 Brick Squad member's insatiable thirst for codeine cough syrup—while just days ago the wire was all abuzz that Lil Wayne was hospitalized, doin' bad, and likely because of that lean. (Young Thug: "L-E-A-N-I-N-G! Lean, lean, lean, lean—leanleanlean!") I'm glad that it looks like Wayne is okay, very much so, because he's a person with a family that loves him, plus an artist whose work I've enjoyed greatly in the past.
I just hope that Wayne, who's become the poster boy for sipping lean, doesn't go out like the man who pioneered the sound of drank, DJ Screw—or like Pimp C of "Sippin' on Some Syrup," or like the "Barre Baby" Big Moe. Wayne's handlers are hopefully as invested in keeping him healthy as they were in denying reports that he was in bad shape at all. Hopefully, Wayne himself is as invested in keeping himself alive as he will be in trying to pretend it wasn't a big deal to maintain that bigger-than-life status, like his boy Rick Ross did after his own seizure. Hiphop has a culture of denial—the result of it being birthed by a people long victimized by the law and mainstream society. Self-denial doesn't help anybody, though—not us, and not all the fucking kids who are watching us. We all know that we grew up emulating shit we saw and heard, so why play our future out? Fuck the dumb shit, I appreciated the sentiment of Macklemore's "Otherside"—because it was a real thing my dude actually went through and because shouldn't somebody be the fucking dissenting voice here? (I know he's white, y'all, the boy can't help it.)
That said: Turn your eyes now to the passionate, hood-humanist blues traveler Raz Simone—without a doubt one of the best new voices in Seattle hiphop. Simone spits about pain that isn't neatly resolved in three verses—the eyes of the trapped young criminal, the prayers of the decimated family, the souls of black folk. Lies, love, and pimping run all through his rhymes, but Simone doesn't just accept it, he analyzes how shit got so fucked up in the first place—or at least he asks. On wax, he himself is a contradiction, too, but he not only acknowledges it, he sounds like he's working on it. Last year, he got my full attention with one song, "They'll Speak." Last week brought us his debut EP, titled after his government name: Solomon Samuel Simone, with production from Nima Skeemz, SuperFire's Elan Wright, and Antwon Vinson. You can get it online.
Like a lot of people, Raz included I'm sure, my heart wants to help heal the fuckin' world, break down communication barriers, and spread love—but I still enjoy the destructive highs of no-fucks-given-nor-shit-taken abyss-gazing rap. I'm still listening to that goddamn Young Thug song.