Jesse Williams Drops the Rap Verse of the Year
Trill or Not Trill?
The last award show speech, that I could outwardly quote took place in 1995. It was when Suge Knight accepted the award for Motion Picture Soundtrack of the Year at the 1995 Source Awards. “All in the Video…dancing” are lines I will never forget. This turned out to be a transformative moment in hip hop that sparked a number of unfortunate events. The 2016 BET Awards brought upon another game changing speech; one that I’ll be continually quoting. Jesse Williams shook up the night. He was less antagonizing than Suge’s acceptance for the Above the Rim soundtrack but just as memorable and just as Hip Hop. As I was listening, to his powerful oratory exhibition, it felt like this was more than just an acceptance speech. Jesse Williams was dropping bars. His body language, his slang use, the bravado; it was as if he was rhyming up there. Keeping it a hundred, he might have dropped the best rap song of the year and didn’t need Future or Drake on the hook. Here are some part that make it truly hip hop.
Now—this award, this is not for me. This is for the real organizers all over the country, the activists, the civil rights attorneys, the struggling parents, the families, the teachers, the students that are realizing that a system built to divide and impoverish and destroy us cannot stand if we do. Alright? It’s kind of basic mathematics.
What’s a classic hip hop record without shout outs. Whether it was a throwback memory where you posted shout outs on liner notes or you shouting out the block or your peoples. This is for you! Shout outs are made to help the listener recognize the people who don’t get the shine. Williams lets the audience know that the struggle is being fought not only by famous names but by some of the hardest working underrepresented groups of people.
Presence of Women in Rap
Now, this is also in particular for the black women in particular who have spent their lifetimes dedicated to nurturing everyone before themselves. We can and will do better for you.
As opposed to so much of hip hop, the presence of women in this Williams verse do matter. Men have often been made the face of racial injustice or brutality. Black Lives Matter and so many civil rights movements previous were either created or have been driven by women. When black men are killed unlawfully, black women have been incredibly present for the fight. When black women have been killed, the same attention has not been given. Much like hip hop, black women have not always been supported by their male counterparts. Jesse Williams made a necessary acknowledgement here.
Calling out Haters
What we’ve been doing is looking at the data. And we know that police somehow manage to deescalate, disarm and not kill white people every day. So what’s gonna happen is we’re going to have equal rights and justice in our country, or we will restructure their function, and ours.
Some of the best hip hop records are diss tracks. When Nas opened up his classic Ether record by calling out Jay Z, it let us know some heat was on the way. There were no subliminal messages here. Williams was very clear about his direction and hid nothing in referencing who he was battling. Dear police officers, that want to continue to deny rights, if you want to continue down that path, so be it. Do know, that if you do, we’re coming. This was an early moment in the speech and it received a standing ovation. He had us charged up!
So I don’t want to hear any more about how far we’ve come when paid public servants can pull a drive by on a 12-year-old playing alone in a park in broad daylight, killing him on television and going home to make a sandwich. Tell Rekia Boyd how it’s so much better to live in 2012 than it is to live in 1612 or 1712. Tell that to Eric Garner. Tell that Sandra Bland. Tell that to Dorian Hunt.
We often hear rappers drop the names of their famous friends or of all the designer brands they partake in. Jesse Williams took to the time to drop more meaningful names. He called out the the names of those slain at the hands of brutality. You might not have known what Hublot was the first time you heard it. What you will remember, are the names of young Rekia Boyd, Eric Garner, Sandra Bland, Dorian Hunt.
The thing is, though. All of us in here getting money? That alone isn’t gonna stop this. Dedicating our lives—dedicating our lives to getting money just to give it right back,
We often hear about big budgets and how much money is being spent in rap. We’ve seen it all from the big cars to the countless images of French Montana using a wad of cash as telephone. (Google “French Montana using money as a phone”). Williams flipped it on them. Your money is not enough. Buy more into our people than into these products.
SPECIAL BARS ALERT
When we spent centuries praying with brands on our bodies. And now we pray to get paid for brands on our bodies.
There has been no war that we have not fought and died on the front lines of. There has been no job we haven’t done. There’s no tax they haven’t levied against us.
Hip Hop is the home bravado and braggadocios behavior. Roy Jones Jr. once rapped to us all and said “Ya’ll musta forgot.” In case you’ve forgotten, we’ve been a part of all this history. So y’all gon’ learn to respect us.
Talk about the hustle.
Freedom is always coming in the hereafter. But you know what, though? The hereafter is a hustle. We want it now.
I got a hustler’s spirit. Hustle, Hustle, Hustle Hard. We’ve heard all throughout rap. This time we should be hustling for justice and freedom.
The burden of the brutalized is not to comfort the bystander.
Hip hop is poetry and this entire speech was poetic. A little alliteration left us lively as we looked for more answers. The line itself was so short and powerful. Brutalized groups are often placed in positions to solve issues and comfort the feelings of those who have attacked or stand by idly watching. Not Today!
You Bout it?
And let’s get a couple of things straight, just a little side note: The burden of the brutalized is not to comfort the bystander. That’s not our job, alright? Stop with all that. If you have a critique for the resistance—for our resistance—then you’d better have an established record of critique of our oppression. If you have no interest… If you have no interest in equal rights for black people, then do not make suggestions to those who do. Sit down.
Here we have variation on the get down or lay down mentality. Instead of the, with us or against us move, Jessie Williams provides a different outlook. This one goes out to the All Lives Matter audience. All lives are certainly important but at this very moment there is a specific audience that is being addressed. If you have something negative to say about this, we better have heard you speak on injustice before. If not, kindly have several seats.
We’ve been floating this country on credit for centuries, yo. And we’re done watching and waiting while this invention called whiteness uses and abuses us, burying black people out of sight and out of mind while extracting our culture, our dollars, our entertainment, like oil, black gold.
These final moments remind me Tupac’s epic rant at the end of Hit em Up. Tupac was dissing Biggie and other rappers and was very clear who he intended to attack. Jesse Williams went full battle rap here. He named whiteness as an invention and called it out for the destructive behavior it has laid down upon black people. He looked that construct right between the eyes and never blinked. If you were confused about what they were doing, he made sure to remind us all
SPECIAL BARS ALERT
Ghettoizing and demeaning our creations, then stealing them, gentrifying our genius, and then trying us on like costumes, before discarding our bodies like rinds of strange fruit.
MIC DROP MOMENT
The thing is though, the thing is, that just because we’re magic doesn’t mean we’re not real.
MrJeffDess is a writer, professor, public speaker and emcee of Haitian descent. He is an author of 4 books of poetry, including his latest, Deconstructing Ratchet. With over ten years of performing and student affairs experience under his belt MrJeffDess continues to strive towards helping students reach their highest potential. For booking information, contact MrJeffDess at firstname.lastname@example.org