Wrapping: Behind The Screen

Wrapping was written the same time I decided to do this blog actually. I was listening to Kanye’s and Jay-Z’s album, ‘Watch The Throne’ and:

1) I really liked it.

2) The fact that they were being open about being Black and this being a problem when trying to get places, moving up the ladder for you cliché lovers, was really cool and I kind of connected.

3) Made me think why do I connect with hip-hop so much?

That’s when I realised it’s because hip-hop is all about struggle, making it big, getting out of the small town and making your voice heard. But, why should I hide behind the stuggle of the Blacks? I’m not belittlng the struggle, trust me. But why don’t I do anything about it? Maybe because reality hit me. No one is going to listen to a girl who’s Muslim, originally from Bangladesh and brought up in a family that has it’s own set of rules and regulations. I talk about the struggles of living in the UK as a Muslim and people think I’m being paranoid. People think it’s boring and we’ve heard too much about it. “Change the record,” I presume many people think.

But their song, ‘No Church in the Wild’ stood out to me. Not because it was Kanye and Jay-Z’s material.. and not because of Frank Ocean’s beautiful voice.. but because of the content. When talking about struggle you have to put yourself in the other person’s shoes in order to understand them.

Empathy.

Empathy is the one thing that I’m hoping is the focus throughout my poetry. So yeah, these thoughts naturally lead to writing it down on paper. And then I guess the frustrations of being heard but not actually listened to spilled out. So as a result, after writing Wrapping.. I decided that it doesn’t matter where I’m from or what I do, if the content of my work is good, it’ll show. I hope.

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Wrapping: Behind The Screen

4 thoughts on “Wrapping: Behind The Screen

  1. Rashidul Islam says:

    I second the part where you said “you have to put yourself in the other person’s shoes in order to understand them”, for I am – just like yourself – A Muslim, originally from Bangladesh and currently living here in the UK.

    “No one is going to listen to..” depends on who this “No one” is that you’re referring to. Those with open minds, people like me, people like you (I assume, from a lot of your work), can listen to others’ with the calibre to see it all from their state of minds and/or understanding. For what I’m about to say, will have a typical (used with discretion) Tower Hamlet Bengali boy saying “Yeah, that’s rich coming from you, given that you’re Bengali and you listen to a Genre of music dominated by those from the African-American community”.

    Having said that, I believe that Hip-Hop is MORE than just music. It’s a way of life. Now I say this because I’ve been listening to Hip-Hop and Rap since the day my Ma bought me a Walkman for my 7th birthday. Despite the lectures and earfuls I got from her and her despise towards “Khala Manush” music, I can’t say I haven’t learnt a lot from it.

    Ever since I’ve had access to the internet (sometime around Year 8) I always researched Hip-Hop and how it influenced black political figures, politicians, congressmen, the lot. How it helped shape communities, bring about good spirit, encourage brotherhood and create Global rap superstars with fortunes ranging in the 100 Million American US Dollars range.

    Though not all is glamours and glitz in such a playing field, which only brings me back to why Hip-Hop is a way of life. The East Coast vs West Coast phenomenon, South Side’s recent “entrance” into the “game”, the North being “nowhere near the radar” and most recently feuds such as ‘Pac vs Biggie and Shady/Aftermath/G-Unit vs Murder Inc just to name a few. The amount of blood shed in the name of Hip-Hop, and even at times gang rivalry, is more than many small time inner country wars. A number that shows no signs of slowing down. I imagine you know about the “post-code wars” here in the UK, specifically London? Edmonton’s Green Gang vs Hornsey’s Grey Gang is the soul reason behind three of the fatal stabbings here in North London last year.

    Being a way of life, there’s always two sides to such a coin. Rappers that were gifted with the talent of being able to analyse the game, were able to make strategically influenced moves to bring themselves up the ladder. A common example would be Curtis James Jackson III, or more commonly known as “50 Cent”. He went from selling crack/cocaine on the streets of Jamaica Queens, NY, to a personal wealth of over $500million (Coca Cola contributed to a pretty sum of that money following their recent purchase of his stocks/ownership in Vitamin Water by Glaceu).
    In line with your post, Sean “Jay-Z” Carter went from corner blocks, to corner office. He now strikes multi-million dollar deals a year with branding companies. He also makes a nice profit from royalties because of his record label and clothing line.

    A few years down the line, becoming older and wiser, I started to see the world for what it really is; beyond the black and the white. I used to listen to chart songs just like everyone else. Whatever was projecting through the radio or being repeated so much on television that you were sick of it but weren’t complaining because it was “relevant” and that everyone was listening to it. But I’m not everyone. I came to realise that. I started to listen to what I’m listening – carefully. In essence these “rap superstars” are all a part of the same rounds of ammunition; money, alcohol, sex and oppression of women.
    Although the transition wasn’t instantaneous, I saw myself starting to listen to underground rappers. And I think this is where I can answer the question about “why we can relate to rappers”. Me, personally, chart songs no longer interest me. They’re catchy, I must admit, but then again, that’s what “sells”, right? I’m an independent person. I don’t follow trends; no Chinos, no Vans, no Converses. A nice pair of jeans and a clean shirt will get me by – perfectly fine for me. Material possessions trigger no emotion in me. They generate no response. I’m a book reader, an independent conductor of purely original research, and I think this is why I can relate to these rappers.
    You could say that they’re in a line of work that I’m in. Immortal Technique for example, he raps so much truth and knowledge you could write a whole fucking documentary. But then again I can almost guarantee that if you followed any of us for long enough, you’d think we deserve one of our own too.

    Although I tend to shit-talk mainstream artists a lot, I don’t think all of them are bad. Though that depends how you would interpret “bad”. I’m going to use Eminem as an example here. He’s a puppet now, delivering whatever his label thinks will sell and make them a shit load of money. But if you look at his older works, work that made him the man he is today, the very same work that was worthy, and STILL IS WORTHY of the 80 million tangible copies that it sold, is the same work a lot of his native fans relate to.
    He was a teenager going through common teenage problems. And for a lot of people, that was like a stress release outlet. When they were depressed or feeling pissed off, they would drift away and put on a Slim Shady classic – something we can no longer expect from him.

    Regarding the race discrimination. That has never, and will never, until the return of Isa (AS), ever be abolished. I wrote an A* essay for this for English Lit, so I guess I can say I’m a man of priority when it comes to such a talk? (Just casually praising and flaunting my grades lol). But seriously though, as much as *they* would like you to know that we’re in a society where people of all skin tones are accepted on an equal level – it’s a load of Donkey shizzle mixed with Giraffe vomit topped with Monkey head lice.
    So the president of the USA is black, so what? He’s still a puppet taking orders on his phone from those in positions of far superior power.
    White folks run the education system, banking institutions, corporate news and media. That’s the way it is, and that’s the way it will be.

    And finally, your work. It is absolutely brilliant. It’s so mature and sophisticated, it’s unreal. It’s an added bonus that you’re Bengali and that there’s literate Bengalis around. Your poems were beautiful to read and really thought provoking, which is rare for debut poets. Poetry is one of the greatest aesthetic values Literature has to deliver, and I find it amazing that you can express yourself so fluently using it. Keep up the good work, could be going places! I’m a short film maker, I’ve got my own little production team, we work on things on the weekend and whenever we have time. Perhaps sometimes in the future we could work together? Nothing much will be required on your behalf, I’d just like to use a line or two of your poems at the start of a short film, just to establish some firm foundations for viewers to relate to the mindset of my protagonist? Again, that’s just a thought.

    Very best,

    Rashid.

    1. It’s honestly really great to have someone take their time out to reply in detail. I love how you say you don’t follow the trends and have to mention vans and chinos lol. This is how I know you’re from London!

      I totally understand what you mean about underground artists. They speak out about things which they’re surrounded by. Most of the times they’re things that we can relate to. When an artist goes big, they’re life is all about parties and sitting in the studio so it must be difficult trying to draw on the same inspiration that they had before. It’s all about the struggle and we all relate to that. I’m really hoping Kendrick Lamar keeps his style going. I defo feel like he’s bringing something new.

      The race stuff – I don’t expect it to change. But I don’t want it to be the factor to stop people from even trying. It’s one of the main reasons why I hesitated to be honest.

      And your kind words about my work means a heck of a lot! Poetry is an outlet and I’m glad that other people can connect to what I’m feeling. Poetry and Literature is definitely very powerful. I think it would be brilliant if we worked together. That actually sounds like a really good idea. Is there any way that I can contact you?

      Again, thank you very much for taking your time out to read my poetry!

      All the best,
      Jannath.

  2. Imprint says:

    I think it’s really interesting that you managed to see Watch the Throne from that perspective, most people saw it as a celebration of the escape from the struggle rather than a fight for it. Much online ink has been spent on explaining why it’s just two multimillionaires bragging on tracks. I can’t tell you how glad I am that somebody actually sees it from this perspective.

    That said, I think you raised a more interesting issue, “But, why should I hide behind the struggle of the Blacks?” you said. I’ve asked a similar question too many times myself. “Why should I hide behind the struggle of the African American ‘urban underclass’?” if I’m a second generation immigrant in the UK? Whilst you used empathy to resolve that conflict, I’m more inclined to go with the opinion that there is a sort of universality that comes with struggle when it’s explained through music.

    I cannot explain it, people probably have degrees learning about it, but struggle in music cuts through borders and pigments. The oppressed South African blacks were seen rapping along with Afrika Bambaataa (The New York rapper) during the apartheid. Marley: The Movie has a scene of Tunisians (probably tear-gassed and in fear for their lives) singing “Get Up, Stand Up” during the Arab Spring. Ibrahim Ag Alhabib, a Malian rebel guitar poet casually cites Bob Dylan (a Jew, I think) as one of his influences. The list is endless, but I hope you get my drift. Struggle music is the artistic representation of MLK’s “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere”.

    Secondly, I love the “And say their voice is my voice…” part of “Wrapping”, but that’s not what they mean. Tupac famously said “I’m not saying I’m gonna change the world..but I will spark the brain that will change the world”. They’re saying their voice should inspire yours. You can express yourself in your own way, leaving an imprint of your identity. So whilst Jay-z and Kanye West are protesting against the fact that American racism is no respecter of bank balances, you should speak, write, dream, protest, grow, live, achieve, win or do any anything else in a way that reflects your identity.

    I know I’ve missed the point as usual, so if you read up to this point, you’re my hero..lol. I also apologise for writing on this old post, I’m still a fan.

    1. I did read until the end haha!
      What I wrote is what I got from listening to WTT and that inspired me to write my poem. What you got from it doesn’t mean you’ve missed the point, it means you read it your own way – beauty of words! Thank you for taking your time out to read and leave a comment, that’s really made my day 🙂

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