Fiasco Friday: The Revolution was Televised

Photo courtesy of Hannah

Every generation needs a revolution. –Thomas Jefferson

It took me two days to write this piece. This time, it wasn’t my incessant procrastination or lack of inspiration. It was the absence of a paragon to start with however, I’ve found it.




After dismissing the notion that this word might be too strong an adjective for “Fiasco Friday”, I decided that the protest turned celebration wasn’t only about an LP or a specific artist. Matthew, one of the organizers, conveyed it on the megaphone best, “We’re here to let Atlantic know, we’re sick of this music.” - Read more below!

Matthew is correct, but it’s not just about Atlantic. An entire generation is frustrated with many record labels, radio stations, and promoters. It’s no new ideal that the conscious/underground is underappreciated. It’s no surprise that the “mainstream” has no message, substance, or abstraction. What is new, is the underground artists who’ve managed to climb their way out, fill their pockets, and create a buzz; all without a record deal. The circumvolution of free music, five dollar shows, and cipher style videos have renewed the hunger that young adults used to have for hip-hop.

An artist can only utilize what local resources he has for so long. Eventually, the artist will have to find a label to reside with and provide backing for his dream. This dream soon turns a nightmare. An external alteration begins here: Wardrobe changes, sound tweaking, lyric placement, and production based on demand are all put into place. Soon the emcee becomes a rapper, the rapper an entertainer, and an entertainer, a product.

This was never a problem before. Listeners weren’t hip to the assembly line because artists didn’t have a podium until a record label decided to give them one. Now that music blogs and artists sites are incredibly accessible, the listener is aware that the artist--they have grown to love--has changed. First the fan is annoyed with the artist—an artist who isn’t allowed to explain his predicament—but, soon he realizes that this “change” only took place after he was signed to a major label. It is within a notion like this one that the spark of the protest began. Although Lupe Fiasco hasn’t altered his style (drastically), his music wasn’t being released, which is equally intolerable.

No matter how slight the change, almost every artist has been pushed through some sort of assembly line after signing a huge deal. When listening to B.o.B., J. Cole, Wale, and many other artists, you’ll notice a new twist to their work. It’s as if someone told J. Cole to lose some of his edge when transitioning from “The Come Up” to “The Warm Up.” Perhaps someone told B.o.B. he’d be more accepted if most—if not all—of his songs were pop influenced. Maybe Wale was told that songs for women were his forte. One can never be sure about what goes on behind closed label doors, but we can be sure that it isn’t always in the best interest of the human behind the music.

Just as I began to finalize this philosophy, Lupe made it known to the public that his warden of a label was trying to alter his music, contract, and well….him. This was also shortly after Nas’ supposed open letter to Def Jam about the release of his “The Lost Tapes 2.”

If artists are stripped of their right to speak against the machine that binds them, within their contracts, who will speak for them? Listeners forget that the industry IS a democracy. Music is produced based on what we’re buying, who we’re listening to on the radio, and the concert tickets we purchase. Music is great for entertainment but it’s also a very powerful tool. Emcees with substance and a message can travel further than just the local ear. If the tree of burden on their backs falls and no one is around, who will witness their obliteration?

We will.

True fans took notice that an emcee with incredible lyrical skill hadn’t released an album he’d promised, that his buzz started to die down, and his label ceased to care. Those very same fans gathered in unison and started a petition, wrote ferociously about the injustice, and started a protest. When Atlantic Records realized that these fans were serious, they gave Lupe a release date to avoid chaos in front of their building. Although everyone was overjoyed about the release date, these listeners STILL made it their business to show Atlantic Records they meant business. With picket signs in hand, camouflage pants, “Food & Liquor” blasting, and an emcee with nothing but a smile on his face and a lyric on his tongue; this generation started a small revolution in front of a discreet gray building in Manhattan.

I’m not the only person who has realized the inevitable 360. Lupe Fiasco and other artists who came up a few years before and after his initial signing have paved the message, “It’s quite alright to be an individual.” Has anyone noticed BET’s “Music Matters” campaign? (Their sorry PR attempt at “believing in REAL music.”) Has anyone noticed the dramatic change in the flood of visitors to underground/conscious hip-hop sites? Have you noticed the jeans that are slowly beginning to be worn at the waistline and the sudden rush of new photographers, graffiti artists, poets, and producers? Things are slowly starting to change. Don’t be surprised if we’re slowly starting to enter a renaissance and don’t be deterred from one because some of the ignorance still exists.

What would the good be without the bad?

Who would the conscious have to shine over?

Music is comprised of many themes: Love, betrayal, fun, politics, loyalty, etc. All of these themes portray a message that any listener can relate to. Artists like Lupe Fiasco, Common, Talib Kweli, Mos Def, Blu, Wale, J. Cole, Nas, Foreign Exchange, Janelle Monae, B.o.B., The Roots, Lauryn Hill, and so many more, are necessary for illumination. It’s their presence that keeps us grounded. It is their voices that penetrate the static of the mainstream.

After all, music without a message, is just…..noise.


  1. great article.

    the last line is probably one of most most eye opening things I've read.

  2. Dang, this ish is deep. This needs to be sent in to CNN, or MTV, or BET, or any other station and read verbatim! That would help push this movement in the right direction!

  3. great article. wish i could write like this

  4. While I agree with the general message of this article I have to say that labels are necessary evils. Do they sometimes force change onto artists in a negative way? yes. But they also support them, pay them, and make much of the "good" and "Bad" music we listen to possible. Artists often change themselves as well. It is not always fair to assume a label is doing it. Some artists sell out, and that is their choice because they want $$$$. Other artists simply grow as people and their music progresses with them. That can be an artist trying to reach a new plateau that happens to have more of a mainstream sound to it. Or it can be an artist that had a serious message, got signed, and now is moving on to a new message(which is usually derived from experience). What does a lot of money buy you? cars, houses, clothes, etc... that's mostly what we hear about because that is the life that many artists experience. It is up to us as consumers to buy what we want. Choices are a good thing and sometimes exclusivity is too. Lupe's shoes wouldn't be so dope if everyone had a pair and the messages in his lyrics wouldn't stand out if everyone was doing and saying the same thing.

    There will never be a time where the majority will listen to conscious type hip hop. Fact is that in todays world which is full of all kinds of distractions many people just don't care or don't understand. It's sad to say but true. And, artists will always have to make a choice as to what crowd they want to appeal to. Even lupe has changed since he first started rhyming. He first came out as a very lyrical gangster rapper. Look what he's become now. He's still just as lyrical if not more than before, more refined, and he has a more positive message. Do you think a label made him change? You can look at someone like Jay-Z and say the same. Reasonable doubt is nothing like any other album he's put out and he states that was his choice between being poor or being rich and giving back to the community. It is what it is. We should be happy lasers is coming (not soon enough!) and that hip hop is moving in a positive direction....slowly

  5. ^Nice commentary. However, I do ask (in the article), "What would the good be without the bad?" With that question, it was implied that there would always be negativity but, it's also a prayer for the conscious to never drown. I'm not suggesting that EVERYONE needs to step into Lupe's shoes. I'm pleading for those who've walked the same path to stay relevant.

    The article is intended for whomever fits the quota. It wasn't meant to portray ALL artists and ALL labels.

    Excellent point though dear. I appreciate it. ;)


  6. J.Cole lost some of his edge? I don't see that. And as for B.o.B, if you listened to B.o.B vs. Bobby Ray, the entire Bobby Ray half was dedicated to songs entirely like The Adventures of Bobby Ray. I think the pop-rock-rap fusion was the direction he as a musician wanted to go. But that is just an inference. But all in all, great insight. Well written. Props.

  7. I meant to type, I hope Atlantic Records honors the release date, not Arista. My apologies.

  8. Well written Riva.

    @comment above

    I agree with you in that B.o.B's album is what he wanted to it to be like. No label influence there.

    J.Cole on the other hand, I believe is trying to be more mainstream friendly without totally disregarding what made his true fans like him

  9. Wrong for comparing Lupe to B.o.B. After listening to his mixtape for the first time I then seen Bob perform live in 2008 opening for David Banner and Talib Kweli... he was the farthest thing from pop... no one even knew the words to "Haterz Everywhere"... Seen him again this past April and, no shit, only the 1st 3 rows or so knew anything other than "Nothing On You"... It's when Lupe came out that the whole place jumped the fuck off. Point being that B.o.B while POP in actuality is and will never be POP to a true Bobby Ray fan.

    Oh and Wale isn't close to being on B.o.B's level with the ladies, ask them. That's why he's beefing with Cudi, str8 thievin a page from Fif.

  10. The last sentence gave me life.
    Beautiful article.

    we are coming into a renaissance. I felt it when Kid Cudi came out and the whole freshman crew. I was like "A couple years ago he would have NEVER been accepted".

    Like so true. We are slowly but surely coming into a renaissance and it's COOL!

  11. all true except the part about b.o.b homie used to be good when he was doing midddle of the daya, my story, ill be in the sky and all the mixtape shit but that albmum is completely shit. homie sold out.

  12. The arts are indeed moving into a Renaissance. BTW, Riv, that line will be plagerized and eloquently placed into a poem. I will quote you, however. I can only imagine how refreshing it must be for Mr. Fiasco to see his fans behind him!!!




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