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Ghostface Killah Should Bury Action Bronson

CLICK HERE FOR PART II OF THE GHOSTFACE KILLAH VS. ACTION BRONSON ANALYSIS

Ghostface BronsonThis past week on ESPN’s SportsNation while discussing for what has to be the milllionth time comparisons between himself and the Wu-Tang Clan’s Ghostface Killah, rapper Action Bronson made a comment that many perceived to be a shot at Ghost. When co-host Max Kellerman commented, in a jovial, non-provocative manner mind you, that the first time he heard Action Bronson he thought it was new Ghostface Killah material, Action Bronson smugly replied, “he ain’t rapping like this no more,” drawing a round of “oooohs!” and “woooahs!” from the rest of the panel. When asked by co-host Marcellus Wiley “is that a shot at Ghost?”, Bronson confidently replied, “I’m just being honest.” See the exchange for yourself in the clip below, which I’ll warn you isn’t the greatest video due to ESPN’s proprietary content policies, but you’ll get the gist.

As one would imagine, Hip Hop Nation took notice. All the on-line Hip Hop magazines covered it and there was heavy social media activity surrounding Bronson’s comments. To be fair about the whole thing, as you saw in the clip the discussion begins with Action Bronson speaking very highly of Ghostface, effectively indicating that though he’s grown weary of the comparison, he’s glad that he’s likened to “one of the greats.” Additionally, in response to the backlash on social media, he took to his Twitter to “clarify” his comments and in essence deflected blame towards the media. Also noteworthy, the series of tweets referenced below have since been deleted. Things that make you go hmmmmm…. ? Let’s take a look.

GHOSTFACE IS AN IDOL TO ME. IN NO WAY DID I MEAN HIM DISRESPECT AT ALL IN ANY WAY. TO SAY I WASNT INFLUENCED BY HIM AND WU WOULD B A LIE.

— MR. WONDERFUL (@ActionBronson) July 11, 2015

WITH THAT BEING SAID MEDIA AND JOURNALIST NEED TO STOP ASKING THE SAME QUESTIONS OVER AND OVER WE GET IT, ITS POOR JOURNALISM.

— MR. WONDERFUL (@ActionBronson) July 11, 2015

HE IS A LEGENDARY UNFUCKWITABLE ARTIST AND IM JUST GETTING STARTED. SO IF U COMPARE ME TO ONE OF THE GREATEST TO EVER DO IT, THANKS.

— MR. WONDERFUL (@ActionBronson) July 11, 2015

MEDIA TRY TO MAKE CONFLICT AND IM WELL SEASONED, NOT MY FINEST HOUR ILL ADMIT.

— MR. WONDERFUL (@ActionBronson) July 11, 2015

And there you have it. Action Bronson, though attempting to take the high road and going out of his way to praise the emcee at whom he’s perceived to have taken shots, wants us all to brush this off as media hype. Mind you he was on a sport’s show and wasn’t pressed or backed into a corner by a seasoned Hip Hop/Entertainment host such as say Charlamagne tha God or a Wendy Williams, both who’ve been known to stir up some controversy with their interview style. His response was in no way provoked, and sure he can try to downplay and deflect, but why wouldn’t the media and the Twitterverse be all over him for this? Again, he was unprovoked. Let’s get right into this; this is a white rapper who admittedly jacked (err, was heavily influenced by… *rolls eyes*) Ghostface’s style and delivery and who happens to have a very similar voice to boot. Regardless of one’s opinion on the matter, whether you support Action Bronson, see him as a culture vulture / swagger jacker, or anything in between, are we really supposed to just let this fly? Of course people are going to have something to say. It’s silly to think or expect otherwise.

Would anyone expect a similar Justin Timberlake vs. Michael Jackson controversy to go away quietly into the night?Michael-Jackson-Justin-Timberlake-Dancing I know, I get it, from a sheer fandom and numbers standpoint, that particular hypothetical “beef” would be on a different stratosphere. But what if Iggy Azalea made similar comments about Nicki Minaj? This particular hypothetical battle is one that I’ve written previously about and that surprisingly, given Iggy’s penchant for never backing down to criticism no matter how much it tends to backfire on her, hasn’t happened yet. Hip Hop beefs, or even the potential for a Hip Hop battle, will always garner heavy attention, especially in today’s quickly moving hyper information age. If said beef is even partially considered to be a matter of appropriation vs. authenticity, forget it about it boy, people are going to come out swinging. Again, to think otherwise is simply naive.

Make no mistake about it, appropriation vs. authenticity is at the very center of this hypothetical Action Bronson vs. Ghostface Killah beef. By all accounts, Ghostface has spoken highly of Action Bronson in the past, even joking that he actually confused himself with Bronson at one point, a clip you’ll find below. In that same interview, while he allows for and doesn’t hate on the fact that Bronson’s voice simply sounds like his own, he goes on to say “nobody can be me.” And he’s right. Nobody can be Ghostface Killah. Nobody can be Nicki Minaj (though in the interest of fairness, I’ll concede that from a visual standpoint, not a rhyming standpoint, a lot of Nicki’s early looks were “heavily influenced by…” Lil’ Kim – click here for said visuals). And this next sentence goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyways, NOBODY CAN BE MICHAEL JACKSON. Not even Justin Timberlike. And that’s not to imply that JT has ever spoken shadily of MJ, but still, let’s be real, he jacked Michael Jackson’s swagger. He’s not the only one, but he’s by far the most successful. Remind me again why we give him a pass for that? I digress…

In a day and age where the Confederate flag and overt, covert and institutionalized racism are constantly hot topics in the news, and where police brutality along with wage and income as well as educational and employment opportunity gaps disproportionately affect African-Americans, it’s not hard to understand why an appropriation vs. authenticity centered Hip Hop beef, however hypothetical, would gain a lot of momentum. In no way am I suggesting that a Rap battle is on the same level as the Confederate flag controversies, police brutality, or any of the other inequities I’ve mentioned above, but let’s not minimize it either. The likes of Chuck D, Lord Jamar, and KRS One have all spoken about the dangers of losing Hip Hop to mainstream America, i.e. white folks. It happened with Rock and Roll, it happened with Jazz, and many fear the very real possibility exists that’ll happen with Hip Hop as well.

A culture and music birthed by African-American and Latinos in the 70s and 80s now has Eminem as its top-selling artist of all-time, and in an outcome that must have left even some of their own writers shaking their head, he was also recently fan-voted as the Greatest Emcee of All Time in a several month-long poll conducted by Ambrosia For Heads. I won’t hate on Eminem because to his credit, he’s for the most part been very respectful of the cultural sensitivity issues surrounding his massive success as a white rapper, routinely gives credits and pays homage to his predecessors in Hip Hop as well as the man to whom he owes his entire career, Dr. Dre, and is a fantastic enough overall emcee to land in my and many others’ Top 5, Top 10, or Top 15 at worst of all-time. But the G.O.A.T??? Over TUPAC in the final round at that??? I’m sorry, but that’s white privilege. That’s a bunch of people not understanding how not just dope but IMPORTANT TO HIP HOP guys like Redman, Big Daddy Kane, Rakim, Run, Kool G Rap, Ice Cube, Nas, and even young (by comparison) Kendrick Lamar truly are.

Eminem GOAT

It’s not only that the casual Caucasian Hip Hop fan outnumbers the learned non-Caucasian Hip Hop fan in droves when it comes to on line votes, young people tend to be more proactive about these things than their elder counterparts, so it stands to reason that a lot the Old School legends get the short end of the stick. And I’ll say it again, Eminem truly is that great of an emcee. But you can’t convince me the color line is not a marked, results altering factor. We had our own Rap Madness tournament back in 2012, had a lot of fun with the battles and write-ups, and though our process was admittedly far less scientific’s than Ambrosia’s, when we put the Final Four up for fan vote, the exact same outcome occurred. Eminem beat Tupac in the Finals. And I suspect such will be the case all too often for similar contests left up to popular vote.

Popular opinion is why Elvis is considered The King of Rock and Roll (a comparison Eminem hasn’t shied away from in his music or interviews – yet another reason he’s oft widely respected among Hip Hop purists). It’s why Bennie Goodman became the King of Swing. It’s why JT is an R&B juggernaut and why Justin Bieber surpassed his mentor, Usher, in fame despite starting out with similar a gimmick. It’s why Snow reached Number 1 with “Informer” when countless other reggae artists at the time of his peak and since haven’t. And it’s why Nicki Minaj, despite her dominance of the R&B/Hip Hop charts over the years has yet to score a Number 1 single on the Billboard Top 100, while Iggy Azalea has. In the interest of full disclosure, I personally enjoy many of these aforementioned artists and rock to a lot of their music. It’d be disingenuous, stupid, and just plain wrong of me to suggest that they’re not at all talented and don’t deserve any of the accolades that come their way. Such is clearly not the case. But a Spade is a Spade, bruh. All things being equal, privilege is absolutely a sizable factor of their success. When a good chunk of those establishing and accounting for popular opinion look like you, you’ve got a leg up on the competition. There I said it. And what?

And that brings us back to Action Bronson’s not so finest hour. Let me be clear. I respect and EXPECT every rapper to feel and verbalize that they’re the best thing since sliced bread, given that Hip Hop is a competitive sport. For that same reason I also appreciate when emcees defend themselves against criticism. And make no mistake about it, despite how I feel about the stylistic and sonic similarities to Ghost, I respect Action Bronson’s hustle and enjoy some of his work.

Black JesusBut when he even hints at taking a shot Ghostface, it riles me up. It riles a lot of people up. And I hope to Black Jesus it pisses Ghostface Killah off. It doesn’t matter one bit to me that Bronson back-tracked, minimized, and deflected. Like Tupac said of Puffy on “Toss It Up”, at the height of the Death Row vs. Bad Boy beef when Puff tried to play the politically correct game regarding ‘Pac questions on interviews, “I don’t care if you kiss my ass from here to across the street boy, it’s on!”

That’s how I hope Ghostface is reacting to all of this. Despite Nicki’s obvious shade last year towards Iggy, that battle, one that I felt would be good for Hip Hop in the context of appropriation vs. authenticity, hasn’t happened. And if Iggy has ANY sense, it won’t beacause it’s one she can’t win, lyrically or contextually. I feel the same way about Ghost vs. Bronson. It won’t happen. I suspect Ghostface, a grown ass 45-year-old man who lived through both Biggie vs. Tupac as well as Nas vs. Jay-Z will pay Action Bronson no mind, especially given Bronson’s repeated homage paying. More importantly, he doesn’t need to.

He’s Ghostface Killah, arguably (and in my opinion) the best lyricist on one of the most legendary MOVEMENTS Ghostface Killah (not just groups) Hip Hop has ever known. In the larger scheme of all things Hip Hop, Action Bronson couldn’t hold a candle to Ghostface Killah, even in his finest hour. I fully expect Ghost to simply brush his shoulders off and keep it moving. But I hope I’m wrong. I hope that “Protect Ya’ Neck” era Ghost comes back for a few diss tracks and not only puts Bronson in his place, but forces us to deal with this appropriation vs. authenticity business, on wax and beyond. Appropriation in Hip Hop is not anywhere nearly as important as something like police brutality – I can’t stress that enough. But it’s a dialogue worth having – I can’t stress that enough as well. Ghostface Killah should bury Action Bronson. Do it for Hip Hop, Ghost. Do it for the culture.

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