Chuck D calls out Kanye, Jay-Z over 'Otis' lyrics

OPINION - Perhaps the last thing Jay-Z and Kanye need to do is provide us with details of their economic status. Or maybe it's time to turn off the radio...

While “Black Twitter” was buzzing on August 1st with birthday wishes to Public Enemy’s Chuck D, he was taking time out of his day to brighten a few others. Released on Public Enemy’s YouTube account, “Notice – Know This” is a song that was recorded as his personal rendition of what Jay-Z and Kanye West’s new popular new track “Otis” could have resembled.

While the commentary below the video he clearly states that it is not a diss but a “polite respect call to the troops.” He asks that they take time in their raps to “reflect the people better.” The people he refers to mainly belongs to the same disenfranchised communities who are competing daily for minimum-wage jobs, many teenagers of which 39.2 percent are unemployed, seeking a way to pay their concert tickets up to $300 and more.

Click here to view a Grio slideshow of the top 20 political hip-hop songs

Chuck D — who made hip-hop history with politically-charged songs like”>“Fight the Power” as activist-inspired role models for the youth — took to this new track to inspire this generation’s leading rappers about the importance of relation to their audience.


He points out the fact that the prison industrial complex is not “swagger,” “whips wheeling is a million miles from what people’s feeling (no gas)” and how the current unemployment rate is a reflection of the 16.2 percent of those suffering “depression inside a recession.”

While some have grown to prefer to hear about the lavish lifestyle of others than to be reminded about the trials and tribulations of their own, is it this same conditioning that has kept commercial hip-hop stagnant for so long? Where is the balance?

As commercial hip-hop sits in the ever-multiplying world of commerce, is it up to artists such as Jay-Z and Kanye West who have risen from rags to riches, to take the responsibility to set the standards for what the people need to hear? With their album, Watch the Throne described as having elements of “deep thought” touching on intimate subjects, then who and what is dictating what singles will sell?

dream hampton, musical, cultural and political journalist who co-wrote Jay-Z’s New York Times best seller Decoded, seems to agree. “I think it best to tuck away G4 talk this summer,” she concludes in “Commentary: Tuck Your Wealth”, an article she wrote about hip-hop braggadocio.

She brings Soulja Boy into discussion — an artist known for independently making millions through his own use of cyber-publicity — having lied about buying a $55,000,000 private jet for his 21st birthday.

While some had the right mind to question what the state of one’s worth would have to be to acquire such an expensive gift, others published it as truth and asked no further questions.

The ‘private jet,’ over time, has turned into the ultimate test of ‘who made it’ and who has not. Coincidentally, “Otis” was chosen as the title of Jay-Z and Kanye’s song not simply relating to Redding being sampled on the track, but due to the fatal crash that caused him his life in 1967 on his personal Beechcraft 18 airplane.

Chuck D wanted to inform the two: “Otis Redding was a humble country man from Macon, Georgia who bought a jet to work in, not flash.” In the song, Kanye West sings “Can’t you see the private jets flyin’ over you?/Maybach bumper sticker reading ‘What Would Hova Do?”

But when Hova’s reality no longer matches that of his audience, and majority of his audience are suffering the effects of a declining economy, perhaps the last thing he needs to do is provide us with details of his economic status. Or maybe it’s time to turn off the radio.