NO GPS | H Rap Brown: Kendrick Lamar, Drake and (Ni**a) Authenticity | Ep20 | NO GPS (2024)

Today's episode is the one you didn't know you were waiting for! Mez, Matt, and Aharon do an in-depth analysis of the rap beef between Compton's "home is not where the heart is" Kendrick Lamar and Toronto's "placeless" hit-making global superstar Drake.

This seemingly juvenile rap beef has laid the foundation for an audit of Hip-Hop after over 50 years of its existence. Surprisingly, this audit—or rather, revelation—has emerged from the unlikely places of Toronto and London, England. German philosopher G.W. Hegel tells us that the philosopher arrives at the end of an epoch to make sense of its many paradoxes and ironies, not before or midway. This person, akin to Athena’s Owl of Minerva (it seems Toronto is home to more than one kind of OWL), can interpret the world of meanings often lost to us. For this instance, we call this person Hip-Hop’s Last Philosopher.

This rap beef has signalled the official end of George Bush Sr.'s New World Order and a return to history with its many geopolitical fault lines—apologies to f*ckuyama. The era of prioritising interests over ideology is officially over. This was a period where the individual was fashioned to be a jet-setting, the-world-is-my-backyard, free agent of infinite possible identifications. Now, the lines are being drawn in the sand, brown sand, once again. Apologies to Rakim, but it's no longer "where ya at"; it's back to "where are you from?" Like the rise of ancestry tests, the worlds of culture, politics, sports, and entertainment are increasingly concerned with where your allegiances lie and what your values are.

Additionally, the guys discuss the disastrous effects that globalisation had on local LA and Toronto neighbourhoods post-NAFTA. This rap beef has cast Drake as a rootless and f*ckless agent of extractive globalisation, with his parade of accents and affiliations, while positioning Kendrick as the local agent of neighbourhood revitalization and grassroots advocacy. To understand this better, let's take a historical journey.

In the 1980s, downtown LA and the West Hollywood movie studios were pivotal sites for post-Cold War globalisation, particularly focused on receiving investment from the Asian Pacific, particularly Japan (the second biggest investor in the LA county region at the time were firms coming from Canada). This led to the global economic integration of various industries on the West Coast and the American Midwest, resulting in deindustrialization and joblessness for many white Americans, who now suffer through the opioid crisis. Meanwhile, on the other side of town (word to Tony Toni Tone - and it does rain in southern California, figuratively speaking), globalisation took on a different form.

The introduction of the globalised trade of crack cocaine marked a black market integration into the world economy, starting in LA through figures like the real Rick Ross. This not only exported dangerous street drug commodities but also the vehicles for selling them—namely, the set formations of local LA street gangs. Ice Cube's 1991 song "My Summer Vacation" perfectly describes this late 80s to early 90s phenomenon of exporting brother-on-brother violence and its associated Scarface cocaine dreams. By 2005, this form of integration in the global economy via crack cocaine, originating in South Central LA, was distributed through Crip and Blood sets across America and eventually the globe.

A street documentary entitled "The Real Toronto," released in 2005, showcased the interrelated relationship between these distant geographies. A similar sense of boundedness and territorial identity formation was developing in Toronto's black neighbourhoods, even as a global ethos of borderlessness and openness was being embraced. This culminates when a young black Toronto teen states in the documentary: "If you take a good look around the block, it’s like two squares and a square on that side, and then a square on this side. …The government, that’s how they control us. They box us in.” We highlight this not to sow division but to make our interconnectedness clear.

Lastly, the whole world has seemingly been sprayed with an unplaceable colour of Kim Kardashian like-brown. It seems everybody wants to be brown now. Yet, I can remember a young Brandy Norwood in 1994 singing that she wanted to be down. A specific way that particular demographics in the Black Atlantic would describe a type of black communal solidarity. But in 2024, the whole world has replaced the world down with the word brown. Not just any type of brown. A Michael Jackson ‘I can be from anywhere so guess my ethnicity’ type of brown. Michael Jackson from the Martin Scorsese directed music-video/short film Bad type of brown. A figure who is for everybody because he is not particularly for anybody. An individuated agent whose origins are untraceable. A being who is a guest in their own body. The perfect amorphous agent for the type of unfettered free market fundamentalism (only for the overdeveloped nations) that globalisation unleashed on unsuspecting populations all around the world - populations of people who just wanted to be seen and acknowledged. Who just wanted to be down. Michael Jackson started it all - and now we have a coterie of brownified global superstars that someone from Afghanistan or the Dominican Republic can identify with. But this is only a skin deep connection - it doesn't tie in to that person's indigenous real-non-virtual-world social, cultural, political realities and histories. Fanon already wrote a book called Black Skin, White Masks. So I need not explain further on the point. But let me say this, the mask is now brown and it is not only black folks wearing the masks - everybody's in on the jig now. Nevertheless, if we take the metaphor between the two rappers (Kendrick identifying himself with Prince and Drake identifying himself with Michael Jackson) seriously, then, it may be 37 years too late, but we finally have our promised battle between two music industry heavyweights (remember - not the time - that Prince was initially casted to star in Jackson's Bad video in the role played by Wesley Snipes).

Come take a ride with the guys from NO GPS, with NO GPS!

Time Stamps:

0:00:34 - Intro

0:2:18 - Toronto as a seminal Hiphop city

10:56 - Sandman Negus

13:45 - City of Quartz - LA as the launchpad for Globalisation

17:28 - Exporting gang violence

23:32 - Drake & Kendrick

27:07 - The electrifying and pacifying effects of LA & Toronto music & inauthenticity

38:05 - The 2008 connection between Obama, Kanye West & the great financial recession

43:04 - Obama

45:03 - Drake's Story

48:42 - The Eminem effect

51:34 - Drake's conquering of the USA-centric Rap Industry, why he moved to the US & claims of being an agent of colonization

58:03 - Outro

Produced by Matt J.

Music by TrethWest

Art by Matt J.

NO GPS | H Rap Brown: Kendrick Lamar, Drake and (Ni**a) Authenticity | Ep20 | NO GPS (2024)


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