A Call Out to Defari: An Editorial on Race and Criticism

"I’m out here trying to get shows and a lot of these dudes are taking my money you understand? It’s like a lot of these cats are taking my money. The Ugly Ducklings, Atmosphere, Aesop Rock, and all this s### that I ain’t even heard of. I guess it’s a lot of these young kids […]

Win A $75 Giftcard To Footlocker

"I’m out here trying to get shows and a lot of these dudes are taking my money you understand? It’s like a lot of these cats are taking my money. The Ugly Ducklings, Atmosphere, Aesop Rock, and all this s### that I ain’t even heard of. I guess it’s a lot of these young kids that always be on the computer that are into these MC’s and these groups that kinda represent and look like them. When I hear these n##### music I be like ‘damn that’s horrible man.’ This s### is straight garbage," – Defari, Interview with ThaFormula.com.

Let me begin by stating that Defari is one of my favorite

blossoming artists. I’ve purchased his independent albums, his twelve-inch

singles, and even sport merchandise that supports his art. Last year, Defari

and I even conducted an introspective interview together that covered topics

few journalists care about, and dealt with issues privy to those who listen to

the man’s words.

How can it be then, that Defari’s words on another website:

ThaFormula.com,  don’t return that appreciation? Defari’s attacks on the white role in Hip-Hop are both astonishing and hurtful to this writer. As a white man, Defari basically says, that my existence is good enough to buy his records but not share his stage. That catch-twenty-two not only caused me to write this, but also generates some thoughtful conversation.

Defari’s diatribe mentioned three Hip-Hop acts: Ugly

Duckling, Aesop Rock, and Atmosphere. All three of those artists are also

making music that I support with my dollars. All three artists, like Defari,

operate from an independent platform, and make very authentic Hip-Hop, as does

the critic himself. Slug, another journalistic acquaintance, has been making

public records for over a decade, around Defari’s level of seniority. The same

is close for Ugly Duckling, another group I’ve interviewed, and Aesop Rock.

These artists, with Defari, are in the same boat, so to speak.

In Defari’s argument, he has accused these acts of taking

his money. I do believe that ALL Hip-Hop artists are, in a sense, taking each

other’s money. If I’m deciding between two records, one artist gets my money,

the other doesn’t. That’s life, and motivation to make such a f###### good

record that we, the audience, can’t resist buying it. So to accuse three

specific groups, doesn’t make sense – especially when Ugly Duckling, a Long

Beach trio, has in a since, "come up" in the same territory as Defari

Herut. Coming up in Los Angeles, or any city, is the very essence of


Next point: I think all three of these white acts pay homage

to original Hip-Hop. The proof is in the pudding. Aesop Rock did work with a

legend of the unsigned scene, Percee P. Ugly Duckling recently worked with

veteran MC, Grand Puba. Atmosphere, who are decision makers on their

Rhymesayers label, are putting out a M.F. DOOM LP this year by the KMD

front-man. This isn’t Anticon: a group that seems to never expand into any

Hip-Hop artistry besides their own. These are artists that are clearly in love

with classic Hip-Hop, and pay their respects often, with return artist support

from high on the totem pole. After all Defari, to be bluntly honest: had it not

been for King Tee and E-Swift’s endorsement on your work, I may’ve never discovered


You also accuse the "Internet." Oddly, the

interview was for a website. Also interesting: from your Billy The Kid LP to

most recently, Odds and Evens album, aren’t available in many stores. You,

yourself are an "Internet" friendly artist. But granted, I don’t

"look" like you. That’s pretty ignorant and simple thinking for a man

with a diploma from Columbia University. Come to think of it….most of the

Defari fans I know don’t look like you. You want me to return your product? Our

money is all the same color, right? Should I stick to "Rock"? That is

an archaeic system of reasoning you have.

From the deepest depths of my soul, I do try to empathize.

It frustrates me that Aesop and Atmosphere are the first Hip-Hop acts in a

while to meet MTV2’s standards of excellence. But truly, what can we expect a

white corporation of Viacom to do to sell records to a majority white audience?

That’s not our problem, or the artists’ fault.  But their music is far from "garbage." These

artists are making the charts, and not exploiting Hip-Hop in any way that my

critical eye can decipher. After all, you were on Tommy Boy, a label twenty

years rooted in supplying great artists. These cats are independent, as you are

now. Is it not a level playing field? Why not accuse Eminem? Then again, you do

work in the same circles though. Still, if the artists you mentioned are making

such out-there, "garbage", how can a track like "Stan" be

any different? But if we doubt the 45 King’s production, we’re really s#######

on Hip-Hop.

If we accuse the fans of these artists, let’s expand our

finger pointing. Have you been to a Del the Funkee Homosapien show or seen his

demographic? That’s a white show in many places. In the Public Enemy House of

Blues DVD, you’ll see a majority of white faces for a historically pro-black

group, performing in the racially charged setting of Los Angeles. Chuck D, a

personal hero, doesn’t "look like me." But he too, is involved in the

Internet, let’s disregard him. I think you’re missing the big picture here


As Pizzo, a Las Vegas Hip-Hop store owner that slangs your

vinyl by way of the Internet made reference to, some of your producers are

white. Evidence is the best example. The Dilated Peoples have a strong white

following. What makes them any different from Atmosphere? Because they recorded

in D&D? Because they’re from LA? There is no great difference. In our

interview you mentioned three white producers: Evidence, Joey Chavez, and The

Alchemist. These cats are dope whether they’re making records for you,

themselves, or Mobb Deep. But I must like Alchemist because he looks more like

me than you do. He can’t be THAT talented, right?

I say things I don’t mean often. We’re human. I’m still a

Defari supporter as long as you make quality records. But I guess it hurts to

see a double standard being said from an MC I respect so highly. I do realize

that it’s difficult to see Hip-Hop’s face changing. It is difficult to see

white artists on BET before MTV picks up a black artist from the underground. Rock

and Rap radio play Eminem, but Rock radio won’t dare play M.O.P. These problems

need to be directed at the powers that be before the artists. Defari, you need

to evaluate who your audience is, and see that Hip-Hop comes in many sounds and

styles. Personal taste is essential to our identity, but doesn’t sit as well

with argument. In the words of fellow West Coast’er and Asian descent MC

(doesn’t look like us), Lyrics Born…"Stop Complaining."

Send your feedback to jpaine@allhiphop.com

and editorial@allhiphop.com. And,

as you know, these views are not necessarily those of AllHipHop.com, its staff

or owners.