Hurricane Raps — Freestyles, Conscious Laments and Battle Rhymes Inspired by Katrina
Kevin Weston and Cliff Parker New America Media, September 21st 2005
BATON ROUGE, La. and MOBILE, Ala.–Most Americans get their information on how black people are dealing with Katrina from the mainstream media. But you have to listen to the rhymes of the hip-hop generation to get the whole picture. Hip hop is this generation of black peoples’ old negro spirituals — the language that connects people to each other. Leroy Guy, aka Lil Realiss, 27, is from the lower 9th Ward and now resides in the River Center Evacuation Center in Baton Rouge. Leroy has a gold grill that gleams in the noontime sun. When he talks you hear the distinctive N.O. accent: a slow, then fast, low baritone drawl. Lil’ Realiss believes that black people should stop blaming racism for their conditions. “Everybody say this is a racism thing that the people did this to us,” he says. “I can’t really fault nobody, we gotta take our own blame because the reason why this happened is it was in God’s will. “We were the murder capital city. It just had to come to a complete stop. Everythang needed to come to a complete stop. Before the storm New Orleans was chaos — the worst city to be in.” He delivers his rap freestyle — in this technique of M.C.in’/rappin’ you might have the hook memorized, but you make up the body of rhyme on the spot. Click image to see streaming MP4 video. You need Quicktime 6 or later to view it. “Katrina you only showed me what a woman can do Take my house, my clothes, my rings too. Understand I’m coming back like a twister so frantic So schizophrenic Girl you know the game is panic Hold up what you did I ain’t gonna get mad I just get game for me Katrina baby you made it get strange for me You came like a twister spinning the flame Hold out baby you know I been in walkin’ the rain I never walked from a storm I never ran from the storm Cuz I know my Lord Jesus Christ be loving me since the day I was born Katrina you only showed me what a woman can do Take my house, my clothes, my rings too. She comin’ like a twister four I remember I heard walls shakin’ like a thompson four four Katrina girl you played that game. Looking at New Orleans and you made it all change.” Lenard Rochon, 27, aka Venom, is from the lower 9th Ward and has lived in River Center since August 28, a day before the storm hit. Twenty-one members of his family stay with him in the shelter. You can see the anger in his face when he talks about the aftermath of the storm. Venom is convinced that race was a factor in the evacuation/relief process and he blames the government for being slow to help. Venom’s rhyme could be categorized in the “conscious” genre of rap — ones that address political and social issues in the community — pioneered by rappers like Grandmaster Melly Mel and Chuck D from Public Enemy. Click image to see streaming MP4 video. You need Quicktime 6 or later to view it. “So where you at, Mr. President You know we need help Leaving us up in a situation by ourselves Take a look all around you man See there’s nothing left Except for problems in the streets No food up on the shelf And the water is contaminated you can see that man But they steady tellin’ lies I can’t believe that man. So Lord wont you help me I think I’m going crazy Many of my people died But most of them they really loved me If you look up in my eyes I tell you this is for my people that find our passion See They telling all these lies But if you sending help Then tell your people come and rescue me So won’t you help me lawd.” Kim Benjamin, 25, lives in Mobile, Ala., which has received many evacuees. She looks hardcore, like the classic female M.C.’s — MC Lyte or Lisa Lee — boyish with a aura of feminine danger and allure underneath her white do rag. Kim has heard the rumors about New Orleans evacs coming through other hoods like hers and trying to take over the street hustles. She was on her way to her studio in Mobile when she busted this classic battle rhyme — a lyrical pounding of the chest — aimed at anyone who would try to play her set/neighborhood. Click image to see streaming MP4 video. You need Quicktime 6 or later to view it. “I love walking back to my hood chillin’ wit my folks They gonna love me the same if I’m walkin’ or pushin’ twenty fours and the harder you come at us the stronger we get Cuz all those cold nights on the block is somethin’ we never forget But why you out here runnin’ your mouth Actin’ straight b—- This Spring Hill till we die nigga we don’t play that sh– Cause ain’t sh– changed except the extension of my range the perfection of my aim, and the bitches that I tame But other than man, sh– is still the same in my hood Rollin a ‘lac in all black so we up to no good in my hood.”
Kevin Weston is editor-in-chief of YO! Youth Outlook Multimedia, a journal of young life in the Bay Area. Cliff Parker produces videos for New California Media, an association of over 700 print, broadcast and online ethnic media organizations.