Senim Silla started his career with Binary Star and went on to produce one solo album. “The Name, The Motto, The Outcome” was released back in 2007 and is the result of a self-educated man sharing knowledge with his audience. Through taught provoking and creative lyricism he channels his built-up aggression, and i can’t thank him enough for it. There are many things to admire about the project but one track in particular stood out for me, it’s called “The Awakening”. And I believe it to be one of the best hip-hop songs of the last ten years.
I do not say those words lightly. I say them because he sets the bar for lyrical skill, matched only by his intelligent content. A lot of emcees can master one or the other, but it takes a true genius to provide both. After hearing this piece, i found it hard to go back to cliche themes displayed in much of todays rap music. The production is also to be admired, as it provides an eerie aesthetic as a backdrop to Senim’s message:
“A modern day Socrates for societies hypocrisies, hip-hop’s disease? blame it on label monopolies and giving the improvised cheese! You wont find a cat on MTV, BET or any Viacom subsidy. Many majors they ain’t fuck with me, i ain’t exactly they cup of tea. But still i flow, equivalent to rivers in the seas, im told. The rain, sleet, snow…. Fuck 5.0!”
This verse strikes me for so many reasons. It calls out the agenda set by many Music stations to block out ideas different to the standard corporate drivel. “But still i flow” is a triumphant retaliation, proclaiming nothing can stop the freedom enjoyed by underground hip-hop artists.
In Nas’s live DVD, hip-hop legend Darryl McDaniels (Jam Master Jay) makes a brief appearance and proclaims Nas is the best because he “drops knowledge!!”. I feel this is what Senim does except his hands are not tied down by the chains of a record label. Nas and Lupe Fiasco may be two of the greatest emcees of all time, but neither have been allowed to reach their true potential because of industry politics. In “Black Zombies” Nas rapped “Don’t become a Columbia Records slave like i did”, whilst Lupe disowned his latest album after Atlantic Records blocked his creative process.
There isn’t much controversy from the right wing anymore when rappers glorify gang violence. But when the spotlight turns around and emcees are calling for unity and the uplifting of their own people, their is quite an unease. We know this because when bands like Rage Against The Machine had legally obtained a permit to perform at Wall Street, their concert was still blocked by the police. Or when Mos Def went to the VMA’s and performed songs about Hurricane Katrina outside, he was immediately arrested. Senim Silla spits lyrics that scare the right wing bullys.
Thats why he shouts “there going to kill me over this one!” This isn’t music that rots the brain, instead it could inspire political activists. Perhaps the next Malcolm X. I am amazed at the ease in which he switchs between themes. Taking aim at the church, politics and the corporate structure of hip-hop. I believe this song is called “The Awakening” because when you examine the lyrics at length, it awakens you from the zombie like existence in which many people stay trapped in.
When Jay-Z said on “The Black Album”, “Truthfully i want to rhyme like Common Sense, i sold 5 mil, i havn’t been rhyming like Common since.” He admitted to selling his soul for the purpose of monetary gain. This is why Senim’s lyrics are so important. They are the opposite of selling out and a much needed enemy to the Viacom agenda. I am a fan of Jay-Z, but i laugh when he spits lyrics claiming to be revolutionary or sports a Che Guevara t-shirt. Senim’s words highlight the difference between hollow name shout outs and actual lyrics highlighting oppression.
“I wanna go where Bruce Lee went, where Marvin Gaye went, where John Lennon went….”
These lyrics are paraphrased from verse 2. They speak of obtaining the qualities of free thinkers like the great artists before him. He then goes on to take shots at America’s racist history. Not forgetting those who instead of being unified in their cause to bring about change, show hatred towards their own kind.
“Racist Caucasians created hate in me. A fucking apology is all he gave to me! cats wear the colours, although they ain’t soldiers. They talk of revolution without contributions, steady screaming ’bout guns….. i ain’t the enemy, we need unity to be free.”
“We need hindsight, insight, foresight to see the intricacies of the machine, I’m Huey P, fuck authority, they say forget the past!…… I keep a back log, im burning confederate flags on they front lawn, you ready to ride, im ready to drive by: DIE ARYAN DIE, an eye for an eye. The place is here the time is now my brethren.”
I could write an article solely on the line “we need foresight to see the intricacies of the machine”. This lyric refers to so much within just one sentence. Senim is talking about societies tricks. People go to prison believing they are sticking it to the system when in actual fact their being sucked INTO the system. Gangsta rappers think they are selling America’s worst nightmare when in actual fact’s they are slaves to it’s agenda.
Although words like Die Aryan Die can be shocking. To only see the violent aspect of the lyrics is to miss the point. “An eye for an eye” deals with the brutal story of American history. Is it wrong to expect an angry response from an injured party? Senim is expressing the pain of his forefathers when they dealt with the horrors of the slave ships. I personally do not advocate violence but i can not argue with the cold facts in which these emotions and feelings stem from.
I recently watched Michael Moore’s film “Capitalism: A Love Story”, which dealt with the very real stories of homes being repossessed within the African-American community. I instantly taught how our music rarely reflects these realities. This angered me as hip-hop was originally intended to give a voice to the poor. I wonder how many people we could reach if Senim was allowed to perform “The Awakening” on live TV. Better yet, if he was given a platform to explain the meaning of his words. Could we inspire the next generation to put an end to their mistreatment? I guess we’ll never know.
The youth don’t gravitate towards mindless content, instead they are force fed it until it is imprinted onto their psyche. In essence, they like what they are told to like. With hip-hop, we have a vessel that is more powerful than just mere poetry. This music speaks to the soul. There is an emptiness to the self hatred spread by much of modern rap music. Yet we can feel empowered by “The Awakening”.