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Paris vs Poorest: Occupy the Throne? Or Rip it From its Foundation?



Released 47 years to the day after the assassination of Malcolm X, Yasiin Bey offers the video for his counternarrative to Jay-Z and Kanye’s luxury rap, club-banger. Equipped with the glyph and all – the stylized Arabic writing for “Yasiin” flashes on the screen throughout the video – the emcee formerly known as Mos Def goes line for line and concept for concept as he reps/raps for the conditions faced by the “Niggas in Poorest” who couldn’t make the trip to France with the two multimillionaires.

Kanye and Jay-Z’s “Niggas in Paris” is itself a tale of how two “niggas” invaded the decadent world of the ultra-rich, learned to speak their language of power, engaged in similar entrepreneurship, learned to spend money just as extravagantly, and brought “the hood” with them. It’s a subversive ode to a certain type of Black empowerment, and “keeping it real” while doing so. In other words, the “medicine” of social commentary, flavored by the “bacon” of a catchy, speaker-rattling beat and references to expensive brands that send us to our browser’s search engine to figure out what the hell they’re talking about.

Congruently, “Niggas in Poorest” is, at its essence, a diss record: medicine for Kanye and Jay-Z, wrapped in the bacon of Yasiin Bey’s social consciousness and pro-Blackness. Bey reminds them – and the rest of us – that while it may be cool to invade the realm of the ultra-rich and “bring some niggas” with you, the real revolution, the untelevised one Gil Scott-Heron rapped about, comes from the margins and from the marginalized. Kanye tells us that he has his “niggas in Paris and they’re going gorillas”, and Yasiin Bey counters with the warning that the “niggas in poorest” are the ones who “be them rebel guerillas”. The song closes with him firing some shots at Kanye and Jay-Z’s use of allegedly Illuminati-based imagery on their “Watch the Throne” album, repeatedly warning us not to “get caught up in no throne”. Bey strikes the deathblow by invoking the word “Bablyon” to describe his target’s alleged engagement in these mystic arts.

Both “Niggas in Paris” and “Niggas in Poorest” provide counternarratives to the oppressive consequences of our economic caste system. Kanye and Jay-Z want to watch the golden throne and maybe even occupy it, while Yasiin Bey wants to melt it down into gold coins and share the resultant wealth. These two stories can co-exist while they’re just that: STORIES. But what happens when one group of “niggas” actually comes to sit on the throne while another group is trying to tear it apart? Hopefully this becomes an ideological rap beef that turns into some answers for this difficult social dilemma.

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28 Comments

  1. RiLEYFebruary 23, 2012 at 11:44 amReply

    This is one heck of an article. I just hope people read it and not just watch the videos. Great Work!!!

  2. David aka Hampton UFebruary 25, 2012 at 5:23 amReply

    Excellent analysis and review!

    Said well: The medicine for Yeze and Jay-Z is that “the real revolution, the untelevised one Gil Scott-Heron rapped about, comes from the margins and from the marginalized. While Kanye “niggas in Paris are going gorillas”, Yasiin Bey “niggas in poorest be them rebel guerillas”.

    Classic. Hip hop lives on…

  3. AndreaFebruary 25, 2012 at 10:36 pmReply

    Great article! Quite an adept analysis, Mr. Dolberry.

  4. Rap Radar :: Young Guru On “Paris vs. Poorest”February 27, 2012 at 3:16 pmReply

    [...] past weekend and had to get some things off his chest. Firing up his web cam, Guru responded to the alumniroundup article on The Throne’s “Niggas In Paris” vs. Mos Def’s “Niggas In [...]

  5. Leon XFebruary 27, 2012 at 4:20 pmReply

    Jay-Z’s engineer Young Guru gives his opinion. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R4rlCK9UcPk

  6. Video: Young Guru On “Paris vs. Poorest” | :: Access Granted TV ::February 27, 2012 at 4:38 pmReply

    [...] weekend and had to get some things off his chest. Firing up his web cam, Guru responded to the alumniroundup article on The Throne’s “Niggas In Paris” vs. Mos Def’s “Niggas In Poorest”. As always, [...]

  7. Young Guru Speaks On ‘Paris Vs. Poorest’ Article « ILLROOTSFebruary 27, 2012 at 5:14 pmReply

    [...] this clip for RapRadar, Young Guru gives his opinion on an article from AlumniRoundUp that analyzes and interprets Jay-Z and Kanye West’s ‘Niggas in Paris’ with Yasiin [...]

  8. Jay-Z Lead Engineer Young Guru Speaks On Niggas In Paris vs Niggas In Poorest VideoFebruary 27, 2012 at 5:53 pmReply

    [...] this vid for RapRadar, Young Guru speaks on an article from AlumniRoundUp that breaks down Jay-Z and Kanye West’s ‘Niggas in Paris’ with Ya Mos Def’s ‘Niggas In [...]

  9. Young Guru On “Paris vs. Poorest”February 27, 2012 at 8:14 pmReply

    [...] past weekend and had to get some things off his chest. Firing up his web cam, Guru responded to the alumniroundup article on The Throne’s “Niggas In Paris” vs. Mos Def’s “Niggas In [...]

  10. hlFebruary 27, 2012 at 8:42 pmReply

    This was a cool read man. Good shit.

  11. BillyFebruary 27, 2012 at 9:27 pmReply

    Though entertainers, when does it become insulting to chalk up $50k as petty when that is more than the income of many. Do we still dance to it and ignore it, while even Republican GOP candidate Mitt Romney is questioned as being “out of touch” when he brags to everyday Americans about owning “a couple of Cadillacs,” and having high-rolling, NASCAR team-owning friends. Do we keep dancing to uphold the throne that sits on our backs? Could Kanye and JayZ have pulled off the same hit with Beys words? The culture of escape and distraction along with an illusion of vanity and power will keep many kissing the feet of pharisees sitting on golden calf thrones.

  12. @poisonedKoolaFebruary 27, 2012 at 11:48 pmReply

    For something to become a “scientific law” (for ex. Gravity), there is a process. This process begins with an “educated guess”. This article is nothing more than an UNeducated guess. Assuming what Mos (or whatever his name is) meant or where he stands is asinine. Mos participates in Hollywood movies, signed to major labels & does commercials etc.

    A statement today doesn’t represent neither your past or future. Check out Guru’s reply , someone who knows Mos, & see a more rational explanation. This article is just grandstanding by prostituting famous rappers names! Guess who the pimp is?!

  13. HetalFebruary 28, 2012 at 12:31 amReply

    You had me until “Illuminati.”

    Seriously, people, are we that retarded that we have to break out conspiracy theories and accusations of Satanism when presenting an opposing argument?

    Hell, if Jay/Kanye really were Satanists, they’d be 100x cooler in my book. (I listen to metal, so it’s not that big of a deal)

  14. Not I Said The Fly | my words are weapons…February 28, 2012 at 10:00 amReply

    [...] this clip for RapRadar, Young Guru gives his opinion on an article from AlumniRoundUp that analyzes and interprets Jay-Z and Kanye West’s ‘Niggas in Paris’ with Yasiin [...]

  15. @six8str8February 28, 2012 at 11:47 amReply

    It would be nice to just see them debate the topic. Jay Z, Kayne, Yasiin are our modern day “philosophers” right? So let them debate it. Hip-Hop has an influence on our entire society. Lyrics are always misinterpreted. Debate the lyrics…debate the topics. Air it on MTV, BET, CNN whatever…we need these type of arguments in today’s commentary.

  16. Young Guru on “N****s in Paris vs. N****s in Poorest” (Video) | AshleyOutrageous.comFebruary 28, 2012 at 7:47 pmReply

    [...] ‘Ye and Jay, when in fact it’s quite the contrary. The article mentioned can be found here and in my opinion completely misses the mark of what Mos was trying to do with the song. He simply [...]

  17. @AWrighterFebruary 28, 2012 at 10:02 pmReply

    Great article and great discussion.

  18. JaapFebruary 29, 2012 at 7:27 amReply

    “Congruently, “Niggas in Poorest” is, at its essence, a diss record”

    I wouldn’t say so, it fits better into the old school tradition of the ‘answer record,’ imo, though the “don’t get caught up in no throne” could be perceived as a jab, it’d be debating semantics mostly.

    I do think the perceived Illuminati reference is off the mark, ‘Babylon’ is a blanket term for the western world and its worst capitalist and imperialist tendencies, like the way it’s often used in reggae and dancehall lyrics. That interpretation of Babylon is right there, front and center, in ‘N*ggas in Paris,’ with all its glaring opulence and decadence. There’s no need to search for hidden meanings or condemnations thereof when what’s referenced is right there on the surface. Still, kudos for juxtaposing these two versions, it makes for an interesting discussion.

  19. JaapFebruary 29, 2012 at 7:40 amReply

    “Congruently, “Niggas in Poorest” is, at its essence, a diss record”

    I wouldn’t say so, it fits better into the old school tradition of the ‘answer record,’ imo, though the “don’t get caught up in no throne” could be perceived as a jab. But that would mostly be debating semantics.

    I do think the perceived Illuminati reference is off the mark, ‘Babylon’ is a blanket term for the western world and its worst capitalist and imperialist tendencies, like the way it’s often used in reggae and dancehall lyrics. That interpretation of Babylon is right there, front and center, in ‘N*ggas in Paris,’ with all its glaring opulence and decadence. There’s no need to search for hidden meanings or condemnations thereof when what’s referenced is right there on the surface. Still, kudos for juxtaposing these two versions, it makes for an interesting discussion.

  20. whateverFebruary 29, 2012 at 12:44 pmReply

    the north american black community is fucked up, jay and ye are on one side of the coin, yasiin and this article are on the other lol.

    the ‘poorest’ version sounds like a remix by [insert random mixtape rapper]

  21. Paris vs Poorest: Occupy the Throne? Or Rip it From its Foundation | Alumni Roundup | TheUrbanRevivalMarch 3, 2012 at 7:49 pmReply

    [...] Released 47 years to the day after the assassination of Malcolm X, Yasiin Bey offers the video for his counternarrative to Jay-Z and Kanye’s luxury rap, club-banger. Equipped with the glyph and all – the stylized Arabic writing for “Yasiin” flashes on the screen throughout the video – the emcee formerly known as Mos Def goes line for line and concept for concept as he reps/raps for the conditions faced by the “Niggas in Poorest” who couldn’t make the trip to France with the two multimillionaires.  …story continued [...]

  22. killerMarch 6, 2012 at 9:43 amReply

    ” Kanye and Jay-Z want to watch the golden throne and maybe even occupy it, while Yasiin Bey wants to melt it down into gold coins and share the resultant wealth. These two stories can co-exist while they’re just that: STORIES. But what happens when one group of “niggas” actually comes to sit on the throne while another group is trying to tear it apart? “

    Thats good shit.

  23. Paris vs Poorest: Occupy the Throne? Or Rip it From its Foundation? « Arts & All ThatMarch 6, 2012 at 10:02 amReply

    [...] …story continued Share this:TwitterFacebookLike this:LikeBe the first to like this post. [...]

  24. Lovejoy FerrymanMarch 8, 2012 at 6:20 pmReply

    http://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/insidestory/2012/03/201238115624591435.html

    Please take a look at this Al-Jazeera video about multiculturalism in (Paris) Europe. The current president of France says that there are “too many niggas in Paris”. Have we forgotten that the REAL niggas in Paris were uprising 2005?

    Let’s stop looking towards the false Thrones and get some intelligence. This whole debate about materialism as empowement-identification-politics is a travesty to our culture, to our heritage, and to our future.

    We ran up out of the chains of physical enslavement to climb into the chains of mental enslavement.

  25. Do you want THAT throne?March 9, 2012 at 7:47 pmReply

    “Niggas in Paris” used to mean that was where black artist had to go to get descent gigs and go to escape American racism. Not to say it was perfect there, but still. What I do not understand is why would you, as a Black person, invade a decadent culture to then argue that you can partake in the same behavior that made it decadent in the first place? Why would you argue to invade a decadent culture to show that you are an entrepreneur or consumer like the ultra rich, when there are other models of doing business and consuming goods that aren’t so self rewarding, yet culturally and socially devastating? Why would you argue that you have the resources to consume things for conspicuous purposes? If that is the measure of black empowerment, then it seams that the rubric upon which it is measured is still pretty High Class and White, and not based on our authenticity as Black people. What I do not hear so much from Kanye and Jays song is that Black People have worth that is measured on a set of values and historical experiences that aren’t tied to the masters lies. Seems like low aspirations to say, yea we can be as “equally” decadent as you.

    • RandonMay 2, 2012 at 4:26 pmReply

      Well said.

  26. RandonMay 2, 2012 at 4:26 pmReply

    I am late on this but it made my week. I cannot stop listening to this track. Thank you Alumni Roundup for a well written article and thank you Yasiin for this gem.

    Peace be with you all.

  27. jamiemccarthy4goodFebruary 1, 2014 at 3:30 pmReply

    Yasiin, Yassin, Yasiin. If he had any marketing behind him, there would be no need for these conversations. He’s on another level and Jay knows this and just ignores it because he doesn’t need to respond as that would give Mos more credence, Jay knows, though. He sits in quiet time and when he puts his wad of cash down he thinks about his legacy as an emcee and knows in his heart that Mos Def is superior to him. That’s a fact.

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