Lynda Blake Real Estate Developer and Hip Hop Icon Raheim, Discuss the Prison Industrial System
LB: We have as our guest today Rahiem AKA Todd Williams who is best known as Rahiem of Grandmaster Flash and The Furious five and one of the creative minds behind the show …So Hi!…how are you doing?
Rahiem (in a silky smooth voice) : Hello Lynda.
LB: (smiling) We have a whole lot of questions that we will be shooting at you but we want to know a little bit about you in terms of how you came up with the name Rahiem: (in all the ladies dreams)? I-I kinda know but I want to hear it from you.
Rahiem: Well it was , or… there is… a gentleman by the name of Rahiem Le Blanc and he is the lead singer of the legendary R&B group GQ. They made a few hits…Disco Nights, sitting in the park and they used to do block parties…when I was just becoming a teenager. I used to be like…always in the front of the ropes they used to have a section roped off outside and I would be in the front practically in Rahiem LeBlanc’s mouth singing all of the words to the songs that they sang, because I knew the words. So he saw that, y’know, I had a little talent for singing and I was eager to learn and I was picking up little tricks of his and so he took me under his wing and tutored me. Gave me a little instruction in music theory and some vocal lessons. I began joining groups in my neighborhood and we would enter local talent shows and what have you.
LB: Oh nice.
Rahiem: Yeah, I did that shortly before I joined my first rap group.
LB: Okay, so where did you pick up the ladies dream part, because you know, I’m a big fan by the way. (laughs)
Rahiem: “Oh Wow…The ladies dream part…I guess two things helped that to come to fruition. The very reason why I started rapping in the first place was (due to)… a guy named Joe Goodwin who was in school with me, we went to high school, Harry S. Truman High School in the Bronx…We went to that school and Joe was…I think maybe a sophomore when I got in the school and he used to walk the hallways and say these rhymes and all the girls in the school would follow him everywhere he went and I was like, wow! I need to learn how to say some rhymes ‘cause I want all the girls in the school to be following me around everywhere I go! So I started writing rhymes and when I came up with the name Rahiem…uh… There are a few words or whatever that make sense and rhyme with the name Rahiem, but nothing…no slogan that I came up with for the name… stuck out like “Rahiem in all the Ladies dreams.” I mean to this day, no matter how long ago I wrote the slogan, in any relationship I’ve ever been in the women always refer to…”Oh, so you’re Rahiem in all the ladies dreams.”
LB: I’m from the Bronx too, and I wanted to ask… did you used to live in Lambert? (Lambert Apartment Complex)?
Rahiem: Yes I did.
LB: When I was a kid my favorite Aunt and my cousins lived there and I would visit all the time and they used to tell me,”Rahiem lives in that building, and they would always point to your building, I’m like Y’all lyin’ no he doesn’t! (laughs)…What guidance would you give to a younger version of yourself growing up in the Bronx today?
Rahiem: “Well if they were pursuing a career in the music industry as you were suggesting if it were a younger version of myself. That would mean they would be desirous of becoming an artist so for all of the aspiring artists out there I would say that the one thing I would strongly advise is to educate yourself about the music business. This is a business first and when you treat it like anything other than what it is…a business, then you are starting out in a position… without leverage.” You have to treat it like a business and when I say educate yourself, it behooves you to educate yourself of every nuance of the business as it pertains to what you do. Then you won’t be ignorant to how we get paid. What you’re supposed to get paid, when you’re supposed to get paid, who pays you…?It all pertains and goes back to money. These major conglomerates that provide the entertainment we see every day are making billions and billions of dollars off of the backs of the artists.
LB: That’s true…
Raheim: …Not that they don’t do their job they hold up their end of the bargain but the quantity or percentage of what they take from the pie is just, much more than is actually necessary (deserved). Especially at this particular juncture of the game, seeing that the digital format, (is prevalent) the format that we now receive our music and entertainment nowadays has taken away the tangibility of going into a record shop and buying a physical record or CD and having something tangible to walk away with. So they devalued the music buy doing that by taking away the tangibility.
LB: I think that’s so true, and it really lends itself to the fact that a lot of artists got hip on going into the industry as an independent artist (Remy Ma,Young MA, Boogie Wit Da Hoodie, Beyonce’…) where they control most of their masters or all of them and this allows them to control their destiny. That leads me in to my next question, how do you feel about the state of Hip Hop today in terms of old school and new school and in terms of the music industry as a whole?
Rahiem: Well, um… a lot of people, a lot of millennials would attribute what I’m saying to being… (reflective of) someone from my era of Hip Hop being disgruntled, but I’m not upset or angry at all at where I am in my current station in life as it pertains to the hip hop culture. So I’m saying this actually out of love and hopes that we can move forward to do better…but the reality is we (hip hop heads) don’t control OUR culture. We haven’t controlled our culture for quite some time. Once corporate “anybody” embraces culture which is corporate America’s job it’s their job to assimilate it, repackage it and sell it back to us in a way that they (corporate America) can understand and benefit from it monetarily. So as a result of the fact that we were not in control of our culture… In 1990 a new brand of rap was introduced, and that brand of rap introduced in 1990 was called “Gangsta Rap”. Gangsta rap has been the flagship of rap music since 1990 until the present. It’s essentially changed the face of hip hop. …It changed the perception of the most influential demographics of the population that listen to it which are the adolescents. So in 1990 a Company called Corrections Corporations of America had closed door meetings with top record company executives who had to sign non-disclosure agreements…
They planned to change the face of hip hop forever. Corrections Corporations of America is the largest facilitator of privately owned penitentiaries in this country and they’ve made deals with 48 states in this country to have a privately owned penitentiary erected in each respective state on the condition that each state could maintain a 90 percent incarceration rate. So here’s the close. If every day of your young impressionable life you were subjected to your favorite artists who are probably in your ear more than your parent or teacher and they are telling you that the way to their success was to stand on the corner and sell drugs and (excuse my language) Shoot n***s and F*** hoes and you hear this …perpetually y’know radio stations play this (message) in rotation. That would mean that you’re being programmed and I would guess that is the reason they call the people who are responsible for the music we hear on the radio every day, Program Directors. So we are being programmed and its called the power of suggestion.
(Ed.Note: CoreCivic, formerly the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), is a company that owns and manages private prisons and detention centers and operates others on a concession basis. Co-founded in Nashville, Tennessee by Thomas W. Beasley, chairman of the state Republican Party, Doctor Robert Crants, and T. Don Hutto in 1983, it received initial investments from Jack C. Massey, the founder of Hospital Corporation of America, Vanderbilt University, and the Tennessee Valley Authority. By 2016, Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) along with Geo Group were running "more than 170 prisons and detention centres". CCA's reported revenues in 2015 were $1.79bn. Many modern social theorists consider CCA the most prosperous of the modern prison slavery system.