Updated: May 21
We all want to be the hero. I want to be the hero. I want to slay the dragon, get the treasure chest, save the princess, and get a welcoming from the village. What’s the point of being the champ, if you’re not the people’s champ. So often in this life, it feels like the bad guys win the most. It’s like the Million Dollar Man beats Hulk Hogan every week.
Obviously the conversation about good & bad is nuanced, but there’s moments where it's so blatantly obvious where the good guy loses. We applaud people who take moral stances, but so often, those are the people that end up losing.
Nelson Mandela spent 27 years in prison for taking a correct moral stance, it was obvious to the whole world that was wrong, 27 years later. 27 years of that man’s life taken away, only for everyone to admit it was wrong, 27 years later.
Imagine that. Newspapers weren’t allowed to publish his face, he was to be thoroughly anonymous & rot in jail, in fear of his growing popularity, because clearly, he was right.
He came out 27 years later, the people’s champ. But it didn’t start off that way and it greatly affected his life. Being the peoples champ requires a great sacrifice for the people, the ones that support & the ones that would try to kill you, because their kids now reap the rewards of the world Mandela created.
People like Mandela make me extremely idealistic. I think we all have already, & will continue to change the world in every way, & we can change it positively. But I’m still pretty young, & looking at the field, they make it feel like the good guy has to lose. It’s blatant sabotage, all the time, all the way back to Jesus. Why would we crucify the best guy for doing the right thing?
Dave Chappelle is an example of the good guy that ended up winning, he put his reputation, financial wellbeing, mental well being & a decade of his career at stake, and we understood that & supported & boycotted his show till he got the money he was owed.
Dave Chappelle is part of a generation of artists that the media has been trying to tear down & discredit for decades. There was a generation of conscious artists that decided to produce the dopest art possible, at the highest level possible, and it's been decades of media smear campaigns against them.
I was born in 1998, the year I was born the Miseducation of Lauryn Hill won album of the year, Outkast dropped Aquemini, A-Tribe Called Quest dropped The Love Movement & there was a growing push towards creating impactful art that changes the world becoming mainstream.
After 98 & as Hip Hop continued to grow in mainstream notoriety, conscious messaging took a backseat to party music & gangster rap.
Conscious music continued to sneak into the mainstream. In early 2003, Chappelle's Show premiered on Comedy Central, offering guest spots to conscious rappers like Mos Def, De La Soul, and Slum Village.
In October 2004, XXL magazine put Chappelle on the cover along with Kanye West, Common, Talib Kweli, and Dead Prez.
That same year Chappelle held a free concert in Brooklyn featuring a bill of conscious rappers, including a reunited Fugees, Kanye West, Erykah Badu, Jill Scott, The Roots & Common. The concert was filmed for a Wattstax-like documentary called Dave Chappelle’s Block Party, perhaps the definitive conscious rap documentary.
But Chappelle, like Kanye West, Lauryn Hill & Andre 3000, was so overwhelmed by success and the burden of a socially conscious reputation that he fled to South Africa. Nina Simone did the exact same thing as Dave, down to the trip to Africa, because of the exact same predicament, and they were all called crazy.
What would make a person leave the set of a successful television show & flee to Africa?
‘Gladiator Circus World’ is the title for Dave Chappelle, Yasin Bey & Talib Kweli's second episode for their podcast ‘Midnight Miracle’
The show was recorded last summer during Chappelle’s 2020 Summer Camp shows, which he hosted in Ohio and featured an array of guests from music and comedy. Chappelle described it as “a variety show on wax.” The episodes boast a mix of conversations, special guests, sketches, impersonations, archival audio clips, and music (both pre-recorded and new performances).
“Gladiator Circus World” finds Kweli and Bey premiering their first music as Black Star in over 20 years with Madlib production, while Radio Rahim, Questlove, Lamorne Morris, and Jon Hamm make guest appearances.
This episode has a thousand quotable moments that I’ve officially incorporated in my general verbal lexicon (I WOULD LIKE TO SEE YOU TRY & EAT MY KIDS, clearly these people have not felt a real orgasm, fuck they souls, NIGGA THE SUPERMARKETS OPEN WTF IS HE TALKING ABOUT etc.) it feels classic. It feels like eavesdropping on a conversation among friends. It's interesting that Madlib produced the Black Star song because this feels like the Podcast version of his classic album with MF Doom MadVillainy.
‘Gladiator Circus World’ is a hilarious & in depth analysis of our culture that is reflected, perpetuated & created in the technology, media, and telecom (TMT) sector, which is an industry grouping that includes the majority of companies focused on new technologies. Entertainment, Tech, Social Media and News all fall in this sector.
Bey, Kwelli & Dave get into the different ways TMT has changed human communication & nature. They talk about how TMT distorts reality by creating these alternate realities of pseudo human kayfabe provocateurs like the 24 hour news cycle, Alex Jones, Candace Owens & Rush Limbaugh, that stage conflicts, & use their platforms to divide & control people by pitting them against each other, with things like cancel culture, social media addiction & how it affects us neurologically, cyberbullying & how our social media culture has made us all part of this clout chase circus, looking to draw an audience, & how that has created a society of people that record burning cars to get views.
They believe TMT has distorted the art, information we get, human nature, as well as the culture of the American political climate.
The episode is backed by spooky string music and Roman Gladiator drums, with Dave, Bey & Kwelli discussing the different ways in which TMT affects society; it's hilarious, relevant & profound, as with anything Chappelle touches.
The episode is cut with scenes from The Gladiator, intervals of the Black Star song Automatic, Donald Trump speeches, Alex Jones quotes, Rush Limbaugh quotes & Dave Chappelle stand up, cutting back & forth into the guys talking about the effects of TMT on society. At one point Dave Chappelle campaigns for the Medal of Freedom, which I completely believe he is eligible for & deserves.
The title of the episode comes from Bey’s observation on the current ‘polemic olympics’ identity politics, alongside TMT & how that has created a professional wrestling kayfabe Gladiator Circus World of people who are diametrically opposed on every tiny issue, and various people capitalizing on that division, by disregarding truth, highlighting the worst aspects of human nature, & how that led to a cynical society, and eventually Trump & the capitol riots.
Our world makes us think about it in terms of power. We operate in structures that make us focus on status, conquest, acquisition, war & tribalism. Humans are naturally empathetic. We absorb, synthesize then reflect energy when we interact with the world. Yasin Bey believes the art & the information you consume is capable of giving you energy, and dictating how you interact with the world. If you are constantly consuming negative information, you will create a negative experience.
Human life actually operates on energy, not power. Energy is biological, physical, emotional, it is the source and course of every atom in the universe. Energy can’t be created or destroyed. Art is an alchemical process. Artists alchemize energy for us to use.
Chappelle has been talking about the premise of cultural cynicism in every interview since the pandemic started. Chappelle believes that people rushing into the supermarkets to fight over toilet paper is a symptom of a lack of trust & camaraderie in society, exemplified by Alex Jones saying he would eat his neighbour's kids on the third day of the pandemic. Chappelle believes the solution for the times is the kindness conspiracy, it’s to be committed & dedicated to being good to people & true to yourself. Bey, Kwelli & Chappelle believe the way to foster trust, unity, love & camaraderie is by actively going out of our way to create beauty, be truthful, sincere & create energy that people could use to better their lives.
Artists alchemize energy that we use in our lives, we all have our workout playlists full of songs that give us energy to workout harder. Bey talks about artists as a valuable tool that are accessible for TMT but are used to propagate harmful ideologies that make people cynical. Bey’s marching orders for creating the necessary energy in the modern day is to create beautiful & sincere art that attempts to transcend & unite.
The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill has impacted my life & how I look at the world. It inspires me when I’m down, I go back to listen to it & get that feeling, just like I watch Muhammad Ali interviews to get that feeling, that inspirational energy I apply to move forward in my life.
It’s easy to get trapped in the cynicism of the times, everyday feels crazier than the last, and we’re bombarded by so much information.
It feels like it’s always beauty vs money, destruction for money or beauty because of money, instead of money because of beauty. I don’t need to buy an expensive thing to make me beautiful, I am beautiful, humans are inherently beautiful creatures.
There’s just a segment of people that don’t value beauty, they value money, views & power over people, because they don't feel beautiful, & they feel weak, so they act ugly. Money & power complete them, & they’re willing to be & produce ugliness for it.
Beauty intimidates. Muhammad Ali stood on a mountaintop & screamed I AM THE GREATEST, I AM BEAUTIFUL, & then he acted that way. He believed it, he promoted it, embraced it & became it, & he was lynched for it.
Beauty highlights ugliness. Millions of people paid to see Ali lose. A loud mouth, good looking, skinny black kid who was beating up White men & dancing around them, in the 60’s, I could not imagine. He was unbelievably arrogant & he backed it up, they must have been foaming at the opportunity to tear him down.
His abrasive greatness presented itself in a moral decision & his license was suspended, his passport was suspended, & he was made broke, only to return back to boxing, longer than he should have.
Ali was revered by the people, he still is, to this day. There’s not a home in the world that wouldn’t welcome & feed that man, because he’s the peoples champ. No amount of money can give you that level of respect, but Ali still suffered the consequences of a life of true greatness & beauty.
Ali’s peers were Sam Cooke, Malcolm X, James Baldwin, Nina Simone, John Lennon, Martin Luther King, & Huey Newton. All of these people were creating beauty & pushing movements forward respectively in different mediums & genres, all of them were assassinated or infiltrated.
In a beautiful poem, Martin Luther King dreamt of a future where little black & white boys and girls would play together. In the 70s, Hip Hop was created in a New York free of segregation with poor, young black, white & Latino kids doing graffiti, DJing, breakdancing & rapping together. Hip Hop became the globally unifying culture. Hip Hop is MLK’s dream.
Tupac Shakur & his generation in the 90s came out & spoke as & for Hip Hop. He stated that Hip Hop was picking up the mantle for the 60s counter-culture, they solidified it as a cultural movement & a progression towards that goal of freedom. Tupac's peers were the Fugees, they were Outkast, it was Dave Chappelle & Kanye West, Pac just died too early to see the end of the story. Tupac highlighted the ugliness & was MLK’d.