Marc Cabrera has nothing better to do than watch a lot of movies and television, and listen to a lot of music. Luckily, he has a job that pays him to blog about local and national arts, entertainment and pop culture. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Take this story from the LA Times. Rap Group Woodpile is an Arizona-based thug rap outfit who rep hard for the White Pride prison gang The Woods (short for peckerwoods). Woodpile consists of three white rappers, Diesoul Ether Bunny, Crisis and Critical.
I have never heard their music, so it's hard to say what they truly represent, but it just seems odd. The LA Times writer puts it:
The three burly, skin-headed members of the hip-hop group Woodpile want a bigger audience, but they know the odds are long. They have no hope of cracking mainstream radio or MTV with songs like "They Hate Us" or "I'm a Wood," in which they rap menacingly about blasting enemies with shotguns. Further limiting their commercial prospects, their August album, "The Streets Will Never Be the Same," boasts of the group's affiliation with the Woods, a white power prison gang.
The band has since admonished some of the reporter's facts, saying the Woods, and in essence, Woodpile, are a "White Pride" outfit, not a white power group. They are not racist and, in fact, belong to a rap label owned by an African-American rap artist (more on that in a second).
In the story, the writer states that the group is in opposition to white power prison gangs like the Aryan Brotherhood and the Nazi Lowriders. On the group's myspacepage (www.myspace.com/woodpile), the group says they are indeed not against those groups, claiming "We're down for all the (pecker)woods." Say what?
And if the idea of a white pride rap group marketing to white prison gangs isn't enough to furrow your brow, here comes the kicker: the group is signed to West Coast Mafia Records, owned by Sacramento rap legend C-Bo, a black man.
C-Bo is riding hard for these guys, promoting them on his label's and personal myspace page, as well as performing a short list of tour dates with the group.
Now, I love C-Bo. His album "Tales From the Crypt" is one of those West Coast gangsta classics that anyone, from street thug to college frat boy, can appreciate. He's been in legal battles for writing rap lyrics, recorded music with the late great 2Pac, and helped Sacramento maintain a foothold in the West Coast rap market. But this is just crazy.
The group is marketing to prisoners, which is nothing new. Groups like Darkroom Familia and the rapper X-Raided have been doing this since the 1990s (in the case of X-Raided, he recorded music while locked up at Salinas Valley State Prison, a maximum security institution). And rappers with penitentiary credentials have been a hot commodity, from Mac Dre to Tony Yayo to Pimp C. Anticipating an artist's album upon his or her return from prison has become a marketing ploy unto itself.
It's just a bit odd to me that a respected rapper like C-Bo would go out on a limb to promote a group that could be mistaken as racial instigators, in this case the dangerous ground that the so-called "White Pride" movement these guys are promoting. I have no clue as to the racial politics the group or the gang represent, but it seems risky nonetheless.
Even though these guys are obviously not skinheads or rapping racist lyrics, how hard would it be for someone, say a young white kid uncertain about his own racial ideology, to jump to that sort of conclusion. Or worse, this violent music could become the anthem for racists who mistakenly take their music as white superiority pabulum. It's a risky endeavor either way.
Of course, I have to listen to the music before I draw any conclusions. And I'm convinced that C-Bo is a smart enough guy to consider all of this and in fact, use the controversy to his advantage. His marketing and promotional strategy have helped him become CEO of his own record company, with an office in Beverly Hills to boot. That's nothing to turn your nose at.
It will be interesting to see where this prison marketing campaign, and the group Woodpile itself, winds up. I hope C-Bo knows what he's doing.