Thanks to boxer Athol Dempster, soon to graduate from Baruch, for sharing this excellent paper with us. It's a close reading of a poem blogged by rapper Lupe Fiasco a day after the death of Gil Scot Heron.
“R.I.P. Gil-Scott Heron” by Lupe Fiasco is a tribute poem to famous artist, poet and author Gil-Scott Heron. The lines and stanzas are a play on or allusion to Heron’s classic piece “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised.” Fiasco further memorializes Heron’s work by writing this poem in a similar style, with a similar message, in homage to such an iconic individual. The poem begins with the lines “Idiot boxes of the world unite! To fight off the effects of intelligence, replace smart quotes with fart jokes, substitute sense with scenes from Martin, let the baby's bathe in that glow and learn all manner of things they don't really need to know!” These lines are very impactful and they speak to the changes happening in television and the adverse effects this is having on young minds. Fiasco reiterates the central theme that the revolution will not be televised because television will not be revolutionized. He does so in order to awaken the minds clouded by media and commercialism. The poem uses repetition as one of its main stylistic choices to highlight the message. It continues to state “The Television Will Not Be Revolutionized!” meaning nothing is going to change on T.V.
In the poem, he advances this idea when he states “by this one-eyed monster most of the world was raised and by this hero most of the world was saved, and to this master most of the world is slaves, it factors your fears with actors and cheers from a live studio audience pushing you to engage in a heroic act of thoughtlessness for the grand prize of a little bread, fleeting fame in the circus and every thought in yo head.” This line speaks to the idea that television is raising society’s children. What is portrayed on television is being accepted as the norms, or reality. For example, the negative stigma of African Americans on reality programming is what is becoming the role model to young children who watch it. Upon closer analysis, one may notice, on television, that the black male commonly gets typecast as the aggressor who fails to make contributions to society. As a result of this stigma, the only time the media ever really has a conversation centered on a black male, it is negative. For example, when rapper Kanye West says or does something ridiculous; Ray Rice or another professional athlete has drug, weapon, or domestic abuse charge; or a local black male is murdered or commits some type of crime.
The poem has no structured rhyme scheme. However, the stanza breaks help add to the rhythm and develop the serious tone of the poem. Fiasco uses several examples of figurative language that add depth to his poem. Fiasco uses personification when he writes “'ain't no changing me' said my flat screen TV." Giving the television the ability to speak further perpetuates the idea that television, in its current state, is fixed and will not change. Meaning the types of shows, branding, and consumerist brainwash will continue. Fiasco believes that this is society’s demise, because he states “so there will be no revolution or paradoxically ironic televised public execution of the entire worldwide televising institution."
The entire poem makes references to popular culture throughout. For example, in the third stanza he says “Small claims Court drama, teenage baby mamas, Osama watching Osama, Celebrity Endorsed indoor saunas.” This quote in many ways is true because our society has become so media dependent. If you really take time to reflect, you may notice more people know what is going on with celebrities than with individuals within their own community. I am embarrassed but honest with myself when I say I’m more up to date of the goings on in the lives of characters on “Love and Hip Hop” than I am about the current battle regarding immigration or the presidential debates. Even though both are exposed through the media, like many others, I naturally gravitate to things that I find more entertaining. So I am consciously making the decision to watch people portray themselves, in many instances, as classless, undereducated, materialistic members of society. As a result, I’ve noticed, unfortunately, how much these shows inform and educate the masses about American society.
Fiasco uses his talent as a rapper to create in the reader a sense of awareness that is a powerful weapon in the battle with media. The poem enables the reader to understand that the world will continue to be uniformed unless we take heed to his words. Fiasco’s use of the elements of repetition, structure, personification and symbolism are what make this an incredible poetic piece. This poem is a protest against the ongoing assault on young minds on a daily basis. So many of today’s youth are imprisoned by technology, and unless something is done to stop this, it will only get worse. Lupe Fiasco ends with “cuz you see my dear friends the television will not be revolutionized but what about the revolution that should taking place inside of you?” This line is a cry for social awareness. He wants readers to resonate with the idea that media should not be in control and that we have to make an individual, conscious effort to not fall into its trap. The idea that we are hypnotized by the “idiot box” has to end by us deprogramming ourselves, re-evaluating who we are, and gaining a more conscious state of mind.