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Verse Of The Week: Field Mob

Submitted by on December 12, 2009 – 2:17 pm15 Comments

fieldmobField Mob

Guess who’s back? Finals are done, and while grades haven’t been released yet, I fully expect a triumphant return to the President’s List after a slight one-semester academic decline.

It’s about time for another verse and this time we’re heading to Georgia. Last week’s verse was a break from the norm to highlight some Cupid-stricken rhymes. This week, we’ll return to the usual and deal with an issue which has plagued Black culture (and therefore American culture) for about as long as this country has existed. That issue is colorism.

Before we get into the topic of the day, let’s talk about the artist. Field Mob is a hip hop duo comprised of rappers Smoke - aka Chevy Pendergrass – and Shawn Jay. The group is based in Albany, Georgia (which, by the way, is the birthplace of Ray Charles).

The way these guys met and began their musical journey is extremely similar to the story of Andre 3000 and Big Boi of OutKast and many consider them the second coming of the ATLiens. As the story goes, the two went to the same high school and began as rapping rivals. They would battle in schoolyard ciphers every week, with neither of the two pulling off a consecutive victory. Finally, they decided to join forces and the rest was history.

Due to singles such as “Sick of Being Lonely” and “So What,” one may think the Field Mob has no substance and is all club bangers and R&B-infused jams. In actuality, these guys have tackled issues including slavery, racism, domestic abuse, and spirituality on their albums.

The particular song which yields the verse quoted below is credited to the Field Mob and featured on their most recent album, Light Poles and Pine Trees, released in 2006. However, the song is actually written and performed solely by Smoke, who is pictured below.


Now that the artist has been introduced, we’ll go back to the original topic at hand.

Colorism is the phenomenon of discrimination within a race or ethnicity based on skin tone. To put it simply, we are not always fair to those who are not fair-skinned.

Just to prove the relevance of this issue, allegations of colorism were most recently levied against the film, Precious.  Some say it notably featured bright-skinned actors and actresses in the positive roles and dark-skinned cast members in the negative and more stereotypical roles. Such critics believe this to be a perpetuation and promotion of colorism instead of a step towards eliminating the problem.

I’ll let Smoke take it from there as I present the second verse from Field Mob’s “Blacker The Berry.”

“I ain’t have Marvin Gaye to sing to me
And make me feel like black was the thing to be
Until Big Daddy Kane, I was so glad he came
Made me feel good about bein’ black again cause
We was at the bottom of the market
Al B. made Sure it was a problem to be dark skinned
Until Wesley Snipes, then
In with the darkies out with the light skinned
Now we got Tyrese, Taye, and Tyson
Mekhi Phifer in every movie ya like and
Blade he remind me of a modern day Panther
While Batman hides behind a mask like a Klansman
We have to achieve, ‘Caine’s killin us
Like it killed the second son of Adam and Eve
Ya palm is white and spreaded fists are black and tightened now
Slappin’ five is cool but rather you ball ya fist and give me pound

To finish the sentence, the chorus is a recurring sample of a very famous quote from Tupac‘s “Keep Ya Head Up”:
“Some say the blacker the berry, the sweeter the juice
I say the darker the flesh, then the deeper the roots.”

This proves to be a very fitting sample, as another very recognizable line from ‘Pac’s conscious record makes a phantom appearance at the beginning of this verse.

We all know that Tupac said,”I remember Marvin Gaye used to sing to me
He had me feelin’ like black was the thing to be.”

The lead-in to this song is a sketch in which Smoke attends a comedy show and gets ripped by the comedian for his complexion. Smoke makes it clear throughout this song that he is used to such treatment and has had to deal with it all of his life.

In reference to the Tupac line, Smoke acknowledges the fact that Marvin Gaye was nowhere to be found when he grew up. Of course, when Smoke says ‘black’ he is talking about his actual skin tone – not just his race.

Smoke goes on to say that Big Daddy Kane was to him what Marvin Gaye was to Tupac: a familiar-looking success story who made him feel good about himself. Big Daddy Kane’s skin tone most likely made Smoke feel that he could relate to the hip hop pioneer.

He says that before Big Daddy Kane, “we was at the bottom of the market.” This is a highly significant line as it can be interpreted in at least two ways. The first and most obvious is that dark-skinned people were considered the least desirable and were not expected to be as good as their counterparts with lighter skin tones.

bdkBig Daddy Kane

The second is a look back to where the mentality came from – slavery. Men and women, as we all know, were objectified and had monetary value placed on them based on physical attributes. Many of the “brighter” slaves were treated well and did work which was significantly less strenuous while those who were darker worked out in the fields. When slavery was abolished, it seems that many of us ceased to abolish the nature and mentality which had been embedded in us through its institution.

Smoke humorously points out Al B. Sure! as a celebrity who was well-liked and made it more difficult for a dark-skinned man to be considered attractive. He believes this trend changed when Wesley Snipes came onto the scene and suggests that light-skinned men went “out of style.” He then names several dark-skinned actors who are helping to change Hollywood (and possibly the American view of dark-skinned people); namely Taye Diggs, Tyrese Gibson, Tyson Beckford, and Mekhi Phifer.

The next couplet suggests subliminal messages transmitted by two fictional characters: Blade and Batman. Blade is likened to a Black Panther while Batman is likened to a member of the KKK.

Smoke goes on to plead with our community to rise above the evils, dangers, and lusts associated with the drug trade. He uses a pun to refer to “(co)caine,” and says that it is murdering us just as Cain murdered his brother Abel in the Bible.

He closes the verse by going back to the Black Panther vs. Klan motif and says that he would rather make a fist (as the Black Panthers infamously did) and give a pound than to spread his palm (a Klan symbol of White Power) and give “five” when exchanging greetings.

I’m sure that Smoke would like for us to realize that there is more to him or any other person, for that matter, than meets the eye. No matter what color, how bright, how dark, etc.

How you choose to greet your friends is a more trivial issue.

As always, I’d love to hear from you in the comments section.

Main Image: BluesandSoul.com

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