The album cover to Lil B’s, Berkeley, California based rapper, new album titled I’m Gay (I’m Happy).
The first pane states Slavery, the second panes states Mental Slavery while the third pane majestically proclaims Mental Freedom. As many of you are aware, the album deals with the psychological conditions of the middle pane while evoking inescapable past struggles as he yearns for true freedom, a freedom encompassed by the phrase mental freedom. Therefore one is unsurprised to learn that Lil B consistently evokes slavery and other somber moments in black history throughout the album as he critiques the many forms of slavery that impede the progress toward complete mental freedom.
And the rap game/ It’s the slave trade/ No time for meditation/ Turning into robots/ The Devil is money/ It’s not even human/ The people die for a piece of paper/ It’s so stupid
-from the song “Unchain Me” [link to song]
Mental slavery/ Niggas be hanging off of trees in the woods, like the hood/ It’s more than Martin Luther King, fighting for a dream/ Watch me go against everything you believe/ They desrespect you tryna spark a dream/ Everybody knows it’s easy to fail but it’s harder to think…
-from “Trapped in a Prison” [link to song]
Perhaps if Lil B were acquainted a bit more with Marx he might agree that this exploitative nature or mental slavery that he so disavows is a byproduct/ feature at the heart of capitalist production. For this I evoke Marxist economist Richard Wolff,
Capitalist exploitation entails the exclusion of the producers of surplus value from the appropriation and social distribution of the surplus their labor produces. This is a profoundly undemocratic organization of production. Moreover, workers’ exclusion from appropriating and distributing surpluses limits, constrains, and distorts the development of their skills, capacities, productivity, inter-relationships, and all-round humanity. Exploitation thus poses profound moral as well as economic problems for societies in which capitalist organizations of production prevail. Its exploitative structure situates conflict at the heart of capitalist production. On the one hand, workers could benefit from higher wages and significant influence over the appropriation and distribution of surpluses. On the other, capitalist employers go to great lengths to prevent or undermine workers’ influence over the disposition of surpluses and usually seek lower wages. The conflict between capitalist employers and surplus producing workers systematically subverts the achievement of brotherhood, community, solidarity and the genuine acceptance of human equality.
Cornel West puts this more succinctly,
Market moralities and mentalities— fueled by economic imperatives to make a profit at nearly any cost— yield unprecedented levels of loneliness, isolation, and sadness. And our public life lies in shambles, shot through with icy cynicism and paralyzing pessimism. To put it bluntly, beneath the record-breaking stock markets on Wall Street and bipartisan budget-balancing deals in the White House lurk ominous clouds of despair across this nation.
-from Restoring Hope
Lil B should consider reading Manning Marable’s How Capitalism Underdeveloped Black America: Problems in Race, Political Economy, and Society.