Message raps have always been a key component to the rap voice in America. From “White Lines” to “Love is Gonna Getcha,” “The Message” to “We’re All in the Same Gang,” rap has always been a suitable channel for messages with the inexplicable ability to deliver prose direct to the end user without the distractions of melody, guitar solos, and adherence to the typical verse-chorus-verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge-chorus-fade strategy of most popular music. Rap put the lyric centerstage and became less concerned with radio playability and more concerned with an authentic voice.
MCJX certainly knew this and Black in Time is one such record that exploits every opportunity to preach, but perhaps, overextends itself in the message rap realm. Quite literally every song is delivering a message for the kiddies. And, while, songs like “I Ain’t No Junkie” might seem innocently up-with-hugs and down-with-drugs, multiple listens reveal questionable moments where MCJX uses lines like “now you’re marching with the gays in the gay parade” to diminish a man’s masculinity and uses the success of the Beastie Boys as an example of what happens when “we” left “them” erase “our history.” If he knew then what he knows now.
The record showcases what happens when rappers become too message-centric. While he attempts to destroy the fronts and the fakes, essentially, he is one himself. While MCJX shoulders the burden of being the freedom fighter in the music industry full of sheep, he too is a sheep. Inevitably, when you focus too much on message and not on the music, ultimately, you end up playing yourself like MCJX.
Perhaps there was a change happening in 1990 where message raps were being replaced by reality raps. Where the emphasis was not on how to properly live your life, but more in the NWA and Public Enemy narrative of how our life is lived and the sad realities around us. And I’m not entirely sure that’s a bad thing. Rap music cannot replace positive real-life role models and parental guidance and, perhaps, rap is becoming fully realized as a vehicle of change by exploiting reality instead of force-feeding fantasy.