Arts Desk

Close Listen: Big Wax (and Ron Moten) on Vince Gray’s “Power”

As expected, MC Big Wax is quite displeased with the first three months of Vincent Gray's mayoralty. The Lincoln Heights rapper, whose last-minute YouTube salvo "Don't Leave Us Fenty" last August couldn't quite shore up the then-mayor's re-election campaign, released a video yesterday for his song critiquing the nascent Gray administration.

"Don't Leave Us Fenty" lambasted candidate Gray for his tenure leading the D.C. Department of Human Services, Ward 5 Councilmember Harry Thomas Jr.'s side gig running a questionable nonprofit organization, and home-improvement favors performed for Gray by the contractor William C. Smith & Co. Big Wax even took a swipe at Washington City Paper, specifically for a November 2009 cover story on the inner workings Peacoholics, the youth-services group run by Fenty confidante Ron Moten, who produced "Don't Leave Us Fenty," as well as this new track.

Wax and Moten's new barrage rewrites Kanye West's "Power," swapping out Yeezy's self-aggrandizing paranoia for fresh barbs against Gray's proposed budget and coterie of ethically challenged advisers. From the opening verse, including the rhyme "the Gray administration seems to be getting everything wrong/every corrupt politician needs their own theme song," it's clear none of the Wilson Building's current occupants will be spared.

Except it's not Wax and Moten's song, it's West's. Borrowing beats is common in hip-hop. Parody lyrics, when done well, can be great, though it's a technique perfected by the likes of "Weird Al" Yankovic.

This is not to say that Wax doesn't have enough grievances for a decent protest song. The Ward 7 MC slams Gray for planning cuts to welfare services while raising taxes and fees on things like parking garages, alcoholic beverages, and the Circulator bus. One budgetary charge is especially telling, with Wax lamenting "last summer it was 22,000 summer jobs/this summer it's 10,000, wonder why the young'uns rob." It's hard not to see that line being penned by Moten, whose group received roughly $10 million in city funds between 2005 and 2009.

More jabs land on Gray's approach to teacher reinstatements, the proposed $113 million in cuts to social services, and his chucking of Gerri Mason Hall as chief of staff amid growing criticism of questionable hires in the mayor's office. But the nastiest rhymes are saved for l'affaire Rochelle Webb. Not only are there several lines recounting Webb's brief tenure as acting director of the Department of Employment Services—"He had Rochelle Webb staying at the W/She ran up a two-month bill, Vince tell the truth" and later, "Brought in Rochelle Webb all the way from Arizona"—the video was filmed outside the very W Hotel where Webb stayed, at 15th and F streets NW, prompting City Paper Managing Editor Mike Madden to ask if "this first-ever hip-hop video about government rates at hotels for relocating bureaucrats?"

The song, Mike DeBonis reported last week, is effectively Moten's rebuttal to Gray's recent State of the District address. And whereas Gray focused on things like Washington being ranked as the country's "happiest city," it's clear Big Wax and Moten disagree. We just wish they could have been as creative in their songwriting this time as they were during the 2010 mayoral campaign. Moten has deep cred in the go-go community, and Big Wax is a solid MC. They came up with some original music for their Fenty torch songs last year; perhaps the Gray administration has depressed them so much they can only resort to rewriting Billboard Hot 100 songs. Could the Vince Gray version of Rebecca Black's "Friday" be far behind? Though given that song's deliberations over where to sit in a car, it might be more of a Kwame Brown thing.

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  • Go-Go for real

    Yep, Moton is still stuck on stupid. Thanks for the info.

    Just know this, I know you want to believe Moton is running what you call the "Go-Go scene" but we all know they only preformed when paid. It didn't matter WHO paid them, they even did a few paid events for Gray (which by the way had Ron shitting bricks). So the real question here is how much did Ron pay Wax for this one and where did the money come from? Could it be from the unaccounted for $10 mil that he got when someone he could control had "all that power". Me thinks so.

    On the summer job issue, last summer it was 22,000 summer jobs AND 10 mil for you and you STILL couldn't stop the young'uns from robbing (the correct word). So much for your great idea. At least this summer we won't be paying an extra 10,000 to come in to downtown and do nothing but rob people all day. If you want to really keep it hood, keep it IN the hood. After you take all of the non residents and people getting paid who never showed up and those getting paid to just sign in and then leave to go rob, that makes about 10,000 so we should be good.

  • Witness

    @go-go for real | you are obviously feeling some strong negative energy with your dogmatic remarks. you have the entire story incorrect.

    Moten is not running the gogo scene. It is an open market that is grossing millions of dollars a year and has the major attention of the most destitute youth in our area. Moten sees the value in that and is taking advantage of the reach and promoting political education. If, and when he pays a band to play they deserve it. He is not threatened when Grey uses gogo bands either. He was at Grey's inauguration networking and partying to Chuck Brown and Raheem Devaughn. And to think that because the gov't cut funding of Peaceholics that he would end up being a broke ass is ridiculous. It takes a lot of energy and education to run an organization such as Peaceholics which could be focused on any venture, such as Otherside Media his most recent project. Although don't think he is swimming on 10 mil bucks every night, he earns his living just like the rest of us.

    Where did you get these stats? Ron Moten and his team, which includes Big Wax, a former employee of Peaceholics, stay on top of the facts. I have worked with both of them and know that they are passionate about entrepreneurship and the youth. Who else is working with children, or was, on the level that the Peacaholics reached. They are making history and progress with their political hip-hop music and videos and i applaud them gratefully. It's too bad that you can't see what's happening.

  • hymesb

    Like I said a hundred times during the election. Gray is a crook. He has no management skill. He is a poverty pump that won three consequtive elections attacking the motives of other politcians.

    He has never produced positive results. He only harped on the negative and appealed to my peoples rightfully earned skepticism.

    Now you see what you get. And, they did pay brown that money.

    Nepotism, cronyism, voter fraud, government waist. And, just plain old hypocrisy. School reform dead. Feeling of excitment about direction of city....gone. And, top level talent in the city gov are desperately trying to leave.

    Vince Gray does not run this city. Marion Barry does. And, Mary Cheh...I don’t know where to begin with her.

    Sold out her constituents for a pot calling a toaster black. Why? To garner support for her "War on big cola". F'ing ridiculous!

  • Go-Go for real

    @ Witness
    I KNOW Moten doesn't run it and I also KNOW "GoGo" didn't "support" Moten or Fenty as the city paper and other news papers try to portray. I do believe they deserve to get paid (and paid WELL) for any work they do! Im not taking anything away from GoGo. What I'm saying, if you paid any attention to my comment, is that every time Moten paid for the GoGo songs made, the papers put out articles suggesting that meant the GoGo community as a whole supported Fenty when that wasnt how it was. I am GoGo and have been a part of this life and community since the 70's and I resent the assumption. Moten paid for a product and he got it. That doesn't equal support of him or Fenty. It doesnt matter who is behind the payment, as long as the fees are paid, you will get your service. Now if it was free or donated time, equipment and space, that might equal support. But that's not what's happening is it? I didnt think so.

    FACT THAT!!!

  • JBeat

    i thought this was the "REAL" Big Wax,you know waxandherbalt not this guy, i never heard of him, but his name is already takn by an artist from def jam n a youtube native