If you haven’t heard about the controversy brewing at 23rd and Union, you haven’t been paying attention, and you need to listen to Draze’s song “Irony on 23rd.” Or better yet watch the video, which we’re proud to premiere today. In it Draze walks the street of its title, editorializing on the myriad complications of opening a lucrative pot shop on the same corner where his friends were busted for selling weed only a few years back, that’s adjacent a functioning church and community center. The video, which Draze co-directed with Atuanya Priester, is a shining example of hip-hop’s crucial function as street-level reporting, or in the words of Chuck D, “Black CNN.” Draze raps over a low-key finger-snap beat and a mournful saxophone: “Are we so gone we can’t practice a little discretion?”
The power of “Irony on 23rd” stems from Draze’s measured tone: He’s justifiably upset at seeing his neighborhood bulldozed, neglected and exploited but approaches the situation not with anger but empathy. You sense his frustration at equating gentrification with progress as well as his hope for a resolution. He packs the song with gut-punch lyrics, but the last line is the clincher: “It screams with irony,” Draze raps, “the street of our ruin is a street called Union.” Watch below.