…life from my perspective
“I love rap no matter how much I say I hate it/some support it some cats playa hate it.” – Don’t Understand (Masta Ace)
If I should die before I wake, hip-hop is coming with me. I love hip-hop. I live it. I write it. I breathe it. I understand it, so I defend it. I felt compelled to write this piece as a follow up to my “As Stripper’s Bootys Go” post yesterday because I have a gut feeling many were shaking their heads in disgust and “umph umph umph – ing” until the cows came home. If I had to guess, it’s probably because of the soft porn images and sexually explicit lyrics of the videos contained within that blog. Today I’m going to break this hip-hop thing down for you real nice like. This will be a crash course because my time is limited and so is your attention span. There are a plethora of DJs, rappers and albums that have influenced and impacted the culture, many of whom won’t be featured here. If by the time you’ve finished reading you’re researching the elements of hip-hop, checking the discography of some of the featured artists, have become more inquisitive about this musical genre or have changed your thinking to consider other viewpoints besides your own, then I’ve done my job.
“…build a home, teach a class start a revolution/free the mind, heal the body talking evolution/this that black Elohim Anu Naki rap…” – Jay Electronica (Just Begun)
Hip-hop was born out of poverty, frustration, anger and despair. It was a response by the youth of the 70s to the neglect and deterioration of the Black and Latino communities in New York City’s boroughs, specifically the South Bronx. During this period, the completion of the Cross Bronx expressway not only drove a wedge between the black and white communities in the Bronx but also brought about its physical destruction. High-unemployment rates due to de-industrialization and the construction of public housing projects fueled the violence, drug infestation and gang activity in areas south of the Cross Bronx expressway where the largest population of low-income Black and Latino families lived. While striving to maintain in such adverse socio-economic conditions, the youth at the time used parties as an outlet to share their artistic expression and dance their blues away. The local party scene would give rise to Hip-Hop culture.
“Hip-Hop is a reflection of our communities.” Mikkey Halsted (Beats, Rhymes, Life Panel Discussion – Dec 2010)
Kool Herc, the Father of DJing, was the first on the scene to rock the crowd at house parties, nightclubs and park summer jams. In time, other DJs emerged and started stepping their game up to solidify their reputation and earn party goer’s respect, all for the chance to make them bust a move. Kool Herc’s DJ techniques allowed BBOYing (breakdancing) to flourish and MCing and TAGGing (graffiti art) soon followed. Afrika Bambaata, a South Bronx DJ who came onto the scene in the 80s and credits DJ Kool Herc as his inspiration, founded the Zulu Nation. The Zulu Nation, which comprised a group of young djs, bboys, mcs, and graffiti artists, became the first hip-hop organization to personify the culture and introduce the fifth element of knowledge/cultural understanding to guide the art-form, promote the values of “peace, love, unity and having fun” and carry out its sole purpose of education and social reformation.
THE MEDIA GONE DO WHAT IT DO
I’m not going to go back and forth with you about the achievements and failures of hip-hop. Its futility or its efficacy. Whether it’s failed a generation or two and is the primary cause of the promotion of misogyny, violence, gang terrorism, crime, and alcohol and drug abuse in our homes and communities. I WILL make mention that the music videos you see on television and the songs you hear on your local radio station are unfortunately presented as dominant representations of hip-hop, but in truth, they are limited in scope and by no means reflect the culture in its totality. I challenge you to incessantly question and critically review the information and images purported by mainstream media outlets so the distinctions between illusion and reality can be made.
The media is an agent of mass communication through which news is reported and information is received. Viacom, GE, Disney, Tribune and News Corporation pretty much dictate what we see on TV while Clear Channel, the No.1 radio station owner, and Hoellinger International , the world’s largest newspaper owner, controls what we hear and read. There exists no major competition between these companies and because each possesses such a stronghold in the media monopoly, they often times share the same audience. What does this mean? Well…corporate ownership means mainstream media receives corporate funds to sell a product via radio or TV commercials, billboard and/or print ads. This alone is not an issue except propaganda is at the forefront of the selling strategy. Propaganda is a systematic approach to selling or promoting a product, cause or IDEA that reflects the views and interests of the seller and its advocates. Servicing the public with what they want or need is rarely carried out as public relations (PR) firms MANIPULATE the PUBLIC’S EMOTIONS with IMAGES and slogans to manufacture illusions and present them as truths. Drive slow homey and re-read that last sentence. Image and perception in American society defines our reality by dictating how we view each other and sets the stage for how we interact with one another. Bombarding your mind with images and slogans that convey ideas corporate sponsors eventually want you to own is how the media controls your thinking. By influencing your mind, I influence your behavior. Fast Forward to “Hip Hop” in 2011.
WHAT YOU WATCHING?
I like listening to Gucci, 2 Live Crew, NWA, Geto Boys, Jadakiss, DJ Quik and Mobb Deep. For every Souja Boy there is a KRS-1. For every Wacka Flocka there is a Chuck D. For every Lil Wayne and Pusha-T there is a Poor Righteous Teacher, Guru, Scarface, Ras Kass, Nas, Rakim, Talib, Lupe and countless others that service hip-hop and do the culture justice. I can’t argue with you about the current state of “mainstream” hip-hop and the messages perpetuated through the lyrics and the images. At the same time its positive impact cannot be negated. I challenge you to look BEHIND the scenes for artists and programs that aren’t being shown or discussed.
“In the current state of hip-hop I feel like we’re being presented as nothing but caricatures of our true selves.” – Rhymefest
WE HOLY AND MY LAMBO’S BLUE
My boy and I were engaged in a discussion a few months back about hip-hop as a viable and progressive movement. He mentioned the culture has no political power and has replaced a few of the strong, long-standing institutions that are pillars in the black community. One in particular – the black church. We went back and forth, he holding tight to his beliefs and me acknowledging not only the ill-effects of hip-hop but the negative influences of pop culture in general on people of all races, all across the world . I told him I wasn’t sure if hip-hop, in its purest form, can pass legislation or enact a law but that I strongly believed the culture gives a voice to members of a generation who have come to realize their power and in turn use it to advance whatever movement they’re connected to be it political, religious, academic, economic or otherwise.
I told my man that I didn’t think hip-hop had replaced the black church so much as the messages of the two have merged. Just as the sins of the world are in the church, God’s presence dwells amongst the people. We can’t do away with hip-hop as a culture or the people who celebrate it and live it. If service to your fellow man is your duty, we have to speak the language of the people, reach them where they are and lead them to where we want them to go. Seek the truth but be sure to have God as your right hand man, guiding your steps. He speaks through people so to that end he can never be silenced. The truth will always prevail and because of this, the people will always have a voice.
PS: So what. This blog turned out to be longer than I expected. You already know hip-hop is my passion so I couldn’t stop writing. Read it. Post comments. Praise it. Trash it. Pass it on.
PLEASE NOTE: Not one curse word was used in the writing of this blog. The Kid got range.