"I wonder if these wack niggas realize they wack/And they the reason why my people say they tired of rap"- Common Sense
Approximately a month ago, I was at home watching Larry King Live in which the topic of discussion was the dog fighting and gambling that former Atlanta Falcon’s quarterback, Michael Vick, participated in. While one can simply have a candid and explicit discussion about the egregious acts of Vick, something absolutely startling was presented on the prestigious nightly talk show. Surprisingly, an unfortunate incessant and perennial inquiry was posed: “Does Hip Hop perpetuate violence, even among animals?” Astonishment and a concomitant emotion of anger presented themselves to me, and I fervently listened as the white “expert” answered in the affirmative. Therefore, I feel that it is my fiduciary obligation to write about a particular genre of music that has nurtured me throughout my adolescent years, held me during my dark teenage years, and continues to teach me as much as Jean-Paul Sartre, Antonio Gramsci, Michael Eric Dyson, Hegel, and Angela Davis. It is time to present my succinct disquisition on Hip Hop.
Hip hop, at its best, is the lyrically dexterous, rhetorically adroit, and majestically presented art form of pavement poetry. The aesthetic beauty of the music was not created during the 1970s in which brothers and sisters in New York tapped into the electrical power source of the city (something similar occurred in the Prologue of the novel, Invisible Man) and commenced the brilliance of the synergetic coalescence of poetry and upbeat music that was novel at the time; rather, at that point, hip hop reached its acme and reinvented itself as the years progressed. I would argue that the inception of Hip Hop arguably began with Phillis Wheatley, the first Black writer/poet to publish a book in America. Palpably, does not account for the oral traditions in various tribes in Africa prior to the Trans-Atlantic slave trade, nor does it account for the oral tradition of Black slaves during the antebellum period. However, I feel that this is an excellent place to begin in terms of Blacks in America leaving their transcribed and indelible mark on this country through words.
Despite its brevity, I feel that it is requisite to present such a history in order to comprehensively and clearly comprehend what not only Hip Hop is facing in terms of its extirpation, but what Black people are facing as well. It is becoming evident that Black people are being attacked through something they can truly call their own, which is Hip Hop. The culture has already proven–through its longevity and its cosmopolitan influence and affluence–that it is not a trend nor is it a fad. Sadly enough, however, the music has taken a turn for the worse and I do not solely blame the artist (it is pellucid that commercial rap artists are expendable and do not possess an ounce of talent in their lyrically feeble minds). Rather, I feel that significant and exponential blame needs to be placed on the corporations that acquire these artists. From artists such as Soulja Boy, Young Jeezy, Young Joc, Young Dro (do you see a trend here?), D4L, and Lil’ Mama, corporations have proven that capitalism can have inimical effects on our culture. If one considers that record sales have gone down by 40% (such a statistic can be immediately attributed to the inflation rate, specifically the rise in prices and consumer goods) and the top ten selling albums did not derive from Hip Hop, it is palpable that these artists that the masses unjustly adore are being economically used (i.e. fucked).
It has come to the point where the media has criticized the metaphorical Pinocchio (i.e. the artists), yet, refuses to scrutinize the metaphorical Geppetto (i.e. the corporations). 70-80% of the rap albums that are purchased in this country are purchased by white Americans; however, you have an elitist by the name of Oprah Winfrey virulently criticizing Hip Hop culture, the Black youth, and perfidiously detrimental lyrics. Surprisingly, she has candidly stated that she has 50 Cent (known for his “virulent” and “venomous” lyrics) on her I-Pod. Most of her audience predominately comprises of white females; consequently, if you were to extrapolate the aforementioned statistic, the children of Winfrey’s audience members are “leaning with it” and “rocking with it.” Lastly, she has stated that Hip Hop, through its perpetuity of materialism, sexism, misogyny, etc., has done a disservice to Black people in America and she has given up on the “inner city youth;” yet, she provides her audience members with cars! I believe in criticizing hip hop artists, but let us possess some form of intellectual equilibrium when engaging in this dialogue.
Hip Hop is in a precarious state at this particular juncture. Unequivocally, it perpetuates sexism, chauvinism, patriarchy, and materialism. But Mark Foley did the same thing; Bill Clinton did the same thing through his infidelity; Newt Gingrich did (and probably does) the same thing. Bill O’Reilly did the same thing when he was charged with sexual harassment; yet, this is the same man that was seminal when it came to the rapper, Ludacris losing his Pepsi endorsement. So until we talk about sexism and patriarchy on all level, let us have a moratorium on the unjust criticism of Hip Hop and get to the causal root of these issues and let us take it upon ourselves to change.
Emahunn Raheem Ali Campbell is the YDS Anti-Racist Coordinator and student at UVA-Wise