Version 2.0

Culture, healing, politics and bullshit - Not necessarily in that order

The general, socio-political and very personal rantings and ravings of a hip hop head from the hood hustling for change... Of himself.

You all know me and are aware that I am unable to remain silent. At times to be silent is to lie. For silence can be interpreted as acquiescence.
—Miguel de Unamuno


Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Bigger Than Hip Hop?

It's time to acknowledge that there is a rift, better yet a split causing members in our various beloved generations to make noise, airing out grievances in mainstream media.

I think that this is more of an internal thing and is something that we should address ourselves without assistance from others from the outside. Yes, I believe that we should still have a secret brotha/sista coalition complete with secret handshakes as well as nice digs in various cities to house said secret meetings to boot.

The whole Oprah versus Hip Hop thing will get overblown and overanaylized and if we ain't careful someone will take shorts based on bias and favoritism by the others, and because sister Winfrey is the end all-be all to most in that business hip hop can and probably will surely lose based on what cats like Luda, 50 and Cube are standing on.

No doubt, I've shaken my ass, bobbed my head and recited a lyric or two from all of these artists. I've seen the movies (except for 50's 'Get Rich' joint) with firm enjoyment and I definitely respect these cat's creative flow, writing style and business sense, but I have to admit that when it comes to respect, although these brothers and others (specifically Ice Cube over the last 20 years) although they have generated BILLIONS of dollars or revenue for their respective handlers, corporations and production facilities and have sparked all types of new business based off of their talent, wit and drive hip hop will only get respect from the streets and those obsessed with it outside of the hood.

Corporate America hasn't really respected Hip Hop as a viable culture outside of it being an ever changing merchandise maker. Billions have been invested, the input of those resources are only there because there is a guaranteed return based on a niche audience infatuated with how and what we do, and it ain't all of us in the hood pumping all that money in it like you think we are. There is a lust for to be a part and to learn our culture based on our people being able to invent and reinvent for survival and to most this is a brilliant thing. How we survive by creation is so impressive.

Imagine how Hip Hop culture started when music programs were non existent to nil in our school public school systems back in the late 60s and early 70s. I imagine how we created a style of dress, linguistics and a whole new genre of music based off our material shortcomings and resources in the hood. We took records and let the party emcee talk shit over the break part of the record while the party was going. The emcee sparked party participation to the point of frenzy and that response from the audience that he or she developed made them into distinct personalities, causing each of them to be known as that neighborhood's crowd movers and live-wire hosts in which they rocked.

Modern versions on how we dressed when we went to these parties can now be found in the windows of Macy's and other clothing outlets and it generates hundreds of millions of dollars as an industry leader and trend setter. Magazines, printed media and DVD culture spawned from mixtapes and breakbeat records generates millions. The cool lingo and street speak created by hustling culture and the code of the streets now influences major advertising and marketing campaigns outside of out neighborhoods and is mainstream as hell. It causes folks that do not look like us to speak in a manner that makes their parents and grandparents heads snap.

Just think: The Budweiser "WASSUP" commercial series is known as the greatest advertising campaign ever as voted by various respondents aged 24-64 polled from various backgrounds, cultures and financial brackets nationally as reported by multiple mainstream American market research companies from the year 2000 to present. People remember that catchphrase years later and it did what it was supposed to do, bring attention to a certain product or service...

That's impact.

It's also hoodspeak repeated on the regular by those that would have never heard it if it wasn't for that commercial series. Thanks Charles Stone III. This cat also directed the hip hop period piece "Paid In Full" starring Wood Harris and Mekhi Phifer back in 2002. Small door opens, larger opportunity awaits.

Damn. Why would we need validation from someone else when we have validated ourselves just by us being us?

We do influence other cultures by way of colorful language, clothing and mannerisms because we are uniquely American with African DNA. Because we are mutts in a sense of being bred, having split our pure blood ties from Mother Africa through years of rape, slave breeding and relations with other cultures we are a careful creative derivative from the norm, capable of existing within any time, space and culture. Without disrespect to who we are, we exist like cockroaches on this Babylon-ish planet, always able to reinvent and be fine whether it be negro spirituals, ragtime, jazz, rock and roll, rhythm and blues, soul or hip hop. And that's just culture based off of music. We pioneer so much in other realms as well but my focus right now is hip hop.

We exist within other cultures because we have no true biological American identity and links to our cousins back home have been somewhat severed. Outside of the digital medium we have today we were somewhat isolated from research tools to find where we came from, but thanks to Dr. Henry Louis Gates and great scholars of the like that link is becoming re-established thanks to DNA research, the internet, TV and plain old networking.

That's another post, another convo. We'll get there, but back to how this relates to Oprah and Hip Hop...

Ice Cube, Ludacris, 50 Cent and have all built their careers on the foundation of rap lyrics that aren't so friendly to certain folk in the community, competition and sisters in general. I personally have a problem with someone asking for love from the community when he or she is spouting off bullshit about the hood and those in it. Contradictory. I respect 50's gangsta businesswise I really do, but the fact that he's calling out folk on his record as stupid, bitch ass niggas, objectifying women as well as bragging about crimes and misdemeanors (as well as felonies), us buying his shit making him rich while sheepishly dancing to it makes me wonder if we'll ever hold them accountable for their actions.

Ludacris has bonified hits, but I cannot support him as well as he specifically points out women and carves out lyrical tales of dickery (yeah, I made that up) against bitches, hos and groupies. That shit is tired. There is a market for it, no doubt, but as these artists grow they must know by looking at their returns and numbers that the influence grows as well. To ask for even ground with Oprah and others in her arena isn't in my opinion the thing to do at this moment.

I can see Russell and other old school cats that have laid foundation and groundwork for political, social and artistic change getting respect like what some want based off of action over the years. I do know that some of these brothers looking for mainstream acceptance and others have set up non-profits and have foundations, but understand that is has to be manifested at a grass roots level first and change has to be made and influences have to be recognized by those receiving assistance in order to be recognized outside of the hood once again, over the years. Respect is earned with time and effort. Holding one's nuts on stage and rocking the microphone a respected force for change does not make.

Because Oprah controls her media empire she can pick and choose who she associates with and when. Not saying that these cats don't have the reach that Ms. Winfrey has, it's currently on a different level. They perform. She performs but over the last 20 years has planted seeds of change and provoked thought with her works and its spinoffs. Wanting the global spotlight to gain a wider audience is what we all would want if we were in their shoes, but understand that folks like Oprah, especially ones that control such a large portion of what their genre sees and hears based off of their own personal opinion is a generation or two separated from these cats and her listening tastes and understanding of the culture is based on what her and her peers deem as just as far as preference and tastes goes. Maybe she chooses to listen to Hip Hop that is not threatening or insulting to her. She has that choice, ya know?

Rappers creating songs like 'A Bitch Is A Bitch' and 'Move, Bitch' aren't ways to impress Ma and Pop Dukes or songs to have our children listen, learn or dance to. It does buy them the house and help them gain acceptance and privilidge based on revenues earned from its niche audience, but it's not enough. We realize that this is only entertainment, but in the same breath we must also realize that a lot of the lyrical content spouted off and actions performed by some of these cats are harmful in nature based on exactly WHO it influences. Hip Hop is marketed to young folks and its combination of the multiple facets that are its makeup within the culture is marketed as cool and the thing to do.

There are other artists out there on all levels within this culture that can help create balance within our culture. It's not all vulgar and disrespectful, we must understand that the huge marketing machines behind some of these artists know that sex and violence sells. We must maintain control over what we and our children listen to. The streets (and our kids) are indeed watching so the same argument used about movies and shows must be utilized. Hip hop cannot be the exception. There are multiple styles and versions of this culture aimed at different audiences and ages. We cannot go forward thinking that hip hop is only what Cube, Luda and 50 represents in their music when there is so much more from its related subcultures.

So Oprah doesn't have to do anything for these cats, and why should she when the legacy and love for an artist is based in the body of that artist's work. For someone considered outside the culture to look in and base opinion based off of foundation, it would be hard to want to get close to these particular artists. Not saying we can't grow as people and/or artists but..

How long will we condone these grown ass men and women (some married, with children) to pump that BS to us and we accept it as the mainstream with it being so available to our kids and elders? There is and should be a balance of music, arts and media available to us so we should be in control, buck the mainstream and dictate what's good to us.

I don't expect Oprah or anyone for that matter that has the ability to look from another perspective to accept something that is not quite geared for or to them. When one listens, he or she should be able to see things for what they are. Certain performers do what makes them money and gains them favor from their niche audience and have no concern for anyone else outside of that demographic. It's hard for anyone to take that shit seriously when all you hear or read is straight material bullshit in their works.

I ask again, how long will we condone this? How long will we have these cats represent us and we say nothing, turn our heads and walk away? Where's the balance in hip hop and why does Oprah have to validate it with certain folk?


Gallis said...

You know, it's like you looked in my brain and put everything I've thought about the current state of hip hop into words. I remember the excitement when it was new. Seeing the video for GMF's The Message for the first time. The musical inversions of De la soul. The complete and utter lack of apology from groups like Public Enemy and NWA. Somewhere along the way, Hip Hop's soul got lost. I just don't find it as relevant, informative or heartfelt anymore. Sad.

The Brown Blogger said...

It's been on my mind for a while now. I think the Oprah thing sparked me to write about it.

West said...

One the one hand, I think there's some validity to "the movie industry defense," which suggests that holding Hip-Hop more accountable than the movie industry is unfair.

Some Hip-Hop talks about "bad things," while some movies show it.

The movie industry has been called on some of its crap, but no particular community of people seems to be looked down upon, as a result of movie messages.

On the other hand, one might say that people are more exposed to music than they are to movies... and that this suggests a certain amount of responsibility and culpability on the parts of the creators.

It's an interesting debate with many layers, but ultimately, I doubt we'd want the movie industry to represent us the way that a lot music videos do.

Knockout Zed said...

I love hip hop with all my heart. I tend to romanticize it, even the "negative" parts of it. But, hip hop is the same as it ever was, to paraphrase The Talking Heads. Watch the movie Wild Style and see if I'm lying.

Oprah shouldn't have to embrace it. It's not for her. Hell, I'm not sure if it's for me anymore.


Anonymous said...

i can see it both ways i suppose. oprah can do what the hell she wants. it's her show and is entitled to her opinion. her audience don't give a rat's patootie about hip-hop.

most of those folk haven't carried about what oprah said to them. oprah probably equaled sellout to them. now it seems they are searching for respectability and a following other than the usual crowd.

if they want to start a true dialogue about the issue, handle it right.

Chubby Chocolate said...


Ditto what Zed typed. Not much has changed.

Anonymous said...

Damn this was a long ass post!! LOL BOyyyyyyyyy u wild...but its true..Oprah has a lot of power...does she have enuff to turn the white population against hiphop?