D.L. Chandler's frequent thoughts on the world of hip hop and beyond

Friday, July 09, 2004

Rappers Take Note: It's OK to Change The Topics Every Once In A While

Hip Hop music’s place in the world as a global phenomenon has long been established yet what remains the most baffling occurrence in the music is how across the globe, rap artists use Hip Hop’s influential power far better than our artists employ here in the states. In fact, M-1 of the rap group dead prez illustrated a common apathetic thought amongst rappers and young people in a recent piece from Adam Phillips of Voice of America. Mr. Philips posed the question to the activist-rapper if he has ever voted and M-1 made it clear he’s never voted and will not until revolution is on the ballot. Just to note, this occurred at this year’s Hip Hop Political Convention . It makes you wonder just why he was on the panel if he doesn’t support the choice and right to vote. Again, a clearer description of what many consider political in Hip Hop needs to be constructed. Being politically charged is one thing, being politically minded is another. This isn’t to say that rappers need to become preachy and dogmatic but it can’t hurt to try to creatively drop some politically-themed messages in the music.

Although the talented Atlanta-based rapper Ludacris threw some lyrical shots at Fox News talk show host Bill O'Reilly , his television spots with other rappers encouraging young people to vote won’t hold weight if he doesn’t come with the material to back it up or display more of his apparently impressive intellect when called to do so. Commercials are fine; voting drive concerts are fantastic. But do these people know how to answer questions about the electoral process? Do they know who passes and denies laws in their respective states?

With one word, these entertainers could make it "cool" to research that and we’d have a nation of highly informed people but that’s becoming a more utopian thought by the minute.

Amidst the turmoil in the Middle East, Hip Hop with a message thrives. Israeli emcee’s T.N. and Segol 59, highlighted in a great piece from the New York Times and author Ben Sisario, employ the popular rhythms of Hip Hop and couple them with lyrics inspired by events of their homeland. While T.N. rails violently against the Israeli military, Segol takes a lighter approach yet preaches equality for all involved in the land conflict between Israeli and Palestinian forces. As the piece states, Hip Hop is barely a decade in motion in Israel but they’ve taken the potency of the art form and are using it to advance their messages. It is indeed amazing to ponder how unifying Hip Hop music can be. All it needs is a steady influx of emcee’s willing to take a chance, lose a little bit of sales and perhaps change the pulse of the music by sheer determination and creativity. Not everybody who supports and participates in Hip Hop music is in search for easily grasped songs with simple, catchy hooks. Sometimes, it’s good to challenge yourself and the listeners as an emcee. Give the people more of what they need, not just what they want.


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