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

Friday, July 02, 2004

Women & Gays Ain't Down With Us?

In my June 17th entry for Confluence, I received a comment from a reader, wrath-of-jubei (which happens to be one of the freshest usernames ever). He or she raised two very interesting points:

"No one knew how big Hip Hop would get. Hence, the present state of confusion and trying to figure out what to do with it. Really, you have two perspectives vying for control of Hip Hop - one commercial, the other activist/political. The only difference is that the former is not afraid to admit that it's in it for the money and fame ..."

I make it quite known that I’m annoyed by the current swell of Hip Hop academics and their almost lecherous need in attempting to validate themselves by quoting that occasional 2pac lyric at every lecture or panel appearance – as if that’s the official badge of Hip Hop acceptance in doing so. These folks are cashing in on Hip Hop and while there’s nothing wrong with that, it seems as if it’s masked with this false feeling that they’re truly doing this for the benefit of society. I just want one of these stiff shirts to admit freely that they’re in it for the lecture tour cash. There are so many levels to discuss when we speak about message-driven Hip Hop and it’s never discussed why we try to place it in the hands of men and women who do not actively immerse themselves in the full spectrum of Hip Hop. Some parts of the genre are ugly and a perhaps a small measure of caution in dealing with the culture should be applauded. Still, to ignore any part of Hip Hop in favor of the other does a disservice to those who seek to be taught more about the art form and culture. It’s more than to Hip Hop than quoting popular rappers and trying hard to make it deeper than it needs to be. I apologize for saying this but until one of these Hip Hop activists and intellectuals quote some Mr. Lif or Blitz I don’t think I can take another 2Pac reference seriously.

The other point that wrath-of-jubei raised:

"But, to say that brothers are somehow unable to express intelligent, developed and mature political views simply because they don't agree with a particular social lifestyle and orientation (that should remain as private as heterosexual behavior) is disagreeable. In addition, rather than focus on a need for "gay" tolerance, Asim and others need to discuss the fact that many African American boys are not being raised to recognize their roles and obligations as men."

Make no mistake about it. A lot of male artists in Hip Hop could use a little sensitivity training. Yet with that, many of the attacks Rap music endures could definitely be avoided. Women and those of gay and lesbian orientation have valid reasons in feeling excluded and poorly valued in the culture. Alienating a potential fan base has never seemed to be a concern for the music yet when we discuss Hip Hop’s potential to alter society’s fabric, the gay and female fans and their comfort do not seem paramount. Part of the problem in making this a reality lies in the fact that most rap artists do not see themselves responsible for anyone’s actions beyond their own. Most artists seem to ignore this amazing amount of power they possess. I wonder if the rap artists that do get involved in community-enhancing projects recruit those of their ilk or check each other on their lyrical content. It is indeed comforting to know that with the recent Hip Hop Political Convention, Hip Hop artists are making strides to get politically active but once election day is over are we going to wait another four years to give a damn? Political activism and involvement, much like Hip Hop, is something that has limitless potential. Are we going to sustain the effort? Are rap artists willing to compromise their output for the sake of gays and women’s comfort? We have a long way to go before those questions can be answered.


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