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

Friday, September 24, 2004

Hip Hop Music and The Message: What Isn't Being Said?

The most maddening thing about people who are deeply entrenched in Hip Hop is that the so-called scholars or purveyors of the culture make too many rules for it. If Hip Hop were meant to be contained in some box it would’ve stayed as it did during its early incarnation. I said the same thing a couple of years ago during a Hip Hop conference at the University of Maryland that the music had to grow. I appreciate Adisa Banjoko’s passionate plea to the Hip Hop Nation but the last thing the music needs is fixing. Let the commercialism die out on its own. Let the people decide what’s official and what matters. People speak of current trends of Hip Hop yet complaining about is just as trendy. There are some who feel the meshing of music and political activism is a trend – let’s face it: Hip Hop is a series of phases reflected by the generation that it supposedly represents. I don’t know why so many people are resistant to Hip Hop’s propensity to change. At the start of every five-year cycle, there was a paradigm shift. The music went from stiffly delivered party rhymes to message-laden poems to replayed popular grooves to break beats to samples and so on. The evolution of the music continues today with turntablism and the advanced rhyme schemes. The problem lies in the fact that none of what’s truly good is that popular so it lends our minds to the idea that what sells must be what works. It’s a very close-minded ideal and much of the culture’s regression can effectively be attributed to that.
The themes of the music are most certainly decadent. Sex, violence and drugs permeate the musical side of the culture heavily. And some of the artists most known for being everything but politically aware have been thrusted into a position (maybe even reluctantly) to lead our young people into a new political awareness. Songs such as "Why?" from Jadakiss are enjoying airplay, as this article from writer Rodney Thrash illustrates. We’re encouraging the easily influenced to follow the leader (blindly, perhaps) and get involved. I never cease to wonder if the artists really know how important their position is or are they just doing a favor to save face. People get commercial deals because of their ability to recite a rhyme or program a beat. If that doesn’t encourage you to respect how far Hip Hop has come, then maybe you need to stick to your stacks of B-Boy lore and glory. I’m with Mr. Banjoko on some points. I’m all for the music improving but I’ll be damned if I would ever openly state to these rappers to censor themselves. To be a part of this culture has been a privilege but I do not play the holier-than-thou game. We live in a land of choices and freedoms – regardless of what you think. Some of those freedoms are what leads people to nearly kill themselves to get to America.

But as trends go, I like the fact that young voters are getting fired up and concerned politically - even if it is because P Diddy said so. This article from J. Patrick Collican details how young voters who were once apathetic are now engrossed in the entire electoral process. If it took one of these rappers who need "fixing" to get the young voters' attention, I'll live with that until I die.


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