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

Thursday, December 09, 2004

The Music And The Message: Hip Hop's Potential To Change Remains Strong

At my most jaded, I tend to forget that Hip Hop music had a time where messages mattered just as much as the beat. And while I don’t believe that resurgence is coming just around the corner, I’m always encouraged to witness when an artist takes the honorable position of being a vocal soldier against oppression. Wu-Tang Clan’s Remedy is one of those soldiers I speak of and, from the past music I’ve heard, he is good at what he does. Of course his country’s plight and the suffering of his people in times past does give him a wealth of content, but he could do it the easy way and ignore the serious politics of his messages. He doesn’t balk from his past and that alone is one of the reasons Hip Hop remains important to so many people – it is not just music; it is also a vehicle for expression and change. I hope many follow Remedy’s ideal and try to dive at a subject with the same fervor and tenacity as he has.

Chicago rapper Capital D – also know as David Kelly – is a proud Muslim and rap artist who seems to have taken a stance by bucking trends and offering his side of being black, Muslim and American – all while being prideful in all three aspects of his being. This article from Anna Johnson of the Seattle Times showcases that rappers who embrace Islam are going to find difficulties ahead but the dedication to getting those messages that matter out to the public do seem to take hold. Again, the current state of Hip Hop is indeed bleak. However, this proves that if you want to find gems, you just have to dig deeper and elsewhere.

It is an emotional week for me as everything I’ve read has moved me on some level. Author Adisa Banjoko truly captured a sentiment I’ve shared amongst friends about judgment of character and the merit of one’s actions. We need to take people on at their best and let that be the determining factor. If the world were to judge us by our current administration’s gaffes and follies, they would have right to assume that Americans are low individuals who lack the very compassion we’re supposed to uphold. As Mr. Banjoko illustrates, we’ve gone too far with assumption and allowed them to become law. To inject a bit of my own personal politics into this discussion, I’ve always strived to deliver freedom, justice and equality to all human families of the planet Earth. I can be frank enough to say that I would only give that energy to those who deserve it. The opportunity to do so has been infrequent but as I see changes coming on our political landscape, we must expect the impact of societal changes just as ardently.

Author Raquel Cepeda has released an anthology of Hip Hop related essays and narratives. I’m interested to read what Ms. Cepeda deemed important enough to share with the world. But in this brief Q&A on the Vibe website, the author seemed to have that annoying distancing thing many do with Hip Hop once they’ve grown tired of it. The thing about Hip Hop culture, just like life, is that it has many often-ignored layers. We tend to focus on the sexier, louder parts of the culture and scene thus we miss out on all the goodness the culture still is in possession of. I believe that the political aspect of Hip Hop music needs help and definition but I don’t think that the culture itself needs fixing or to be ignored only to be appreciated later.


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