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

Friday, December 17, 2004

Not At All Politically Charged, These Rappers Need To Be Politically Barred

There is a fine line between asking an artist to altering his or her content and censorship. There also exists an almost arrogant tune in suggesting that the said artist should be considerate of those they may offend – the reason being is that the easiest retort an artist can use is to recommend to the listener that they do not expose themselves to their content. Easy enough, right? I don’t think so. Music in this digital, fast-paced world is expected to come fast and often. There isn’t much time to catch your breath from one hot single, regardless of the genre, before another comes along to invade the far reaches of your mind. Like any other public figure, we expect to be satisfied by the output of their thoughts and perhaps think they owe us the consideration to give us nothing but their best.

As a consumer, you have the choices of buying the product from that artist or not. Nobody is putting a weapon to your head demanding you do anything. You are driven and drawn to seek out what you like. Whether that is indie rock, Hip Hop, soul, blues, R&B and so on, music fans are inundated with a lot of that artist’s thoughts and – sometimes – that person’s personal politics. Case in point, take Harlem New York’s wildly popular super group of Camron, Juelz Santana, Jim Jones and Freaky Zeeky – otherwise known as the Diplomats and affectionately known as the Dip Set. Talks of gang warfare, healthy amounts of misogyny, showing off of wealth, raps about material gain, guns and sex are the hallmarks of the group – with an occasional “positive‿ message here and there. Make that very occasional. Still, they enjoy one of Hip Hop’s most loyal fan bases and they’ve the good fortune of having a very solid in-house production squad known as the Hit Makers. Recently on this popular message board, a topic was posted about a blog entry from Kris Ex that, in some ways, takes the Dip Set phenomenon head on. As Ex explains, there isn’t a whole lot of thinking you have to do with their rhymes. They are usually simple, void of any type of complexity and all the while you can’t stop listening to it. But does that mean its fine to do so? The Dip Set, at one time (and I’m not totally clear on this), were said to have a mini-crew known as The Taliban. There was also a lyric from one of the crew members that vaguely seem to praise Mohammed Otta (in fact, prefacing his name with "the great") – he being the leading terrorist to drive a plane into the World Trade Center in 2001.

It echoes my point that there is indeed a false marriage between Hip Hop and politics – clearly the Dip Set cares nothing about being politically charged although the charismatic Jim Jones (and I realize the irony of that) likes to be considered a freedom fighter. But realize for a second the power that they and other popular rappers and entertainers have. If any of these men had the compassion of, say, Dr. Martin Luther King or the true militancy and grit of Malcolm X – which was eventually tempered with a deeper inner peace – what heights could they achieve? What kind of mountains could these people move?

Large ones, I’ll tell you that. But they will counter – as Talib Kweli and Nas will definitely say – that politics as they are have little to do with the people in the streets. I hope one day those two and many others will see the folly in their words and that isn’t to say they’re off base. It’s just that men this powerful could be leaders if they just turned the heat up on the facts of this nation. They’d be much more effective than any blog, website or media program could ever be.
The sadness remains in the fact that there isn’t many popular – and I mean of the MTV/BET ilk – that are choosing to make such a move.

Keep struggling and keep fighting.


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