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

Friday, January 14, 2005

A Change Gon' Come

Until today, I’ve never heard of the Albuquerque Tribune columnist Gene Grant. I ran across one of his columns today speaking on Hip Hop’s need to “sober" itself. For once, a man who openly admits that Hip Hop may have passed him by offers a gentle and careful critique of the genre. This is more of what I expect of those a generation or two ahead of us “gen-xers" – the openness to acknowledge that they may have just missed the boat on Hip Hop music and culture yet want to see it embrace a more defined state. I’m fine with that because as the years have shown us, Hip Hop music is so influential and widespread. For every garage band doing bad covers of their favorite rock jams, you’ll find twice as many kids from the ghettoes to the suburbs trying to compose sixteen bar rhymes as their favorite MCs are capable of. I can remember how as a kid, bad lisp and all, I would try to imitate EPMD MCs Parrish Smith and Erick Sermon – badly as I’d like to not admit. And to go back and hear little nuggets and gems of wisdom (as Mr. Grant pointed out) was just the icing on the cake for me at that sponge-like state.

I’ve read many accounts from respected writers on how they came to love Hip Hop as they do. It’s always with a sense of reverence and wonderment. I remember reading some years ago how writer Oliver Wang discovered De La Soul and just fell in love with the music. Now he’s one of the leading voices in Hip Hop culture. I bring up Mr. Wang as I came across this blog from Hyphen Magazine about “stealth activism." I like that sound of that, as I’ve been that way prior to my more vocal activity over the past year. The poster mentions and links a piece Mr. Wang recently wrote which I suggest you all read when you can. We’ve come to an interesting time in Hip Hop. Messages are still being dropped but the call of the club and car stereo knocks loudest. I’ve been guilty of not giving a care to the lyrics as much as I used to and I wonder if that’s a sign of the times or just a phase of my own personal development. Public Enemy was occasionally featured on drive-time radio as was other so-called conscious songs but the last hit record that took on that dress has been Jadakiss’s “Why" – and even that faded off pretty quickly even with timely remixes featuring gifted MCs Nas, Common and Jada’s fellow Lox member, Styles P. Yet it was a game effort; I hope to see more of it in 2005.

With Essence Magazine going after the easiest and more visible offenders in Hip Hop music with their Take Back The Music campaign, I hope they don’t torch an entire genre of music to find success in their mission. Part of me hopes that they do light a fire under the butts of these entertainers who wantonly spew nonsense and divisive garbage. But that doesn’t equal elimination to me, as there are people who don’t mind that in their music. We’ll see what happens. In the meantime, this piece that mentions the spreading of Hip Hop’s influence in politics is just another encouraging note that we who still believe in the power and influence of the culture are not wasting their investment of time.

Next week, I’m headed down to the Inauguration Parade. I’m sure I’ll have plenty to write about after that being in the heart of it all. You all have a great weekend.


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