Rappers Are In Danger! (C) KRS-One
Given the background of some Hip Hop artists and practitioners of the late 70s and early 80s (inner city dwelling “minorities‿), it wasn’t impossible for some in the media to shore some level of doubt regarding their potential for success. Yet, it happened in large fashion and nobody could stop the onslaught. In my time, the first major coverage paid attention to a Hip Hop act on a national level was Queens New York legends Run-D.M.C. In comparison to major artists of now, Run-D.M.C. was everywhere as 50 Cent and others are now – eventually leading into their own version of an Adidas sneaker shoe. Then there was the groundbreaking (and possibly rumored as I’ve heard) million dollar record deal signed by Eric B and Rakim when they defected from their first label – and chronicled by Nas on his latest disc on the song “U.A.B. of Rakim‿.
Until 1988, when Public Enemy’s oft-discussed 2nd LP “It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back‿ was released, controversial Hip Hop was a rarity; the so-called “golden age‿ was at its peak and media coverage started to peak right along with it. Public Enemy’s bold politics and loud music took this nation under its hold and had possession of it until at least the early 90s. I remember those times of protest against PE for band member Professor Griff’s anti-Semitic remarks and how the media dogged the group as often as it could. Public Enemy’s lasting legacy, however, is the over-used but relevant at times tag line that Hip Hop is the "CNN of the streets". Some could argue that Hip Hop is now the Radio One or Clear Channel of the streets as today the sound is homogenous and you can’t differentiate artists by region anymore because it’s all sounding the same.
Today’s media obsession with Hip Hop – especially the violence – isn’t a shock. It makes for great stories and reporting. Unlike when I was coming up, the kids and old heads of today can log on the Internet and see Hip Hop unfold nearly live. We’ve become a microwave culture expecting our information fast, hot and filling. Who cares if anything lacks substance or relevance – we want to know and we want to know NOW! Take for instance this current quasi-disagreement with label mates 50 Cent and Game. Not only was it over absolutely thin reasons, but it nearly escalated into people dying over words – mere words over radio airwaves. And then you have folks saying beef or diss records kept on wax is good for Hip Hop? How? Nobody has yet to explain in a sensible way why that’s good for anything other than to drum up sales and media attention for the artists involved.
This is the type of behavior that lends credence to the words of jazz critics and scholars like author John McWhorter – who I maintain still doesn’t know what he’s talking about. It also helps support statements such as the Reverend Al Sharpton’s suggested 90-day ban of rap music on commercial channels although I do believe there are more pertinent issues in the community the Reverend could equally focus on. Beating up on Hip Hop isn’t going to help change it. Let’s face it, the marriage of violent behavior and Hip Hop will have more reoccurrences and the music’s legend will continue to spread. The Federal Government will continue to waste dollars investigating Hip Hop (isn’t this a laugh) to discover illicit activities. The problem isn’t Hip Hop and never was. There are various positive messages and artists but they’re not as sexy a story as, say, Game and Fiddy trying to murder each other or rappers uttering controversial statements with all microphones and lights on. The issue is that there are certain individuals that have chosen to break laws and act as if they’re above them or engage in activity of almost a daring-to-be-caught sort. Demean them. Damn them if you have to. But do not attack the entire whole of Hip Hop – not when there are so many opportunities abound for the camera to turn the lights up on some folks in the genre and culture that are bringing forth positive images and contributions.