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

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Generation to Generation: You Did Your Thing, Let Us Do Ours

Luckily I’m not the only person who finds Jeff Chang’s book “Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop: A History of the Hip Hop Generation” such an important and pivotal book. Writer Kevin Y Kim seems to note in greater detail than I ever could in how important this book truly is to our culture. I assume that one day, I’ll read this book in my old age and embrace the culture of Hip Hop that much more – this book truly proves that while black and brown people are widely recognized as the creators of the culture, it has crossed so many color lines long ago. I usually like to think of Hip Hop music and culture as the “great unifier”. Without it, I wouldn’t have had as nearly as much exposure to the world as I do now. I am eternally grateful for Hip Hop’s many influences.
But see, there’s this negative connotation that goes along with being a part of Hip Hop: thuggish posturing, violent lyrics, degrading women, disrespect to the gay and lesbian community, promoting of drug selling and culture – the list goes on. In fact, you have some ham-heads in the NBA and sports media referring to a style of dress of some of their popular athletes as the “Hip Hop image”. NBA legend Rick Barry recently told an ESPN reporter via a television interview that Miami Heat all-star center Shaquille O’Neal needs to lose “the Hip Hop image” and “work on his game”. Now, Mr. Barry was a fantastic ballplayer and there’s no disputing that but he comes across as a bitter man who feels as though his game and accomplishments mean more than a man being himself. Rick Barry is one of those old-school blue-collar players, but to have vehemence toward a thing you obviously don’t get is just a little asinine. There again, we’re dealing with this “us vs. them” mentality and it’s ruining the fabric of true and honest discourse. The so-called Hip Hop generation can and will not prosper without the wisdom of the previous generations; we need to study not only the mistakes but the heights of achievement of those earlier times.

Hip Hop culture suffers from bad press and individuals who claim to be part of it that aren’t good people and a general feeling of misunderstanding. These aren’t new problems or issues – if you’ve been reading this space in past weeks and months, you know how much of a broken record that is. But we need the older cats to look at us (and hell, I’m headed to old cat territory as a so-called Gen-Xer) in the X and Hip Hop generations and not shut us out. We appreciate the reasoning behind the advice and even the disdain; we don’t appreciate feeling as though we’re offending sensibilities for simply embracing what’s natural for us. Change, to borrow a cliché, is one of life’s many inevitable progressions – but just as that is a sure fact, you also need to hold fast to your beliefs and ideals. We’re still forming our history in those generations I’ve mentioned. All that we ask is that our elders grant us the patience to improve just as ardently as they expect us to listen.


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