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

Friday, June 03, 2005

Hip Hop Activism Is In Need Of A Swift Kick In The Rear

In last week’s blog column, I mentioned author Norman Kelly and quoted a line of his from a piece he wrote that highlighted the important works of Harold Cruse and the significance of his passing. He mentioned a few words about Hip Hop’s political relevance and how he saw that the music that has and continues to change the world has become nothing more than a means to promote more consumption and not social change. In a recent private exchange I had with Mr. Kelley, these words regarding the efforts of the HSAN came about and they highlight a lot of what I’ve been struggling with and writing about in this space for almost a year:

"And HSAN is very problematic. Sneakers and reparation? The idea of using rappers to lure young blacks to civic responsibility has more to do with marketing than political and civic education. Under HSAN, young people are just another consumption demographic, not a real political constituency that has to be courted, educated, and respected."

Mr. Kelly hammers a point home that I hope the readers of this blog and others can apply to the efforts of civic participation: This isn’t a fashion we’re trying to promote here. We don’t just need the numbers at the polls; we also need those people to fully realize what they’re undertaking on all levels. The right to vote should be empowering and engrossing to all that decide to do so. We need to take better care of our efforts to encourage the youth voters to participate and not let it become some trendy movement that fades into the sunset. My wariness of the efforts of HSAN and other organizations isn’t a thing of hate – if anything, I want these efforts to be successful and furthermore, sincere.

In other news, the glorification of criminal activity in Hip Hop captivates America again with the release of XXL magazine’s “Jail Issue” where on the cover, 50 Cent and Tony Yayo are proudly announced as “convicted felons”. I’m not sure if I have a right to gripe about it but why must a Hip Hop magazine devote an entire issue to incarcerated rappers and such? This isn’t something that should impress their fans any more or less and I simply don’t see the benefit to highlighting their checkered pasts. I’m convinced that Hip Hop’s controlling hands care nothing about the advancement of the fans that will have to endure environments and situations that could land them in jail – their only concern is how does my artist look and how many of those gullible and easy to impress suburbanites are going to pick up a copy of the magazine and CD. There possibly won’t be another “conscious” rap renaissance as we witnessed in the late 80s and early 90s and I’ve decided not to hold out for it. But I can’t imagine anything going right for the genre as far as quality improvement if we don’t start using the vehicle of music as more than a means to make some CEO filthy rich.


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