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

Friday, June 17, 2005

Is There A False Marriage Between Music & Political Activism?

When I speak to people about music, political activism, civil participation and Hip Hop, there is always this dull pause from the person I’m conversing with – it’s become a bit of an inside joke for me and my friends who engage in that type of deal. Sort of like that “pregnant pause” newly re-hired L.A. Laker Coach Phil Jackson spoke of before deciding to helm the famed NBA team again. I’m sure folks think that because of my involvement in this realm of writing and participation for the past few years that I’m a de facto expert on the subject of all things political and Hip Hop related. I don’t have a host of ideas to correct the state of things; I’m stuck waiting until 2007 because then the campaigns begin to actually heat up. On a national level, my so-called “expertise”, as it were, comes into play heavily because of the campaign and outreach tactics used by both sides. What the kids are listening to, wearing on their backs and so forth is always an important gauge as how to promote candidates and ideas.

A controversial point often comes about when I’m bouncing of my ideas in the realm of debate and discussion (my friends and associates call this bouncing I do “starting arguments so that I can run my big mouth”): I do not enjoy this forcing of civic participation onto young people by luring them with music and making it all look “cool” and I especially (and perhaps harshly so) do not like this false marriage of politics and Hip Hop. When I was the senior editor for a now defunct website dealing with minority politics, I struggled with it every day I went to work as my bosses expected me to entice Gen-Xers with Hip Hop themes and articles with a political slant. For the most part, “political Hip Hop” is such an oxymoron. Socially conscious Hip Hop would be a better term – not a term I’m in favor of, however. The truth is this: the politically charged Hip Hop of the 80s and early 90s dealt with inherently black and minority issues – just like Chuck D coined the overused phrase of rap music being the “CNN of the streets”. Those streets housed the tales of the working poor, the disenfranchised, the uncounted and, more importantly, people of color. Even they no longer have a relevant voice in regards to popular entertainers championing their plight. So with this broader focus I try to take here, I'm usually stuck wondering if I'm reaching people beyond my race.

I’m sure readers of my blog column could color me a hypocrite given my usual fare in this space – go right ahead if you please. But understand this: like many of you, I am struggling to find out how to meld all I know in order to help the fabric of the country I’m quite proud to live in – but not always proud of. I want to find that credible balance of how music can be a message deliverer and not a marketing tool. I want to find the path to gaining knowledge in song and verse but not sacrificing quality or talent. I want all of this to work because I simply do not know how to do anything else with the talent I’ve been blessed to showcase and hone in the bits of HTML code and graphics you see before you. I will continue to press on with my mission: to educate, enlighten and promote all the good that Hip Hop is and making sure that it isn’t whored by those who don’t treasure it – only using it to gain young eyes and ears for commercial consumption. In the meantime, I’m learning the same hard lessons. Let’s continue to walk together.


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