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

Friday, January 28, 2005

Young, Not Dumb, Full Of Aplomb

The Inauguration is over and thankfully so; please let me explain why. I had to ride a train in our Nation's Capitol that was full of the snootiest bunch of young white republicans I’ve ever bore witness to. Not knowing my race, background or anything these kids were just ripping foreign cab drivers, the “criminal element" (read: loads of mean black people) and the like. It was so nerve-wracking that I eventually put down my headphones and told them all to, politely, have a warm glass of shut the hell up.

They were shocked, sure, and I generally didn’t care. I don’t mind republicans – as I know an alarming amount of disgustingly loud and out of touch democrats as well. It was the sheer volume and disdain they seemed to display for anyone not in their “world" that had me wanting to kick them all in the throat.

I’ve known a few republicans and conservatives of various hues in my life; they’ve been some of the more civil politically-minded people I’ve come to know. So I don’t have this “us-versus-them" mindset when I discuss those who may be on the right and republican. My issue with the group mentality has always been one of divisive cattiness. It is the very core of partisanship’s many problems. There will always be a middle ground to tread politically.

Former Source editor Bakari Kitwana recently had a discussion on Hip Hop at Texas &AM University. I’m not the hugest fan of his works but I do appreciate him recognizing the very true fact that white youth are not Hip Hop’s primary audience – as that is the usual correlation since white youth buy more of the music than other race groups. But I will say in today’s “must sell a million to be relevant" Hip Hop, the focus on quality beyond quantity is nil. The truth remains: Young people want to shake their asses, pimp in their rides and bop on the train with their walkmans. The message can be inserted, but would it ever get heard?

Speaking of messages, my colleague DaBookman posted a blog about the Hot 97 scandal involving the radio hosts mocking the Tsunami victims by referring to them as “chinks‿ and such. Today, there will be a rally led by New York City councilman John C.Liu. What a disgusting set of events that led them to this point. Morning radio is already quite tasteless and then you have Hot 97. I hope that drive-time morning deejays are forever mindful of the sensitivity of their listeners. There are times were a joke need not be uttered regardless of the impact.

I appreciate college professors like Tracy Everbach of the University of North Texas for their allowing their students and young people alike to display their level of intelligence and social relevance on their terms and not what some white bread generalization is supposed to be. The moment we recognize that the young voters are a lot brighter than they may let on, we can brace ourselves safely when they become the leaders of our world tomorrow.

Friday, January 21, 2005

Politics, Parties and The Will to Work

As yesterday’s events showed us, we’re still a country that loves a party – no matter the detriment. The protestors were oddly muffled and the grins that go along with such an event were at an all time high. My favorite part of the evening, however, was laughing at the stumbling, drunk and young Republicans falling all over themselves and overhearing one young man say “Dude, Bush really does suck at speeches." You don’t say. I didn’t really get too close to anyone nor did I speak much. I’d just gotten back in town from a warmer climate and it was colder in D.C. than I left nearly a week ago. Still, the security was bananas down at the Inaugural Parade. I’ve never seen such a massive amount of law enforcement. It may have been more cops than marchers present.

I’m not sure how I feel about the whole thing. The reality is this: Bush is here to stay and a nation of already discontented voters will continually harp on the failure of the Kerry campaign as being the reason politics will not be something they care completely about or trust. Do we blame them for that? Of course we shouldn’t. I’m still at a loss for words myself. The fact that I was there watching the swearing in of a man I do not want running this country shocked me into that sad reality of dealing with this administration for 3 more years. I just picked up this book and the question of “what we do know" is a valid one. I know that our mission to change the political landscape of our country is not without hardship ahead. I realize progressives and those on the left are bracing themselves; perhaps preparing for an even stranger term than Bush’s first. The important lesson we should learn is that what we’ve done so far should not have a drop-off.

A man I’ve come to respect, author Adisa Banjoko, recently penned an editorial for All Hip offering five political Hip Hop resolutions. I’m glad someone is stepping up and putting us all on notice. Complacency in the face of great ideas is the bane of this society and will derail everything we’re trying to do. If a new blood needs to be injected into the forefront of this nation, it will take people doing some serious work. How many are ready to step up in that fashion? I’ll admit, I have plenty of things to learn but my will is very strong. Mr. Banjoko and I had a recent conversation and I expressed to him that as a person who writes, I have this fear of being redundant. He answered that as a writer you’ve said what’s been said a thousand times over, so of course you’ll become redundant in some instances. I was a little afraid to admit that but he’s right. I look over the weeks of writing I’ve done here, for myself and abroad – there is this constant need to fight the machine. So if I’m redundant, at least I’m working on being consistent with it.

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.

Friday, January 07, 2005

What A Way To Start Out The Year

Read columnist Stanley Crouch’s bio that appears to the left of his latest piece – an impressive background and certainly one he should be proud of. So explain to me why in the world is he applauding this bumbling attempt at Hip Hop witch hunting? Thankfully he’s not leading the charge as he’s about as informed on Hip Hop culture as I am about his background in Jazz. I wouldn’t dare take him on in that arena as I know I could not match him there. But to call Hip Hop “the cultural pollution" is a step in the wrong direction for such an accomplished– yet extremely out of touch – man and shows that he need not be critical on a thing he is not a part of. I would’ve used the word brilliant but he’s showing how dense he truly is with this piece. We’re in a crisis because of a popular music’s misogyny is at some high rate, Mr. Crouch? Please.
There are far too many positive things to focus on in the culture. When is the last time you think the future author of the biography of Charlie Parker had any exposure to Hip Hop music or culture save from the negative images we all are inundated with? Doesn’t he know that with Hip Hop’s ugly side that there is a great deal of artists who don’t exalt the woman-hating mentality? Of course he doesn’t. He’s far too content to cheer on Essence magazine’s editor, Diane Waters, and her staff who really feel like they’re doing something with this.

This isn’t to say that Essence is wrong in leading this charge; I just hope that they don’t demonize an entire culture while doing so – as Mr. Crouch seems to do from his very gruff and disdainful standpoint. Yes, a lot of popular Hip Hop music today isn’t in favor of women. I can admit to how often I’m appalled myself at the amount of images and lyrics that do nothing for the advancement of the culture. But I’m involved enough to know that it does NOT mark the entire beauty and worth of the culture. If anything, I hope Essence’s mission makes a lot of these labels and entertainers find more creative ways to express themselves and not do it at the expense of women’s pride. In fact, I actually think this could end up being a positive thing if all sides keep cool heads and realize it only betters us all. I hope they go out and find Ed O.G., Masta Ace, De La Soul and other like minded so-called “old-schoolers" who put out material this year that deviated from the current popular formula. Of course, none of these acts are popular commercially so they don’t enjoy Essence’s media attention. That’s the potential problem with this movement from Essence. They can do some good – and give some needed exposure to positive music – if they allow themselves the patience to research it. How many songs do you hear of a man actually praising his wife as Masta Ace does on his latest disc, “Long Hot Summer?" Ed O.G. is most famous for his fatherhood anthem, “Be a Father to Your Child," released in the early 90s and frequently mentions his close relationship to his daughter. De La Soul, all 30-plus family men, never misses a chance to speak on their roles as dads. There are good stories and artists out there and I hope all bases are covered.

In this piece from the Associated Press’s Sean Couch, legendary MC Nasir Jones is interviewed – unveiling some of his personal politics – which could stand to use some polish – and background. I’ll give Nas credit for doing this latest CD, Streets Disciple. He may have made many missteps on the LP and probably could’ve omitted some of the sex talk and facts at times but he’s stuck his neck on the table for Hip Hop music. You can hear that while some of the beats on the LP lag, he rarely does. This was just a step in the overall maturity of the contradictory yet increasingly humble MC. I urge you to forgive his past gaffes and recognize that he’s making moves many rappers on a large label wouldn’t.