Thursday, June 28, 2012

Why Is Hip Hop On Trial...Again???

It's been almost a month since I've written something, anything for WISDOM SEEKER.  My apologies blogosphere.  The ideas have been there, but the utilization of said blog tool has suffered.  Between treks to North Cakalak and reorganizing my life, it has been a different June to say the least.  It is quite fitting for me to hit you at the end of June, the beginning of Summer 2012, with this post.  Once again, good ol' Hip Hop, or should I say "rap music", was on trial by the supposed powers that be.  June 26th saw Google + Hangout and Intelligence Squared construct a mock trial at the Barbican Center in London.  Mock is an understatement, because it did nothing more than mock an already maligned musical entity.  Of course I attempted to view the live stream via my Android, but to no avail, so I had to watch after the fact (and of course get updates via my good friend Twitter).

Familiar, and not so familiar, names were a part of this "groundbreaking" event that was streamed live for the world to see.  The obligatory players in Hip Hop, such as KRS-One, ?uestlove, Q-Tip, dream hampton, and others were present, either live or via stream.  On the periphery entities such as Michael Eric Dyson, Professor Tricia Rose, and Toure' participated, lending their experiences and insight into the ills that Hip Hop has given to society.  Then, of course, there were those voices that indeed did no justice to the culture, such as Rev. Jesse Jackson, sports columnist Jason Whitlock, and Eamon Courtenay, a Belize-based attorney who served as advocate for the motion.  What was the motion, I ask?  "Hip Hop Doesn't Enhance Society, It Degrades It".  To the casual outsider, this so-called "motion" may seem accurate, because time and time again, the images that are presented and sounds that are pumped into ear canals are negative ones.  The problem that I have, at least one of the problems, is that Hip Hop is not the real issue.  Hip Hop, by all accounts, is a CULTURE.  Rap music is a different animal.  There is a line of demarcation between the two.  What you hear on the radio constantly via Clear Channel and Radio One, that is rap music.  What you find on independent, unrestricted avenues such as college radio can be considered as Hip Hop.  I don't want to sound like that ol', misinformed, out of touch cat that doesn't understand what is going on, but much of what is being played and marketed has little value to me.  Freedom of speech still gives that little-valued music its place, it's just not a place I like to inhabit. 

Off the soapbox, and back to the topic at hand.  This debate, that last for a couple of hours, featured Jemima Khan as online host.  Even that first name of the host brought a sense of set-up to me.  This seemed like another ploy by media to accentuate the negative and COMPLETELY downplay the value of Hip Hop as a whole.  From BBC Newsnight host Emily Maitlis to Shaun Bailey, there were many that just did not belong in this conversation.  I say this because their information and involvement within Hip Hop is EXTREMELY limited, to say the least.  I felt that this debate, debacle, media debutant ball was constructed as another vehicle to lend creedance to the notion that this cultural phenomenon created by Black and Latino youth on the hardened streets of New York was bringing the lily-white values down a few notches.  Hip Hop was created as a vehicle to escape societal ills, by either providing verbal discourse or being celebratory in nature.  Hip Hop didn't created racial divide, unemployment woes, misogyny, homophobia, or a laundry list of ills.  Time and time again, this culture, MY CULTURE, has been at the forefront of discussing things that existed BEFORE it came about.  I say to you, where is the celebratory debate for all things positive about and within the culture itself?  Do you see these same "powers that be" discussing the positive, creative, and uplifting merits of a Public Enemy, Dead Prez, Talib Kweli, Yasiin Bey (formerly known as Mos Def), The Roots, Common, A Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul, Brand Nubian, Ice Cube (that's right, I said it), Queen Latifah, Poor Righteous Teachers...I can go on and on.  You may say that most, if not all, of the names are not relevant in today's hostile climate.  I beg to differ.  Even on a local level, Gods'illa, OOH of BROWN F.I.S.H., The Last Born Child and many others, are they being marketed and pushed as champions of a so-called
"conscious" music.  No.  Plain and simple.  The media, be it radio, print, television, and now online, is in a constant state of portraying negativity when it comes to Hip Hop.  This debate has been as long as the music called rap has been a cash cow for those corporate entities that have prospered from the blood, sweat, and tears of creative people of color.  Where there's money, there's controversy, and this trite, banal debate is no different. 

I can go on and on, and I will touch bases on this subject in an upcoming post.  The bottom line is that we, those that consider themselves a part of Hip Hop culture, should take a stand and not allow those that do not have a vested interest in the culture to try and dictate to it.  We should also take stock in what the real issues are, because Hip Hop, rap, urban music, whatever you want to call it, is not the real enemy.  There is a bigger picture here.  Like Dead Prez said, "it's bigger than HIP HOP".  Below you can watch, in its entirety, this debacle, I mean debate, and judge for yourself.

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