Tuesday, April 25, 2006
What's not to like about lyrics like: "If I wasn't in the rap game I'd probably have a key knee deep in the crack game Because the streets is a short stop Either your selling crack rocks or you got a wicked jump shot." [Notorious B.I.G., Things Done Changed]
I have a confession to make; I love hip hop music. Maybe it's my Jamaican roots, and growing up listening to toasters (The precursors of rap) like U-Roy, Stitchey, Dillinger, and Yellowman.
Not to mention the booming sound systems of King Tubby's Hi Fi, and Channel One. Somehow rap is in my blood. Even if now, as a forty something I am officially -as the young kids call it- an old head, and therefore not supposed to like rap, because people of my generation should be more into Frankie Beverly and Marvin Gaye, than say, Jay Z and Juvenile. But as proof of my devotion; right now in my ipod hip hop makes up at least half of what's in rotation. From old school stuff by Masta Ace, and Supercat, to newer stuff by Bun B, and Beanie Man.
Now I say confession, because loving hip hop lately (especially if you are in my age group) is like admitting that you have a secret vice like smoking, or gambling. And to be fair, hip hop and the industry that controls it, is partially to blame for the negative perceptions that often follows the genre.The beefs, the ignorant behavior by some posse members, not to mention the violent and misogynist lyrics by some of the more popular stars; has brought a real black eye to the art form and the life style it represents.
The irony is that rappers who the industry chooses to promote -insert 50 Cent here- are not even as talented as many struggling rappers with much more positive messages to bring to the fore. I would much rather listen to The Roots or Common, than say, Fiddy-As white suburbanites love to call him, or Nelly for that matter.
It's all making it much harder to defend the industry and the artist that are a part of it. The other day I was with a group of thirty something and forty something black professionals, and for some reason, the conversation turned to the sad state of rap music and its negative effects on our young people. Every one in the group was getting their two cents in, and although I hate to say it; were all making good points. Slowly one person, and then the other, noticed I wasn't saying anything; (highly unusual for me) and so of course, they all looked at me right on cue. At that very moment my hip hop dilemma was crystallized. I mean, how could I knock something which I love and have loved all my life, but at the same time defend something that have sort of betrayed me? Now I knew what mothers felt like when their children did wrong, and I really had no answer. "Well I like hip hop, and I think it's just a few bad apples making it bad for the rest of the artist.." I hoped that was good enough, but of course it wasn't. "What about the way they degrade women and call us bi****s? Or the ignorant glorification of materialism, and violence?" Every group has one, the mouthpiece and the confronter, that just didn't know enough to let an uncomfortable moment pass. She was right of course, and the truth is, I didn't have an answer for her. "What about it?" I said; clearly losing an argument I did not want. "Why do you listen to that crap, and support those companies that push all that negative stuff into our communities?" She was now bordeline angry; and of course, every one in the group was waiting for my response. "I don't know I grew up with it, and it's kinda in my blood" "But I thought you were from Jamaica?", every group has one of these too, the curious who wants to learn, and who will engage you whenever they see an opportunity to get some knowledge. I took my opening like Walter Payton busting out of the back field. "Well yes, let me explain that to you; you see rapping really started in the dance halls of Jamaica..."
So I got out of an uncomfortable situation with some friends. But those annoying questions stay in my conscience, and unfortunately, I know that a lot of what the confronter was saying is true. Rap and hip hop has to change directions fast, because it's getting to that tipping point where it's starting to do more harm than good in our communities. I know it has made a lot of people wealthy, and has even given some who previously didn't have hope a chance to be a part of a bigger movement. But the ignorance and violence has got to stop. And these young bucks have to start learning to respect their craft and its history. This will at least make it easier for this old head to defend hip hop to a bunch of other old heads, who just don't happen to have it in their bloods.
"I seen hoop dreams deflate like a true friends weight to try and to fail the two things I hate Succeed in this rap game the two things that great" [Jay-Z, H.O.V.A.]
Tell em Jigga!
Posted by field negro at 8:32 PM