I have a diversified palate when it comes to music. I listen to everything: country music, rap, Hip-Hop, R&B, classical, Opera, International stuff as well. Rap music has a special place in my heart. We have a special relationship. My parents forbid me to listen to it, because to them they didn’t understand it and its promote what they felt was a violent counter culture. Though I still managed to sneak some music here and there a mass majority of the music at the time didn’t appeal to me. As someone who has never taken drugs, doesn’t have any kids out of wedlock or from different women, has never been in jail, etc it is hard for me to relate to the songs on a deeper level thank just liking a beat. I thought in this post I would share with you all some of my observations of rap and hip-hop and the culture from which it sprang from.
The Black Community
These words are fictitious, it is my opinion no matter what the Reverend Jesse Jackson says or the Reverend Al Sharpton or even Reverend Run that there is no such thing as a black community. Why well because well once someone makes it, the first thing they do is move far away. They don’t reinvest in the community first. They get out. What is called The Black Community is basically a haphazard motley assortment o people stuck in the same socio economic bracket and part of the neighborhood. The Black Community isn’t a homogeneous community. There are people who’s family like Mine came from the Caribbean, some which came recently from Africa, some who have been here since the inception of this country. We all speak different languages, and have different cultural identities and values. We comprise 14% of the US population and so it is quite often that means that statistically we can’t expect our needs to be well represented. Given how historically the US has treated blacks there is a lot of untrust and apathy, in this simulacrum of a community.
A few decades ago our struggle was vocalized in the Blues which was at first mocked and derided, and I would like in my mind to compare rap music to have been initially a vocalization of the inner city experience. It too was derided and ridicule, it too became over time made a serious impact in music world-wide. Rap/ hip-hop was a very interesting thing. In the 80’s it was used as a tool to promote cultural awareness and it was a means for us in the so called community to reach other to each other despite our collective differences. Malcolm X speeches were put on tapes and remixed to beats, one could by books from vendors on the streets about Africa.
This may not seem like much but it’s meaningful? let me give you an example. Dr. Henry Louis Gates did a special for PBS called Black in America and he made the distinction i believe that only in America doe black people refer to themselves as Black Americans, in other countries they refer to themselves as their Nationality first “I am Cuban who’s black, I am a Brazilian who’s Black. America for the mass majority of us doesn’t feel like a home.
Bob Marley and Capitalism
If you listen to the song Redemption song by Bob Marley there are some cool lines:
Old pirates, yes, they rob I
Sold I to the merchant ships
Minutes after they took I
From the bottomless pit
But my hand was made strong
Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery
None but ourselves can free our minds
There is this pervasive idea that through hard work we can get out of whatever bad situation we are in: Some of us choose to work hard at sports, some choose to word hard at academia, we find our niche and we put in the work. This sets off an interesting situation,there is a constant siphoning off of the talented and successful people out of the neighborhood where we came up in. Our greatest resources is the human resource and that is depleting and depleting
To me in many ways rap had at some point a powerful message, it was sometimes social commentary, sometimes a cry for help, sometimes a vocalization of pain. Now it is is entertainment. Nowadays rappers make their money through playing on social stereotypes , shock value , and sensationalism. Whatever power rap had to be a catalyst for social discourse is gone on a whole though there are still some rappers who talk about pertinent things.
Final Thoughts on Rap for this post at least
When rap first came out and began to be popular, I heard so many negative things about it, but that only made me love it more. It was something I could relate too. It felt like something organic made for me by people who went through similar things which is more than can be said for most things. But like all things it became a commodity something to be bought and sold, it became a means for people who had very little to get tons of money without a proper education or deep understand of societal problems and as a result many successful rappers nowadays are only gimmicks that will have fade into oblivion not having done much than to make themselves a spectacle or some kind of freak to be used to sell things and subversive ideaologies