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Hip-Hop Fridays: Where Was Hip-Hop "Activism" On Big Pun Place?


Sometimes it is painfully obvious that the Hip-Hop nation, community or whatever it describes itself as, has a bark that is much bigger than its bite. For all of the talk about the millions of Hip-Hop fans and supporters who are ready to mobilize on the drop of the dime or who are "down for the cause", the recent effort to have a street named after multi-platinum MC, Big Pun, was pathetic. To think that arguably the most successful Latino rapper ever, could not generate more support from the community and industry that appreciates, respects and became wealthy off of his creative work is shameful and revealing.

While it appears that the effort to honor Pun could have been better organized, there is no denying that the initiative was effective enough to have reached the halls of New York's City Council where it appears that some politicians, Democrats at that, got cold feet over the potential fallout over naming a stretch of Rogers Place after Pun. Among other things, it should show the Hip-hop community the lack of support it receives from the political party that prides itself on free speech protection and a respect for the artistic community, not to mention its supposed loyalty to the Black and Latino communities.

Or maybe Hip Hop artists and moguls are too busy wooing White Democrats in the Hamptons to spend time in the Bronx persuading Latino and Black City Council Members.

But the real dropouts in all of this are those in the Hip Hop community who pride themselves on their consciousness and political awareness. The record label(s), lawyers and agents who made a pretty penny off of Pun closely follow that group.

Both groups - Hip-Hop's self-styled cultural and political activists and the industry's moneychangers - have the most obvious reasons to support the effort. And both failed to come to the plate. Even those who may not have been familiar with this particular effort to honor Pun were certainly capable of initiating some creative ways of celebrating Pun's life and art and the good it meant.

Of course, we can accept the negligence of Pun's memory and the lack of political mobilization from the industry's business element. After all, they really only care about money and now that Pun is no longer with us; it is no surprise that they would be missing in action.

But it is a bit more difficult to swallow the delinquency of the Hip-Hop community's political intelligentsia, which at times, can come off as very self-righteous, when it complains about the lack of political consciousness among its artists and fans.

Here, we think, was a perfect opportunity for that part of our community to flex its muscles in the birthplace of Hip-Hop, the Bronx. A powerful statement about Hip-Hop and the young Latino and Black communities could have been made by a massive push to honor Pun. But there was little evidence of the power of the community in the recent City Council maneuvering over the issue. The presence and power of the community was simply not felt.

Which brings us to a final question: Is there any such thing as a political movement for social change in Hip-Hop or is the community filled with those who are excellent at rhetoric and articulating political ideology and inept at really representing on issues and law-making?

In light of the failed drive for Big Pun Place, it is almost humorous to hear people speak of the Hip-Hop community electing the next Mayor of New York and the possibility of a Hip-Hop political party or "Hip-Hop" candidates running for office.

If you can't lift five pounds how can you lift fifty?


Cedric Muhammad

Friday, May 4, 2001

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