Hip Hop Fridays: Post Election: Are We Dead Yet? by Tika Milan
The last four years have been eventful to say the least. We witnessed George W. Bush get re-elected, the towers fell, the pentagon got hit, Republicans and Democrats started beefing like Blood and Crips, and terror alerts took a turn to the surreal and then absurd with its color meter ticker-taped across the TV screen, while education took a back seat to the Iraq agenda. Basically the world went insane.
Hip-hop artists took note and began to lace their lyrics with social commentary, empowerment, and pride. Kanye West made it ok to rap about Jesus. Mase told me he came back to save rap. And the society of conscious rap (Common, Talib Kweli and The Roots) has begun to surface. From Dead Prez to Jay-Z, hip-hop has changed since the year 2000. Vets like the aforementioned king of crossover Jay-Z and the underrated street ambassador Jadakiss, vented their frustrations with social debauchery and the careless f--k ups of this countries' affairs since Bush took office. Hip-hop artists have shown an awareness and intelligence that contrasts the Viva La Bam slapstick reality and the high school hedonism that some media try to shove down our throats like a gag ball.
But, the change towards conscious rhyming is nothing new. Hip-hop has always functioned as a revolving door revisiting themes, but remixing them each time. Gangsta rap begat thug rap, thug rap begat criminal rap, all of which revolve around the same anti-social f--k-you-I-wont-do-what-you-tell-me, way of being. The Afro-centricity of X-clan and Poor Righteous Teachers are the predecessors of Saigon and Immortal Technique's grassroots rap. The Africa medallions and Kente cloth are swiped for T-shirts with scanned images of our fallen heroes. We're also slowly crawling out of the bling era that Puffy founded and the South ran with. If you notice, the bling is getting smaller and more grown-up (with the exception of a few like Young Buck, who insists on rocking a silly spinning Y.B. medallion).
The throwbacks got thrown back, per Jay-Z, and the boy-turned-man born in the park is rich, grown, and ever evolving. With wealth and worldwide visibility comes responsibility. The social climate is hot, casting anxiety and a need to speak out against our government's course of action and the resulting confusion and aggravation that has ensued all over the country. It is obvious that in the last four years, the streets, where hip-hop began and its artist hail from have suffer considerably. We see the economic gap between rich and poor, and black and white, widening every year. And from Bed-Stuy to East L.A., it hasn't ever been this hard to find a job since the Reagan Era. So some of us in the hip-hop community decided to voice our discontent (we back home/ screaming leave Iraq alone), realizing the massive influence and making it fly for school kids to rap along to Kanye's "Jesus Walk" and Nas' "I Can." Jadakiss asked all the right questions rousting much of hip-hop out of complacency with mediocre lyricism and shallow recycled themes of money worship and violence. The urgency of the Sean (they call me Diddy) Combs Vote or Die campaign was not just another hustle to sell t-shirts, but to make it clear that sh-t is not a game right now. The underlying message of "Vote Or Die" was a call for Hip-hop to mobilize the people it represents to exercise their right to vote and making music that voiced the concerns of the overlooked people of this country.
In hip-hop we will always show off the fly sh-t we buy and rep our hoods to the fullest. This is the forum for the tough guys, the creative, and the exploited. But most importantly, hip-hop has become a nation of millions that is steadily beginning to understand the power of being the most profitable and popular music industry on the planet. Now that Bush has taken Washington officially and with 2004 coming to an end, I hope that we continue to point at the discrepancies in society, voice our outrage, and create music that the world loves and some love to hate. Things didn't turn out the way many of us wanted, but we ain't dead yet.
This editorial appears on BALLER STATUS.NET Tika Milan may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
Friday, November 5, 2004