Hip Hop Fridays: I Love Hip-Hop, But it Must Die by Dell Gines
First of all, let me say this, I love hip-hop. Yes I do. In its abstract form, (I donít buy into all that graf, DJ, b-boy crap), in its abstract form of lyricism that evokes thought and emotion, spoken in cadence to a beat, I love it. When you listen to it, good hip hop, even if it has negative and destructive lyrics, what you will find is highly articulate and intuitive brothers and sisters, using grammar in the way of some of the great poets of the past. The complex usage of metaphor, analogy, wordplay, and imagery many of our brothers and sisters use within the context of hip hop is nothing short of brilliant.
What many people donít know is for a minute I fancied myself trying to be a hip hop artist. Yep, when the hip hop internet first took off, and programs like Cool Edit, and Fruity Loops made it easy to produce tracks, I dropped over 30 internet tracks and battle records, and even had one track put on a mixed CD. I was dropping nasty stuff, Eminem like in some ways, and Bushwick Billís first Geto Boy album in others. Then I stopped.
I stopped, and I reflected on what I was thinking, saying, and showing, not only about myself, but about US. Because at its core hip-hop is about us, it is one of the most powerful means of speaking to us, shaping us, and reinforcing values in us. See, for me, it was all in fun at first. I still was doing community work, and the lyrics, although raunchy, and the battle raps crazy, I was able initially to divorce myself from the lyrics and my real life work in the community where I was trying to build US up. Then one day it was like a mirror was placed in front of my mind, which caused me to reflect on what people were getting out of the words that I spoke, even in the small forum of internet message boards. I was speaking death, I was speaking destruction, I was speaking foolishness, I was devaluing myself, my brothers, and the struggle of our ancestors, all in the name of having fun and of getting my voice out creatively through lyrics.
So when I say hip-hop, at least in its current form NEEDS to die, I do it not from an elitist never been there, never done it, donít understand it, mentality. In fact, my sister is a Gospel Rapper with four CDís out and her own record label, so I even understand the rudimentary economics of the industry as well, from the point system to advances and the hustle of the execs. I say it NEEDS to die, because in the words that have always stuck with me from Wise Intelligent of Poor Righteous Teachers, ďNever will I feed you that of poison and disguise it with a beatĒ (editor's note: This line is from "Hot Damn I'm Great" on Poor Righteous Teacher's Pure Poverty album).
We now sanction, tolerate, excuse and embrace death, our death, not the death of the oppressor, not the death of poverty, not the death of anything negative towards our growth in this country. We tolerate, excuse and embrace the things which are the most decayed, distorted, twisted, and gross about us. Then we allow ourselves and this imagery to be exported world wide so people think this is who WE are. We are the only race that does this. We swallow, over snares and kicks, our own disease. We unthinkingly repeat it as it runs through our heads, because of its catchiness. We deify those who perform it, and we have no defense, not on a broad level in our current state, against it.
We can talk about positive artists, and I like positive music, and even music that is introspective, creative and witty. But that is the most minute of the minutia. That is a drop of clean fresh water in an ocean full of salty worthless H2O. It canít compete, it is drowned out by mass marketing, corporate countermanding, and us absorbing the decay as if it was attached to a perpetually dripping IV.
Our psychosis is so deep on this issue, because most of you like me, love it. It is a beautiful art form. But it is not ours anymore. The bible says Satan comes as an angel of light, as does hip-hop. Disguised behind the radiance of hip-hop though, is death and decay, the exportation of the worst of us to the world all in the name of dollars. It is an art form that once showcased our ability in a fun, positive, reflective or introspective way, and now it has become the primary reinforcer of the system of white supremacy in America. WE, the great survivors, still weakened by racism, embrace the shackles of hip-hop. We not only embrace them, but shine them, and parade them as fancy jewelry.
So hip hop must die, not because it isnít beautiful, not because I donít love it, but because I love our people more and that love, and those who truly love our people, demands that we protect and preserve them from things which overtly and covertly keep them in a place of self-hatred, personal disrespect, disrespect for others and a twisted and distorted view of reality. What hip-hop could have been, it hasnít become. Now it is what it is, an agent of death, one of the most powerful agents of death that the system of white supremacy in America has produced. Why is it one of the most powerful agents? Because we do love it, and therefore it sedates us to our own destructive behavior through our own lyrical brilliance and desire to embrace the beat. That is why it must die.
Dell Gines is the President of The Center for Economic Education & Development (CEED). Visit his blog, Adequate Defense
Friday, January 20, 2006