Hip-Hop Fridays: Hip-Hop...Where for art thou? ? by Jose S. Gutierrez Jr.
In memory of and respect for those who are resting in peace and those who choose to create peace in the midst of violent foolishness.
Aceyalone asked emphatically on his solo debut, All Balls Don't Bounce, "Where did all of the Hip Hop go?" More than once, he repeated this question. Aceyalone and others who ask such a question can do so, because they know where Hip-Hop came from.
With the current state of affairs, including the shooting in the Belltown district of Seattle, outside of the legendary I-Spy club on 10/5/02, I rhetorically wonder if young cats (especially young people of color) have a clue about Hip-Hop culture, discipline and history. And if these youngster don't know about it, why don't they?
To answer the first question, either youngsters who are supposedly Hip-Hop supporters either don't know from where Hip-Hop comes or they are just out of tune with what is going on in the world, which kind of describes the socially uninvolved character of current day Hip-Hop.
First of all, let me exclaim an important fact in the spirit of the creator and our honorable founders, Kool Herc, Afrika Bambaata, Grandmaster Flash and others (There are many founders who are not forgotten, but for the sake of brevity they are respectfully left out of this article). The important fact is that; criminal behavior and violence are not necessary characteristics that one must adopt to belong to the Hip Hop community. They are not rites of passage for membership within and have nothing to do with being a sincere 'real' or 'street-credible' member of the Hip-Hop community either. I know this, because my sister and I grew up with Hip-Hop in the home, as did our mother. We also grew up in poverty, violence and drug plagued communities. These are not hardships to brag about. In fact, most of the people that I know, who have been challenged by these scourges, now suffer or have suffered from them. I say this emphatically, because I take ownership in the Hip-Hop community, as a founder and member.
Let me explain the difference, between a community resident and community member. If I sound preachy, please believe it. Preachers are teachers for a reason. Within the Hip-Hop community we make a clear parenting mistake as elders. We admire our youth too much - rather than teach and discipline them the wisdom, knowledge and provisions of guidance. How can a private be successful in battle, without the war-ready instincts, knowledge, leadership and experience of a sergeant, lieutenant or general? I continue, in that a community member pays dues, earns a place and takes ownership via these 'costs' and 'sacrifices.' While a resident, like any common leach, sucks the blood of the community and manipulates those who 'allow' them to reside within our community 'cost free.' I'm not even joking.
So, young people must be taught the discipline of Hip-Hop culture. Hip-Hop is a rarely found beauty, in a world of confusion. Hip-Hop was actually born of violence in the early 1970s, as a peaceful entity. Bambaata united gangs in the South Bronx, and rather than fight against each other, they utilized their talent to improve each other - in the process, developing clear cut 'laws' of the Hip-Hop culture. It is quite disturbing that some laws are unabashedly being violated these days.
For example, too many cats are 'biting' names and styles. A clear no-no and disrespectful gesture in the Hip-Hop community, but these cowards now insist that calling fools out is a haterism. Hey, you know what - if you can't battle or compete within the Hip-Hop community - YOU AREN'T A VALID MEMBER. You're card is getting cut! Period.
I write this letter, mostly in response to the murderous violence that occurred outside of the legendary I-Spy, because it was a Hip-Hop event - our community's event, and this type of lethal violence has occurred at Hip-Hop events over the years, but only because we allow it to. We, by supporting violence in Hip-Hop, support a degeneration of Hip-Hop culture. KRS-One, Public Enemy, MC Lyte and other forefathers/mothers did not sacrifice so much for this apathetic attitude to prevail. I do not support N.W.A. alone. I support N.W.A., because their message is valid and I can attest to much of what they have rhymed about, but simultaneously I support De La Soul, Luke, Scarface, Sir Mix-A-Lot, Whodini, X-Clan and others because Hip-Hop is not one-dimensional. Hip-Hop is not a coastal thing. Again, Hip-Hop's peaceful birth was the seed of violent people who changed their ways - a clear sacrifice. So why is it that we allow our youngsters to lead themselves, when they are incapable of leading sufficiently. A man once said, "Fools rush in where wise men never go." Where are you going?
To answer the second question, of why youngsters do not know or acknowledge the rules and ways of Hip-Hop culture is quite obvious. We as elders have not properly taught, modeled and held them accountable in the ways of the culture. Remember that in any successful and happy family, there exists discipline. Discipline is not always fun, but it is a necessity of order. There is a consequence for each action. A family without discipline is a tragic sight - if you have ever seen such a thing. The children run the household, the parents are afraid of the youth and as a result we allow the youngsters to 'wild out' and punk the only teachers who (are supposed to) love them. Truth is, some of us, although we have seniority of age - are not qualified teachers and do not accept the role of a positive model and example for the youth anyway.
I say these things, because we as a collective group have the power to change the face of our Hip-Hop culture and community. Yes, violence is present within our community, as this disease of thoughtless emotion is present in every community, but we also possess creativity, attention of the youth and positive messages to disseminate. Why do we choose to allow one dimension, of violence, so much shine on our face? I would suggest selfishness and apathy as responses to such as question.
Additionally, we have the entire community watching us. I cannot, as a critically thinking man, be upset with Mr. Duane Fish of The Seattle Police Department when he says, "I don't think it's a secret that often times at Hip-Hop events, things like this (murder of two and three injured) occur. Not only in Seattle, but around the country." I humbly assume that Mr. Fish is not a member of the Hip-Hop community, so what message are we sending to others in the community at-large when we shoot up the joint or act with such dislike for each other – scowling instead of giving cats a head nod or a pound? Haters! YOU, YOU and YOU HAVE TO START CALLING OUT THE HATERS WHO SHOW NO LOVE! Hip-Hip was born of hate and transformed into love – remember that and teach it!
Finally, I call upon the elders who carry the weight of responsibility on their shoulders to show some wisdom and guidance to our young ones who will one day lead us, to either a path of prosperity or destruction. That, however, depends on how we teach them today. If the job is 'too big' for you (who some of you selling millions of records might say) or 'you can't change the world', then your sincerity to the art that inspired you to come from nothing to something is sincerely in question. We cannot intelligently complain of police misconduct within the community while 'bustin' 50 shots' in the air and killing two and injuring three. What kind of backwards hypocrisy is that? I understand the police misconduct issue, but the 'White man’ does not have power over me (us) to the point that we kill each other – that is our power that we abuse. Get-it right ya'll.
We need a group of brothers and sisters who don't need the spotlight, because it is already on us. The question is: can you lead on a day-to-day schedule and show each other a better path? I speak these words in honor of our ancestors and in concern for the well-being of our entire community, the Hip-Hop community and our lives. Live this thing out. We are here for a limited time only! What shall we leave to those who come after us?
As problem solvers, it is important that we not only ask questions, but seek solutions as well. I suggest role-modeling on an every day basis. Checking cats that are acting 'out of pocket' - and being tactful and respectful while checking them. Providing professional, business, educational and career counseling for the future is also an important and courageous deed. In the words of a friend and Hip-Hop community member, "Some of ya'll are thinking about yesterday, we're thinking of tomorrow."
Jose S. Gutierrez Jr. is Editor-In-Chief of Seaspot.com and can be contacted via e-mail at: Ahbntwrk@cs.com
Jose S. Gutierrez Jr.
Friday, October 25, 2002