Hip-Hop Fridays: Contradiction In The Hip Hop Vote by Kaia Niambi Shivers
Lately, the focus in politics has been to stimulate the hip-hop community to participate on a larger scale in the voting process. However, this campaign is coming up short and planners are beginning to lash out words of disappointment at the growing, globally influential population. Yet, many are forgetting that hip-hop was founded on the premise of an "anti-status-pro-quo," position. Therefore asking a community who's roots are embedded in bucking the system to entrust their voice in that very same structure is like asking blacks to enlist themselves back into slavery.
For the past year, the hip-hop community, the new sleeping political and economic giant has been wooed by many soothe-sayers who encourage the multi racial, gender and ethnic collective to empower themselves in arenas outside of a b-boy cipher. There have been conferences, elected officials, and high-profile organizational leaders holding exclusive meetings with hip-hop notables, hoping these figureheads can use their clout to rap and rock the vote. So far, majority of the hip-hop cells in existence have not been convinced or stimulated into action by the propaganda.
Did many forget how hip-hop evolved? This generational phenomenon emerged out of a lack of voice, out of frustration, out of neglected communities. From this, came a new reverberation, unlike that of disco, soul, b-bop, R&B, Blues or pop.
Hip-hop had no direction, it just evolved from hard, raw creativity that no one ever took time to tap. It slapped music and culture in the face like a frustrated broke pimp. Though hip-hop's foundation came from a mixture of many musical genres, mainstream America, black or white, did not know how to receive or deal with this womanish melodic species.
And all of we in hip-hop didn't give a f---! Cause no one gave a f--- about us. The children of hip-hop were reared after the civil rights, black power, brown pride and equal liberties movements were forced to a counter intelligence program halt. We were left to defend for ourselves against the wolves. Our mothers and fathers were trying to recuperate from the heavy hand dealt to them for wearing Afros, dashikis, berets and changing there slave names.
The children of hip-hop bore names like Jamila, Khalil, Tunde, Kenyatta, Knowledge, Wisdom and Olufemi. We were outcasts in a newly formed world forged from our parent's blood and sweat, yet there were very little room for us to be. We were stuck to deal with being post-political stress disorder babies, in a new "me generation."
We began to see how integration was a trick bag that led to the drastic decrease of black and brown-owned businesses. We saw and felt the residuals of co-opted organizations that gradually became entities in history books that allowed some of our stories to be told. We witnessed our own leaders fall to greed, thus paving the way for more self-destruction.
Hip-hop became our voice. It was and is a medium that speaks of this disjointed world from undiluted eyes, which is our soul. However, hip-hop remained pure by being soulful and sincere to reality.
Our spirit made every youth and young adult in the world take notice, eventually taking in our essence and becoming possessed by our messages.
We unconsciously operated as the messengers of ancestors and spirits long forgotten. They speak through us.
Not through a vote, and definitely not through an elected official. Today this idea still is pervasive in the minds of those involved or evolving in hip-hop, be it they've been immersed in the life since the 70s or just heard a Nas CD for the first time this morning.
Regardless if a handful of mcees, producers, deejays, or designers gained relative economic success, hip-hop is still not "the American Way." And frankly hip-hop doesn't see or want to be seen in that light. Hip-hop speaks change of the "American way," so the current voting process and political system does not represent hip-hop, nor is it attractive to the whole community.
All these elected officials and organizational big wigs can't even begin to understand the complexities of the hip-hop population. It is so multifaceted nowadays that everybody doesn't hail to Russell Simmons, Afrika Bambaataa or Dr. Dre. And because hip-hop has been skewed from so many angles, most in the generations coming up couldn't even fathom the remarkable devastation and loss hip-hop felt upon the murder of Run DMC's deejay, Jam Master Jay.
Point in case, I asked many of my students at a black and Latino high school in Los Angeles about their feelings on the death of the record-breaking artist. Majority couldn't even tell me one of Run DMC's songs or the group's profound contributions.
Furthermore, they thought that a current song from artist Missy "Misdemeanor" Elliot entitled, "Work It" was an original, when some of the beats are actually a Run DMC classic!
Nevertheless, let this be put on the table right now, many entirely immersed in hip-hop also know the issues of America from a personal, political, social, economical, cultural and educational point of view. Quite a few have strong, potentially effective solutions to curve this country's ills.
It is just contradictory to form alliances or develop a new society under the same umbrella that "dissed" and exploited hip-hop and compromised it by auctioning precious, creative blood to the highest bidder.
Hip-hop represents resistance of the falsifications of America's consciousness. Hip-hop is the superego of America, poking and punching at its "moral fibers" and institutions, challenging America to be all she says she is.
Hip-hop reflects the fact that revolution needs to occur in this society by completely obliterating a system that caused hip-hop to be created out of dire need. And not to the liking of most, hip-hop voices its opinion any way it feels.
So all of these politicians grumbling and bitching about what the hip-hop community needs to do or hasn't done must recheck their agendas at the door. It isn't going to be any pimp game over here. Bring us some substance without all the bulls--- politics. You can't garner our power in a place we originally shunned because we were intentionally placed in positions of powerlessness.
This thing called hip-hop did not survive by the ballot; it hasn't fallen by the bullet. And because of its multi-metamorphic, Octavia Butler origin, people just don't get hip-hop.
You don't approach hip-hop with force, it will hurt you; ask C. Delores Tucker or Tipper Gore. You can't handle it with care; it will get gritty like NWA. Yet, you mustn't treat it rough, it can flaw you from the potent sweetness of Lauryn Hill. Definitely, you don't want to underestimate it, it will blow up in your face like Run DMC. Never take its intelligence for granted; KRS One, Tupac or Rakim will mentally minimize you. And if anything, don't quell its political energy; you will be labeled a Public Enemy.
Kaia Niambi Shivers is a writer, teacher and poet currently living in Los Angeles. She can be emailed at Nappimilk@aol.com.
Editor's Note: Friday, December 6, 2002 - Cedric Muhammad On The "New" Eminem
Kaia Niambi Shivers
Friday, November 22, 2002