Sunday, May 9, 2010

Bigger Than Hip-Hop


Okay, hip-hop. As a music lover and a member of the Black community, I don't feel I can completely turn my back on you. I've often expressed a confused-love-hate relationship of hip hop music as a result of the disrespect that Black women live with in the music and the glorification of certain degrading social situations, but that doesn't make these situations less relevant, prevalent, or invalid as experiences faced within Black culture and the hip-hop listener's community.


I take issue with the idea that there are disingenuous and unauthentic self-claiming hip-hoppers that are being unexamined in terms of, not only the quality of product they are producing, but the accessibility of poor messages to children (which, I know, speaks also to parenting). Some artists don't fail to acknowledge the fact that their audience is 12-15 year old children, and with that acknowledgment comes an uncaring attitude.


There are so many good qualities in hip-hop. Having had my upbringing, I experienced life in different communities. I used to play kick-ball in the street with what seemed to be the kids from "Hey, Arnold!" I got a boom-box for one of my earlier birthdays and it had a double tape-deck, and I sat on the deck during sticky-hot North Carolina summers listening to mix-tapes that I made of singles from the radio. I've always been an over-thinker and I can even recall when my thorough examination and interpretations of music began: I was around ten and had heard an unedited version of "Mo' Money Mo' Problems." And, of course, I figured if they weren't one of George Carlin's 7 Dirty Words, it isn't off limits. I didn't stop to think that there might be a reason the radio bleeps the words out! So, I'm listening to the song in the car with my dad, and I was boppin' my head, proud to know that they sampled Diana Ross's "I'm Coming Out" so perfectly, probably wearing one of those horrid looking jumpsuits worn by Mase and Puffy in the video and giggling with thoughts of "Ma$e Gumble" and "Puffy Woods", and - of course - rhyming to Biggie, and said the phrase "triple beam, lyrical dream - I be that cats you see at all the 'vents bent". Generally, my dad could appreciate my love of music and ability to recite any song after hearing it once; musically minded, I also have a talent at identifying and perfecting pitch. However, also being an early scholar, I hated (and still hate) when people challenge me to make me stupid, as my father did plenty of times growing up. Immediately, he turned the radio down and said, "do you know what a triple beam is?" Well now, I knew it was that thing my teacher taught us about during the science part of our day. Proudly, I told him this. And he explained to me that it is a device used to measure drugs. Truly, this experience might be the reason I question everything to the point of annoyance; I like to know the origin of words and phrases so that I don't mistakenly look buffoonish.


Yet growing up in hip-hop has made me appreciate the things that I can relate to, and even experiences that I cannot because I feel how real they are. Despite what some may tell you, I wasn't born with a silver spoon in my mouth. I've grown through more experiences than a lot of people are privy to; a lot of those situations intersect with old school, new school, and pop-culture hip-hop. However, I also experienced social situations that aren't exactly understood to be what is portrayed as "the Black community" - complete with "talking/acting white" - and I don't think that this invalidates my opinions as a scholar and interpreter of the message or experience.


Since I don't completely have a work-sleep-blog-leisure schedule worked out yet, I tend to catch up on the happenings of the week on Sunday mornings after I get off work. Finally getting around to episodes of The Michael Eric Dyson Show, I was excited to be able to listen to a(/nother) hip-hop discussion. The tail end of the show featured Thomas Chatterton Williams, author of "Losing My Cool: How a Father's Love and 15,000 Books Beat Hip-hop Culture". Now, I don't like to judge a book by it's cover (or title), but...well, just fast forward through all the really informative (and very well stated) stuff about the President and financial regulation and have a listen:


Is Hip-Hop Culturally Valuable?
(I couldn't embed the soundclip, but the link will take you straight to it)


I don't think Mr. Williams' argument was well-rounded enough for the show, and taking task with Jay-Z is not exactly a careful examination of hip-hop culture's realism and societal importance to the minority communities that experience what is spoken about. While I may not like to listen to much of the bullshit music on the radio, I'm more anti-listening-to-the-bullshit-music-on-the-radio-without-proper-interpretative-skills. I don't hate hip-hop, I hate the complacency associated with our culture's allowing such vulgarity and outdated ideas to be recycled and allowed such a substantial influence on how our culture is portrayed. I'm sick of parents not explaining to children what's what. If my dad hadn't challenged me to understand the rhymes I was recycling, would I even be as thorough a thinker as I am now? Granted, I have my own definition of what "real" hip-hop is, but that doesn't discredit the bullshit music and musicians to whom I refuse to listen.


Also, I have a problem with the fact that Mr. Willams is so caught up on Jay-Z and drugs. At one point, he seemed to be heading in the direction of the often blatant disrespect of Black women, but didn't. What about the women in and affected by hip-hop? Have we, yet again, been othered?


Maybe I'll purchase Mr. Williams' book tomorrow, just to hear his argument. It's difficult to read a man in a snippet of the conversation; yet, from what I hear? Bullshit, son.


Be Righteous. And also, be insightful.


3 comments:

  1. I'm not gonna lie, I didn't read past the first few words. My reason is this: I'm a strong advocate for TRUE Hip Hop culture. Do you know when Hip Hop was started? If you say the late 70's, you haven't done your homework!

    I often give people little 5 minute lessons on the true culture and history of Hip Hop. You should do some honest research into it.

    You will find that (in so many words) this "hip hop music" that objectifies women is actually more like the bastard child of gangster rap... it's not Hip Hop in any way. Not even the style! It's rap.

    Rap is a part of Hip Hop, but Hip Hop was started with the DJ rocking a party and an MC representing his crew! B-Boys (what the MEDIA dubbed as "breakdancers" would tear up the dance floor to break beats. Graffiti was an ART FORM.

    Hip Hop is a legitimate culture within Amerika and deserves more respect than she has ever received.

    I highly recommend these movies/documentaries:

    The Freshest Kids
    Scratch
    Copyright Criminals
    Wild Style
    Beat Street

    And there's plenty more out there. If you really look into Hip Hop, you might find out that you LOVE HER and, instead, hate the IMPOSTOR that's on the radio.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Dearest Anonymous Poster,

    I appreciate your commenting. However, you completely missed the purpose of this post by not reading past the first few lines. I actually very much side with you into the post, but without giving the entire post a fair read, there is no way that your analysis is well-rounded. I've seen said documentaries and I am a hip-hop fanatic. I hope that you take a more in depth read of the entire post - links included. Also, the so-called bastard children off hip-hop may not be "true" hip-hop, but the main thing that the post intended to get at was these experiences are not entirely less relevant to culture in the Black community.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Dearest Anonymous Poster,

    I appreciate your commenting. However, you completely missed the purpose of this post by not reading past the first few lines. I actually very much side with you into the post, but without giving the entire post a fair read, there is no way that your analysis is well-rounded. I've seen said documentaries and I am a hip-hop fanatic. I hope that you take a more in depth read of the entire post - links included. Also, the so-called bastard children off hip-hop may not be "true" hip-hop, but the main thing that the post intended to get at was these experiences are not entirely less relevant to culture in the Black community.

    ReplyDelete