Other Voices

Hip Hop has the potential to change the world.

No, I’m not talking about Hip Hop in tinsel wrap courtesy of Lil Wayne, 50 Cent, P. Diddy (or is it Puffy Duffy?), Ying Yang Twins, Snoop (although I will admit I like their lyricism and tight production)–I am speaking of the more progressive,genre-expanding, lyrically-brilliant Hip Hop artists along the lines of Common, Nas, Lupe Fiasco, Immortal Technique, Talib Kweli, Mos Def, Ceelo, The Roots, Dead Prez, KRS-ONE and Kanye West– Masters of Alliteration, Paradox, Allegory & Metaphor weaving rich narratives of life in between the lines like latter-day griots (with Pro Tools..haha).

It’s no accident that mainstream media skims over/neglects the more socially potent and relevant material of the more progressive artists. Like drug dealers, record and cable/TV executives push the partyln’, pimpin’ & gun-totin’ swagger on the young & impressionable at the expense of incisive observations of the body politic & cogent socio-cultural analysis. One can deduce that the recording companies fear the broadening/popularization of uplifting, intelligent music by young black men (primarily) since the shameful stereotypes and wayward follies that keep our young enraptured and intellectually disengaged have served them so well. As Lupe Fiasco quotes a record executive in “Dumb It Down”:

“Won’t you talk about your cars..
You’ve been shedding too much light
You make’em wanna do right
They’re getting self-esteem
These girls are trying to be queens
They’re trying to graduate from school
They’re starting to think that smart is cool
They’re trying to get up out the hood
I’ll tell you what you should do… Dumb it down!”

Executives sell, they could care less if a message or image is toxic or just useless (Lil Wayne): They are amoral-to-immoral agents out to market whatever turns a quick profit. Sadly, one too many artists cloud their vision/silence their voices & succumb to the law of the jungle (market)–essentially they become accomplices to their own mental enslavement and end up looking/sounding like fools at the end of the puppet-masters’ strings.

So, just what type of messages/images are the more progressive, trend-defying artists projecting that bring such trepidation and disgust to the well-fed honchos of the major entertainment oligarchies? Some samples : Nas has critiqued North American lifestyles (“America”),Common has approached the male-female dynamic in a reflective & didactic manner(“The Light”), KRS-1 has warned against self-destruction( “Self-Destruction”), Talib Kweli has meditated on a dream deferred (“Everything Man”) and The Roots have sympathized with victims of domestic abuse (“Innocence Lost”)…I can go on but my point is that the real face of Hip Hop is not being truly represented in the mainstream (with the exception of Kanye West and a few others). Sometimes Hip Hop’s face is deeply sorrowful as reflected in The Roots “Return to Innocence Lost”, sometimes it’s angry as in Immortal Technique’s, “The Poverty of Philosophy”, sometimes it’s fearful & confused as in 2PAC’s “Are U Afraid 2 Die?”, sometimes serenely metaphysical as in Blackilicious’s “Release”, sometimes grateful and loving as in Goodie Mob’s “Guess Who?”. Indeed, there are many faces in Hip Hop, but the mainstream chooses only to exploit the more limiting, lifeless visions of hoes, rims and jacuzzis (for the most part).

Fortunately, a growing number of progressive Hip Hop artists are gravitating towards (or creating)independent labels to promote, manufacture, distribute and sell their work which will allow a broader appreciation of their work untainted by the greed, cowardice and stupidity of mainstream record executives. Sparks are going to fly when the full power of Hip Hop is unleashed and I can’t wait–I am sick of cowards and zombies who dot the landscape.

By way of conclusion, a few conscious flows (not suitable for the uncommitted, one-dimensional weak-hearts who fear reprisals, rejection, discomfort & change )…..

Keep movin’…


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