Hip Hop Culture for Grown-Ups
Over the weekend, I read an article about how Hip Hop – or more specifically, rap music – is directly & indirectly to blame for the current conditions that plague Any Urban City, USA.These conditions include things like crime & mortality rates, hypersexualized youth (both boys & girls), deep-reaching unemployment, poverty, etc. For the most part, these are the general surroundings in most cities that house minorities in many states, which is a sad, sad sign of the current state of homeland
security affairs. For what it’s worth, I’m sure that has more to do with socio-geography & political footholds than it does with rap music’s influence, but for the sake of saving time, I’m just talking about rap music.
A key theory in the article I read was that rap music spawned an entire generation of unemployable, menacing hooligans, & created a societal black hole (no pun intended) for young, Black men from which there may be no escape. Cities like Baltimore & Chicago shine a bit more unintended light on this ideology due to the shocking amounts of “Black-on-Black” crime. & even without scientific data & analytics, most people are aware of these types of proverbial war zones all over America. Overall, the article doesn’t blame rap music per se, but instead pinpoints aspects of urban adulthood that could have only been born from the ideas & beliefs of the rap music lifestyle. Ideas & beliefs that have apparently been successfully infused with our cultural growth, but not in a good way. Like an oxygen bubble in an IV tube, so to speak.
When I was twelvish, I listened to two cassette tapes constantly. N.W.A’s Straight Outta Compton & BDK’s Long Live The Kane. I had a cheap cassette player with raggedy earphones & no pause button, but it lasted me long enough to upgrade to a nice Sony Walkman. The yellow & gray one, with the adjustable bass & pre-bud earphones. Nevertheless, everywhere I traveled, I listened to those albums. I looked up to these guys, in an MC sense, because I knew the difference between their music & my real life. I knew that Ice Cube – as much as I idolized his word play & charisma – was nothing more in my life than a rapper, an entertainer, or at the very least, my favorite storyteller. Not a mentor nor a teacher. Quite possibly a preacher, but that didn’t happen until he started hanging out with Khalid Muhammad. Regardless, music has always been like an audio movie to me, no matter the narrator, & if John Rambo couldn’t convince me to join the Army or attack randoms with a serrated hunting knife, a rapper couldn’t convince me to sell drugs or shoot people.
The fact that I had my dad in the next bedroom (or even the same room–depending on the time) to answer to, as well as follow & emulate, is a blessing for which I could never give God enough thanks.
I can still smell my dad’s sweat-laden Post Office uniform after a hot summer day. It was the stench of a man. Hard work. What being responsible for a lot of important shit smelled like. That was more tangible than the fantasies of rivalry & revelry the music created, because at the end of the day, Kane couldn’t give me help on my homework. Eazy didn’t shoot me an extra five bucks to play video games at 7-11. (Back in the 80’s, 7-11 had small rooms that housed up to three arcade games.) Slick Rick – while giving me my first lesson on STD’s – didn’t come to my parent-teacher conferences. How I understood that dynamic as a child is totally different now, & I respect the power that comes along with fatherhood. I harness & use that power to tell my kids things of importance whenever I feel it’s appropriate, even if they don’t want to be bothered (which is most of the time).
It’s deeper than just rap music, so before I truly blame a musician, I’d blame the miseducation of a people, all colors included, over a period of not-so-extended time. Humans are stuck between technology & selfishness searching for sainthood these days, & the village that it took to raise a child was washed away moons ago. The “family,” with all it’s flaws & ridiculousness, is the root of humanity. Even animals have functioning families, unless they’re those animals that eat their own babies. (What are they called? Oh, yeah, the Kardashians.) The family is where it all begins. & – God forbid – it’s where it all ends without the proper maintenance & promotion.
It’s hard to willingly isolate a problem & even harder to locate it’s solution. & to blame rap music for the tumultuous plight of African-America is tantamount to blaming that green monkey for the AIDS epidemic, if that makes any sense.
Words by Tony Grands