Hip Hop Culture for Grown-Ups
Words by Phlip
Disclaimer: I am guilty of at least some what I am about to say. I am aware of and own this fact. I am big enough to admit to being a part of the problem I describe.And now we can get down to business…
On its face and in its beginnings, one of the very first things we know about hip hop is that it is what YOU make it. “You,” for the sake of this scribe, is anyone who considers themselves an avid fan – or a “head” – of this hippity hop music. At the onset, the draw to hip hop was that it WAS different and followed no particular rules. It was rapping, dancing, art, fashion and something else that escapes me right now because it was made up by KRS One and not one of the originators. Participation in any of the 4 or that one I forgot made you “hip hop.”
Nowadays, though, those of us who can remember the older days (and some of us who can name all 5 elements without Wikipedia) do so quite fondly and think of what has happened following the first and second renaissances of the late-80s and mid-90s which went far in drawing major commercial interest to the art form, even if only to the most visible element of it. The beauty of hip hop, I repeat, is that it was dynamic. It could be participated in by people of a specific region and do so completely independently or with the involvement of the rest of the country (and later the rest of the world). Don’t believe me? How many dances, rapping styles or ways of dress originated from where you are? Now compare that to the number you will find from other locales – many of which you have or never will actually visit. The influence is there, and is all related to what the end user/recipient makes it.
Why, then, are we bellyaching over what hip hop has become when all it has done is remained as dynamic as it has always intended to be? If we do not allow our children room to grow and become what they will, then we have failed as parents. Likewise, as hip hop is effectively the child of anyone with any vested interest, then the failure to allow it to grow is shouldered by anyone complicit in putting it in that box.
And yes, I mean that.
We often look down our noses at people who expand their palettes…
In the 90s, we chided Lil Wayne for having kiddie-ass simple raps. As he got older, we doubted that anyone could be THAT much improved if they were writing their own shit, and then we rode him even harder when he decided that he would take the FULLY hip hop route of doing what the hell he pleased on record. Say what you will about the guy, but he has done what he will to keep himself and his most loyal fans from being bored with him. Like him or not, that is worthy of at least respecting. To cuckold him only to what you feel he should be is patently against what hip hop was ever about.
“… I would rather listen to OLD product from [artist]!”
Times change. People change. People (hopefully) grow up. If I find myself at 35 having the same problems that I had at 21 to the point where I need to talk about them, then I have failed myself in life. If I find myself needing to do the same things to get by at 35 that I did at 21, then I have failed to get out and learn how the world works well enough to do so. If I am an artist, and you as a fan have held my chosen path hostage to that lack of growth, then I have agreed to become your slave (well, indentured servant) of sorts. Your willingness to hold me there for your personal amusement makes you a pretty shitty individual to boot.
“Man, [less currently-viable artist] would rhyme circles around…”
From my previous points, if we’re not allowed to box ARTISTS in to what we want them to be and make them singularly that item for the balance of their careers, then we MUST allow the market to work accordingly. I have two nieces, age 17 and 15 and two nephews, age 11 and 9. While there is current hip hop music that I do like to listen to and will go out of my own way to find and enjoy it, I will not deny the power of their collective tastes in music. Just because I don’t like it doesn’t mean they can’t. A world where everyone does and thinks alike is a painfully boring place, and I cannot do “painfully boring.”
Shut the hell up with the self-righteous shit…
Once upon a 2004, I worked for a major phone company. About 3 miles or so from the building was this burrito place that had the best burritos in the city. At the other end of the parking lot from that burrito place was Planned Parenthood. One day, I stopped on my way to work and decided I would stop and get a burrito since I was early. I chose the wrong day to be early, as there were protesters outside at the entrance to the shopping center, and they saw fit to have a sign up with a picture of a just-aborted fetus. Needless to say, the burrito spot was a ghost town and I didn’t have an appetite anymore.
Just the same, the fact that we do not fancy a particular movement in the game should NOT allow us to become self-righteous dicks about it and run the chance of ruining the stage for EVERYONE.
At the end of it all, we can say that hip hop is a marginalized musical medium, but as the ones levying the complaints about it, we should PROBABLY learn the meaning of the word “culpability” and “hypocrisy” as it relates to the simple understanding that hip hop is doing as it has always done. My mom still hates rap music, as did most of our parents, so this feeling is generational. We do best by the art to just let it be what it is, lest we remain just as much part of the problem as we pretend to be of the solution to it.