If you’re a true hip-hop fan you probably know a little about its history. The music form that grew out of crevasses of the concrete jungle. Started in the parks and on the stoops of the inner city. A tool to speak out against injustice like police brutality and the struggles of Blacks living in the ghetto. If you have watched the Netflix original, “The Get Down” it illustrate that many viewed hip-hop as a disrespect to music and a fad that would dwindle out of existence.
On the contrary, hip-hop quickly consumed the hood. Parks filled with the drifting sounds of distorting boomboxes as the hood’s youth gathered around to hear the baddest MC’s best bars. Household names claimed fame like Kool Moe Dee, KRS-One, Afrika Bambaataa, and Public Enemy. The bars they spit through tracks were the unheard sorrows of the ghetto. Their lyrics brought national attention to the strife of the ghetto. Nevertheless, as the story unfolds, outside forces saw the lucrative market potential in the promising new art form. However, KRS-One’s “Pro-Black Shit” was not going to cut it. Black men were painted as blood thirsty criminals deprived of any morals. The devaluation of Black women took center stage as they began to be portrayed as sexual deviants ready to sacrifice anything for the crew.
We gave up the rights to control our image for the cash. The likes of Public Enemy and their message were strangled by the new and much more lucrative form of gangster rap. “Where all the conscious niggas, who used to chat like this?” The tunes of “Fight the Power“ were drowned out by proclamations of “money over bitches” and the in-song advertisement of whatever inebriating or mind altering substances available. This article is not a crash history course on the roots of hip-hop, so stay with me.
Fast forward to today, the African American community is still the largest contributor to hip-hop. We drive popular culture. Culturally, we are the world’s most influential people. Anything we do is instantly deemed dope-as-hell. From our slang, dances, fashion, hairstyles they are spread to the internet to be appropriated, altered, and later played out. Unfortunately, African Americans are still not in control of how we are portrayed to the mainstream media.
Like an endless mantra, we hear it continuously, artist who proclaim they are slaves to their music label. How the industry controls the messages and chokes out any type of positive and creative energy. As a result, talent-less mumble rappers flood the music scene. As J. Cole describes them, “Lil’ whatever—just another short bus rapper/ Fake drug dealers turn tour bus trappers…Pitchfork rappers/ Chosen by the white man, you hipster rappers.”
Rapper’s are not voicing empty accusations. Just look at what happened to Lupe Fiasco. The kick-push rapper was a lyrical genius turned casualty of the industry. Even Jay-Z, HOV, the most well respected rapper alive, the second richest rapper, the lucky S.O.B. who got to marry and father the children of Beyoncé has complaints about representation within the industry, “Now please, domino, domino / Only spot a few blacks the higher I go.”
These reasons are why so many harold Chance the Rapper. The Chicago kid that beat the industry by giving out his music for free over the internet. Chance became the first rapper to become a two time Grammy award winner without releasing an official album and without signing to a record label.
Check this wild hypothetical. Imagine if the game’s most influential: Dr. Dre, Jay Z, and P Diddy all had a joint epiphany and traded their pursuit for monetary gain for an actual consciousness. That one day they awoke from their 300-thread count Versace bed sheets, slid on their Giorgio Armani slippers, and really cared about the images their communities were fed. Together, they are worth a combined almost 3 billion dollars. This trio has transcended above the title of a mere rapper into a new stratosphere into industry moguls. Cannot Dre, Jay, and Diddy combine forces to create a cooperative music label, seize the means of production, and determine the message that their communities consume? Is there something I’m missing? Can it happen? Does the likes of Jay-Z have too much to lose in shaking up the industry? Let me know what you think in the comments. In the meantime, we have Kendrick Lamar to hold us over until the revolution.