"Old white men is running this rap shit. Corporate forces is running this rap shit. Some tall Israeli is running this rap shit. We poke out our asses for a chance to cash in." Mos Def - The Rape Over
A few years ago, Nas said hip hop is dead. He was right. Hip hop is dead in so many ways. Hip hop is no longer an art form. It is an artificial commodity, like McDonald's hamburgers, mass produced for mass consumption and destruction. Culture should be a tool for liberation but we have allowed hip hop to be used as a tool for own our oppression and destruction. Instead of promoting life, it celebrates death, mental death, spiritual death and physical death. Today's hip hop promotes the effeminacy, criminalization, incarceration and destruction of the black man. It degrades and objectifies the black woman.
Hip hop used to be an expression of black masculinity and machismo. In 1980s, brothers wore jogging suits and sneakers. In the 1990s, brothers wore army fatigues, Timberland boots and baggy clothes. Now, hip hop is gay. Today, it is the "normal" to see men wearing two earrings. Dudes actually think that it's cool to wear bright colors and skin tight, sagging jeans exposing their underwear and entire buttocks. As if that is not bad enough, very popular male rap artists actually wear skirts and leggings now.
Listen to Lord Jamar speak the truth on this issue. Warning: some of the language is harsh.
There was a time when hip hop was authentic. It was the voice of the voiceless. During the Reagan and Bush I eras, artists like Run DMC and Grandmaster Flash rapped about hard times and life close to the edge. That was the genuine voice of poor, black urban communities. It represented the hopes, dreams, frustrations, love, consciousness, struggle and life of the community, of the hood.
There was a time when hip hop ushered in an era of black consciousness. Hip hop groups like Public Enemy inspired us to learn or read about Malcolm X, the Nation of Islam, Louis Farrakhan, the Black Panther Party, Joanne Chesimard aka Assata Shakur, Huey Newton and other important black leaders. Groups like the X Clan, the Jungle Brothers, A Tribe Called Quest, Brand Nubian and others taught us to love the Motherland and her culture. People like KRS One told us that we must learn. The brother told us to stop the violence. He warned us about how the love of material things can lead to our destruction. Those groups and artists taught us to love ourselves. They taught us to embrace our blackness and our history. Such music was mainstream. It was played in the streets, in the clubs and on the radio.
Today, "conscious" hip hop artists have essentially been pushed underground. They are not played on the radio or in the club. I have never heard Dead Prez or Immortal Technique played on the radio. Most young people are not listening to artists like Mos Def, Common or the Roots.
In late 1980s and early 1990s, hip hop groups celebrated and honored the red, the black and the green, the black liberation flag. Today, Kanye West, one of this generation's most popular rap artists, honors and sells the Confederate flag, a symbol of oppression and slavery. Why would any black person in his right mind celebrate and sell clothing bearing the Confederate flag on it? Kanye's decision epitomizes the mental death of hip hop.
Back in the day, hip hop was also about dancing and fun. You had groups like Kid N Play, Salt-n-Pepa, Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince, the Fat Boys, LL Cool J and others who made you want to dance. Back then, you could listen to hip hop with your family. Today, hip hop is laced with profanity and obscenity. You can't listen to it around the children and the elders.
Back then, we also had "gangsta rap" artists as well like NWA, Ice T and other. However, they represented one voice among a plethora of diverse black voices. Most of their songs were not played on the radio.
Today, that genre is the main genre of hip hop. It is played over and over on the radio. Every other hip hop song glorifies guns, murder, crack dealing and using "Molly". Killing people, getting shot, selling drugs and incarceration are badges of honor and prerequisites for success in hip hop now. Unfortunately, for a few dollars, too many of our people are willing to play the role of the minstrel, the coon, the buffoon, the exaggerated gangster, the crack cooking drug dealer and the pimp. Those disturbing and negative images are projected around America and the world. Such images create, perpetuate and reinforce stereotypes about black criminality and stupidity. In an interview with XXL, T.I. mentioned the pressure to project such images:
Was Atlantic Records happy about the new family-friendly T.I.?As others have said, mainstream hip hop is like an extended advertisement for prison and death. This is no coincidence. As documented in Davey D's article titled Jailhouse Roc: The Facts About Hip Hop and Prisons for Profit, there are financial ties between the entertainment industry and the prison industry. More specifically, Davey D writes:
Nah, they hated it. Labels love hardcore T.I. That keeps the cash register ringing. They don’t want me to go to prison and caught though. They want me to be the Teflon Don, and I can’t blame them. That shit’s sexy. But I’m older, man. I’m wiser, I’m calmer… I’m better, stronger. I’m ready for whatever tomorrow got coming.
According to public analysis from Bloomberg, the largest holder in Corrections Corporation of America is Vanguard Group Incorporated. Interestingly enough, Vanguard also holds considerable stake in the media giants determining this country’s culture. In fact, Vanguard is the third largest holder in both Viacom and Time Warner. Vanguard is also the third largest holder in the GEO Group, whose correctional, detention and community reentry services boast 101 facilities, approximately 73,000 beds and 18,000 employees. Second nationally only to Corrections Corporation of America, GEO’s facilities are located not only in the United States but in the United Kingdom, Australia and South Africa.The entertainment industry has a financial incentive to promote life styles that increase the incarceration rates.
While are our young men are being steered toward prison and death. Hip hop is degrading, objectifying, stripping and prostituting black women. Today, most rap songs constantly refer to black women as bitches, hoes and other degrading terms. The hip hop industry parades our sisters around the world as modern day, half-naked Venus Hottentots.
As we reflect on the current state of hip hop, we must remember that African Americans do not control hip hop. We are just the front people. As rapper Scarface said old white men are defining the culture. Listen to Scarface speak the truth about hip hop.
Those old white men decide what kind of hip hop will be signed, promoted and played. White corporate forces and their black minstrel minions killed hip hop. Hip hop is dead.