Monday, January 26, 2009

The Mathematics of HipHop in the Blaq Community

Math has always been my worst subject, I never have been one to take kindly to people telling me that there is only one answer to any question. Moreover, I remember when my fifth grade math teacher Mrs. Williams told me that I had to “show my work” to explain how to get to an answer; At the time I didn’t understand it, however as I grew older, I started to understand that the only way to truly find an answer is to go through the process that it took to arrive to the conclusion. Upon hearing so many recent arguments attacking and blaming Hip Hop for the despicable behavior of a small percentage of individuals within the African American community, I feel obligated to point out a few key things for those that exist outside of the Hip Hop culture to consider. First of all, misogyny, sexism and black female degradation existed long before the conception of Hip Hop. From James Brown, Miles Davis, David Ruffin’s etc abusive behavior toward their wives and girlfriends, to the Black Panthers historically sexist banter that caused feminist such as Angela Davis to separate themselves in later years, to the patriarch cal institutions that forced colleges such as Spellman to be conceived. Black male sexism has been and continues to be an issue in our society. This begs the question, Why attack Hip Hop? The answer is simple. Hip Hop is the single most overt form of art that has ever existed on the planet earth. It is the manipulation of words to convey a point. The thing that separates Hip Hop artist from other poets is the fact that this particular genre was birthed in the slums of Black America and has never left. This is an important, all too often, looked over piece of this particular equation. The fact that Hip Hop was conceived in the ghetto, raised in the ghetto, and has never left the ghetto causes it to be as crass, raw and abrasive as the ghetto itself. The word “Bitch” doesn’t sound good melodically spoken, hence Ruffin and Brown focused on other things when they were singing and saved the female abuse for personal endeavors. Miles Davis was never accused of making music that degrades women, however he also did on a consistent basis within his everyday dealings with so-called love interests. 
Violence is historically as large a part of any black ghetto in America as the liquor store on the corner (which is in direct relationship to the violence… Don’t get me started on that tangent though) just as Black, self-destructive, behavior is as old as African’s selling other African’s to European terrorists for purposes of slavery in the states over 600 years ago. I say this to detail that, nothing documented in the verses of your favorite rapper is something that isn’t part of a bigger picture. From the use of the word Nigger, to the Use of the word Bitch, to the documented killings of brothers and sisters, we’ve seen it all before. We just haven’t heard it as vividly put as your favorite rapper does. What does all this mean? You can ask your neighborhood rapper to clean up his/her lyrics, but until we clean up his/her neighborhood, the problem will still exist. A good example of this is P. Diddy and Rusell Simmons push last election to engage the Hip Hop Generation to “Vote or Die”. This valiant effort raised quite a stir amongst CNN NBC and FOX, but come Election Day, the Hip Hop Generation didn’t come out to vote in any more force than they always do. This is because it is vastly perceived amongst this generation that politics have rarely positively changed their environment. Henceforth, even power players such as Diddy and Simmons attempts at becoming outwardly political still didn’t engage the generation because the same environment that caused the complacency still existed. 
Hip Hop in many cases is a mirror of our tormented community. A reasonable person wouldn’t blame a mirror for their imperfections, so I ask, why is it ok to blame the art and artists of that community for painting an accurate picture? The good thing is that, what needs to happen to cure these societal ills that plague us is simple. DeBois in his classic sociologic critique entitled “The Souls of Black Folk” documented it over 100 years ago and it still holds true to this day because it hasn’t ever been fully implemented. Those of us in our community that are fortunate enough to have an education, money, connections etc (Talented Tenth); need to invest that capital back into those that don’t. In short, strategically give back to the ghetto. This can be done by mentoring, teaching in a public school, being a positive visible force in a neighborhood, going to bat for one another when it calls, watching over the single mother, employing our own… In short THE SAME THINGS THAT EVERYBODY ELSE THAT IS SUCCESSFUL IN AMERICA DOES! This is what the Panthers did in the 60’s and 70’s. The elders need to stop being afraid of the youth that, in many instances, they failed to raise. The youth need to listen to the elders that take the time to actually enlighten. Black pastors need to use the old model of the Black Church to teach LIBERATION THEOLOGY as opposed to these fiscally and morally conservative pastors whom have single mothers in the hood tithe 10% of a welfare check while they drive their Benz’s to revivals and republican fundraisers. We need to develop a moral compass that doesn’t transcend societal implecations. Most importantly, we need to realize that we are in a similar situation to the one that we’ve been for years. The struggle is still prevalent, brothers are still getting murdered, we are still in chains in prisons, drugs still ravage our communities, women are still raising children by themselves, sisters are still being disrespected by brothers, our men don’t know how to be men because no man was around to teach them etc… The saga continues. Oh yeah, and the white man still isn’t all too fond of us. He’s just calmed down a bit because the institutions that he’s put in place are still sustaining him and contributing to the aforementioned plight of our village. All of these sociological and cultural critiques that I just made, can be heard in your average Hip Hop records. I hope that I am not accused by someone that doesn’t understand the black experience of being to overt or blatant in my assertions: I too hope that Hip Hop music doesn’t continue to be a scapegoat for its overt and blatant critiques of the black experience. The one thing that I feel separates this piece that you have been so kind to read and the average Hip Hop song (Other than proper English) is the fact that not only have I provided answers to our (Black) collective problems, but I too have shown the work that lead up to the answer. Thanks Mrs. Williams. I’m understanding the mathematics a bit more clearly now. 

1 comment:

  1. This was awesome. Keep writing. I'll keep reading. Txz.

    Sherrie Strain