Hip-Hop started as an outlet for oppressed youth in low income neighborhoods and served as a reflection of our communities. The uglier the image became, the uglier the truths in the music became.
Public Enemy, NWA and others told harsh truths about police brutality, capitalism, and the rest of white supremacy’s dictatorial agenda. Later, Biggie and Tupac represented cold realities of youth becoming desensitized by the aforementioned. Today, artists like Chief Keef, Young Thug, and Fetty Wap represent a generation suffering from compounded abandonment, so lost in the muck of nihilistic senselessness that many literally can’t understand their songs.
Modern mainstream Hip-Hop resembles little more than a primal chest thumping contest (with respectability politics sprinkled in under the guise of consciousness). Certain critics of the genre believe its counterproductive messages are being purposely promoted by record label executives as a vessel of white supremacy. They could be right. Many of those same critics place blame on rappers and feel their messages are destroying our community. They are definitely wrong.
The cognitive dissonance in condemning the system but refusing to condemn it’s pawns may sound flawed, but consider how many of the issues currently plaguing our communities existed before any MC ever stepped in a booth.
Blaming Hip-Hop for promoting Blackness as criminality is fruitless. The American police system has never strayed from its reconstruction roots as an anti-Black task force. As Malcolm X and MLK’s assassinations show us, one can be wearing suits and pleading for peace and still be preyed upon by white patriarchy.
Black on Black violence, opiate consumption, and misogyny existed before 1978. Today, planned shrinkage deliberately takes emergency services out of low-income communities, and people with “ethnic” names still can’t get their resumes pulled. Schools are being closed as private prisons open (with occupancy quotas), and can anyone cogently blame this on Rick Ross? The only way these travails could be tied to a rapper is if an outlet tried to sneak it into another anti-Tidal piece.
The deliberate tactics of white supremacy are what leave low-income communities rudderless and lead our youth on the wrong path. This is the predicament that breeds broken families in poverty stricken neigborhoods, where an unguided child’s mind is an oasis, ripe for Hip-Hop’s musings of instant gratification to seek permanent vacation. In that regard Hip-Hop has the capability to fill an impressionable consciousness, but is that any artist’s fault when just as many well-adjusted people enjoy the same music?
From gangster rap’s inception, white suburbia bought CDs more than any other consumer. From Dr. Dre to 50 Cent to Gucci Mane, kids in safe neighborhoods love the vicarious thrill dangerous music provides. Is it not telling that all the music provides suburbia is a thrill? Upper middle class neighborhoods didn’t descend into violence upon the ascension of gangster rap or the consumption of action movies, because the patrons came from stable homes and discerned reality from entertainment.
Why are rap artists stripped of their artistic agency to reflect and manipulate reality because of the flaws of their race? Why does Quentin Tarantino’s artistic bloodlust make him a genius while Waka Flocka’s make him a merchant of destruction? Such is the state of our marginalization and scarcity of success in America that every Black person is seen as a representative of their entire race, their every misdeed a confirmation of collective failure.
Critics point to a literal handful of wealthy Black men who have attained a respectable amount of wealth as proof of Hip-Hop selling out their people, but they are no confirmation of Hip-Hop artist’s willful destruction.
New York rapper Chinx Drugz was recently killed in a manner that will probably never happen to a record label executive. Philly rapper Ar-Ab talks almost reverently of running drug corners. Bobby Shmurda ran last summer, but may occupy a jail cell for the entirety of this one. These stories far overshadow the few Black Hip-Hop personalities in the $100M club. There are plenty of old white men making money off young Black destruction, but the artists they sign are not diabolical masterminds thirsting to join in on a mass plot to poison communities one bar at a time. They are just as lost as the people they pander to.
No matter how much these men and women are exploited for money, rappers are seen as the root of all evil. It seems as if white supremacy will leave Hip-Hop no dignity. Not only did they co-opt a(nother) Black artform for commerce, they engineered a circumstance where the progenitors of the genre reap the lion’s share of the blame for the ills of the Black community.
We can resolve to reverse that course. Those that blame Hip-Hop for the youth’s disillusionment have seemingly good intentions, but their energy can be better spent contributing to a self reliant Black agenda, where our course is carved outside of the white gaze.
The media narrative that Black music artists are primarily responsible for the destruction of the Black community is a classic diversion tactic, devised to keep mllions rolling in for corporations while fingers are pointed elsewhere. Talking heads on Fox News demonize artists for “brainwashing” Black youth, but would vilify those same youth if they were murdered by a cop. For Hip-Hop critics, is it really about uplifting the youth, or a chance to point to deride yet another segment of Blackness? It’s a flawed, shortsighted analysis, and do you really want to agree with anything Bill O’Reilly thinks?