Damn straight we at war, and hip-hop is wounded.
On street corners from Brooklyn to Brixton, South Central to Shanghai, arguments,
conflicts and battle raps occur to overstand whose side you on? Pop hop or "real"
Regardless of where a hip hopper is located, the world bows down in respect
to what the African-American and Hispanic youth have created. For it has connected
black youth and pierced through national boarders and languages
barriers. For example the Black French have taken hip-hop and placed it into
a coherent expression in their tongue. Ghanaians in West Africa have also blended
their own hi-life to hip-hop creating a new offspring in "Hip-life."
But the "Black Briton" has always had
a special relationship. A cousin in bondage in this western hemisphere, one
dominated by the modern super power and the other by the former, sharing similar
experiences, living in similar
conditions speaking the same language. Without question Blacks in Britain were
energized by this new art form and were with it from day one. No skeptics, no
second thoughts. It was what we had been waiting for. hip-hop is ours.
Public Enemy kicked down the barriers with "Tour
of a Black planet" and those who saw PE at the Hammersmith Apollo tell
legendary stories of their experience. It sent chills down our spine hearing
the tours introduction ringing
out of the "Nation of Millions…" classic. We had been recognized
as worthy comrades in this hip-hop squadron. And we gave Chuck unquestionable
support when watching him whack up interviewers. These were our men. And he
didn’t just stop with these shores, but converted hip-hop soldiers in places
most rappers didn’t know existed.
South Africa, Australia, Ghana, Britain, France
and beyond, all pledged allegiance. Blacks were the primary targets, but whites
couldn’t help but to be drawn. This was the time when everybody hated us. Other
music forms, parents, the industry, radio, television, they hated it. And we
loved their hate… fuck ‘em. This is ours. After we waved goodbye to Jazz,
Blues, and Rock n Roll we had something to express ourselves in again. And we
weren’t going to allow it to be fucked up. This time around, our hip-hop radar’s
were out and even more sensitive.
You bet, for anyone who even hinted on fucking
up the game were being swiped on from all directions. Whether it was fake gangsters
or commercialism. They were being swiped at by Jeru on "Come Clean"
or O.C’s "Time’s Up."
You had to go through a screening process before
you were accepted. Even West coast gangsters initially had a hard time joining
The lines were drawn, and they were clear. Barriers
with men standing strong on post like FOI
guards. hip-hop over here, industry Negroes over there. You mess up, you get
dashed. So MC Hammer was expelled after he broke the code. No argument. Vanilla
Ice went the same way. The issue didn’t have to do with race; cause white folks
have been in hip-hop from early on in one way or another. Whether it was Beastie
boys, 3rd Bass, DJ Muggs, House of Pain or that kid you once ran with. But they
weren’t industry backed and kept allegiance with what hip-hop was.
Neither did it have to do with being signed to
a major label, but retaining the art form and not sacrificing it in the interest
However our early warning indicators weren’t
enough. For Saddam Hussein knows when these men want to invade, their gonna
do it from every angle. And you’d have to be on your best Shaolin guard to defend
against it. And invade
They launched their invasion, with lyrical inspectors
for topic restriction. They gained ground, closed the gap and enticed members
to convert. Some were convinced of their sincerity. Jumping ship proclaiming
"its all about the Benjamin’s what?" some went AWOL. Others said they
were going and coming back, screaming they were just "keeping it real dawg!"
And soon these "hip-hop" cats were defending People who were ostracized
such as Hammer.
Consequently the "Keep it real" cries
from the hip-hop fraternity were diminishing. But ironically these same "Keep
it real" screams were growing on the side of this new growing rap industry.
Growing in credibility with the induction of the defected hip-hop guards sporting
new bling bling suits. They turned their back on pro-black hip-hop Common documented
our suddenness as it slipped away.
Jeru documented our desire to get it back and
attacked Puffy. (Reflective of hip-hop’s new departure, civil war and impending
international conflict.) Puffy survived. Jeru was applauded but was still shot
down. Taken hostage, now missing in action. Puffy got new converts and was able
to capture more emcees from the hip-hop camp and trained them in the art of flirtation-
Flirting in-between enemy lines.
Releasing beaten down R & B hook songs, while
being respected as hard. Hip hoppers put down their armory when these deserters
came back, closely examining them, asking each other "is he on our side
or not, for he sure looks like he’s still got the stripes." This converted
a lot of heads that previously frowned at hip-hop They were now down with this
new acceptable look.
More people, meant more sales, which meant more
money, which meant the industry had found the model to work off, a model to
re-define as hip-hop, while still claiming to "keep it real." (But
only if you stick to this model.)
However this confusion and blurring of the lines
is more an American phenomenon. On this side of the Atlantic (as in Canada)
there is still a clear definition of the embodiment of hip hop principles and
what isn’t. It has always been a struggle for home-grown artist to be recognized
by the industry.
It is still raw, rugged and creative. Remnants
of hip hoppers exist all over the world that are reflective of the old pre-bling
hip hop era in the states. Rugged backpackers, freestyle frenzied, skill survivors.
So you bet Nas was the man all over the world when he dealt with Jay-Z.
There just was no argument over this in the hip-hop
communities. Though alert signs are up, for of late the British industry have
tugged on to the R&B rap factor and are manufacturing groups to impersonate
the R&B rap from the home of hip hop. (Blazing Squad and Big Bruvaz are
names to be weary of.)
So all over the globe the industry by passes
the hip hop community to create soft rap impersonators for the interest of mass
sales. The marketing of these "hip-hop" groups are not aimed to the
hip-hop masses. The foundations have been left to the sidelines. Heads outside
the states are fighting as hard as anyone to bring back the days of old.
Canadian artist K-OS dropped a whole album entitled
"EXIT" confessing in rhythmic performance how "yesterday, wack
emcee’s all seemed so far away/now it seems like that their here to stay…"
Fe real, we’ve lost ground, they used expert guerrilla tactics and crept in,
and now whack rappers are charging whack rappers for being whack.
Instead of sitting down and inventing the slickest
most original raps to rise to fame with, we’re looking for the sexist lady regardless
of talent to sing the hook. Where are the lyrics? We cry. This putting down
the guard has allowed us to lose more than a few good men. For this present
crop of hip-hop emcees have different values from the old days.
It is not controlled by hip-hoppers, because
these present custodians didn’t do their best to defend what we had. Which means
we created the climate for a rapper to rise to the ranks without having the
same presence, skills and creativity as the rappers of old. This time backed
by the industry, rapping like us.
But not looking like us.