I’m a liberal.
Which to me only means that I’m for affirmative action, not against gay marriages, am pro-choice and women’s right to choose, and believe in fixing the public school systems while legalizing marijuana and not acting like kids don’t have sex.
Because you know what? They do.
I also love hip-hop. There seems to be a natural marriage there. Liberal, to me, means being open-minded enough to not judge everybody’s circumstance against some superficial moral barometer that most people claim to live by, but fail to measure up to everyday. And to me, that is the essence of hip-hop. Everybody has a story, some good…some bad. At the end of the day though, everybody’s story is his or her own, and it isn’t my place to judge their choices, as long as there is a good beat behind it.
From DJing, to graffiti art, to b-boying, it all seems rooted in a rebellious spirit that a close-minded person wouldn’t be able to understand. The ability to appreciate the art of sampling, or distorting a record to create a new sound through scratching, or taking a plain wall and bombing it to create a work of art seems to require the ability to throw caution to the wind and respect the different points of views and trains of thought. Which to me seems so…liberal.
In the past decade and a half, politics and hip-hop have begun to intersect from all angles. From Tupac and dead prez making political statements on wax to Russell Simmons and Puffy getting involved in political activism. And in this vein, it seems like hip-hop takes on that liberal political ideology.
So I have to wonder, where does the conservative fit in hip-hop? And further more, what does the young conservative get out of listening to hip-hop?
As a matter of opinion, the conservative mindset seems to be so judgmental. The liberals are dooming the world to “hell in a hand basket” with their stance on gay marriage, and stealing America from hard-working individuals with affirmative action while killing innocent children through abortions, and not being tough enough on crime. Maybe if I grew up under different circumstances I’d think the same way too.
So what does the conservative get out of hip-hop, specifically the music? It’s the music of the streets, the common man, and the struggle. Granted, hip-hop is inescapable nowadays. You can’t turn on the television, the radio, or go to church without hearing some elements of rap music somewhere along the way. But most of the messages in hip-hop are that of somebody’s ability to make it against the obstacles placed in front of them, be it race, class, etc. Hell, even Eminem has a compelling story. He’s made the almost poor white struggle popular (which is just like being black and completely poor). The conservative stance would tell you that race isn’t the obstacle it used to be and that lack of personal responsibility is as much to blame if not more than the “man” when it comes to keeping people down.
Most young conservatives seem to have a firm rooting in their faith. Not to say that liberals are all heathens. A lofty percent of liberal individuals are probably firmly entrenched in the church. But younger people tend to be on journeys of exploration. And many of those journeys happen in the religious realm. The number of young people out there who experiment with religion is astounding, if they have any religion at all. I myself have explored all kinds of religions…just because. It is this open-mindedness that draws people to hip-hop and its accepting folds. So it’s easy to see how so many young people are into hip-hop and conversely consider themselves liberals. And it would almost make sense that a firm rooting in the church would exclude one from listening to Tupac, 50 Cent, and the like, for obvious reasons such as the overt violence, sexual nature, and all around pride. The latter of which is a deadly sin.
Yet, church is the very place you can find all those same people who listen to the 50 Cents, and Snoops, and hell, anybody popular. So I guess it isn’t far fetched to assume that young conservatives listen to the rap for the same reason as anybody else…entertainment. Everybody needs entertainment, and if you are young and black, liberal or conservative, rap is probably your vehicle. I’m also assuming that anybody who would go out of their way to consider themselves a liberal or a conservative has probably spent some amount of time educating themselves. So maybe the ability to separate the fantasy from the reality is a little bit easier. Educated people listen to 50 Cent because the music is just undeniably good (well at least Get Rich of Die Trying, anyway), not to learn about the code of the streets or hear about murder.
At the same token, those same young conservatives who listen to it for entertainment condemn the messengers behind the music. The same rappers that they buy are the same ones who are complaining about their circumstances, and when they say they had to do what they had to do to make it, conservatives claim that they made the wrong choices, because if everybody wants a job, or wants to eat, there are enough jobs and food for everybody. If you don’t get it, you don’t want it. Once again, being judgmental. And therein lies the disconnect.
There is no room in hip-hop for passing judgment on people, aside from the standard album review, because let’s face it, bad music is bad music. Creating a work of art for public consumption leaves itself open to criticism. It’s how the world works. But judging the art from the vantage point of morality or against some long set aside standard is problematic. And being a conservative with an already judgmental opinion of the circumstances surrounding the art, seems to make it impossible to openly embrace and accept a work of art, no matter how entertaining. Which is why I’m so confused whenever I come across young conservatives who claim to be into hip-hop. It seems like an oxymoron to me.
As rap music is the voice for so many young people to vent their frustrations or share their view, I have to wonder how young conservatives can appreciate music that very rarely presents their side. Aside from the homophobic nature of hip-hop, which I attribute more to the need to be “the man” than anything else, majority of the messages in hip-hop are of the liberal nature. Making it against the odds or beating the system run rampant in the music. The conservative would question those odds and be mad at the system for letting another criminal run free.
So where does the young conservative fit? Too Short taught us to get in where you fit in. But what if you are a square peg trying to fit into a round hole?
Maybe you just don’t fit.