Rule #1 in Hip-Hop: Dont Knock The Hustle.
And KRS-One stated clearly in the first principle of The Hip-Hop Declaration
of Peace that amongst the 9 elements fundamental to the kulture is Street
Entrepreneurialism. It is hard, I understand, to speak ill of a rapper or MC
making business moves to better their living and, in some cases, enrich the
communities from which they emerged.
And Jay-Z laid the statutes down a
decade and half ago: Lets get together and make this whole world believers at
my arraignment/ Screaming, all these blacks got is sports and entertainment/
Until we even, thieving, as long as I’m breathing/ Can’t knock the way a ni**a
eating; f**k you even/.
But if you adhere blindly to a Cant
Knock The Hustle philosophy, theres good chance you feel the same way about
the Snitching Code; meaning, in deference to a morally-decrepit conception of
solidarity, youre willing to put at risk the lives of innocent victims.
For the record, I hope Hip-Hop artists,
engineers, graffiti painters, b-boys and b-girls, DJs, educators, thinkers,
critics, fans, and non-reptilian executives make as much money is possible
without leaving the crime scene in blood-stained hands. As a cultural force
generating multi-billion dollar revenue for giant conglomerates, its critical
we harness the various avenues available for financial empowerment. I write a
great deal about artistic independence because I believe it is the only route
through which artists can double, if not triple, their income in the new
decadewhile retaining an unblemished soul. My good colleague Cedric Muhammad
is more versed in the financial realm and runs a Hip-Hoppreneur column on this
site every Tuesday. And we both seem to agree that if the age of economic
liberation is upon us, artists would have to move with confidence into the
private sector and demand whats theirs.
Thus, when Cash Money CEOs Bryan Baby
and Ronald Slim Williams announced
their new oil venture mid-last week, Bronald Oil, many took it up as sign that
Hip-Hop entrepreneurs were stepping on to higher groundsmaking power moves.
Unfortunately, more is at stake than a mere business deal which could rake in
some serious money.
The oil industry is a dirty one,
confined to a different leaguerun by different breeds of men. It is marked by
corruption, graft, back-door deals and every other unethical invention
imaginable. It makes the music industryfor all its shadinesslook like a Girl
Scout lemonade sale. Safe for a limited few who try to do the right thing, most
tycoons are, in fact, over-zealous corporatists whose love of money is only
outlasted by their disregard for the communities and lives ruined from
pollution of the environment. It would be wrong to paint the entire oil field
business bad based on the crimes of a few major corporations, but, by-and-large,
most arent committed to doing right by communitieseven if their mission
statements swear otherwise.
Bronald Oil is an independent oil and gas
company focused, on the exploration, production and development of oil and gas
reserves from conventional and unconventional formations. It should be noted
that independence for oil companies is defined, much like record labels, not by
choice or selection but staff size and retail sales. Though Bronald, based in
the U.S. and Central America, is committed to preserving the environment,
promoting worker safety and maximizing the potential output of various oil and
gas assets, it also leaves open the option of utilizing testing grounds to
discover new and developing technologies; not to mention pursuing potentially
risky exploration and development opportunitiesall, nonetheless, in an economic and environmentally efficient manner.
And this is where those who truly value
the reputation of Hip-Hop as a life source for the empowerment and betterment
of everyday people, as refuge for those lost and forgotten, as security for the
vulnerable and disposable, ought to sit up and pay closer attention.
It is possible that the Williams
Brothers plan to show the world what stuff Hip-Hop is made off, and how, as a
community, top priority is always placed on people over profit; how, regardless
of whatever venture we partake in,
the neoliberal corporate policies that work men and women like slaves and
reward them with very little will never be a part of our culture; how oil
companies can be run with respect for life and the environment
front-and-center. Sadly, not only is this Utopian, it is almost impossible. Oil
companies, by nature, are usually built for one purpose only: profit. And in a
hostile world where severe competition is key to survival, many soon get lost
in the hysteria of Social Darwinism that they forget what commitments were
made at starting point to preserving the environment and promoting worker safety.
All the big oil companies champion
eco-friendly causes not unlike those Bronald Oil espouses. 5 of the top 10 have
this to say in that respect:
partnerships with environmental experts and by using new technologies we are
finding ways to help reduce the impact of our operations on the environment.
Safety remains our first priority at all times. Our goal is zero fatalities
and accidents. We want all of our staff and contractors to return home safely
is committed to operating throughout the world in a way that protects the
environment and takes into account the economic and social needs of the
communities where we operate.
Worker Safety: ExxonMobil11
is committed to providing positive, productive and supportive work environments
throughout its global operations. The Company has long-established programs to
attract, develop and retain a highly talented workforce that is representative
of the regions in which it operates. ExxonMobil values the exceptional quality
and diversity of its employees.
tap new energy resources, Chevron is now operating in more difficult and
isolated areas than ever before. We are committed to seeing that new projects
are developed in an environmentally sound manner and that existing operations
continue to reduce their environmental impacts.
Worker Safety: Employee
health and safety lie at the foundation of our efforts to build a talented,
dynamic workforce. A fully productive employee must be safe and secure first.
The health and safety of our employees and contractors hold critical value for
most important resources in the world are human beings and the natural
environment they are dependent on. We stick to the principles of
people-oriented, prevention-driven, total participation and continuous
improvement to pursue zero injury, zero pollution and zero accident.
Worker Safety: We
respect and maintain the rights and interests of our employees, expand the
platform for their growth, and ensure that they realize their value through the
development of the Company and benefit from the Companys achievements and
are committed to the safety and development of our people and the communities
and societies in which we operate. We aim for no accidents, no harm to people
and no damage to the environment.
Worker Safety: BPs
commitment to safety comes at the top, our leaders continue to emphasize the
key priority of safe operations for the future of the group.
As you can see, even the super-rich conglomerates
consideror, more accurately, stateenvironmental preservation and worker
safety as of optimum priority. Too bad their record indicates anything but active adherence to these tenets:
In June 2009,
a lawsuit brought by family and friends of Ken Saro Wiwa, a Nigerian activist
hanged alongside 8 others in 1995, following protests of the exploitation and
pollution of native land by Shell. $15.5 million was granted the plaintiffs to
avoid a trial which could have implicated Shell as aiding and abetting the
execution of innocent environmental activists.
In October 2009,
a federal jury awarded
New York City $104.7 million in compensatory damages over the contamination of
groundwater by Exxon Mobil.
In 2007, Ecuador
a $12 billion lawsuit against Chevron for contaminating its waterways.
30,000 natives of the indigenous tribe claim Chevron workers illegally dumped
toxic waste into its rivers which are used for washing, cooking, and drinking.
The same year,
Chinas top environmental watchdog group fined
PetroChina the maximum penalty of 1 million yuan (125,000 U.S. dollars) for
seriously polluting a river which services 4 million people. An explosion, it
was reported, caused the dumping of 100 tons of waste, leading to lack of water
supply in the region for several days.
95 Colombian farmers sued
British Petroleum over breach of contract and negligence. They claim adverse
effects of a pipeline construction project have led to destroyed farms and
malnourished crops. Colombian lawyers who tried to assist the farmers reported
intimidation by paramilitary gangs.
So, you notice a trenda lapse,
perhapsbetween what is affirmed in the mission statement, and business as
carried out. It never is enough for a company to claim to respect life and the
environment. Deed always outlives Word.
So, how will this enterprise redound to the
welfare of Hip-Hop? How will it look for Hip-Hop artists to involve themselves
in a scheme known notoriously for the exploitation of natural resources and
destruction of the environment? And how will other Hip-Hop artists respond if
Baby and his brother are one day front-page on The New York Times or The Los Angeles Times or The Huffington Post for a lawsuit filed
by Brown peasants in some Central American village or Black families in some
How much value would be placed on
morality and justicerather than the plaintiffs who, it might be said, are
simply trying to bring a brotha down,
trying to ****-block, trying to knock the
Im not certain what the official Hip-Hop response would be or
what the dominant claptrap would sound like, but I can predict today on whose
side I would be standing, and for what cause I would be fighting. As hint, it
would probably not be with the millionaire brothers; and not to further Neoliberalism
with a Blackface.
Olorunda is a cultural critic whose work regularly appears on TheDailyVoice.com and other online journals. He can be
reached at: Tolu.Olorunda@gmail.com.