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The Quandary of the Hip Hop Intellectual

The desire to relegate one’s existence to the development of the mind presents a multi-faceted quandary. When a black man devotes his existence to intellectual inquiry, it ensures that he will ostracized by the proletariat of his race, and virtually ignored by the Anglo-Saxon academy. As Hip-Hop intellectuals, we have to be beyond reproach to be taken seriously and excessively erudite to survive. We still live with a sense of Double Consciousness, forced to endure situated identity conflicts on a daily basis. We are entreated by marginalized populations to “keep it real” and asked by the Eurocentric majority to conform to the gold standard.

We have been fathered by intellectuals from the past, which explains our Janus face. Although we realize that “To whom much is given, much is required,” sometimes we wish that we could ask our father to take this cup away from us. We labor assiduously to apply our intellect to the problems of the day, and channel the knowledge of the collective unconscious in the process. We endure disrespect with dignity. We realize that one has to be different in order to make a difference.

The ways in which a person becomes a Hip-Intellectual are variegated in nature. Some are inspired to become intellectual gargantuans by teachers, professionals or lay scholars. These mentors embody the very best that academia has to offer. They are erudite scholars who can only be described as “gifted while Black.” Michael Eric Dyson and Tavis Smiley are our Romulus and Remus, establishing unwritten rules for us as they lead by example. Their offspring are ultimately seduced into devoting their existence to reading, writing and commentating on the quandaries of the day. Others simply become Hip-Hop intellectuals by osmosis, meaning that ingrained in their psyches is an undying thirst for knowledge. For them life as an intellectual is the only plausible existence. Their cerebral cortexes are wired for one thing, acquisition and storage of vast amounts of information.

Equally as variegated is the education path that a person follows to become a Hip-Hop intellectual. Some follow the path of Langston Hughes, James Baldwin, Richard Wright, and Ralph Ellison. These men did not study at a prestigious university like Harvard, Yale, or Brown, but received their formal education at the largest university in the universe, the world. They took advantage of the literary subcultures of their eras. Some Hip-Hop intellectuals are produced by the finest Black and White universities and have been instructed by the best of the best and encouraged to push the envelope intellectually. They became intellectuals in order to alleviate the suffering and misery of their race and express their individuality

No matter whom our influences were or the path we took to the academia, we represent the talented tenth that Dubois immortalized in his writings. Hip-Hop Intellectuals are proud, boisterous and grandiloquent, but most importantly brilliant. It may seem as though we pontificate excessively and use “big words” to seem intelligent, however we always bring our “A” games. We represent a marriage between the philosophies of Malcolm and Martin, Biggie and Tupac, diverse ideologies inhabiting one body, one soul.

Born during the genesis of Hip-Hop, our births signaled a new dichotomy within the Black community, an intellectual immersed in what many call one of the most destructive movements ever to hit the Black community. For many, Hip-Hop represents all that is wrong with the Black community, but for us it represents Black expression in its most refulgent state. We realize that we have our work cut out for us, but we always press on towards the mark. Our intellect is to be the savior of our community because it dismisses the notion that blacks are intellectually substandard. We are America’s worst nightmare, a ni**a with a brain.

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