Talib Kweli

The Great Rap Debate: Can Real Hip-Hop Still Move the Crowd?


“Some of you been tryin’ to write rhymes for years/but weak ideas irritate my ears“ – “Move The Crowd” -Eric B and Rakim

Recently, The People’s Broadcasting Service sponsored the first Hip Hop Nation presidential debate between candidates “B. Serious” and “Roger Ratchet”. When the moderator asked B. Serious for his thoughts on violence in rap, the artist gave an eloquent analysis on the exploitation of self hatred and stereotypes by the industry. However, when the moderator asked Roger Ratchet, the rapper angrily accused him of dissin’ him with a trick question, and had his goons give the poor dude a vicious beat-down, thus ending the debate…

Following the first presidential debate between President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, many commentators said that the Prez took an L because he didn’t go hard enough. They argued that he didn’t use his arsenal of intellectual weapons to drop bombs on the challenger. However, the same can be said about those who rep real Hip-Hop when dealing with those who promote ratchet rap.

The art of debating is a time honored tradition as, historically, many of the issues facing civilizations have been settled by verbal confrontations. The course of history has been changed by events like the debates over whether the world was flat or round centuries ago, and more importantly, the 21st century debate over whether Kanye West’s Graduation CD would outsell 50 Cent’s Curtis.

Thanks to YouTube, some great debates have been preserved, such as Stokely Carmichael (Kwame Ture) and George Lincoln Rockwell’s “Black Power vs. White Power” debate, Dr. Frances Cress Welsing ‘s challenge of Dr. William Shockley’s racial inferiority myth, or the classic debate between Dr. John Henrik Clarke and company and Dr. Mary Lefkowitz’s crew over the validity of Afrocentricity.

Hip-Hop’s version of debating came in the form of rap battles, as you couldn’t call yourself a real “MC” “ (Master of Ceremony”) if you couldn’t move the crowd. Some of the classic battles were Busy B vs. Kool Mo Dee and the Cold Crush Brothers vs. Dr. Rock and the Force MDs.

But as the days of lyrics are gone, so are the days of battlin’. Today, battles are decided by gunshots or juvenile fisticuffs at Hip-Hop Award Shows. And for many, instead of elevating the consciousness of the audience, “moving the crowd” means seeing how fast people run for the exit when a fight breaks out in the club.

Although, there have been hundreds of discussions about Hip-Hop over the years, there has rarely been a confrontation between those who are really trying to save the culture and those who are determined to destroy it.

For the most part, Hip-Hop “debates” have tended to be scripted. Back in the heyday of “gangsta rap” it was easy for a Death Row artist to diss an elderly C. Delores Tucker, as the industry was glad to promote the idea that if you opposed murda music, then you were an old fogey and out of touch with the younger generation.

Even when challenged by senior citizens, the gangsta rappers rarely debated themselves, instead they relied on “Hip-Hop intellectuals” to serve as their mouthpieces, while they sat back and said “um…yeah…what he said…”

But today, even the people who used to pump NWA 24/7 hate rap music . Also we’re obviously not dealing with a generational but an intellectual gap, as the days of the teen rap video programs have been replaced by Hip-Hop reality shows about the everyday lives of rappers who are about six weeks short of a middle age crisis.

Unfortunately, the average supporter of ratchet rap is walking around with a confident swagga, while the fan of real Hip-Hop is walking around with a “Kick Me, I’m Conscious” sign taped to his back.

It’s time for those who want to bring back real Hip-Hop to either go hard or go home!

Currently, there is a controversy over whether “real Hip-Hop “ is represented best by the lyricism of legendary lyricists or the low level, lackluster, lethargic nonsense that dominates the airwaves. Therefore, the question must be posed, “can Hip-Hop still move the crowd not just physically, but mentally and spiritually?

Those who appreciate real Hip-Hop must stand up for truth and stop accepting the big lie that people like wallowing in the cesspool of ignorance.

I believe that the masses are ready for change, and if it ever came down to a debate between those who want a return to powerful lyrics that touch the soul and those who love the minstrel music, the lyric lovers would win – hands down. But those who want to save Hip-Hop need to quit goin’ out like suckas and get ready to rumble!

Sadly, there will always be those who insist on trying to find “beauty in the hideous,” like Talib Kweli said on the Black Star CD back in the day.

For those nincompoops who defend the nonsense, the challenge is there. There are folks like me who ain’t afraid to stand up for truth and won’t back down, because we understand that the battle is not for a trophy or some award, but for the minds of our children.

However, like EPMD said on “You Gots To Chill”:

“If you think about battlin’ you better come prepared/come with your shield and your armored gear…”

TRUTH Minista Paul Scott’s weekly column is “This Ain’t Hip Hop,” a column for intelligent Hip Hop headz.

For more information on the No Warning Shots Fired Lecture Series, contact info@nowarningshotsfired.com, go to NoWarningShotsFired.com, or follow on Twitter (@truthminista).

  • i am not able to listen to that watered down hip hop or rap whatever you decide to label it. I recently asked my students what they like about hip hop or rap and they said the beats, so it seems like fake hip hop doesn’t move them either its just the dancing in the videos and over priced beats.

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  • Tiffany Rayne

    Yes, I believe it can. I go to the shows of a lot of artist who are considered flops or the lames nobody cares about. The truth is, many people from all walks of life go to their shows and support them. They may not be platinum or on billboard (as if that determines what the whole world listens to anyway), but they have an audience. Just as everything else does, there’s a lane for all things. Not all of us are on the non-sense train. What the folks that do defend that foolishness don’t realize is, the world is a huge place. Go out an experience it. They need to stop thinking that what they or their little 4 or 5 friends like, applies to everybody. Because it doesn’t.

    They need to stop thinking that what’s on Billboard applies to everybody, because it doesn’t. Artist that may not be popping where you are, are hot somewhere else. I’m starting to see why a lot of foreign and overseas countries laugh at us. Because us as Americans are so backwards thinking. Dumb even. It baffles me even more that I’m a female, a black woman at that, who’s more informed about what’s real than these so-called “men” who are very uninformed about a lot.And most of these young ones today only care about a catchy beat and a hook they can repeat and get hype off of. The music doesn’t even really move or connect with them at all.

    • Mongo Slade

      U make good points Tiff yet I just feel the more sinister problem is the executives who are far from teenagers that green light the very music in question. Kids just wanna have fun and be cool so it’s counterproductive to come down to hard on them. Once upon a time there was a guy named Berry Gordy who despised the way blacks were portrayed in music so he came up with a solution that changed history and made a lot of money in the process…. perhaps some new Berry Gordy’s or Gordett’s need to come up with a valuable solution otherwise nothing will change

  • Mongo Slade

    Interesting article Minista. What hip hop needs more of is balance. If reality TV dominates the airwaves of this generation as opposed to stuff like Cosby Show & Different World, if nobody ever educates the kids on what “real” hip hop is you can’t totally blame the kids especially if they’re under 25. I agree a change is needed and that some of the greatest artists made legendary albums before 25 yrs of age. This was all before corporate greed totally took over the game. Don’t blame the kids blame the wack ass legends that were so self centered most of them didn’t put anybody on nor did they think they’d ever get old. That is no disrespect to the legends but let’s keep it real what was their role in preserving the art? On another note, everybody from the golden era was NOT some political or intellectual force either, the game just wasn’t so imbalanced.

  • ladynamor

    Black people need to own their own radio stations and cable networks that are sensitive to a real message of uplifting. Other than that, people love to see other people clown for money, its fun. Makes people feel better when they hear stupid shit. ???

  • Dave Williams

    can Hip-Hop still move the crowd not just physically, but mentally and spiritually? yes it can what is driving Hip Hop now is the BEATS. the new Rap SUCKS, if you was to take the beat away you wouldnt here alot of it on the radio. and you cant really be mad at them, its the record companies pushing the garbage. real rap will always be here its getting a back seat to the skinny jean bright color swagg rap !! smh long live Hip Hop Death to Swagg rap !!!

  • WillVetterGoodin

    Please, do you have to ask? Even tho the majority of people only listen to the radio, or just the instrumentals it doesnt matter. Hip-Hop is very much alive every where you look, have some faith people!

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  • Pierre Elliott

    REAL MUSIC MOVES PEOPLE SIMPLE AND PLAIN.
    TRUE HIP HOP FROM THE YEARS-1982—–1997.

    NONE OF IT CAN EVER BE TOUCHED. IT WILL BE REMEMBERED AND PLAYED
    LONGGGGG AFTER DRAKE IS FORGOTTEN. WHEN BEYONCES FAKE MUSIC.
    LONG AFTER WAYNE IS GONE. FROM THE EAST TO THE WEST.

  • MiiUziWeighsATon

    Yo Moderator…wtf…why do you niggaz gotta view my words and decide if my shyt get posted or not…post my shyt…I just typed a response to this article and you blocked my wisdom……thats lame….going back to SOHH…fuck off

  • Tim Davis

    Interesting….Hip-hop as a culture should be much more represented because the “way of life” part that is expounded by legends and pioneers in numerous documentaries has been neglected. Despite its worldwide appeal, the grafitti, breakdancing, and dj’ing no longer occupy the same space that the MC now occupies. Rap music (the musical aspect of Hip-Hop) still can move crowds but what do we mean by real “hip-hop”. Can’t party and consicious rappers occupy the same space? I believe that the diversity of rap music in its totality is not being pushed in the mainstream space, hence the negative perception of rap music still maintaining it’s hold to this day!! Whether this is caused by a music industry that is incapable of pushing that music on the airways or a audience that is not interested in a different form of rap music, one has to wonder what truly is the motivation to make rap music.

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