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

Talib Kweli

“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).

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