Lies

Myth Bustas: Hip-Hop History or Hype?


“Don’t believe the lies/look me in my eyes…” – “Fear”, Drake

Recently, the History Network announced that it was launching a new program, “True Hip-Hop History.” The show is being promoted as a groundbreaking effort to expose America to the authentic origins of rap music. The first episode, scheduled to air later this month, is “Eminem: The Father of Hip-Hop…”

One of the most popular shows on the Discovery Channel is “Myth Busters, “ a program where, every week, the cast sets out to reveal the truth about long held falsehoods. With all the lies that have circulated around Hip-Hop for the last 30 years, the culture sure could use its own squad of Myth Bustas.

Although, November is traditionally celebrated as Hip-Hop History Month, much of the information that has been propagated about the genre has been more hype than history.

Like any other aspect of history, Hip-Hop is vulnerable to revisionism. Facts are often distorted, and sometimes flat-out lies are regarded as the undisputed truth.

Napoleon once said,”History is a set of lies agreed upon.” So it is with Hip-Hop. There are so many historical inaccuracies within Hip-Hop that it would take longer than a month to decipher them all.

Middle America loves to hear the fairytale over and over again about how the rapper, who is now a multimillionaire, went from rags to riches, One minute he was sellin’ crack on the block, and then magically, he became part owner of a NBA franchise based solely on his uncanny, lyrical ability to convey ghetto survival stories. While this was cool for those who wanted to live the ‘hood life vicariously through their favorite rappers, it became extremely problematic when those who knew better started to parrot the same tall tales.

Using Hip-Hop superstar Jay-Z as an example, in a recent essay, Damon “ProfessorD.us” Sajnani, of the Dope Poet Society , chastised artists who “organically understand the profitability of promoting the interests of the oligarchy in such a way that the masses mistake those interests as their own.”

In other words, we started to believe the hype.

If we are serious about celebrating Hip-Hop history, we must understand that history is a science and not a bunch of half truths strung together by some marketing executive at a record label, or some editor of an overpriced glossy magazine. More than 30 years after the recording of the first rap record, the culture can no longer escape the critical microscope of historical analysis.

One of the biggest myths is that Hip-Hop is controlled by “the streets” and is the legitimate voice of the proverbial ‘hood.

Not true.

If you read books like Dan Charnas’ The Big Payback or Steve Stoute’s The Tanning of America, you will see that since the mid-’80s, rap music has been more the voice of Wall Street than the mean streets of the South Bronx. This is not much different than other forms of African American music that found crossover acceptance, courtesy of think tanks at the Harvard Business School, more so than Compton street corners.

Another myth is the one about the Hip-Hop generational gap. According to revisionist rap historians, there was once a line dividing Old School and New School Rap that was determined by the age of the rappers.

Like VP Joe Biden would say, more “malarkey.”

True Hip-Hop historians know the time period between what was initially referred to as “Old School Hip Hop” and “New School Hip-Hop” was a matter of months, not years. The changing of the guard had nothing to do with age, but the coming of a new style that made the older one obsolete. That’s why Old School, New School, and Now School Rap existed almost simultaneously between the years 1985 and 1988.

It must also be noted that the “Conscious Era” of Hip-Hop only existed for four years, which is about the same length of time of the apex of truly revolutionary movements in this country, from the Garvey Movement to the Black Panther Party for Self Defense.

The last myth to be discussed here is the idea that Hip-Hop somehow did away with racism/ White Supremacy. Regardless of the rants of rappers like The Game proclaiming that “it ain’t about race, now, “ that premise is also false.

The master/slave relationship still exists in the music industry. Although there have been some exceptions to the rule (like Sam Cooke), historically, Black folks have possessed the talent but White folks have controlled the masters, publishing, and distribution. This dynamic has not changed all that much during the Hip-Hop Era. If you read Fredric Dannen’s book Hit Men, you will see that the music industry is still controlled by the same people or their biological or ideological heirs who controlled it during the ’60s.

The reason why it is imperative that we tell the true story about Hip-Hop is the further rap gets away from its origins, the more distorted the history becomes. We are facing the real possibility that one day our children will not be able to tell the facts about Hip-Hop from fiction. And the truth will be buried so deep in lies that they may not be able to extract it.

Like Lauryn Hill said on “Mystery of Iniquity“:

“You’ll find what you sought/was based on the deception you bought…”

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 “Hip-Hop History Month Myth Bustas” series, contact info@nowarningshotsfired.com or follow on Twitter (@truthminista).

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  • Dave Williams

    intersting

  • Cory Evans

    disagree with alot of this…a matter of perception. How are hearing these “myths” ??? Hip Hop IS controlled by the streets. Do the powers that be control the money and flow of the music …sure but they dont know whats fly. We tell them they dont tell us. I will admit..the “new school” is fading away from this concept. Also as far as new and old school…Ill say we have had an old school for about 15 or 17 years. 85-88 is in the same range KRS told you “noone is from the old school cause rap on a whole, Isn’t even 20 years old.” I say the line starts after the death of Pac and Big. The whole “thug” or “street” concept changed everythingThere is a generation gap when you have nig*&s like Nelly saying Hip Hop is ” a young man’s game” I personally think that is a sucka statement due to the fact KRS is still rocking and noone says anything about Anita Baker still dropping albums and Patti Labelle going on tour..so that was corny…but a gap exists.”The Conscious Era” is something made up by the media. Just like “The best Female MC” I never separated the two until i heard them say it. So i think the “hype” is all about the media and peoples interpretation of these historical sayings, myths, stories,etc

    • Bumpy Johnson

      i dono why 2 fools disliked your comment

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  • timwest1000

    When rap was into knowledge of self and P.E. ruled, the “powers that be” quickly shifted to NWA dopeman as the model for success. Downhill from then on. We underestimate the power of the dollar. The money has made hip hop coon. Somewhere there are investors loving how hip hop’s community looks so crazy. BTW Eminem aint my father of rap. hes just a crackhead

    • Slaughtr

      Please tell these niggas.That Em is the father of rap yea you right rap not hip hop.

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  • MiiUziWeighsATon

    I was at Seaside Heights for 4th of July weekend like 4 years ago and I overheard a white kid say, outta his mouth that Eminem started hiphop…the history of hip hop needs to be preserved by its originators…whitey will rob that history and distort that history just like they’ve always done…

  • Terrance Harris

    I wouldn’t even watch a show whose kick-off episode is titled “Eminem: Father of Rap” I think that Eminem is top 5 dead or alive but to call him the father of rap is a fuckin slap in the face to Jay-Z, Nas, and Rakim and a host of others. No doubt that he is one of the dopest and sold a bunch of records but Vanilla Ice has the highest selling rap album of all time. FOH

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  • Peace Bro. Scott

    While I appreciate your exegesis of “hip hop” history and the myths associated with it, there is one fundamental flaw in your delivery. You seem to do the same thing that some other so-called “hip hop historians” do when they give an explanation of “Hip Hop” – you place Hip Hop Culture and the Rap Music Industry in the same bag. The very first paragraph ( a parody) says “True Hip Hop History” on the one hand but then says “authentic origins of rap music” on the other. This causes confusion and they are fundamentally different. It’s like saying that the Godfather of Hip Hop is Russell Simmons.

    Every wonder why MTV never called their show “Yo! MTV Hip Hops” or why BET never called their show “Hip Hop City”? It is because they could not see Hip Hop Culture in its fullness. They could only see “rappers” as acceptable within the context of the music industry.

    Hip Hop Culture as defined by Afrika Bambaata (the Godfather of Hip Hop – not Rap) is Peace, Love, Unity and Having Fun via the Arts of DJing, MCing, Breaking and Writing (Graffiti) and is celebrated every November by its practitioners. It is 38 years old. The Rap Music Industry is 32 years old and was founded by Sylvia Robinson, Bobby Robinson and other music industry people who knew nothing about Hip Hop Culture. They grabbed rappers (not necessarily MCs) to cut records because they neither knew better nor cared about anything but making money. Hip Hop artists (MCs) are automatically rappers when they record music in the industry. But a rapper is not necessarily an MC that can participate in Hip Hop Culture by rocking a live crowd while rhyming live over heavy scratching and hard beats.

    Now, if you were writing about “True Rap Music Industry History”, you would be absolutely on point.

    Peace.

    A-tone, the Hip Hop Historian

  • Peace Bro. Scott

    While I appreciate your exegesis of “hip hop” history and the myths associated with it, there is one fundamental flaw in your delivery. You seem to do the same thing that some other so-called “hip hop historians” do when they give an explanation of “Hip Hop” – you place Hip Hop Culture and the Rap Music Industry in the same bag. The very first paragraph ( a parody) says “True Hip Hop History” on the one hand but then says “authentic origins of rap music” on the other. This causes confusion and they are fundamentally different. It’s like saying that the Godfather of Hip Hop is Russell Simmons.

    Every wonder why MTV never called their show “Yo! MTV Hip Hops” or why BET never called their show “Hip Hop City”? It is because they could not see Hip Hop Culture in its fullness. They could only see “rappers” as acceptable within the context of the music industry.

    Hip Hop Culture as defined by Afrika Bambaata (the Godfather of Hip Hop – not Rap) is Peace, Love, Unity and Having Fun via the Arts of DJing, MCing, Breaking and Writing (Graffiti) and is celebrated every November by its practitioners. It is 38 years old. The Rap Music Industry is 32 years old and was founded by Sylvia Robinson, Bobby Robinson and other music industry people who knew nothing about Hip Hop Culture. They grabbed rappers (not necessarily MCs) to cut records because they neither knew better nor cared about anything but making money. Hip Hop artists (MCs) are automatically rappers when they record music in the industry. But a rapper is not necessarily an MC that can participate in Hip Hop Culture by rocking a live crowd while rhyming live over heavy scratching and hard beats.

    Now, if you were writing about “True Rap Music Industry History”, you would be absolutely on point.

    Peace.

    A-tone, the Hip Hop Historian

  • Why did my post (re-posted below) get removed yesterday?

  • Peace Bro. Scott

    While I appreciate your exegesis of “hip hop” history and the myths associated with it, there is one fundamental flaw in your delivery. You seem to do the same thing that some other so-called “hip hop historians” do when they give an explanation of “Hip Hop” – you place Hip Hop Culture and the Rap Music Industry in the same bag. The very first paragraph ( a parody) says “True Hip Hop History” on the one hand but then says “authentic origins of rap music” on the other. This causes confusion and they are fundamentally different. It’s like saying that the Godfather of Hip Hop is Russell Simmons.

    Every wonder why MTV never called their show “Yo! MTV Hip Hops” or why BET never called their show “Hip Hop City”? It is because they could not see Hip Hop Culture in its fullness. They could only see “rappers” as acceptable within the context of the music industry.

    Hip Hop Culture as defined by Afrika Bambaata (the Godfather of Hip Hop – not Rap) is Peace, Love, Unity and Having Fun via the Arts of DJing, MCing, Breaking and Writing (Graffiti) and is celebrated every November by its practitioners. It is 38 years old. The Rap Music Industry is 32 years old and was founded by Sylvia Robinson, Bobby Robinson and other music industry people who knew nothing about Hip Hop Culture. They grabbed rappers (not necessarily MCs) to cut records because they neither knew better nor cared about anything but making money. Hip Hop artists (MCs) are automatically rappers when they record music in the industry. But a rapper is not necessarily an MC that can participate in Hip Hop Culture by rocking a live crowd while rhyming live over heavy scratching and hard beats.

    Now, if you were writing about “True Rap Music Industry History”, you would be absolutely on point.

    Peace.

    A-tone, the Hip Hop Historian