Should The Hip-Hop Community Go On A Month-Long Fast?

Should The Hip-Hop Community Go On A Month-Long Fast?

“May God deliver us from the curse of carelessness, from the thoughtless ill-considered deed. The deliberate evil of the world, we know is great, but how much of fortitude and strength and faith could we have to cure this and put it down, if only we were rid of the sickening discouraging mass of thoughtless careless acts in men who know and mean better. … God give us vision and thought. Amen.”

 

—Du Bois, W.E.B. Prayers for Dark People. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1980, p. 50.

 

We have a lot to atone for. Turn on BET or your favorite tri-state radio station and dare argue differently. The videos are vicious, the songs are sickening. At this point, the solution might not be as simple as some—including yours truly—have proposed in times past. It might not be enough anymore to call for boycotts of radio and TV stations, to call for greater responsibility in the marketing departments, to call for accountability from artists. It appears to me that, at this critical stage, we have transcended the physical into the spiritual.

 

I’m afraid that, as a community, as enablers of the filth and fungus that is commercial Hip-Hop, we have wronged not only man and woman, but God, as well. I’m afraid that there comes a time when evil takes upon a new form of vehemence, in which, like burnt offering, it rises to the heavens, creating a repugnant sensation that arouses the ire of God. And that time, like scriptural narratives of old (“The Plagues of Egypt,” “Sodom and Gomorrah,” “The Flood of Noah”) might be upon us.

 

Atheists, Agnostics, bear with me.

 

In the religious world, fasting is regarded a salient tool of self-correction when the body, mind, and spirit is out of sync with life’s purpose. Fasting, as a result of deprivation and diligence, works to keep at bay the recklessness and recalcitrance leading the believer down the slope of self-destruction, replacing it with meekness and morality.

 

Incidentally, 1 billion Muslims around the world just commenced an annual month-long fast a couple of days ago, traditionally known as Ramadan, to attain the highest level of spirituality—“God-consciousness.” But the practice of fasting isn’t indigenous to Islam. All three Abrahamic religious traditions have at their core the belief that sacrifice, especially of the flesh, is a great remediation in time of excessiveness.

 

On September 21st, members of the Jewish faith would be fasting in remembrance of Gedaliah ben Achikam, governor of the First Jewish Commonwealth in the Holy Land, who, according to reports, was assassinated in 423 BCE. 6 days later, most Jews would observe Yom Kippur, “Day of Atonement,” a 25-hour fast to purge all sin and shame the previous year might have accumulated.

 

My Judeo-Christian background introduced me early on to the gifts of fasting. I was required, then, to fast as regularly as possible. As with most other things in life, I hated being forced to do it, then, but can’t stop doing it, now. I found out that it sharpens the mind, diminishes distractions, and amplifies self-control—essential tools to survive in this spiritually bankrupt world of ours.

 

* * *

 

With the mounting opposition of oppression levied against underprivileged families, many social activists have begun announcing personal fasts to solve some of the problems currently confronting our community.

 

Rev. Father Michael Pfleger, senior pastor of St. Sabina, located in the South Side of Chicago, called for a fast earlier this year, and flew the national flag above his church upside down, to raise consciousness about the horrifically high rate of teen shootings and deaths Chicago has produced in the last 8 months.

 

Rev. Marcia Dyson, religious scholar and affiliate of Georgetown University’s Center for Social Justice, Research, Teaching and Service, also recently rallied a coalition to fast for the humanitarian crisis Haiti has been long-subdued by, and to pray for peace in her hometown of Chicago.

 

Civil rights hero and renowned comedian Dick Gregory announced in March his decision to fast until the end of the nation’s economic crisis. “Not since the days of The Civil Rights Movement have I ever seen such fear and anger in the people I meet,” he said at the time. “Except now, it’s all Americans. We have to take the lead and create humanity where none exists.” (As one who, in 1971, commenced a legendary 3 years fast from solid food, Dick Gregory knows the power of fasting.) His fast, which was to consist of “four days of just liquids, two days of just water and one day of nothing at all but the air that I breath,” is meant to address the “total lack of simple humanity that has destroyed this nation’s heart and soul,” and the “humanity and dignity of the American people who are suffering from this tragic economic distress.”

 

Earlier this month, Dick Gregory vowed a fast of nothing but water to mourn and uncover the mysterious death of his dear friend, Michael Jackson.

 

And in March of this year, Hip-Hop entrepreneur Diddy and New Orleans-raised MC Jay Electronica completed a 48-hour “spiritual fast” to ensure both mind and spirit is “ready to go to the next level.” As the fast—which I, in solidarity, observed—comes to an end, “all our dreams are gonna come true,” Diddy said, “but it’s time to get focused.”

 

* * *

 

The Hip-Hop community is in much need of self-reflection, and a month-long fast can be the catalyst. We must become critically concerned with the three Ms that I believe are threatening to tear down this great wall of cultural contribution: Message, Media, and Market.

 

MESSAGE: This machine of materialism has made millionaires of project-bound young Black men, but it has also convinced many others that life is about the glorification of drug violence, the domination of women, and the exhibition of personal wealth.

 

It’s hard, in 2009, to pin down the exact message Hip-Hop is offering to young people, and who specifically is being addressed. To the left we have back-pack, underground artists who spend too much time preoccupied with the minstrelsy of mainstream Hip-Hop. And to the right stands a gang-full of commercial coons who have no shame or regret in performing skits right out of Spike Lee’s frighteningly brilliant 2000 flick, Bamboozled.

 

Young Hip-Hop fans, of all stripes, are being exposed to buffoonery and bellicosity, materialism and misogyny, pain and pleasure, propagated by artists who should know better, and who, in fact, know better, but are too weak-willed to protest the orders of their employers.

 

MEDIA: The present state of Hip-Hop media is regrettable. The days of intellectuals, cultural critics, and music scholars are all but over. Now begins an age of pseudo-journalists and half-witted bloggers, who’ve convinced themselves that a column consists of 400 words and two paragraphs.

 

At a time when every site is lobbying for the same artist, and every magazine—if not already folded—is struggling to make ends meet, it might make some degree of sense that the level of creativity takes a hit, but not that creativity, itself, is altogether stifled, stunted, and shot to death. Such is the case today.

 

Those who take this culture seriously enough to demand from it deepness and richness can’t be more disappointed with the Hip-Hop media state the new millennium ushered in. We now live in a copy and paste world—a world where research is abolished and anything is printable; a world where the aim is to shock and awe; a world where writers are too timid to rock the boat or, if need be, sink it!

 

Hip-Hop websites are growing by the numbers, but true, profound Hip-Hop journalists are diminishing at an ever greater rate. The websites are now nothing more than props and posters for the propaganda label executives desire printed about their artists—regardless of musical skill, vocal stamina, or lyrical strength.

 

Everyone has a blog, but not enough brains to match them. The Harry Allens, Greg Tates, Aliya S. Kings, Nelson Georges, Elizabeth Mendez Berrys, S.H. Fernando, Jrs., Dream Hamptons, and Michael Eric Dysons of yesterday are being rummaged, to make room for skilless and witless non-writers with no width or wisdom.

 

Columnists have grown too cozy, too comfortable, with the current onslaught of coonery, to chastise Hip-Hop artists for their culpability and complicity in the castration of their community. They fear for their jobs, for their security, if they speak up against the grain. They don’t want to be black-listed, black-balled, or, for that matter, blacked-out for doing, as Spike Lee might put it, the right thing.

 

The truth, then, takes flesh in forms, to flip Ralph Waldo Emerson’s words, that don’t threaten the market of Hip-Hop—consumers and executives.

 

MARKET: The buying public, disproportionately White, sees no wrong in soliciting social death from Black artists. MCs with message and meaning are passed by for 21st century coons. Mainstream fans have made known their preference for less threatening, less assertive, less controversial artists. The dime-a-dozen theory is officially in effect.

 

Executives can chill in big skyscraper offices, cool and calm, assured fully well that their mission is being carried out by a generation of zombies who know not the responsibility they bear in promoting promiscuity to a new, innocent generation of children.

 

He who controls the market controls the minds of the customers. And never before has this theory yielded greater efficiency.

 

* * *

We have a lot to atone for. Turn on BET or your favorite tri-state radio station and dare argue differently. The videos are vicious, the songs are sickening. I’m afraid that, as a community, as enablers of the filth and fungus that is commercial Hip-Hop, we have wronged not only man and woman, but God, as well.

Tolu Olorunda is a cultural critic and a columnist for BlackCommentator.com. He can be reached at Tolu.Olorunda@gmail.com.

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