The World’s Still a Ghetto: Is the ‘Hood Better Off?


“Don’t you know/ that it’s true/that for me/ and for you/the world is a ghetto” – “The World Is A Ghetto”, War

The Democratic National Convention was going as scripted, as each speaker bragged about what the party had accomplished over the last four years, and what the President would do if elected for another term. That was until 18-year-old, aspiring poet, “Terrell from Taco Bell, “ yelled out from the cheap seats, “Is my neighborhood better off than it was four years ago?” As silence fell over the auditorium, it was clear that everyone knew the answer…

It’s not everyday that a sitting president feels the agony of defeat. So back in 1980, when Ronald Reagan beat Jimmy Carter, it sent a shockwave through the political system. Many people say that Reagan’s knockout punch came when he asked the American public, “Are you better off now than you were four years ago?”

If this same question was posed in 2012, the answer would, largely, depend on who you ask. Some people are eatin’ good in this economy, while others are strugglin’ to feed their families.

This is not about blaming the current resident of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, as you can ask the people in the ‘hood if they were better off four, eight, or 12 years ago and get the same answer…

Emphatically, no! There are millions of people in this country who are generations deep in poverty and despair.

Recently, rapper Kendrick Lamar hurt some people’s feelings when he said, during an interview on, “I don’t do votin’.” Although criticized, he actually hit on what most people refuse to admit – ITSS. (It’s The System, Stupid!”)

Lamar was not the first entertainer to voice reservations about voting. Music icon Prince says he abstains for religious reasons. The late comedian George Carlin gave a brilliant analysis of the political system in his ““American Dream” standup routine. Even Hip-Hop artist KRS-One once claimed on “Ah Yeah” that “every president we ever had lied.”

But Lamar was an easier target to criticize because he presented an off-the-cuff comment instead of an in-depth political analysis. If he had really dropped some science instead of some solution-less, incoherent ramblings, none of his critics would have touched it.

When President Obama was elected, I was under no delusion that he would be able to deliver the “Change“ that he promised during his campaign. The system just ain’t set up for that. However, I did expect more on an aesthetic level.

I thought, at least, the beauty of the election of America’s first Black president would change the perception of African Americans in the media.

It didn’t. Just more reality shows.

And after Young Jeezy’s song, “My President’s Black”, I assumed that rap music was moving in a more political direction.

I was wrong. How many times did you hear the stripper anthem, “Bans to Make Her Dance”. on the radio today?

Or, at the very least, the racist attacks on the Prez by the Tea Party and Right Wing radio would stop the Black-on-Black violence in the streets, as the gangstas would realize that they had a common enemy.

Wrong again. Look at Chicago.

So, perhaps the problem is not Obama. Maybe the problem is us.

We have to break out of this Hegelian Dialectical paradigm and stop looking for the forces that created the problem to give us the solution.

It is the nature of Capitalism to have a permanent underclass. And any president who, at least, appears to be deviating from its tenets will be dogged for promoting Socialism throughout his administration. (Case in point, Barack Obama.)

So we are not really dealing with a Democracy “of the people, by the people, for the people.” We are dealing with what KRS would call “the politics of pimps and hos.” And, politicians sell people on the idea that, in this country, every ho has the the opportunity to become a pimp.

Let’s be clear. It’s no big secret that I think Fox News‘ Sean Hannity is the poster boy for White Supremacy, and Rush Limbaugh is a racist, Right Wing windbag. So, my hatred of conservative politics does not have to be repeated here.

However, I am also not a fan of the benign neglect of the Dems who turn their backs on the poor while kissin’ the butts of the middle class. Nor of the “non-economic liberalism” that Harold Cruse discussed in his work “Plural But Equal”, where feel good speeches and promises take the place of a redistribution of wealth in this country.

Although the media has focused on the back and forth between the pro-Obama, Rev. Al Sharpton and the anti-Obama team of Tavis Smiley and Dr. Cornel West, the sharpest criticism came from people like Omali Yeshitela of the Black is Back Coalition and Glen Ford of the Black Agenda Report. Although their ideologies are more in line with the masses of African Americans, they are largely ignored by mainstream media.

The purpose here is not to suggest that people should be politically apathetic, but politically educated. We have to develop new ways of dealing with the political machine. To borrow from the Dilated Peoples’ line on “This Way”, “This industry will play with your life, man/ they’re playin’ with your rent, food, water, and lights, man.”

We have to ask the question, while rappers like Kendrick Lamar have criticized the political system, with the economic power of the Hip-Hop Nation, why haven’t they created a third political party? The money and other resources are there.

Could it be a lack of serious commitment? Although many people in Hip-Hop catch voting fever every four years, if the next presidential debate comes on TV at the same time as the season premiere of “Love and Hip Hop”, which one will they watch ?

I rest my case.

The best solution to this country’s problems is not gonna come from Democrats or Republicans who just parrot the party line, but from Independent voters and thinkers who not only make candidates earn their votes, but mobilize to force them to keep their campaign promises.

The Democrats have enough cheerleaders, and the Republicans already have their “Joe the Plumbers.” What the ‘hood needs is more “Tyrells” who are not scared to say,” even though Obama has been talkin’ change, the ‘hood remains the same.”

Because, at the end of the month, what good is talking about “change “ when it doesn’t mean more change in your pocket when you’re adding up your bills.

Like Jay-Z once said, “Men lie, women lie, numbers don’t.”

TRUTH Minista Paul Scott’s weekly column is This Ain’t Hip Hop, a weekly column for intelligent Hip Hop headz. He can be reached at His website is Follow on Twitter (@truthminista).