A Hip-Hop House Divided: What Happened to U.N.I.T.Y.?
“I’m asking if you feel me/And the crowd left me stranded” - "Respiration", Black Star
Recently, more than 50,000 disgusted and disillusioned Hip-Hop fans jammed into Jefferson Square Garden to protest what had become of their beloved music. The chants of “Death to Ratchet Rap” that filled the auditorium threatened to shake the Garden from its very foundation. But when the organizers asked for volunteers to fight against the destruction of the culture, the only noise that could be heard was the pitter-patter of scared little feet runnin’ toward the exits....
In 1993, rapper Queen Latifah made a call for unity in the Hip-Hop community on her song,"U.N.I.T.Y. " Unfortunately, almost 20 years later, a lot more people have united to destroy Hip-Hop than have organized to try and save it.
Latifah wasn’t the first person to call for Hip-Hoppers to come together for a common cause, as this was a relatively common theme in rap’s early history. During the early '80s, Hip-Hop pioneer Afrika Bambaataa was able to parlay his gift of bringing gangs together to promote Hip-Hop unity through the Zulu Nation. Later, KRS One was able to round up some of the most popular artists of the period to participate in the Stop the Violence Movement, as well as H.E.A.L. (Human Education Against Lies). Even the non-political rappers of the era found strength in numbers by organizing themselves in crews from the Juice Crew to the Hit Squad.
But today, the popularity of the “Self Destruction “ video has been replaced by kids beatin’ the hell outta each other on YouTube. Contrary to the West Coast 1990 unity song, “We’re All in the Same Gang,” time has taught us that we are not. We all are not fightin’ for the same thing.
Although, the commercial rappers are able to brag that their fans are “lovin’ the crew” or “ain’t nobody messin’ with my clique," for the real Hip-Hop revolutionists in 2012, it’s more like “Me Against the World.”
The only reason that ratchet rap is winnin’ right now is because those who claim to want a return to lyricism and consciousness in Hip-Hop are disorganized. Although there are thousands of disgruntled Hip-Hop fans vehemently opposed to the negative direction that Hip-Hop has taken, you can hardly name one group that is actually organizing to overthrow the reign of ratchetness. Most organizations just want Lil Wayne to perform at their next “fundraiser to rescue Hip-Hop. “
Although the media tries to distract us with faux confrontations like Nicki Minaj vs. Mariah Carey or Rick Ross vs Young Jeezy, the real confrontations have been between those who speak Truth and those who propagate Lies. Those who want to be Free, and those who want to stay on the plantation. So, the battle rages on between those who want to use Hip-Hop as a tool to wake the masses up, and those who want to use it to lull them to sleep.
According to D.C. Hip-Hop artist, Yasin 360 WiseGuy, there is a lack of unity because politically aware rappers are “trying to outdo each other with consciousness and are not reaching the people.” The rapper, who recently recorded underground battle cry “Right Now”, throws a stinging indictment at the advocates of real Hip-Hop saying, "You believe in this and that, but you’re not ready to go to war.”
However, the stuck on stupid rappers have always been in a state of Code Red; ready to defend their right to wear saggin’ skinny jeans to the death.
Remember back in the day, No Limit called themselves “soldiers,: and according to Hot Boy BG, “Cash Money was an army/better yet a navy.” But since the supergroups of the late '80s/early '90s such as X-Clan and Boogie Down Productions, the political rappers have been more like a small platoon of Cub Scouts.
If you ask the average person on the street about today’s rap music, nine times out of 10, he will reminisce about the good ol' days when Hip-Hop meant something. Even a little kid will, ashamedly, admit that he “doesn't listen to the words but only likes the beat.”
Even Rick Ross on his song, "So Sophisticated", mocks that he comes from a city where “the Muslims, even Christians hate it.”
So, the obvious question is, if so many people hate the current state of Hip-Hop, how long are we gonna let Ratchet Rap define the culture?
Let’s face it. Rap Music is at an all-time low. Once you hit ratchetness, you are on the bottom floor. The elevator doesn’t go any lower. Today the music industry is creatively and spiritually bankrupt. Like T.I. said on “Live Your Life”, although the rappers today have millions of dollars in the bank, they are “piss poor morally.”
The only thing that is keepin’ commercial rap afloat, right now, is the implicit complacency of the silent majority of the population who appreciate real Hip-Hop.
In other words, although many people complain, few are willing to actually do something about it.
For instance. I get tweets all the time from conscious artists complaining that they don’t get any support from the Hip-Hop community. However, the question that should be asked is why don’t conscious rappers support each other? Why is there no “Union of Real Hip-Hop Artists?” There are unions for everything else in this country made up of people banded together for common goals and objectives. Why not Hip-Hop?
It seems that every person who is fighting to save Hip-Hop feels like he is the last man standing; the proverbial David standing alone against an army of Goliaths. But the truth is, you are not alone, there are millions of people who feel the same way that you do.
We just need to rally the troops.
It’s time for the silent majority to stand up and be heard!
If we organize we can determine the direction of the culture and not leave the future of Hip-Hop in the hands of a few numb-skulls.
Together, we can issue the ultimatum that ‘Pac and the Outlawz gave back in the day:
“You either ride with us or collide with us.”
The choice is yours.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org, visit NoWarningShotsFired.com, or follow on Twitter (@truthminista).