Hip-Hop andAmerica– they’ve almost become synonymous these days for the unapologetic pursuit of happiness (a.k.a. the American dream) that’s fostered in their patrons. While some may argue that Hip-Hop’s sentiments which rage against the establishment are anti-American, others stand convinced thatAmericais diametrically opposed to Hip-Hop as well. Yet, in reality, they’ve come to represent the same sad detriment of what can happen when a movement which began with noble intentions becomes warped – driven by greed and opulence.
Over the years, I’ve openly voiced critique of both Hip-Hop andAmerica. I’ve written poems and articles that explore my frustrations with the current state of affairs and the politics and policies of each which I feel are undermining the most valuable resources of our community: the youth (or in some adult cases, the young-minded). The decisions that are being made by Hip-Hop’s artists and American congressmen have strayed from benefiting the constituents of these institutions in favor of lavishing themselves with opulence under the auspices of a “power for and to the people” mantra.
While this sickens me, what turns my stomach even more is the apparent approval of the majority who take what is shoveled into their eyes, ears and throats and crave for more! From Republicans who can rally up support for a tax system that burdens the have-nots and rewards the haves to rappers who can get us to sing along to and defend being ignorant, we seem to crave having our situations remain worse as long as someone can spin a few li(n)es into cool sound bites through the media. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Democrats as well who, akin to the Hip-Hop community, seek to exercise the right to express the freedom to choose what we say, listen to and act upon in our lifestyles; which when not wielded properly, can compromise one’s morals and integrity.
But for the purposes of this article, I’d like to forego the usual diatribe of the negative impact stemming from American capitalism and the commercialism of Hip-Hop. Instead, I'd like to focus on traits that, at their core, are the best of what Hip-Hop andAmerica have to offer. Offerings that have become easy for their biggest critics (such as myself) to overlook as we target their worst traits in order to redirect and aim for the best. Offerings that I liberally enjoy and utilize on a day-to-day basis myself.
In that, I present "The Best of Both Worlds Between Hip-Hop and America" (in no particular order):
Free(dom) for All:
The ability to do things such as speak or openly exercise faith in a particular religious belief is a shared commonalty that links back to civil liberties. Americabecame its own country because of a desire to break away from the suffocating rulership of kings who chose what their subjects would read and worship based on their preference. In like manner, Hip-Hop became its own culture to branch away from and rage against an environment that was suppressing them; thus becoming a voice for a marginalized and voiceless people – free to celebrate the best while exploring and exposing the worst of their surroundings to the world.
Capitalism and commercialism have aided Americaand Hip-Hop respectively by allowing free enterprise and a free market. ForAmerica, free enterprise set up the basic premise of entrepreneurship; allowing anyone with an idea to create or take over a market with their brand and… make money. Making money became a call to the American Dream, which Hip-Hop began to fully embrace in a free market where supply and demand has fueled the explosion of purchasing songs online – bypassing the red tape of record industry royalties and helping Hip-Hop continue to diversify its message to please and reach the masses. In other words, Hip-Hop’s fan base is growing and evolving thanks to commercialism.
Common Individuality/Moving the Crowd Beyond the Great Divide:
Americaand Hip-Hop both allow an individual to be who they are and, ironically, create a culture from said individuality. Coined as the “melting pot of the world,” America is supposed to accept those who are “the tired, the poor, the huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore” (somebody should check Ellis Island to see if that statement is still there!) from all over the globe.
If we question whether or notAmericastill does that, there’s no denying it within Hip-Hop. Through its commercialism, Hip-Hop has unified cultures across the world that would otherwise never interact or share a commonality of differences beyond race, creed, and societal pressures. It is also a curious spectacle to note thatAmerica, in recent times, has inspired and united the world to both hate and love us; according to who's been in office over the past two elections, respectively. A la Patrice O’Neal’s comedic commentary (God bless for a speedy recovery), the hate that people had for us provided its own international theme music!
Generations of Wealth:
In the spirit of capitalism, Americahas a “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” mentality that Hip-Hop embraces as well. Generations of impoverished immigrants and poverty-stricken urban youth have embraced this emblematic concept to the point where they are able to generate wealth for the next generation. Look no further than the Will and Jada Smiths and Shawn and Beyonce Carters of the world. Coming up with poverty surrounding you should not dictate your children being exposed to it.
Granted, there are loopholes and exceptions to these circumstances but the opportunities are there inAmericaand Hip-Hop. And although we need to check these universal platforms for the content and moral compass being spread to the masses, there is no denying that there is no place I’d rather be and no music I’d rather embrace and be impacted by quite like America and Hip-Hop in their Golden Ages. That being said, let’s fix what we’ve inherited yet corrupted from our forefathers.
- excerpted from The Marred, Mangled Banner as published in Steel Waters VOLUME I: DUPLicate AuthentICITY:
‘…It’s satirical it seems – how they could
celebrate the 4th with fireworks,
While they segregated our force with desired thirst
As they conspired and searched to
expire our worth with lynch mobs.
They drenched sod with red
that bled from open wounds
Then bleached it with white lies
which they hoped would consume…
But the notes that exude from
such tombs extol our tunes –
held within blue blood tainted from winced sobs.
Not even a casket, hearse and dirt nap
Could trap us worse than that.
Such a drastic curse damages the very theme
of The Star Spangled Banner.
I’m not anti-patriotic –
I’m just creating opposing ruckus
For the system that supposedly upholds the justice…
The one that’s slowly bludgeoned the flag
into a marred and mangled banner…’
- excerpted from The Struggle as published in Steel Waters VOLUME I: DUPLicate AuthentICITY:
‘…Kweli knew enough to dub it best –
“Hip Hop’s the new WWF.”
Like Doug E. Fresh, it’s been beaten and boxed into a corner.
But this isn’t about Hip Hop per say –
It’s about one fan’s flip flopped survey…
One fan who both disses and jocks the wordplay of its top performers.
Instilled in my letters and entrenched in vents,
Rap’s a source of guilty pleasure and innocent discontent.
I’m vehemently rent between The Rock and hard-bassed Blues.
And as it’s publicized in publications,
Rap’s republic eyes utter a guise of repugnant hatred…
As its numbest patrons snub my statements –
unable to spot that their hearts ache, too.
With my pen as a monolith
To both model and topple it,
I’ve been pinned by the dogged grip of rap music.
So like a fickle fan who’ll promptly switch
From sycophant to taunting quips…
I’ve moved from astonishment to admonishment of its wack usage…’