By Donald Lyons
(AllHipHop Opinion) We are at a societal crossroads in America that has many of us in a state of distress. There is a massive wave of insecurity washing over our country due to a current pandemic that has upended social and socioeconomic norms usually dictated by our free-market economy. Workers are being ordered to work from home. Many more are being furloughed or outright laid off. Children are being kept home from school. Those who are able, are doing distance learning but, we know that not all schools or school families are either capable or equipped to carry out these much-needed functions. These very unfortunate circumstances, however, are the subject of another missive. Given today’s challenges due to the Coronavirus pandemic, cursorily, a more fitting title might be, “Hip-Hop vs. the Angel of Death”, but then again when hasn’t it been, “the Kulture of Hip-Hop vs (Name your peril here)”?
Why would I use a title that seemingly plays upon the foreshadowed premise of doom? I’d answer that question by saying that I plan to justify the title within the confines of this writing. Please bear with me.
The legacy and power of Hip-Hop have always been to create something from nothing. HipHop is alchemic and transformative by nature. I am a full-on invested believer in the mantra, “You are not just doing Hip-Hop, you are HipHop”. As a “HipHoppa” (a nod to KRS-One), throughout the course of my writings, you can easily juxtapose any pronoun with, “HipHop”. When I say, “we “, during the course of this writing please keep that in mind.
During modern times we have always seemed to exist and flourish while flitting about on the brink of destruction, navigating some crisis in perpetuity and suddenly, extemporaneously, we shift the paradigm. We, “flip the script” and emerge brighter and much noticeably changed. We, as a Kulture, continue to challenge whether or not Hip-Hop emerges stronger as we evolve, but undoubtedly we survive. We have and we will.
We certainly are here as a testament to the fortitude of the Kulture even if we persist in questioning the art of the Kulture. Hip-Hop’s dynamic has always been to make beautiful the unsightly and to make palatable the refuse. To otherwise shape and breathe life into what has or would be dying. Hip-Hop has demonstrated the power to rework, set askew, to reorient and take what has been rendered obsolete and re-present to the world a subject/object with a new life realized.
For what is going on a half a century Hip-Hop has been that “God particle” for the Kulture and for the world at large. Longer still if you regard Hip-Hop like the great EMCEE KRS-ONE does and you rightfully connect the philosophy and practice of Hip-Hop firmly to the historical traditions and documented survival of the children of the African diaspora. We might even make a viable argument that Hip-Hop works just that well for all of humankind that embraces the Kulture.
Who would have thought that Hip-Hop would once again show the world how to feel again…to slow down and smell the flowers…to simply reach out and touch one another in the most respectful and intimate manner right out in public?
In the midst of this current pandemic #ClubQuarantine #DNiceHomeSchool initiatives have struck me as profound in its simplicity and effectiveness. Necessary due to the difficulty of our current social condition, and indisputably the most Hip-Hop and selfless acts that I have witnessed in the Kulture in a very long time. The most notable of these initiatives in my honest opinion is the aforementioned hashtagged events due the consecutive marathon DJ sessions spearheaded by Gen X’s own DJ (and EMCEE) D-Nice. The Instagram phenomena has found its way into the homes (and mentions) of countless people across a multitude of cultures and demographics across America. I would not be surprised if this has extended to include a prodigious audience outside of our US borders.
I guess the reason I named this piece, “HipHop & The Great Flood”, is because D-Nice along with some of our more stalwart representatives of HipHop Kulture have shown us again the power we wield. More importantly, how much more powerful we are in realizing we are bound together as one humankind. By shepherding us into a virtual Ark much like the Noah of the Bible we, through the power of music, have ridden the ebbs and flows of these uncertain times buoyed by the power of togetherness, reminded of the power of connectedness and reassured just how much we all have in common in joy and reminiscence as well as in crisis.
While our safety and well-being during this worldwide crisis have forced us apart physically, we are discovering ways back to each other through the power of music, the power of laughter and most importantly the power of love. We have shaken off the shadows of doubt and fear by dancing in our living rooms, texting each other in real-time about, “club behavior”, how the music used to and still makes us feel. Inside our forced cocoons we are remembering old school dances, basement parties, being with friends, turning 21, first loves, heartbreak, births, deaths and everything in between. In short, we were carried through all of the things that made our lives worthwhile in these musical interludes. Sometimes remembering is what brings into focus what’s important and all there is yet to live for.
For some that reminder was essential; for many more, it’s likely the release they needed to cope for what lies ahead. No doubt we all needed the mental reset. I would be remiss if I didn’t also mention the messages in the music being played. I’m drawn to speak particularly of the sessions hosted by Questlove. His “Quest Lovers Rock” sessions and his careful curation have been angled toward the aficionados of slower and mellower classic grooves and the sultrier side of the growing wave of DJ sets popping up all over the internet. More specifically, I want to mention that entrenched in his setlists, as is the case with D-Nice’s sets, are fiercely clear themes of resistance by the encouragement to acknowledge and embrace one another digitally or otherwise.
Humankind must find a way to reconnect in the most meaningful of ways. Thankfully, every so often, we are blessed with a spark of HipHop’s “God particle”. In this case, we have been fortunate to make a leap that more often than not leaves us in awe in its simplicity and implementation. These past few days I’ve watched HipHop fall in love with each other again. I’m hoping we continue to find ourselves so we can mobilize to once again shift the world community sensibly and seismically.
There’s no doubt that we have more difficult times ahead but these sessions should serve to remind us: We are not alone nor should we endure alone. Now that we’ve shared our memories, laughter, fears, and in the process once again found our joy there’s an equally important message to be had. We cannot take our eyes off the work that lies ahead when this is all over. These common experiences should serve to remind us of our bond as living and breathing inhabitants of this time and space, and that a greater responsibility to care for one another should take precedence over all else. Now is a time to carry this momentum into shaping a brighter future for each other.
Please HipHop, support HipHop. Protect the Future.
Peace, Unity, Love and Having Fun… Let’s get back to that.