One of the things I love about hip hop is the culture. When I was young, around middle school, I still hadn’t heard a single rap lyric. I know, hard to believe, but my mom didn’t play it. In middle school though, all of the students were listening to rap, heavy metal, or punk rock. I liked the energy of the kids listening to hip hop so I remember one night after I went to “sleep”, I turned on the radio very quietly and found the hip hop station. They were playing a DJ mix and “Children’s Story” by Slick Rick came on. I was nodding my head feverishly as I listened to the lyrics. It was like a whole new world opened up and I found my voice. I tried to stop loving hip hop for about a year…it didn’t work. It kept calling on me and I realized it wasn’t hip hop I stopped loving; it was the new culture that was emerging.
Don’t get me wrong, hip hop was beginning to shift in the 90’s but I’m still one of those people that believes the greatest rapper of all time died on March 9, 1997. Biggie’s lyrics did not help him achieve sainthood but he had a clear understanding what it meant to be a good person. All of the materialism and misogyny in current hip hop lyrics makes me nauseous. From Trinidad James (hope you didn’t die of stupidity if you watched that vid) to Rick Ross promoting drug addiction and sexual abuse, this present generation of teens is being mislead.
Hip hop is powerful. It is a force that is forever changing and has historically given a voice to the marginalized. I have students that have trouble communicating their feelings outside of a 8 bars (lyrics) or graffiti (not on property). That is what it is used for. It can motivate a group of people in whatever direction it chooses. When an artists steps to that mic, they transform and speak their truth. My problem is these negligent artists aren’t spitting any truth; more like nihilistic views that do not instill children with self-esteem or awareness. I don’t whether they asked for the power or not…they have it. What they do with their power is what I question. Back in the day, hip hop and electronics weren’t raising children; parents were. Hip hop started off as the tribe of African Americans and has evolved to be the tribe for all those people who want to see difference. There are elders and people that deserve homage and libations for giving us this voice. When hip hop is old and gray, it will still be relevant. I love it and I’m so sad to see what is happening to it.