I recently stumbled upon a poem written and performed by Madiha Bhatti, a brilliant Muslim student at Chapel Hill in North Carolina. From an anthropological perspective, I have nothing in common with this young lady. We have a different; ethnic background, gender, and age, I say this to inform you that therefore this rant is completely unbiased, but we both share a similar point of view regarding the evolution of popular culture of Hip-hop. The words and metaphor of her poem gave me the goose bumps and inadvertently hit my soul like a car colliding into a concrete wall, and thus the wreckage is the result of this rant.
Hip-hop to me is an art form, so is any other music genre, it is poetry, it has an important historical background like its forefather the Blues from the 60’s, it used to be an artistic language spoken by a repressed minority. It’s no secret that nowadays popular hip-hop is derogative to women, well actually the music industry as whole is derogative to woman, regardless of the genre. Like any other popular cultural bullshit knitted by corporations, it also has had a social and cultural positive but more negative influence on an international scale. Now I’m not targeting hip-hop as a whole, nor am I generalizing the genre but I’m pointing fingers at the big labels pulling the strings, telling artists to create more songs about violence rather than songs about, gender equality, intelligence, sobriety, revolting, conspiracies, world hunger, poverty, not going to jail… All the songs or artists who do glorify the themes I’ve just mentioned above are never given any attention or exposure. However the music which does get decent exposure is often lyrical garbage about; selling crack to family members, black on black crime, going to jail, fighting with guns rather than your fists, prostitution, drinking and driving and so on… Lately that sort of music has had my ears feel like they’re menstruating, I don’t know if it’s the fact that perhaps I’m getting older and my that subconscious is rejecting all this musical garbage and urging me to stick to underground hip-hop or classical music.
You may argue that perhaps that the fan-base is responsible for the popularity of the shitty part of hip-hop, especially since we’re partly in control of the media we’re exposed to thanks to the internet. But I’ve seen a pattern which seems to be continuous and repetitive in hip-hop. A lot of these artists begin their musical careers with music portraying good intentions and strong themes. Kanye West for example, you may not like him but in my opinion he was a musical genius half a decade ago. Lets take for example the song “I Heard ‘Em Say”;
Before you ask me to get a job today, can I at least get a raise on a minimum wage?
And I know the government administered AIDS,
So I guess we just pray like the minister say,
Allah o Akbar and throw em some hot cars,
Things we see on the screen are not ours,
But these niggas from the hood so these dreams not far,
Where im from, the dope boys is the rock stars,
But they can’t cop cars without seein’ cop cars,
I guess they want us all behind bars.
I know it.
(top comment on that video; I miss the old Kanye)
He created music that millions of people enjoyed which eventually led to the growth of his fan base, which then in turn made him relevant and known assuring the success of his future content and albums. The pattern which I was speaking of is manifested by the recent release of his album ”Yeezus”. The morality values and themes of the Yeezus album are drastically offensive and share almost virtually no similarities to his ”Late Registration” album. Keep in mind that its kinda fucked up for someone to go from making a masterpiece of a song like Jesus Walks, to then releasing a album titled Yeezus 4-5 years later.
Honestly I could drop another million examples of this “career progression” pattern but I’m pretty sure that I’ve made my point regarding the influence that a label has on the content created by the artist. MIA faced the same challenge when her label told her album ”Matangi” was too positive. I can kinda understand the frustration of many artists who’s fans believe that they started on a positive note, to only eventually drown themselves in duchebaggery and riches, when in reality the labels are to blame. I even remember watching a Breakfast Club interview with Kanye saying; “It’s like the Hunger Games out there” (I don’t know if that was a product placement for the movie, if not that’s some scary shit). He also went on to explaining the relation between the music industry and the prison industrial complex. Which then leads me to talk about other artists like Chief Keef who aren’t aware of the impact that their music has on a larger scale, his most popular song ”I don’t like” contains lyrics which literally perhaps inadvertently influences young kids (the majority of his targeted fan-base) that they should shoot each other rather than brawl with their fists.
Bitch we GBE, fuck who don’t like
And we ain’t gon’ fight, our guns gon’ fight
And yet, the public wonders why south Chicago (his hometown) is currently is currently a blood-bath. The point I’m trying to make is that music whether we like it or not, music in general has a significant influence on our lives. It can dictate the way we behave, the way we dress, what we like, how we perceive ourselves and how we treat woman. There’s a psychological study which suggest that retail music (yes that shitty lyric-less elevator music) can even influence your buying behavior, which makes me wonder what other sort of behavior can music alter?
The last thing I’m going to rant about is the concept of identity. I love music more then the next individual but I’ve set myself a strict rule to simply enjoy and appreciate music, I consider it very important to not idolize the artist.
Plus I am still hella sick, tell a doctor
I’m revitalized, please don’t idolize me
Only one G.O.D
(Do or die Swollen Members)
In the end of the day an artist most of the time in the music industry is simply a brand. Most people make the mistake of imitating the artists they idolize. That results in buying or consuming the products they wear or advertise on their music videos, voluntary involvement in activities or actions that the artist may have claimed he or she has done and etch… (I’m sure you get the big picture).
I shall conclude my rant with a clever comparison; a person’s identity is kind of like a sandwich, as life pursues its course, more ingredients are added into that sandwich, various ingredients derive from parental figures, Idols, religious figures and hopefully for some activists. Therefore personally for me Idolizing and embracing Chief Keef’s shooting rather than fighting ideology is kind of like scratching your nut sack after a long run and spreading the accumulated sweaty dirt crumbs into your sandwich, nobody wants to eat that sandwich.
P.S Ill finish that damn painting soon stay tuned for updates