Hip Hop vs America or America vs Hip Hop:
Tale of Two Trials
Min. Paul Scott
Hip Hop was on trial twice last night. One was Hip Hop vs America Pt. 1, a prerecorded attempt by Black Entertainment Television to appease its viewers after years of complaints which came to a broil after last Summer's ill advised "Hot Ghetto Mess" Reality Show. The other was "America vs Hip Hop," sponsored by the Subcommittee of Commerce Trade and Consumer Protection of the Committee on Energy and Commerce . The first one was catered towards a predominately young, black teeny bopper audience who had just finished watching videos on "106 and Park" and wanted to to see if Nelly had gotten any new gold teeth since his last CD. The other was for the rest of mainstream America who have grown sick and tired of a bunch of young black "thugs" ruining "their" country.
The BET special was pretty much what you would expect from the company, a weak attempt at self criticism with bumpin' videos and applause signs. Perhaps Part 2 will get "deep" but Part 1 did little to elevate the "rap" beyond the realm of where it has been since C. Delores Tucker dissed Pac back in the early 90's.
"You don't understand Hip Hop!"
"And you, young man, need to pull your pants up!"
You still have the same panelists from the older generation trying to to be a parent/buddy friend to 30 somethin' year old millionaire Hip Hop artists. Dr. Michael Eric Dyson did the Biggie rap thing that he has been showcasing since the mid 90's and rappers, Nelly and T.I. proved once again that loud "don't" make it right.
T.I. kinda lost me with the whole "I have to trick my fans into learning" logic. (or lack thereof)
Not to mention his brilliant theory that the problem with Hip Hop is "you got fake thugs rappin' about being real thugs who never were thugs instead of real rappers rappin' about being real...."
Oh, never mind.
And then Nelly came with the "it's not fair to judge me based on a four minute rap video with credit cards being slid through a black woman's booty" defense.
What else can we judge you by Nelly? Your PH.D dissertation on "The Juxtaposition of Capitalism and Marxist Leninism?"
Down the way in DC, "From Imus to Industry: The Business of Stereotypes and Degrading Images," hearing called together by Senator Bobby Rush featured Master P and David Banner along with activists and industry big wigs such as Edgar Broffman and Doug Morris.
Needless to say, the theme of the hearing was problematic in itself.
Although Hip Hop activists have raised this issue over the last five months, it cannot be overstated that this current national discussion on the state of Hip Hop is a diversionary tactic in the aftermath of the Michael Richards/Don Imus controversies to take the focus off of institutionalized racism and white male bigotry and replace it with a focus on dirty dancin' and baggy pants.
While the efforts of former Black Panther Bobby Rush may be commended, would his time not have been better served making sure that a thorough congressional hearing on Reparations for the descendants of enslaved Africans takes place. Or hearings on COINTELPRO, for which groups like the Jericho Project have been advocating that could result in the exoneration of his former Panther comrades and other political prisoners still locked in jail and in exile ?
Also, it must be also noted that if we look at the emphasis that America has put on Hip Hop compared with the coverage of stories like the Jena 6 and the black woman that was tortured in West VA, the comparison is troubling.
What is unfortunate is that many of us do not see this current Hip Hop controversy in socio-political terms. While the kiddie converation on BET may have had a better looking stage, the meeting in DC could set public policy for generations to come.
Did anybody think to ask where the Hip Hop discussion fit in the agenda of the Subcommittee of Commerce Trade and Consumer Protection on a highly compartmentalized Capitol Hill?
Did anyone notice that the committee is in charge of dealing with some Homeland Security related matters? So which part of Hip Hop are the feds really concerned about; the "misogynist" lyrics of a Nelly or the inflammatory political rap of a M1 of Dead Prez?
At the end of the day , were we any closer to improving Hip Hop than were were before the BET program and congressional hearing?
BET promised another earth shakin' sequel to Tuesday night's show (So what are they gonna do for a grand finale, have TI punch Rev. Al in the mouth?) and the people in DC came to the consensus that censorship ain't cool, def, or funky fresh.
Is there really a difference between gangsta rapper, "Killa T" grabbin' his crotch and yellin' "I'm just keepin' it real for the homies in tha hood" and Viacom head honcho Phillipe Dauman sitting before Congress and saying with a straight face, "We have a responsibility to speak authentically to our viewers ?"
What we need is a clear analysis of the Hip Hop problem based on facts and not prejudiced by political bamboozlin' and hero worshippin' of rappers.
With a clear analysis we could raise the level of consciousness of the Hip Hop connosiers so high that neither Hip Hop hearings nor censorship would even be necessary.
Min. Paul Scott is a writer and activist in Durham NC. For more info visit http://www.hiphopstrikesback.com
(919) 451-8283 firstname.lastname@example.org