Is Hip Hop Mentally Challenged Music?:
The Reign of Retarded Rap
Min. Paul Scott
Over the last two years, Black America has been discussed by the mainstream media perhaps more times than in recent history. Between Don Imus, the Jena 6 and the presidential election, for a moment, it began to seem that black folks were, at least, beginning to put serious issues on the forefront. I began to think that our people were finally beginning to wake up. However, when I turned on 106 and Park and saw black men just an hour shy of 40 talking to 12 year old girls on their level, I faced the grim reality that the cycle of mis-education continues.
In 1933, the great educator, Dr. Carter G. Woodson, wrote "If you can control a man's thinking, you do not have to worry about his actions." Although, "The Mis-education of the Negro" was written 75 years ago, the issues raised are just as relevant today, especially within the context of Hip Hop.
It is no secret that Hip Hop has been on a downward spiral, creatively and intellectually, for well over a decade. However, during the last couple of years, what can best be described as "retarded rap" (or for the politically correct "mentally challenged music") has dominated commercial Hip Hop. While the issues of violence and misogyny have been addressed to no end, its blatant anti-intellectualism is rarely discussed with such emphasis.
It can be argued that even during Hip hop's most violent period, the lyrics of NWA and Tupac Shakur, at least contained some substance. There is a qualitative difference between NWA's "Straight Outta Compton" and Soulja Boy's "She Gotta Donk." At least the followers of THUG Life could deliver a half thought out attempt at apologetics.
Most disturbing is that for the first time in the history of African people, the youth are dictating the dynamics of black intelligence. Although, BET's 106 and Park is one of the most popular programs on cable television, there is something fundamentally wrong with a society when 30 something year old rappers are on the same wave length as teeny boppers.
It is undeniable that there has been a conscious effort for the powers that be to keep black people in a perpetual state of ignorance.
Going back over 400 years to the genesis of the African Holocaust (Trans Atlantic Slave Trade) we see that of the first things that the slave traders did was to control the means of communication by taking the drum.
It must be noted, as of 140 years ago, teaching black people how to read was a crime punishable by death. Later, even though the segregated school systems had their good points in regards to the attention given to the total well being of black children, the schools, themselves, were separate and unequal in their access to resources. Even the modern day educational system has been set up to maintain a permanent underclass.
Therefore, the all encompassing nature of mis-education must not solely be looked upon in generational terms. As Dr. Woodson pointed out, even the most highly educated are not able to escape the slave mentality. So much so that even powerful, college educated black people who own 100 media outlets and reach millions of black people , everyday, still cannot come up with a way to counter the mis-education of black children. In fact, they are willing accomplices with the mentacide of Afrikan people, to borrow a phrase coined by Dr. Bobby Wright.
Steve Biko once said that the most powerful weapon of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed. So, while it is often said that the goal of this educational system is to "leave no child behind," Capitalism, by nature makes such a grandiose task impossible as those in power have a vested interest in keeping the masses ignorant. Reason being that smart people ask too many questions. So, as Kwame Ture' taught us, there is a distinct difference between the "conscious" and the "unconscious."
The conscious ask why does the price of a $5 Hip Hop shirt made from slave labor rise to $100 when it gets in the store. The unconscious gladly hand over a c-note under the rationalization that if your gear ain't over priced then you ain't ballin'" The conscious ask why are the same mentally challenged five songs played on every commercial Hip Hop station in the country. The unconscious accept the worn out excuse that "this is what you guys want to hear" not realizing that it is in the best interest of the advertisers to keep the masses dumb. As they say, "a fool and his money are soon parted."
Quiet as it is kept, those who have been chosen as black leaders also have a vested interest in keeping the masses ignorant for if the masses were properly educated there would be no need for their leadership, as the masses would simply solve their own problems.
After all the hoopla that black leaders did over "cleaning up rap music" last year, at the end of the day, were the masses of black people more knowledgeable about payola, the inner workings of the music industry and the names and faces of the major shot callers?
So what do we do?
Yes, we must boycott "retarded rap" but we must redefine what we mean by the oft misused and abused term "boycott," in the context of developing a desired result. Does a victory mean that ignorance will be totally eradicated from the airwaves, that some ratio will be developed between the play rotation of conscious Hip Hop and mentally challenged music. Or does victory just mean that some leader will be allowed to sit on a panel at BET to discuss the problem, once a year?
We must develop a leaderless Campaign Against Mis-Education (C.A.M.E.) in communities across the country where the masses of the people take it upon themselves to develop strategies to fight mis-education with education by doing such things as starting an email campaign to demand that conscious Hip Hop (especially from local artists) gets airplay on local stations and demand that in the midst of entertainment, the local station must devote some time to education as a condition for "borrowing" the airwaves. We must also develop a coalition of conscious radio hosts across the country that will circulate information as well as conscious Hip Hop so that we do not have to be so dependent on commercial radio.
As Bob Marley once sang, "Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery. None but ourselves can free our minds."
Min. Paul Scott represents the Messianic Afrikan Nation in Durham NC. He can be reached at (919) 451-8283 firstname.lastname@example.org