Black Like He:
Will Obama Change Hip Hop?
Hate it or love it, the one good thing that can be said about commercialized Hip Hop of the thuggish variety (gangsta rap) is its resilience.
The day after a nuclear holocaust, the only things that will be left on the planet will be roaches, Spam and Snoop Dog.
Since its "official" coming out party in the form of NWA's "Straight Outta Compton, a generation ago, the longevity of lyrics spoutin' tales of drug slangin, gang bangin' and bling blingin' boggles the mind. While other forms of music have come and gone over the years, "gangsta rap" remains as strong as ever with the original members of NWA and its immediate offspring still crankin' out cds like they did almost 20 years ago.
Although, the early fathers of conscious Hip Hop warned the gangsta's about the legacy they were leaving for the future generations of black youth, the thugs had the last laugh as their words have been immortalized while the lyrics of the conscious have faded into obscurity.
Commercial Hip Hop has survived two Bushes, two wars and 9/11. Even when the winds of change were blowin' like Hurricane Katrina, Hip Hop stood firm in its policy of socio-political apathy. I still can't figure out, for the life of me, how the rappers got past the Million Million Man March's Day of Atonement without atoning back in '95.
But the question facing Hip Hop in 2009, is "can it survive four years of Obama?"
Since, its inception, "gangsta-ism" has promoted itself as being a reflection of what was going on in economically depressed communities. The gangstas have always prided themselves as being more realistic than their alter egos such as Public Enemy with their Utopian ideas of a pro black paradise. Even their harshest hata's had their criticisms betrayed by their own statistics of the drugs, crime and unemployment that plagued "da hood."
It was assumed at the genesis of the gangsta that the societal problems disproportionately affecting the black community would force even the hardest, grimace faced rapper to, in time, become a reluctant revolutionary. But actions ranging from the Rodney King beating to the shooting of unarmed black men like Sean Bell failed to produce anything more than the one obligatory F*** the Police cut on a few cd's.
Even the benign neglect that Black and Latino communities suffered over the last decade only seemed to feed into the escapist fantasy world of the ballas who preached that if you dropped out of high school to slang rock or hustle a demo, you too could live the life of the hood rich and ghetto fabulous.
Even though time has gone by, are the masses of black people, collectively better off than they were 20 years ago?
Maybe, Hip Hop hasn't changed because black life hasn't changed measurably since 1989. The oppressed are still oppressed and the condition of the permanent underclass is still permanent.
It has been the job of the media giants of Capitalism to cram the collective suffering of black folks into a bottle and sell it to mainstream America for $14.99.
But with the election of Barack Obama, the forecast for black folks has gone from gloomy to sunny. Now whether, this is a crack pipe dream or reality remains to be seen. But like the old Sprite commercial used to claim "image is everything."
Can the thugs, playa's and ballas answer the challenge of the "spirit of the new black man" that is embodied in Obama, a spirit that has the audacity to make change instead of just writing lyrics complaining about how bad things are?
For the most part, the view of black men by America has been myopic. Hip Hop has capitalized off of the idea of the average black man being a somewhat uneducated victim of society "doin' what he's gotta do to survive."
But now here comes a Harvard educated black man with just enough swagga to captivate the imagination of America and enough of a community activist background to give him street cred. He may even puff on a Newport every now and then to appease a Hip Hop generation trying to come to grips with its own vices.
How will the anti-intellectual nature of Hip Hop adapt when Knowledge really reigns supreme over everybody to a degree that the Blastmaster ,himself, never thought possible.
Forget Cool J, ladies love Obama. I remember watching the election night coverage, last November and seeing black women in a state of ecstasy like they were at an Usher concert. Suppose, instead of wanting some thug luvin' from 50, sistas started givin' some love to the educated rapper? Instead of wanting to hear some nasty lyrics whispered in their ears in the back of the club, black women in '09 will be in the back of the library begging a bookworm to, "Quote something from the Harvard Law Review to me, Daddy."
Economically speaking, we are approaching a time when throwin' C-Notes at strippers and spending hundreds of dollars poppin' Champagne while black children, globally, go to bed hungry, will no longer be in vogue. We are entering an age when the Marxist philosophy of "from each according to his ability, to each according to his need" will become the flava of the month.
As the formerly indestructible wall of Capitalism continues to shatter into a thousand pieces and the new president leads America into something closely resembling Socialism, one dreads to think about the fate of those who once proudly touted their bling in front of their poverty stricken fans even during the height of a recession. In the very near future, the snatching of gold chains will become less about dissin' and more about making a political statement over the evils of materialism.
The one thing that the changing political climate will do is force rappers to leave Never Never Land and finally grow up. In, 2009 we will be facing grown man decisions that only grown men and women can make. Hip Hop must either roll with the coming tide or get swept away by it.
Like a song writer once said, eventually, "everything must change."
Even Hip Hop.
Paul Scott, the Hip Hop TRUTH Minista writes for No Warning Shots Fired.com. http://www.nowarningshotsfired.com/ He can be reached at (919) 451-8283 or firstname.lastname@example.org