Why Hip Hop Must Return to Rap:
Lyrics of Fury
TRUTH Minista Paul Scott
Last week , Hip Hop headz gathered for the 20th annual, "Emergency Meeting to Save Hip Hop" Conference to discuss, once again, ways to save the dying art form. All was going well until underground emcee "Intellect" suggested that the lack of lyricism was destroying Hip Hop culture. Outraged, platinum selling artist, " Mo' Ron Nik," busted him upside the head with a bottle of Rose' and left the building with his gangsta goons as the crowd applauded his "reppin' real Hip Hop." Not realizing that they were part of the problem....
The debate over Hip Hop vs Rap has been a source of heated arguments for almost a generation. However, most of these arguments never rise above the level of semantics or someone quoting KRS's oft used line "Hip Hop is what you live, rap is what you do."
However when Hip Hop artists stop "doing rap" we are stuck with a bunch of knucklheadz promoting swagga over substance. What we have seen over the last decade is a steady decrease in lyricism, which is why Hip Hop has ceased to be a source of social change and is now just a weak marketing tool used to pimp ignorance, death and destruction. In essence, we have lost respect for the power of the spoken word.
Respect for "the word" goes back thousands of years. The scriptures teach us that "in the beginning was the word." Also in his book , "The Afrocentric Idea" Dr. Molefi Asante discusses the concept of nommo in traditional African societies which he defines as, "the generative and productive power of the spoken word."
Although the power of the word has been traditionally revered by civilized societies, it has also been feared by those who seek to exploit the masses of the people. The goal of the oppressor has always been to control "rapping" or the transmission of thoughts and ideas that challenge their rule.
Kwame Nkruimah said in his book "Consciencism ," "social revolution must, therefore, have standing firmly behind it , an intellectual revolution; a revolution in which our thinking and philosophy are directed towards the redemption or our society" which is in sharp contrast to the Hip Hop artists of today who are determined to put us back on the plantation.
While some may argue that Rap is just one of the elements of Hip Hop which also, includes "B-Boying, Graffiti and DeeJaying," it must be noted that break-dancing never sparked a social revolution, graffiti on a subway has never challenged the socio-political domination of the world elite and neither has deejaying ever contributed to the protracted struggle against Imperialism. However, rapping in the form of words of power that "moved the crowd" (to borrow from Eric B and Rakim) has done all the above.
We must be clear, it was not Hip Hop "swagga" that sent shock waves throughout America during the late 80's-early 90's but the rap analyses of artists such as Professor Griff and Sister Souljah. Also, the mixing of rap lyrics with the speeches of Malcolm X, Dr. Khalid Muhammad and Minister Louis Farrakhan during that period, blurred the line between where rap ended and revolution began. Not to mention that many artists of the period were, merely , doing rhythmic versions of the information of black scholars and researchers such as George GM James, Steve Cokely and Dr. Frances Cress Welsing, making it more palatable to the masses.
It is for this reason that the industry has waged war against lyrics , with MTV even elevating self- proclaimed ,non-lyrical Hip Hopper Waka Flocka Flame to one of the top 10 artists of 2010.
One must remember that back in 2002, the same company censored Public Enemy's video "Gotta Give the Peeps" which included the lyrics "Free Mumia (Abu-Jamal) and H. Rap Brown (Jamil Al Amin)." Although, members of Public Enemy were know for their intellectual statements, perhaps the greatest fear of the industry is that on any given day, even a dumb rapper might say something smart.
We must remember that back in 2007, it was alleged that a certain "Lyric Committee" at Interscope records prevented the release of an anti-police brutality song by former G Unit member, Young Buck.
In our current political climate, it is more important now than ever to hear strong black voices. It is doubtful that Hip Hop can be that instrument, as commercialism has rendered it impotent. According to activist, Sham Pu Keilyn, "Rap is the art form not Hip Hop." He argues that while anybody can claim Hip Hop, only a "highly skilled melanated being can truly rap."
This is why we are advocating that members of the "conscious" Hip Hop community reclaim the term RAP, which, in this case, could stand for "Revelation And Power." We are calling for a "conscious coup;" an overthrowing of the Hip Hop oligarchy.
Karl Marx once suggested that the seed of the destruction of Capitalism lies within its own contradictions, so it is with Hip Hop, as it strives to be simultaneously, the voice of the oppressed and the tool of the oppressor.
Although some Hip Hop purists will consider tampering with Hip Hop, sacrilege, it must be done. While, some my feel that they have an inherent right to define Hip Hop, no man has a monopoly on Rap ( nommo, the spoken word) as it originates from the Creator and has been passed down through the ancestors. It is on this principle that we take our uncompromising stand.
Even the most dogmatic defenders of Hip Hop will have to admit that it is time for a change. We can no longer engage in what Dr. Frances Cress Welsing ,in her essay "Black Fear and the Failure of Black Analytical Commitment'" calls "circular thought: moving from problem perception, away from problem solution and back to problem perception." She argues that " there is never constant motion towards problem solution because to do so would " challenge and alter the power dynamic of oppression. "
So, as they say, "it's been real" but this is where we part ways. Those who want to use music to elevate the consciousness of the people rollin' with RAP and those who want to keep the masses deaf, dumb and blind going down with the sinking ship of Hip Hop.
Unless we reclaim Rap we will be still complaining about "what's wrong with Hip Hop" 20 years from now and even then, as Fred Hampton once said, still "coming up with answers that don't answer, explanations that don't explain and conclusions that don't conclude."
TRUTH Minista Paul Scott can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (919) 451-8283 For more information on the Intelligence Over Ignorance lecture series contact email@example.com