Survivin' the Era of Terror:
How 9/11 Missed Hip Hop
TRUTH Minista Paul Scott
September 11, 2001 is a day that will never be forgotten. On that day, an event happened that will effect the lives of generations for decades to come; socially, politically and economically. No, I'm not talking about the attack on the World Trade Center, 9/11/01 was also the day that Jay Z released The Blueprint...
This week, when many people reflect on what they were doing the moment the Twin Towers fell that faithful Tuesday in '01, most won't admit that they were standing in line trying to be the first person on their block to get the new Jay Z CD but that pretty much sums up the collective attitude of Hip Hop during a 10 year period known as the "Era of Terror." It can be argued that The Blueprint had more of an impact on Hip Hop than the attack on the World Trade.
While the 9/11 attack sparked a "War on Terror" that would have a major impact on nations around the planet for decades to come, the effect on the Hip Hop Nation has been minimal, at best.
But was this a matter of apathy or fear?
Maybe the streets just didn't care. For residents of the hood who were constantly trapped between gang wars and crooked cops, 9/11 was just another day in the neighborhood. One more problem to add to the 99 others that we faced on a daily basis. As long as it didn't mean that cable would get cut off or the club would shut down for the weekend, it was what it was.
The fear factor probably played a greater role, especially among the rappers, themselves. And who could blame them? Historically, Uncle Sam has never taken too kindly to being dissed in front of the world.
Dr. Martin Luther King did not really start catching major heat from the Feds until he spoke out against the Vietnam War and Muhammad Ali got his world championship belt snatched because he refused to fight a bunch of Vietcong who "never called him a nigger."
Rappers weren't the first artists to punk out when the price of Freedom of Speech got too high. During the 60's even outspoken artists such as The Beatles and Bob Dylan were accused of abandoning the anti-war struggle to either smoke dust or start making nonpolitical, country music. Not much different than the rappers of today who would rather smoke blunts and go jewelry shopping than fight the power.
We have to remember that the period immediately following 9/11 wasn't the best time to attack America's policies as the general public was out for blood and George Bush was playing an international game of "Who Shot Ya." If the good ol boys would call for the heads of the Dixie Chicks for chin checkin' G-Dub, imagine what they would have done to the brothers on the block?
Although, not totally clear on the legal ramifications of the Patriot Acts, rappers were pretty clear that political Hip Hop was deemed illegal in at least one of them. Nobody wanted to be seen as part of Bush's Axis of Evil. Spending a few months on Riker's Island was one thing but nobody wanted to wind up in a cell in Guantanamo Bay, never to be heard from again.
Remember, we saw how the face of terrorism could change overnight from "Middle Eastern" to a young black male in the hood when back in 2006, seven black men in Liberty City Florida were brought up on trumped up charges of plotting to blow up the Sears Tower in Chicago.
So most in mainstream Hip Hop decided it was best to keep quiet in the immediate aftermath of 9/11. (Unless, you count Petey Pablo doing his ultra-patriot USA remix to "Raise Up. Making him the first rapper to raise his hand when Bush threw down the mandate "you are either with us or against us.")
A few artists did speak out against America's foreign policies. The usual rap revolutionaries like Public Enemy, Paris and a few others continued to do what they did best; challenge the staus quo. Also, relative newcomers like Immortal Technique began to make their fans think that there was more to the story than what they were seeing on the news. In the mainstream, fueled by the popularity of documentaries like Fahrenheit 9/11 and Loose Change, a few mainstream artists such as Eminem and Jadakis began to either literally or figuratively accuse Bush of "knocking down the towers." Also, a new group named the Black Eyed Peas asked "Where is the Love" but perhaps the most hardcore hate letter to the Prez was penned by Fredwreck and the STOP Movement.
The period has not been without it's random Sister Souljah moments such as KRS's "chickens coming home to roost-like " statement at a New Yorker Magazine panel discussion or the infamous Kanye West post- Katrina revelation that "George Bush doesn't like black people,"
However, these were exceptions to the rule of a Hip Hop "culture" that has been increasingly more obsessed with producing materialistic, Maybach music instead of message music. Instead of dealing with serious issues it is safer and easier just to simply pretend that they do not exist and the world is no bigger than the block on which one lives.
For the most part over the last decade, Hip Hop has remained mostly apolitical and detached from reality. A great escape to a mystical land where the champagne is always flowing and the strip clubs never close. Even when the rest of the world is at war.
TRUTH Minista Paul Scott can be reached at (919) 451-8283 or firstname.lastname@example.org