Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Hip-Hop - Beyond Beats and Rhymes

My thoughts on Grandmaster Flash, Chuck D., and the demise of Rap music

Watch an interesting documentary (at the end of this post) about the problems with American Hip Hop culture. The documentary is titled above. But before I get to that, here is a great underground interview with Chuck D. from just a few weeks ago. Pardon the sound quality. It gets better as the interview moves along.

Listen Here

Next, NPR put together a great segment about Grandmaster Flash’s induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. They are certainly deserving of the honor. I grew up to their music, way back when- When rap was still something exciting and it didn’t make you feel ashamed of being who you were. In fact, depending on who you were…it might have even given you some pride.

The first rap album (LP’s back then) that I owned was a Grandmaster Flash record. I remember bringing it home & putting it on. The Message stood the test of time. I liked most of the 70’s & 80’s rap groups….especially Public Enemy, Big Daddy Kane (when he was saying something), Rakim, Tribe Called Quest, X-Clan, Poor Righteous Teachers, Kurtis Blow, Jungle Brothers, Latifah, De La Soul, & Stetsasonic. These groups turned rap into art. But that was a different time. Hip Hop later became such a sewer that the whole industry got tainted. It’s now hard to find groups/artists today like those I just mentioned.

Hear NPR Segment on Grandmaster Flash

Hear the NPR Segment on Hip Hops Decline

I just hope the Rock Hall doesn’t go beyond the Grandmaster Flash era. Because there is an almost night and day difference between the rap music & culture from that era and the rap music & culture of today. The last thing that Black folks need is to have institutions like the Rock Hall get these two very different eras mixed up and confused. I would probably finally lose my mind & go postal if I saw human waste products like Snoop Dogg, or Three Six Mafia, being inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame (representing Black folks of course). There was a clear historical change in Rap that occurred in the very late 1980’s-early 1990’s (especially the early 90’s), when rap merged with the actual street gang culture of Los Angeles. The mixture of Police issues, crack cocaine turf wars, etc thoroughly changed the face of the rap industry. From there, thug rap/gangster rap was born. Rap has been a cancer ever since.

NPR goes on to ask the question- Is Rap Dying? The question was raised in the context of low sales. My response is- I hope to God that it is finally dying! Death has been a long time coming for the decrepit rap industry. May it rest in everlasting peace. And good riddance. According to the segment, young Blacks are finally beginning to recognize Rap & Rap Culture as the poison that it really is. Now I just wish they would show some action to back up that sentiment; such as boycotting this music, and holding record companies accountable. But I’m not going to hold my breath. I have learned not to hold my breath waiting for Black folks to do anything.

Well, Angry Independent…. Why do you always get so upset about the subject of Rap/Hip Hop? First of all, I don’t even like discussing this topic on this blog, but when I do I am on the attack. For those of you who may not be familiar with this blog- I make it no secret that I despise Rap/Hip Hop & the Black Culture that embraces it. I hate it with an unwavering passion. In fact, I don’t know if there is anything that I hate more than Rap….. War (unjust war) is pretty close…. Child molesters are close too. But you get the picture.

I was cured from this sickness (Listening to Rap) about 16 years ago; and for the past 10 years I have been at war against Hip Hop in my own way. Rap/Hip Hop has been more damaging to Black folks (particularly young Black men and women) than the crack cocaine & AIDS epidemics combined. It has been more damaging than the KKK. The negative influence of this industry & its culture is so dominant & its devastation so complete that I cannot think of anything else, with the exception of slavery, that has had a bigger adverse impact on Black people.

This industry has changed the image of Black American men in this country, and around the world, from human to animal in just the last 15 years or so (in historical terms, damn near overnight). It has turned Black men into beasts- just like Primates, in the eyes of the wider public. And we wonder why Black men are often portrayed as beast-like. You see, the KKK was never able to do that. They used to hang our fathers, rape our mothers and daughters, and burn our homes, but they never had the power to steal our dignity & humanity. But Rap has accomplished what the KKK could not. And it only took Rap 15 years or so to do what the KKK couldn’t do over a period of generations (142 years to be exact). Racist terrorists no longer have to physically do anything to Black folks. They have graduated to the new millennium in their approach. Today, hurting Blacks is as easy as programming a computer to carry out certain tasks on its own, without any physical involvement from the programmer. Blacks have now become programmed to bring harm upon themselves at some time in the future, eventually reaching the same end that the KKK would provide. No KKK kidnappings, arsons, rapes, or lynchings necessary. Rap & Rap culture (especially the images) are a key part of that mental programming.

That just shows the power that Rap has over Black people…especially Black youth. It has become so powerful in recent years that non-Blacks who don’t know any better now associate Rap culture with Black culture in general. In other words, Rap culture, to them, represents the general “Black Culture”. This only helps feed the stereotypes. Unfortunately, this has become the image of American Blacks worldwide.

To a large extent Rap/Hip Hop culture does represent a large segment of the wider Black culture (unfortunately)- This is why I hate most of modern Black culture as it stands today. BUT- Black Americans are not a monolith. There are so many different facets to Black folks in this country & to the wider culture. Unfortunately many non-Blacks have a view that is so clouded by this nonsense that oftentimes they do not get to see all the different facets of Black folks.

What is even more sickening is how the “Black establishment” has embraced the degenerate, self destructive Rap culture- when they should be challenging it. They know who they are. And just to be clear on one thing- when I say I hate “Rap/Hip Hop” I am not referring to the 2% of folks who are out there like Chuck D., X-Clan, etc… those folks who are few and far between, who offer a different message and different image (But who can’t get their CD’s played on the local s**t radio stations or on “Empty V“).

You can attack & shut down health programs, shut down educational or job training programs benefiting minorities, cut funding for meals in schools, discriminate in hiring or worker treatment, call Black women b--ches etc etc… and it can be done with no worries at all, because so called “Black America” won’t do a God Damn thing. There would barely be a whimper. But if someone even tried to shut down any of the various cancers broadcasting over the airwaves to the “Black Community” (talking about ignorant Black urban Rap/R&B radio stations) there would be an uproar. Negroes would come out in force to protest against it, so that they can continue to get their daily brain-screwing.

Why has it come to this?

And I’m still waiting for Black women to wake up, & and stand up en masse to say enough is enough. But if I hold my breath on this one, I’d be a dead man. Because I really don’t expect that to happen…at least not anytime soon .

Chuck D. mentioned in the documentary that Black men will be the catalyst for changing this dreadful situation. But I cannot say I agree. Black women will be the key to changing this. I believe much of this is actually driven by Black women (Thanks to the likes of Beyonce). Listen to the Beyonce/Destiny's Child song "Soldier". I was disgusted by it. Of course I heard it on the radio... I wouldn't waste a dime on anything these women make. Here you have Black women making it known that they prefer a thug as opposed to positive, educated, responsible, father-figure type men who would be good role models for children (And folks wonder why I hate most of the commercial Rhythm and Bull$hit music made after 1992). No wonder the Black family is in tatters.

That song has unfortunately become representative of the larger “Black culture”. It’s one reason why I cannot stand singers like Beyonce, or nearly all other female singers from her generation. And needless to say, she is considered one of the top figures who other young Black women look up to and want to emulate.

If Black women said one day- No more- we will no longer accept this image or this idea of what a Black man is. We now want & appreciate, and will only deal with educated, hardworking, law abiding, Black men who will make good fathers, and who respect women, etc- then this bull$hit would end rather quickly. Right now it seems that Black women are actually encouraging this thug behavior, rather than discouraging it. Not to mention… Black women continue to support the rap artists by buying their records, and supporting their clothing lines, etc.

It’s enough to Make Me Wanna Holler & Throw Up Both My Hands.

Now onto the documentary…. It is strong all the way through. Although I don't agree with every assertion that is made in it. For example, the Director seems to make too much of an effort to suggest that this problem is ultimately the White Man's fault...when that is complete bullshit. The Director does not hold Black folks accountable enough. Other than that, the program was great. But Beware of strong language and a few adult themes.
I particularly was baffled by the part where the White guy from Columbus Ohio stated that Rap started in the early 1990’s (he clearly didn’t have a clue). I also was sickened by the group of White folks who admitted having the view that Rap represented the wider Black Culture.

This is why this negative, commercial rap poison must be destroyed in this country.

Then there is the BET executive who was in the film. BET is a disgrace to Black folks… That network makes me embarrassed to be Black.

Hip Hop: Beyond Beats & Rhymes


Anonymous said...

mad shit, im white from australia and i grew up with the JB's, tribe, PE, BDP etc etc and think that there's still good hip hop around but the stuff that I consider really good, gets no airplay or discussion by "industry types" or radio people so it feels like ya listening to forgotten music. great film.

Anonymous said...


im glad to see a documentary was made on this topic. Me and my girls always end up in a heated discussion as to why men feel they have to be the way they are with women. I do agree with the person that wrote the article as well. I am tired of hearing how the white man is the blame of it all. when do we start taking charge and responsibility for our actions. we are grown able bodied human beings with brains and limbs. we need to do better as a people. BET DISGUSTS ME!!! im glad that it isnt a secret at how horrible of an image that station gives black people. Not to say that they are horrible cause they play these videos(like he said he isnt the one making the videos) but they accept and feed off of it. I think about my lil god daughter and the future children i want to bring into this world and i just cringe at the images my black babies will have to see in order to give themselves a name!!

Im glad they got Talib in on this as well. he is a true educated hip hop head!

also, there is another documentary called Before the music Dies. Another documentary on how the business men make money off musicians. check it out!


Very interesting!

Tafari said...

I loved tis doc & posted about it recently. hip-hop (now) & bet is a plague that needs to be stricken from our community!


Anonymous said...

This is a GREAT film. I saw the screening of it at the Decatur Library in January. Finally someone is stepping up and calling a spade a spade.

Anonymous said...

Yes it was really interesting, very good documentary.

It is really frustrating the negative stereotypes some of these popular rappers put across and the harmful effect it has on the youth and the perception of black men in general.

In the UK at the moment we're celebrating the abolition of slavery and there are programmes on tv documenting it. But can you believe that on the BBC which is the main broadcaster they're going to be showing a programme about black men and the size of their.......... I doubt that they would have made a programme entitled black women.......

Ive never seen that Nelly tip drill video before, cant believe that women let him swipe that card the way he did......!!!

I dont think that this status quo will ever change though. At the end of the day this type of music makes the corporations a lot of money, money makes the world go round, and its a capitalist society. In any case the main purchasers of rap are the middle class peeps who are not affected by the drama it creates anyway, they dont want change. Plus there will always be a stream of rappers out there who are willing to sell their soul to make money.

I dont think that rap is dead, there is so much out there which is positive and inspirational rap and RnB.

I watched a really intersting documentary about young black boys and crime and rap music. A really interesting point which was made by these boys is that they really dont have a lot of other role models apart from these rappers and sports stars. A lot of them come from single parent homes headed by women, they dont know who there dad is and no other ways to conduct themselves, or see other ways to behave, theres no one their guiding them so they fall into the hands of these gangs etc who model them selves on these rappers?

So maybe an important part of combating the negative images of black people is to try and stregthen family and community ties as a means of guiding the youth. Men have to play a more important part and be there for their children and the young boys who are being damaged by these negative stereotypes.

Anonymous said...

This is probably one of the most biased and ignorant docmentaries i have ever read about hip hop, and i have read alot.

Anonymous said...

Who ever said this: one of the most biased and ignorant documentaries i have ever read about hip hop.
You don't understand film making. The Director is NOT stating that this is the ONLY side of Hip-Hop. He has time length that he needs to keep so the film can be shown in classes, etc. and message that he needs to get across in that short time lengh. As for "bias and ignorant," I couldn't disagree more. His intent was not to make a documentary about rap music as a whole. He wanted to explore the misogyny, violence and homophobia in rap music. How the portrayal and repetition of these images of African American Men and women perpetuate stereotypes and affect their community. He does not attribute it to one thing or pass blame, he only raise the question. Also, what is ignorant about this? It is ignorant not to question the hegemonic norms of a particular culture/sub-culture and how they are affected by images, media, etc. I am sure that the only ignorant statement that was made was your post. Please do the world a favor and sign up for your local community college, read a book, and step out of the box that you are in.