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Thread: Great Essay About the "Truth" in Hip-Hop

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    another day... Ms. Hershey's Avatar Ms. Hershey is offline
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    Great Essay About the "Truth" in Hip-Hop

    This is long, but so well worth the read...

    We Still Wear The Mask
    By Dr. William Jelani Cobb


    We could have known that it would come to this way back in 1896. That was the year that Paul Lawrence Dunbar dropped a jewel for the ages, telling the world that "we wear the mask that grins and lies." The poet's point was that beneath the camouflage of subservient smiles, black folks of the Jim Crow era were hiding a powder keg of other emotions, waiting patiently for the chance to detonate. The thing is, Dunbar never got the chance to spit bars with 50 Cent or throw in a guest collabo on a Mobb Deep album. If he had, then he would've known
    that grins and lies were only half the story.

    These days, camouflage is the new black. Glance at hip hop for less than a second and it becomes clear that the music operates on a single hope: that if the world mistakes kindness for weakness it can also be led to confuse meanness with strength. That principle explains why there is a permanent reverence for the thug within the music; it is why there is a murderer's grit and a jailhouse tat peering back at you
    from the cover of damn near any CD you picked up in the last five years. But what hip hop can't tell you, the secret that it would just as soon take to its deathbed is that it this urban bravado is a guise, a mask, a head-fake to shake the reality of fear and powerlessness in America. Hip hop will never admit that our assorted thugs and gangstas are not the unbowed symbol of resistance to marginalization, but the most complacent and passive products of it.

    We wear the mask that scowls and lies.

    You could see which way the wind was blowing way in the early 90s when Dr. Dre was being ripped off by white Ruthless Records CEO Jerry Heller, and nonetheless got his street cred up by punching and kicking Dee Barnes, a black woman journalist, down a flight of stairs. In this light, hip hop's obsessive misogyny makes a whole lot more sense. It is literally the logic of domestic violence. A man is abused by a larger society, but there are consequences to striking back at the source of his problems. So he transfers his anger to an acceptable
    outlet – the women and children in his own household, and by
    extension, all the black people who constitute his own community.

    Nothing better illustrates that point than the recent Oprah Debacle. Prior to last month, if you'd heard that a group of rappers had teamed up to attack a billionaire media mogul you would think that hip hop had finally produced a moment of collective pride on par with the black power fists of the 1968 Olympics. But nay, just more blackface.

    In the past two months, artists as diverse as Ludacris, 50 Cent and Ice Cube have attacked Oprah Winfrey for her alleged disdain for hip hop. It's is a sad but entirely predictable irony that the one instance in which hip hop's reigning alpha males summon the testicular fortitude to challenge someone more powerful and wealthy than they are, they choose to go after a black woman.

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    another day... Ms. Hershey's Avatar Ms. Hershey is offline
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    Part II

    The whole set up was an echo of some bad history. Two centuries ago, professional boxing got its start in America with white slaveholders who pitted their largest slaves against those from competing plantations. Tom Molineaux. First black heavyweight champion came up through the ranks breaking the bones of other slaves and making white men rich. After he'd broken enough of them, he was given his freedom.
    The underlying ethic was clear: an attack on the system that has made a slave of you will cost you your life, but an attack on another black person might just be the road to emancipation.

    The basis for this latest bout of black-on-black pugilism was Oprah's purported stiff-arming of Ludacris during an appearance on her show with the cast of the film Crash. Ludacris later complained that the host had made an issue of lyrics she saw as misogynistic. Cube jumped into the act whining that Oprah has had all manner of racist flotsam on her show but has never invited him to appear – proof, in his mind, that she has an irrational contempt for hip hop.

    But before we press charges, isn't 50 the same character who openly expressed his love for GW Bush as a fellow "gangsta" and demanded that the black community stop criticizing how he handled Hurricane Katrina? Compare that to multiple millions that Oprah has disseminated to our communities (including building homes for the Katrina families, financing HIV prevention in South Africa and that $5 million she dropped on Morehouse College alone) and the idea of an ex-crack dealer challenging her commitment to black folk becomes even more surreal.

    In spite of – or, actually, as a result of -- his impeccable gangsta credentials, 50 basically curtsied before a President who stayed on vacation for three days while black bodies floated down the New Orleans streets. No wonder it took a middle-class preppie with an African name and no criminal record to man-up and tell the whole world that "George Bush don't care about black folks." No wonder David Banner – a rapper who is just a few credits short of a Master's Degree in social work -- spearheaded hip hop's Katrina relief concerts, not any of his thug counterparts who are eternally shouting out the hoods
    they allegedly love.

    The 50 Cent, whose music is a panoramic vision on black-on-black homicide, and who went after crosstown rival Ja Rule with the vengeance of a dictator killing off a hated ethnic minority did everything but tap dance when Reebok told him to dismantle his porn production company or lose his lucrative sneaker endorsement deal.

    But why single out 50? Hip hop at-large was conspicuously silent when Bush press secretary Tony Snow (a rapper's alias if ever there was one) assaulted hip hop in terms way more inflammatory than Oprah's mild request:
    "Take a look at the idiotic culture of hip-hop and whaddya have? You have people glorifying failure. You have a bunch of gold-toothed hot dogs become millionaires by running around and telling everybody else that they oughtta be miserable failures and if they're really lucky maybe they can get gunned down in a diner sometime, like Eminem's old running mate."

    (We're still awaiting an outraged response from the thug community for that one.) Rush Limbaugh has blamed hip hop for everything short of the Avian flu but I can't recall a single hip hop artist who has gone after him lyrically, publicly or physically. Are we seeing a theme yet?

    It's worth noting that Ludacris did not devote as much energy to Bill O'Reilly -- who attacked his music on his show regularly and caused him to lose a multi-million dollar Pepsi endorsement – as he did to criticizing Oprah who simply stated that she was tired of hip hop's misogyny. Luda was content to diss O'Reilly on his next record and go about his business. Anyone who heard the interview that Oprah gave on Power 105.1 in New York knew she was speaking for a whole generation of hip hop heads when she said that she loved the music, but she wanted the artists to exercise some responsibility. But this response is not really about Oprah, or ultimately about hip hop, either. It is
    about black men once again choosing a black woman as the safest target for their aggression and even one with a billion dollars is still fair game.

    Of all their claims, the charge that Oprah sold out to win points with her white audience is the most tragically laughable. The truth is that her audience's white middle-class kids exert waaay more influence over 50 and Cube than their parents do over Oprah. I long ago tired of Cube, a thirty-something successful director, entrepreneur and married father of three children making records about his aged recollections of a thug's life. The gangsta theme went clichι eons ago, but Cube, 50
    and a whole array of their musical peers lack either the freedom or the vision to talk about any broader element of our lives. The reality is that the major labels and their majority white fan base will not accept anything else from them.

    And there we have it again: more masks, more lies.

    It is not coincidental that hip hop has made Ni@$a the most common noun in popular music but you have almost never heard any certified thug utter the word cracker, ofay, honky, peckerwood, wop, dago, guinea, kike or any other white-oriented epithet. The reason for that is simple: Massa ain't havin' it. The word fag, once a commonplace
    derisive in the music has all but disappeared from hip hop's
    vocabulary. (Yes, these thugs fear the backlash from white gays too.) And bitch is still allowed with the common understanding that the term is referring to black women. The point is this: debasement of black communities is entirely acceptable – required even – by hip hop's predominantly white consumer base.

    We have lived enough history to know better by now – to know that gangsta is Sonny Liston, the thug icon of his era, threatening to kill Cassius Clay but completely impotent when it came to demanding that this white handlers stop stealing his money. Gangsta is the black men at the Parchman Farm prison in Mississippi who beat the civil rights workers Fannie Lou Hamer and Annell Ponder into bloody unconsciousness because their white wardens told them to. Gangsta is Michael Ervin,
    NFL bad boy remaining conspicuously mute on Monday Night Football while Limbaugh dissed Donovan McNabb as an Affirmative Action athlete. Gangsta is Bigger Thomas with dilated pupils and every other sweaty-palmed black boy who saw method acting and an attitude as his ticket out of the ghetto.

    Surely our ancestors' struggles were about more than creating
    millionaires who could care less about us and then tolerating their violent disrespect out of a hunger for black success stories. Surely we are not so desperate for heroes that we uphold cardboard icons because they throw good glare. There's more required than that. The weight of history demands more than simply this. Surely we understand that these men are acting out an age-old script. Taking the Tom Molineaux route. Spitting in the wind and breaking black bones. Hoping to become free.

    Or, at least a well-paid slave.
    Last edited by Ms. Hershey; 07-22-2006 at 03:20 PM.

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    SAINTSational Nica's Avatar Nica is offline
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    I see with most of this article. The hip hop culture IMO is mostly degrading and I cannot understand why it is so readily accepted by so many. The sentiment that it's ok to be called the N word once is from a fellow black peron is one of the most troubling to me. I get so annoyed when users of the word try to justify using it.
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    xtremeintl.com Mystic Xtremist's Avatar Mystic Xtremist is offline
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    Quote Originally Posted by Val
    I see with most of this article. The hip hop culture IMO is mostly degrading and I cannot understand why it is so readily accepted by so many.
    Sorry, but you are very very wrong.
    There is nothing upon nothing wrong with hip-hop any more than any other medium.

    AMERICAN culture is what uplifts what is degrading.

    There is as much and most probably more positive within hip-hop music than you'll find within other musics.
    I could sit all day long listing the little known artists like Mos Def, Dead Prez, Common, etc who make good positive hip-hop. And it'd take 10 days more if I went into listing positive *unknown* artists.

    Why is no one asking the question, why are these artists not popular, over the 50-cent type artists (I refuse to put Luda in the category of negative music; he is the weakest example of negative hip-hop)? WHY?

    The answer lies with THE CONSUMER.

    I challenge you to pick a music genre, a cultural medium, anything, that does not have negative and positive. If THE PEOPLE were more interested in hearing what Mos Def and Public Enemy (yes, they're still around, did anyone know) had to say, 50-cent and Jay-Z would be struggling underground acts.

    This is just one more article that completely fails to understand the problem and it's true underlying causes.

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    SAINTSational Nica's Avatar Nica is offline
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mystic Xtremist
    Sorry, but you are very very wrong.
    There is nothing upon nothing wrong with hip-hop any more than any other medium.

    AMERICAN culture is what uplifts what is degrading.

    There is as much and most probably more positive within hip-hop music than you'll find within other musics.
    I could sit all day long listing the little known artists like Mos Def, Dead Prez, Common, etc who make good positive hip-hop. And it'd take 10 days more if I went into listing positive *unknown* artists.

    Why is no one asking the question, why are these artists not popular, over the 50-cent type artists (I refuse to put Luda in the category of negative music; he is the weakest example of negative hip-hop)? WHY?

    The answer lies with THE CONSUMER.

    I challenge you to pick a music genre, a cultural medium, anything, that does not have negative and positive. If THE PEOPLE were more interested in hearing what Mos Def and Public Enemy (yes, they're still around, did anyone know) had to say, 50-cent and Jay-Z would be struggling underground acts.

    This is just one more article that completely fails to understand the problem and it's true underlying causes.
    The origin of hip hop was positive but it has evolved into something that highlights the negative more than the positive. For instance, you have rappers like Will Smith and LL who do not use profanity in their work, and they both rap about more positive issues.

    The thuggish rappers are glorified while rappers like the said Will and LL have been labelled as soft or as is often said thay have no "streed cred". Why are people not interested in What Mos Def and Public enemy have to say? It's because the culture favours acts like 50cent rapping about getting shot 9 times like is some kind of rite of passage. They prefer to hear Tupac tell Biggie how he facked his wife (though tupac did have some positive tracks) They prefer the crap of Snoop ......prefer to hear about the hoes in different area codes.

    Granted not only black woman become "video vixens" but why do predominantly black woman subject themselves to those characters on the videos......being "b!tches". The culture makes it seem acceptable.....now women even refer to themselves as b!tches.

    Do you think the ones who started this phenomenon ever envisioned it turning to what it is now?
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    xtremeintl.com Mystic Xtremist's Avatar Mystic Xtremist is offline
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    Quote Originally Posted by Val
    The origin of hip hop was positive but it has evolved into something that highlights the negative more than the positive.
    While the orgins of hip-hop were 70s poets like Gil Scott Heron....I doubt that's what you were referring to. The early days of hip-hop however were about partying and *moreso* about battling, competitions of so-called bravado, etc. Was it as negative as it is now? No....but that is a reflection of the world in which we live now....but positive? Nuh uh.

    The only "positive" era of hip-hop was the mid-to-late 80s, with Public Enemy, Poor Righteous Teachers, Brand Nubian, X-Clan, and a host of other black-thought artists. Hip-hop back then was still underground, and the main consumer market for hip-hop was black and conscious/positive. You know what happened to hip-hop afterwards? It became commercial; it became infused with the American market.

    The same market that is described as sex sells; sex drugs and rock-n-roll? Where is a place Public Enemy and Brand Nubian in such a market??? No where.

    For instance, you have rappers like Will Smith and LL who do not use profanity in their work, and they both rap about more positive issues.
    LL's had more than his share of profanity in his lyrics mi dear. And positive issues? LL and Will Smith?? I think you're miscategorizing positive as "not-negative". I see nothing positive about LL and Will Smith as artists. They're just not as depraved as others.....positive is reserved for the Mos Def's of the world. And keep in mind: if you don't stand for something, you'll fall for anything. Something LL & Will -- as hip-hop artists -- might wanna consider.
    The thuggish rappers are glorified while rappers like the said Will and LL have been labelled as soft or as is often said thay have no "streed cred".
    Wait wait wait.....firstly, LL and Will Smith are *not* in the same category. LL has had PLENTY of profanity in his work over the years....just because he is late-30s now and cleaned up his act some does not negate the hardcore rap that LL has always been ("I'm Bad", "Mama Said Knock You Out", etc). Granted, LL is not gangsta rap, but he is *not* Will Smith, nor are his lyrics sans profanity. No no way.

    Why are people not interested in What Mos Def and Public enemy have to say? It's because the culture favours acts like 50cent rapping about getting shot 9 times like is some kind of rite of passage. They prefer to hear Tupac tell Biggie how he facked his wife (though tupac did have some positive tracks) They prefer the crap of Snoop ......prefer to hear about the hoes in different area codes.
    And that culture is American culture mi dear. American culture. The underground market has absolutely not changed. All those ppl who you may have seen lining a Bed-Stuy street in Dave Chappelle's Block Party are still there. But....we are in the abject minority.

    I'm sorry, but there are ALWAYS going to be negative ppl and positive ppl in the world. Hence, negative rappers and positive rappers. If the vast majority of the American market is so depraved that they are turned on by these tales, you gonna say that the problem is teh one rapper who talks it as opposed to the million ppl who love the depravity??

    Granted not only black woman become "video vixens" but why do predominantly black woman subject themselves to those characters on the videos......being "b!tches". The culture makes it seem acceptable.....now women even refer to themselves as b!tches.

    Do you think the ones who started this phenomenon ever envisioned it turning to what it is now?
    No one envisioned AMERICA becoming so in love with depravity. It is supply and demand muh dear. If 50-cent cleans up his lyrics, rest assured he will be a forgotten rapper, and 10 more similar acts will slide right in to provide the public with the amount of depravity they crave.
    Last edited by Mystic Xtremist; 07-22-2006 at 06:48 PM.

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    where de crix Oneshot's Avatar Oneshot is offline
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    Val when you get a chance listen to the Rape Over by Mos Def..

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    SAINTSational Nica's Avatar Nica is offline
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mystic Xtremist

    I'm sorry, but there are ALWAYS going to be negative ppl and positive ppl in the world. Hence, negative rappers and positive rappers. If the vast majority of the American market is so depraved that they are turned on by these tales, you gonna say that the problem is teh one rapper who talks it as opposed to the million ppl who love the depravity??

    I'm quiet aware of that and also aware that it is something that is present in most genres. But you must admit that the hip hop culture has had a tremendous impact worldwide and with the negative being more in demand that is what is spread around the world and accepted as the norm. As you said
    the American market is so depraved that they are turned on by these tales
    but it was the precendence that was set by the rappers so people have come to accept it.

    Do you think they are in a position to foster change if they so decide to?
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    SAINTSational Nica's Avatar Nica is offline
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    Quote Originally Posted by Oneshot
    Val when you get a chance listen to the Rape Over by Mos Def..
    I don't have an issue with Mos Def, neither do I with Common, Nas, Kanye (to an extent)
    It's the persons like 50, Luda, Snoop, Lil John, Lil Wayne, Cash money millionaires and the like, that I have issue with
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    xtremeintl.com Mystic Xtremist's Avatar Mystic Xtremist is offline
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    Quote Originally Posted by Val
    I don't have an issue with Mos Def, neither do I with Common, Nas, Kanye (to an extent)
    It's the persons like 50, Luda, Snoop, Lil John, Lil Wayne, Cash money millionaires and the like, that I have issue with
    OneShot was telling you to listen to the tune because it deals with this very topic......are you saying you don't wanna listen to the tune? hmmmm

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    SAINTSational Nica's Avatar Nica is offline
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mystic Xtremist
    OneShot was telling you to listen to the tune because it deals with this very topic......are you saying you don't wanna listen to the tune? hmmmm
    not at all.....so you can stop scratching you chin.......no mystery here
    why you ducking? I doh wanna hit you
    I have to look for the track since oneshot did not provide a link
    Last edited by Nica; 07-22-2006 at 06:57 PM.
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    xtremeintl.com Mystic Xtremist's Avatar Mystic Xtremist is offline
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    Quote Originally Posted by Val
    I'm quiet aware of that and also aware that it is something that is present in most genres. But you must admit that the hip hop culture has had a tremendous impact worldwide and with the negative being more in demand that is what is spread around the world and accepted as the norm.
    That would be a combination of the depravity ppl want and the power of hip-hop music to deliver it and to capture the people. R&B is pretty sexual, depraved, etc....but it can't compare to hip-hop when it comes to the power of the music itself.
    As you said but it was the precendence that was set by the rappers so people have come to accept it.
    no, I don't believe so one iota. Sex, drugs, depravity far preceeded hip-hop....but hip-hop just came around at a time where the world got so bad, people just easily point to hip-hop as being the catalyst, when in fact it is the symptom.

    When hip-hop was not commercial, the majority of Americans (of all races) who are most interested in depravity, was not interested in it, and hip-hop was happily underground. Hence, hip-hop was not a commercial success, and if you remember, ppl were falling all over themselves to deride hip-hop music and predict it's future demise.

    When rappers jumped up to provide that majority of Americans the depravity they so desire, THAT is when rap music made the jump from underground to commercial. If there was nothing wrong with the consumer public, hip-hop would've already been commercial from the mid-80s, before all the nonsense and negative came to the forefront (cause you know before it was popular, someone somewhere was already creating it).

    Do you think they are in a position to foster change if they so decide to?
    They who? The public? How can the public foster change, when they are who needs changing?
    Last edited by Mystic Xtremist; 07-22-2006 at 07:00 PM.

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    SAINTSational Nica's Avatar Nica is offline
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    They who? The public? How can the public foster change, when they are who needs changing?
    I'm referring to the artists, not the public
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    Salsero de pura cepa Otorongo's Avatar Otorongo is offline
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    The claim about boxing was highly amusing. Not true, but amusing. Boxing did not originate in slavery. Boxing is as old as mankind with manifestations all over Europe and Africa. And professional bouts nor gladiatorialism was not new in the time of the americas either.

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    Salsero de pura cepa Otorongo's Avatar Otorongo is offline
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    Mystic, you can't just blame the market for the advent of Gangsta style rap/hip hop and mysogynistic lyrics. The market follows what will sell. If they see hedonism and tough man acts are what sells that is what they will push for to get money quick.

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