July 17, 2012

The Art & Heart of Hip Hop.

If You Love “Love & Hip Hop,” You Don’t Love Hip Hop.

Hip hop was perhaps my first love—the kind of hip hop that artist Common fell in love with. The type that had so much soul.

She was on that tip about, stopping the violence; about my people she was teaching me, but not preaching to me, but speaking to me.

I was largely forbidden to listen to hip hop. My grandparents, wanting to raise me “right,” saw only what the media reported of hip hop—the hip hop that made headlines in the 90s, which was the East coast versus the West coast wars, marked by not only legendary emcees like Biggie and Pac, but sadly marred by bloodshed and violence.

They didn’t hear the knowledge that Rakim was dropping on “The Mystery” about God, science and the universe, which my grandfather, employed by NASA, would have loved.

They didn’t hear Wu Tang’s “Wu-Revolution,” where we were told we needed to do better as a society and stop killing each other, and it was discussed how the universe—sun, moon and stars…holy trinity—was man, woman and child.

They never heard Dead Prez telling the ladies that good, intellectual, conversation and good vibes needed to precede sexual relations.

They never heard Tupac urging his male counterparts to respect women because we all came from a woman.

They never heard Jay Z’s eloquent reflection on his life before rap stardom and his realization that he made life tougher on his mother with his shenanigans in the streets.

They never heard Nas setting history straight on how the Indians helped the pilgrims and then the pilgrims killed them, or speaking on how women were so unhappy with themselves that bleaching their skin, tanning, and liposuction were forms of self-loathing.

Nor did they ever hear Dead Prez urging us to eat fresh fruits and vegetables and to exercise to stay healthy.

Most of America was shocked as hell—and angry—when Kanye West and Russell Simmons went to show support at “Occupy Wall Street” because they “didn’t belong.”

Most of America also doesn’t know that besides going to Africa and donating money to help the water crisis, Jay Z actually appealed to the United Nations for assistance in making changes. He’s also spoken out, openly supporting civil rights in support of gay marriage.

Most of America has no idea that Styles P is so dedicated to health and wellness that he opened a juice bar in the Bronx, wanting to set the standard for healthier living in communities of color, where there are fewer healthy options.

But if all you know about hip hop is what makes headlines—what you see on TV on shows like “Love & Hip Hop” or what you hear on the radio—you wouldn’t understand the hip hop that Common & I love so dearly, because in these mediums, it barely exists.

Hip hop has never been about being uneducated or ignorant.

It’s never been about glorifying drugs, sex, and violence—nor is this what we in the hip hop culture want to see.

Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five released the first well-known “mindful” hip hop song in 1982, called “The Message.” This is the foundation of hip hop. This is hip hop. This is the message.

As a culture, we hip hop heads need to be more vocal—and more mindful— about sending our message into the universe. These shows and these songs on the radio are hurting our culture—they’re perpetrating the very stereotypes and messages that hip hop once rallied against.

How dare the tomfoolery on “Love & Hip Hop” suddenly become representative of hip hop culture, because it is not. These men and women are not what all hip hop artists, producers and significant others of talented individuals in the spotlight are like. These people were deliberately cast because of the deviant, dysfunctional choices they choose, and the entertainment it makes for.

The real “bling bling” in hip hop isn’t the women, sex, “ice” (jewelry), cash or cars—it’s the jewels of knowledge that are hip hop’s true gems—the diamonds in the rough.

Rarely will these jewels be delivered up on a silver platter by the mainstream media. Like all treasures, sometimes they must be sought out.

Emcee—MC—means “move the crowd.” Real hip hop artists strive to move the crowd in a positive way. They strive to connect with and move the hearts of their fans, keeping the “art” in heart and vice versa.

They understand that instead of wearing “big ass chains” they need to help people unbind the chains of the heart and the mind.

They understand that hip hop isn’t only for entertainment purposes—it’s for information, education, enlightenment and empowerment. And it’s a much more valuable vehicle than a Bentley on dubs.

GED’s “Don’t Call It Pop,” which pokes fun at the commercialization of music and hip hop—watch the electro remix here, which is ironically gaining commercial radio play.

Editor: Lynn Hasselberger

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