Politics and Hip Hop part 1

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What has the present day political culture taught us about society? In America, the political discourse is a direct reflection of the mainstream culture. Whatever values are found acceptable in the mainstream are for the most part used to align politicians with the pulse of America. On the extremes, other politicians try to push the mainstream over to their way of thinking.

In 2008, the United States elected President Barack Obama after a political campaign that called for ‘hope and change’. A majority of Americans who vote, all bought in to the idea that maybe, this one man would somehow change the direction of a system that has been in place for almost 200 years. People believed, that this one man would be able to single-handedly, transform the mindset of those that seemingly lord over the masses lives, dictating the boundaries of the society we share. Well not so surprisingly, this grand change did not happen. Things didn’t dramatically change, mostly because the entrenched forces, which “run” things, have too much of a stake in keeping things just the way they are. Also, things didn’t change because President Obama wasn’t actually bent on changing the status quo as much as he was bent on compromising with the ‘powers that be.’ We may never know his true intentions. But we have all learned a valuable lesson as to what a real leader actually is. As it turns out, a leader is most successful, not when he enacts his own plan for change but when he moves in the will of the people. A President has no power alone. The powers that have been in place for years are too far dug in, to be removed by a single person. It takes pressure from the informed masses to change the everyday operation. This is the same as it is with Hip Hop Kulture.

There is no one individual in Hip Hop Kulture who can turn the prevailing tide from what Hip Hop is represented as today, into something we all can again be proud of. Although we would love to have a savior who could lead Hip Hop back to the promised-land, none will come. Hip Hop Kulture, like American culture cannot be moved by one person. It is a nice fantasy to believe that some figure will come to the forefront of Hip Hop society and set everything right again. It would be great to have a single, powerful voice that speaks sense back in to the everyday discourse. It would be great if anyone would even listen to such a voice. That will never happen though, but so what?

Hip Hop in its best days was never ruled over by one stream of thought. Hip Hop in its best days was a melting pot of original, individual ideas. Hip Hop at its best is when there are a variety of truthful opinions and schools of thought all presenting their best skill. The collective consciousness that results is absorbed into the culture. When Hip Hop was at its best during the Golden Era, conscious groups like Public Enemy, Boogie Down Productions, Brand Nubian and X-Clan shared time with Cypress Hill, De La Soul, NWA, Nice and Smooth, Big Daddy Kane, Rakim, Salt n Pepa and MC Lyte. So in the Hip Hop collective conscious were songs like Fight the Power, My Philosophy, Fuck the Police, Paid in Full, How I Could Just Kill A Man, and Me Myself and I. All of these ideologies were not just part of the individual making the record but the audience of like-minded individuals who shared the idea. Hip Hop in its best days was like a report of the urban mindset.

More in the past than nowadays, emcees at their best skill level, were able to bring a voice to what everyone around them was thinking. Today, rappers are much more self-centered and speak on issues that the average Hiphoppa will never experience. This shift is not due to the intrinsic values of Hip Hop Kulture however. The shift is toward the mainstream values embedded in the larger society. These entrenched forces are expressed through record company promotion, mainstream media coverage, radio airtime and venue ownership. These forces were dug in before Hip Hop began. These forces already have agendas and quotas to fill. Over time, rappers compromised and conformed to the status quo just like President Obama did in his first four years in office.

Kurt Nice

Kurt Nice aka Kurtiss Jackson is a behind the scenes pioneer in the Hip Hop Kulture, creating the first nationally distributed video mix tape series, Shades of Hip Hop, in the late 1990s. Since touring the country with the Stop the Violence Movement and the Temple of Hip Hop as KRS-ONE’s National Marketing Director, Kurt Nice has been a constant commentator on conscious Hip Hop and its relevance to the new rap music of today, through radio and cable appearances. contact Kurt at info@hiphoplives.net

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