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This New Form of Hip Hop

May 11, 2007
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BY PRINCE HERU

“Operatin’ under the crooked American system too long, Outkast, pronounced outcast, adjective meaning homeless or unaccepted in society, but let’s dig deeper than that… Are you an Outkast? If you under¬stand the basic principles and fundamental truths continued within this music you probably are. If you think it’s all about pimpin’ hoes and slammin’ Cadillac doors you probably a cracker, or a nigga that think he a cracker, or maybe just don’t. understand. An Outkast is someone who is not apart of the normal world. He’s looked at differently. He’s not accepted because of his clothes, his hair, his occupation, his beliefs, or his skin color. Now look at yourself. Are you an Outkast? I know I am, as a matter of fact, f**k bein’ anything else.”

-Ruden Bailey, from Outkast

Hip Hop is an art form and like all art forms it targets a select audience and illustrates the feelings of specific demo¬graphics. The first question Brotha Akili asks is, “How has Hip Hop’ influenced consciousness of the Hip Hop generation.” A question that needs to be looked into before answered.

It’s the people, the pain, the poverty, the joys, and the laughs that produces the consciousness of Hip Hop; not Hip Hop that produce the consciousness of the people. When the community was more conscious, the music was also. As the community weakened and young men were more guided to drug and gang activism, rap also made the devolutionary transition. When the community was more intact and institutions(family, church, mosque, school, community center) were more productive in reaching their main goals, to produce favorable characteristics, rap music couldn’t pose a threat to social equilibriums nor was it needed to enhance or influence consciousness.

From the failure of the previously mentioned institutions, mixed with Reaganomics, drugs, and other destructive attributes, rap music/videos became the most prominent if not singular medium that represents or relates to most Black men. These young Black men, most of them living in the ghetto or lower middle class households, needed/depended on rap for validation of their very existence.

Most young people don’t listen to rap to enhance their consciousness; rather they listen to rap to soothe and articulate their consciousness. Conscious rappers like Immortal Technique and Common target conscious audiences. That is to say, one has to be conscious prior to listening to the aforementioned rappers in order to be influenced. Tupac was able to synthesize Black personalities: the militant, the preacher, the social activist, the pimp, the gangsta, the tragicomic of Black life. That’s why he was apotheosized. Not because he was a “gangsta” as the world would suggest. Ghettocentric rappers like Jay-Z and Juvenile appeal to the ghettocentric audiences. Their goal is to relate to the people by articulating their story and struggle, not critiquing their story and struggle.

With that said, the Hip Hop generation needs educators to influence them, not rappers. We need to be taught about the struggle of Angela Davis and Shirley Chisholm, as well as Lil Kim and Foxy Brown. When one is conscious s/he, can enjoy rap and criticize it at the same time, but for the unconscious, rap validates their criminal mentality and influences them to destroy black bodies verses destroying white supremacy.

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