When hip-hop legend Knowledge B. Born headed to the stage to finally receive his Hip-Hop Lifetime Achievement Award, he clutched in his right hand a speech written in graffiti that he had wanted to deliver for years. He planned to put the entire audience of rap superstars on blast for destroying the culture he helped create. But, when he looked into the faces of a room full of rich kids half his age, who were either half asleep or busy textin’, he just crumbled up his notes, said “Ya’ll keep doin’ your thing,” and left the stage. Leaving the crowd whispering amongst themselves, “Who was that old dude…”
Recently, when Rakim went on stage to receive his BET “I Am Hip Hop Award,” I hoped that he was gonna diss the entire front row of rappers with a fraction of his talent. I thought maybe the “microphone fiend” was gonna kick a freestyle battle rhyme and dare any one of the no talent bums to come up and snatch the mic from his mighty hand. Needless to say, it didn’t happen. Another missed opportunity in the annals of hip-hop history. At that point, I had to face the sad reality, that many of my generation have avoided: Maybe, we have outgrown hip-hop.
Perhaps the saddest lament over the state of hip-hop was Common’s “I Used to Love H.E.R.”, that talked about the sad relationship between hip-hop purists and the gangsta rap that dominated the charts at the time. However, that was almost 18 years ago and many of us, who divorced ourselves from hip-hop, have kissed and made up several times since then.
But, like the classic break-up line says, “The problem isn’t you. The problem is me.” Maybe we are just too old to be listening to the kiddie porn that is passing for hip-hop nowadays. At some point, the thrill of sneakin’ into your pop’s secret drawer and peepin’ his Playboy mags wears off and you want a real relationship with a real woman.
Now, I admit, there are days when I want to lock myself away from the world and play video games while snackin’ on a big box of Fruit Loops, but unfortunately, I don’t have that luxury. Neither, do most folks over 25. Life is moving fast and deals that will affect my life are being made every second with or without my input. So, I either have to roll with them or get rolled over.
But hip-hop is like Neverland, where you never have to grow old, and if you are not careful, you can get stuck there and be a 60-year-old man poppin’ Viagra while watching “106 & Park.” And this “don’t wanna grow up Toys ‘R Us kid” mentality is reflected in the rap of today. Instead of those black and white “Parental Advisory” stickers in 2012, most hip-hop CDs should come with big, yellow “Caution. Kids at Play” signs.
Today the rap industry is run by spoiled little brats with a million bucks, but 50 Cent brains. Somebody has, indeed, spared the rod and spoiled the child. But, the question that has always plagued hip-hop is: Who do you blame?
When confronted, many hip-hop apologists fall back on that classic line, “Don’t Blame rap, blame the parents.” But, does this also apply to the fathers of hip-hop? Maybe they have acted more like deadbeat dads than the head of the hip-hop household? This is the only society on the planet where the children are leading the elders.
Last year, columnist Bomani Jones addressed this issue in an article titled “A Look at Chuck D’s Open Letter,” where he wrote: “It’s disingenuous for much of the older crowd now to try and ride to hip-hop’s rescue after we definitely had a part in getting to where we are.” The sad part is that many old school cats are defending rap music with the same excuses that were used 20 years ago. They are defending the lyrics of Chief Keef, the same way they did Snoop Dogg in ’92, but Snoop never grew up to convert his misogynistic lyrics into words that would uplift the community. He only produced a legion of Snoop puppies, so Chief Keef will only produce a tribe of ratchet rappers if left unchecked.
This is not entirely the fault of the rappers either. Society has played a major role in the ghetto man-child mentality.
My generation was bombarded with the idea that “black men in the America would not live to see 24.” So, when we reached the ripe old age of 25, we had no game plan. Even much of the now revered “message music” of the 80′s was just repeating the nihilistic predictions for black men. Few songs actually challenged the socio-economic factors that made such a dire prophecy believable. Even the ones that did offer such an analysis are now considered “old school.”
Rapper Mista Spot on his song, “Classic,” questioned why you never hear the term “old school rock” or “old school country”, but their songs are forever immortalized as ageless music, which can be enjoyed by their grandchildren. The same should be said about some hip-hop.
Maybe rock and country fans respect their music more than we respect hip-hop. What record company would dare lump Mick Jagger and Justin Bieber in the same category and throw them on a track together? Rolling Stones fans would start bombin’ radio stations.
It must be remembered that it was the wrath of rock fans that led to the demise of disco.
In 1979, 90,000 outraged rockers almost destroyed Comiskey Park in Chicago at the infamous “Disco Demolition Night,” where some deejays decided to blow up in stack of disco records to protest the genre. Even today, you can still catch people rockin’ the “Disco Sucks” t-shirts. Since “ratchet rap” is the disco music of hip-hop, what if thousands of real hip-hop fans started rockin’ “Ratchet Rap Sucks” t-shirts, and destroying CDs?
At the least, it would make a rapper think twice before releasing another immature, wack Cd.
Will the hip-hop mental midgets hit an intellectual growth spurt before the culture is totally destroyed. I don’t know, but one thing is certain… like the classic Quincy Jones song says, in the end, “Everything Must Change.” Even hip-hop.
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