I’m not sure how I would explain the current state of Hip Hop. According to Nas, and other self-proclaimed Hip Hop ‘purists,’ Hip Hop is dead. From their perspective, we might as well throw in the towel, because there will never be another Tribe Called Quest, MC Lyte or Public Enemy. I can relate to this assumption. No one can replace our uncles and aunties from the 90s, or our mommas and poppas from the late 70s and 80s. However, I’m not so quick to write my elegy to Hip Hop.
I do agree that Hip Hop is not performing to the best of its ability, and like any other loyal family member, I am concerned. I am concerned with who controls Hip Hop. I am concerned that when a rapper has something political say, he (and definitely she) gets no air play. I am concerned with most rap from the Dirty South—period; I just don’t like it. I am concerned that in some music videos, women—particularly Black women—are, indeed, exploited and reduced to bouncing booties and boobies. I am concerned about the state of Black women in Hip Hop. I am concerned with music producers who keep taking us to the strip club—MTV has taken me there too many times.
Yet, despite my concern, I wouldn’t say that Hip Hop is dead. Instead, I would say that it is under the weather; it’s under construction; it’s in need of a face lift. And as members of the Hip Hop family, it is our job to ensure that it gets the aid it needs. So, how do we do this? My usual response to this question is that we need to appreciate the genre of Hip Hop that goes back to the roots of its culture—the Hip Hop that makes us proud. We must support the usual suspects of ‘alternative Hip Hop’ such as The Roots, Talib Kweli, Mos Def, Jurassic Five, K-OS, Common etc.
The Usual Suspects
But you know what? I think that there is music coming out of the mainstream bubblegum machines that actually stays true to the legacy of Hip Hop, and deserves to be appreciated. I will proudly admit that I often have sporadic dance parties in my living room, thanks to some of these Hip Hop newbies. I could list the new artists that I appreciate now, but that would be too easy. Instead, every Friday, I will post a music video from a current ‘commercial’ artist who I think is staying true to Hip Hop’s roots. I will also briefly explain how this artist is staying true to Hip Hop’s legacy by considering how it relates to Hip Hop’s original elements – the MC, the B-boy/girl (now, the dancer—not to be confused with ‘the stripper’), the graffiti artist, the producer of knowledge, and the DJ. I will also consider other elements that I mentioned in my first blog such as swagger, R&B singers, and the ‘video girls.’ Stay tuned…