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Reply to "The Sons and Daughters of Hip Hop"

Greetings once again ER, it's always a pleasure to converse with you. I'm quite pleased to see the new responses. I hope everyone keeps the controversial conversation coming, while keeping in mind that every point should be written in such a way that we the people can comprehend it. I'm all for big words, but even as a Columbia University grad, I see the futility in using a vernacular that won't reach my people. I'm not trying to underestimate anyone's intelligence; I'm simply keeping in real. If anyone here is more concerned with their writing skills than the topic at hand, please reconsider your approach to this particular forum. Again, I love the energy and hope we can continue to come together through dialogue, rather than be separated by it.

A Little Give a Little Take: Talking to the Predecessors of the Hip Hop Generation

I'll begin where you [ER] began because it places us all on the same page: it is time for your generation to pick up that baton and pass it on to the new generation. It is time for you all to lead us, while acknowledging that we too can lead the way.

-Afeni Shakur, Former Black Panther, Mother of Rapper Tupac Shakur
I've heard enough of [our youth] to know that we ought to be holding them up and sharing with them what we know instead of standing on top of them telling them what they're not doing right. They're doing a lot right and some things wrong. We continue to fail these brilliant, very talented, very creative and courageous young people because they're not saying what our message was. But for Christ's sake ... we're about to enter the 21st century. Something should be different. And they may be right about some things. (Kitwana, 2002, p. 3)

You all have a wealth of knowledge to give. As virtue points out in a previous post, we have concerns about gang violence, and as Kresge suggests there are ethical issues at hand, which we can address with the assistance of older generations. Breaking the cycle of oppression requires a level of consciousness, in that we must understand the negative actions to be broken. This is where the experiences of old wisdom become valuable tools to the hip hop generation. On some level we need to see how our brothers selling crack on the corner is the old school cats running numbers on a more degrading, and oppressive level. We need to understand why single mother begot from single mother begot from single mother originates from slavery destroying the black family structure. We need to see how Southern blacks use the communal power of the church to balance the oppressive struggle of racial injustice. These connections have been made on some level by most adult blacks whether through there work experiences or personal obstacles. This is what you, the predecessors of the hip hop generation can give to us, a better understand of where we are coming from.

What you must equally take from us is acceptance of our reality. This is crucial, and I feel many, even you [ER] are apprehensive with respect to this request. To a certain degree your refusal to acknowledge our approach to contemporary culture is because you are stuck in the mindset that we have no minds. In every retort you [ER] emphatically express the belief that "many young people seem to think that they have ended up in a good place. " You feel that this generation is so immersed in materialism that they can't comprehend the more important issues at large. This belief in turn creates a disconnect between us. If you constantly tell a child listen, you're doing the wrong thing, and seldom apply positive reinforcement or objective criticism to that child's lifestyle; you can't expect the child to listen.

What you need to hear is this, the clothes is a cover-up. Most urban youth can't articulate the one thing they deeply internalize: the use of materialistic wealth as an escape from a negative environment and substitute for insufficient positive reinforcement from familial adults. Momentarily subtracting rappers and hip hopers out of the equation, young people today live a harsh lifestyle and they know it. Reread my last post, or simply look around. More than any other race, young intelligent black children go from A's to C's during their transition from elementary to junior high school. Their support system depletes, their class sizes enlarge, they look around and see the smart girls get no love, the nerdy boys get punked, the innocent ones get robbed, the too hard too soon thugs get shot, the hard working moms don't get a break, the dead beat dads can't find a decent jobs, the teachers don't look like them and don't understand their home situation, the issues are endless. Ask young kids how many of their friends died in the hood, or how many friends had abortions on the down low and you will be exposed to big little people with grown folk issues. I say this to emphasis to an infinite degree how conscious we are, though most of us seem not to be. Many kids live in denial because their scared, misguided, and simply don't know any better. If your mom is weak enough to buy you a $300 jacket without breaking down the value of a dollar, or your dad sees you with new Jordon's on and looks the other way without asking where you got the money for them, what difference does it make what a rapper says. Many of us need a balance between superficial hip-hop heaven and hood hell. We need truly grown folks with the courage to ask about a child's day before assuming how that day went. Rappers and hip-hoppers a side, you can't analyze the minds of today's youth if you don't acknowledge the trauma they experience every day.

Here are a few lyrical lessons that put a name to such communal pain:

Kanye West "All Falls Down"
Oh when it all, it all falls down
I'm telling you ohh, it all falls down

[Verse - Kanye West]
Man I promise, she's so self conscious
She has no idea what she's doing in college
That major that she majored in don't make no money
But she won't drop out, her parents will look at her funny
Now, tell me that ain't insecurrre
The concept of school seems so securrre
Sophmore three yearrrs aint picked a careerrr
She like fuck it, I'll just stay down herre and do hair
Cause that's enough money to buy her a few pairs of new Airs
Cause her baby daddy don't really care
She's so precious with the peer pressure
Couldn't afford a car so she named her daughter Alexus (a Lexus)
She had hair so long that it looked like weave
Then she cut it all off now she look like Eve
And she be dealing with some issues that you can't believe
Single black female addicted to retail and well

[Chorus - repeat 2x (w/ Kanye ad-libs)]

[Verse - Kanye West]
Man I promise, I'm so self conscious
That's why you always see me with at least one of my watches
Rollies and Pasha's done drove me crazy
I can't even pronounce nothing, pass that versace!
Then I spent 400 bucks on this
Just to be like nigga you ain't up on this!
And I can't even go to the grocery store
Without some ones thats clean and a shirt with a team
It seems we living the american dream
But the people highest up got the lowest self esteem
The prettiest people do the ugliest things
For the road to riches and diamond rings
We shine because they hate us, floss cause they degrade us
We trying to buy back our 40 acres
And for that paper, look how low we a'stoop
Even if you in a Benz, you still a nigga in a coop/coupe

[Chorus - repeat 2x (w/ Kanye ad-libs)]

[Verse - Kanye West]
I say fuck the police, thats how I treat em
We buy our way out of jail, but we can't buy freedom
We'll buy a lot of clothes when we don't really need em
Things we buy to cover up what's inside
Cause they make us hate ourself and love they wealth
That's why shortys hollering "where the ballas' at?"
Drug dealer buy Jordans, crackhead buy crack
And a white man get paid off of all of that
But I ain't even gon act holier than thou
Cause fuck it, I went to Jacob with 25 thou
Before I had a house and I'd do it again
Cause I wanna be on 106 and Park pushing a Benz
I wanna act ballerific like it's all terrific
I got a couple past due bills, I won't get specific
I got a problem with spending before I get it
We all self conscious I'm just the first to admit it

Missy Elliot, "Wake Up" featuring Jay Z
[Verse 1 Missy Elliott]

______ betta wake up, stop sellin crack to the black
Hope you bought a spare for your flat
Yep im a top leader
I got the Martin Luther King fever, ima feed yah what yah teacher need to breat yah
Its time to get seious
Black people all areas who gon' carry us it aint time to bury us
Cause music be our first love, say i do lets cherish it


If you dont gotta gun (its alright)
If yah makin legal money, (its alright)
If you gotta keep yah clothes on, (its alright)
You ain't got a cellular phone, (its alright)
And yah wheels dont spin, (its alright)
And you gotta wear them jeans again, (its alright)
Yeah if you tried oh well, (its alright)
MC's stop the beef lets sell, (its alright)


[Verse 3 Jay-Z (Missy Elliott)]

I need rims that dont listen and boomin system
First piece of change i see im gon' get one
745 no license to drive
I aint even gotta home i gots to live in my ride, ___ it
I can hear myself but i cant feel myself
I wanna feel myself like Tweet
745 no license to drive
I aint even gotta home i gots to live in my ride, ___ it
Couple of karats in my ear wont hurt
Need a nice chain layin on this thousand $ shirt
Evisu Jeans cover the rectum, i kick game just like David Beckham
Anybody in my way i wet them
Ima be this way until the cops come catch em
To detective sketch em on the sidewalk wit chalk New Yorks infections
Till i got taught a lesson
Couple niggaz gone couple wink corrections
And Marie got 10, Tie got 15 nigga even my kin
Got 5 years bringin 19 in, i just think i used to think like them
Now they gotta live through the pictures that i send em in the pen
Hope you dont start yah life where i end


Getting back to the hip-hop revolution I will say this, from writing a rhyme, making one dime, to getting kids on the voting line it's all political. So what if kids came out and voted because Russell told them to, the point is they had a leader who respected them enough to tell them that their vote mattered and they had the power to use it. Tell me who of our predecessors can spark such a movement within the youth without respecting their current experiences. Who has gotten millions of black kids out to vote before this time? I'll be the first one to tell you I hate the fact that cats in the hood want to spend $300 plus on some rims when they can't pay rent but guess what, if Puffy doesn't bank on the hood mentality somebody else will. Before you get too infuriated by our business mentality, I have two important points to make here: you strongly argue that hip-hop money is not good to the community, stating:
When a 2Pac or a Jay'Z or a 50 cent joins that industry, thus allowing themselves to be exploited and bring and encouraging others to do the same, it does not polically or socially uplift the community. It may uplift the bank account of the artist or the record company, but it doesn't send our children to college, it doesn't renovate dilapidated neighborhoods, it doesn't supply elementary and secondary schools with text books. And then the artists who make it big, who establishes the recording studios, or record label or the clothing line turn around and use that same method of exploitation to make even more money!

First point in response to your comment: The quality of his artists is arguable, but Puff Daddy is a politically conscious, socially responsible business man in so far as he has a number of qualified intelligent, black people on his payroll and he does do his part to donate to kids, schools, and urban youth at large. I hated his show "Making the Band," but I respected the fact that the majority of the hire-ups around him were black. Everyday black people single handedly make white businesses flourish, and get nothing back in return. If Puffy can sell rims, make clothes, and still run the 2003 New York City Marathon and raised $2,000,000 for the educational system for the children of New York, I say more power to him. As you mentioned there will always be unethical brothers and sisters in the business, I neither condone their work nor use it to support my theories about how hip-hop can be used as a political tool. At the end of the day it's up to parents and close adult figures to balance the negative aspects of the world that we live in. As my boyfriend always says, he looks up to Pac because Pac's words kept him out of the street, but at the end of the day Pac is not his role model. His role model is his mother, because she taught him how to be financially independent, she showed him how hard work can create stability; she taught him the importance of creating a family, not babies, and owning a house. He can respect Pac's words and his mother's actions because they both took the time to respect his experiences as a poor black man in Brooklyn. That my friends is how the balance begins.

Point Two: From Usher to 50cent and many black performers in between, they understand something that very few talented blacks have understood in the past. Like Ray Charles, who demanded ownership of his master's, these young cats understand that at the end of the day it's not about being performers, they want to be business men. Perhaps this need isn't apparent because as I've said time and time again, the older generation is so focused on the glamour, but the fact remains they are starting their own businesses, hiring black folks, and giving back. Ok, you don't like some of their tactics. But do you like all of white America's tactics? Are you boycotting all white products and publicly denouncing their lack of influence in our communities or are you saving all that negative energy for your younger generation. Yes, I agree there is much talk about thug life, but that's not all the hip-hop generation talk about. And to be quite frank, guys like 50cent will tell you he's not glorifying the lifestyle, he's explaining how harsh a life it is. One of his biggest fears in life is having to go back to the hood, and you can't fault a brother for that. As for all the gangster rappers and street thugs out there, don't let them raise your children. You raise your children. Take a minute to contemplate how the same generation you can say is so talented in one breath, you can chastise as being untalented because they sample your generation's music. Consider how R. Kelly's inclusion of music from the Isley Brothers helps connect the new generation to the old generation in ways that you all usually do not, and help to keep old R&B artists in the public eye with more royalty checks coming in. Hate their tactics if you will, but at the end of the day the young cats are concerned about how everybody is going to eat, and they are trying to turn their talent in the streets into profits in the boardroom. On the same token, they need some guidance and collaboration from black business owners. White media capitalizes off of black music every day, it's time older blacks start interjecting, finding the positive attributes within hip hop and collaborating with these artists because they are building gateways to the future.

They are doing things. I can't say that enough. You just don't want to see it because their not doing it your way. If you want to get respect you got to give respect. If you want to teach us the old, you got to let us teach you the new. There has to be a little give, there has to be a little take. As quick as my mother bought me a pair of sneakers, she beat my butt when she caught me writing on the apartment corridor walls. I know I'm entitled to the good things in a good life, just like young white women, but I also know that for as long as I'm living in the hood I've got to preserve the appearance of my community. Respect your kids. Teach your Kids. And help hip hoppers turn their talent into communal wealth. These are the things I think we are willing to take, what are you all willing to give?

Urban Dynamics | Search Urban