Thursday, August 6, 2009

Trea-tease On the Death of Hip Hop

Notice that I called this a trea-tease (not a typo). I have a lot to say about this and will most likely break it into a series when I get done with the one that I am supposed to be working on. Why the teaser? It was inspired by this video:

Eat that watermelon, indeed. Some are asking if the video went too far. Instead, we should be asking if those who inspired the video have gone too far. Rappers (not MCs mind you) like Soulja Boy, who put both feet in their mouths every time they open them and make you wonder why such happily and blissfully ignorant fools are allowed to speak in public or at all. **Ignorance in and of itself is not so bad, we are all ignorant about something. However, speaking on and about things that we are ignorant about is my personal definition of stupidity. Furthermore, I would normally post a picture here but I wouldn't give this no-dancing, no-reading, couldn't-rap-if-he-tried idiot the pleasure of gracing my page. This concludes my interruption, now back on topic.** Of course, the video is narrated by my favorite rapper, Nas, who is pictured above. This is merely a snippet, so I won't get into the similarities between the minstrel show and the current state of hip hop at this moment, which were obviously addressed in the video. Similarities which were also addressed in rap group Little Brother's 2005 album, "The Minstrel Show." They shot a music video for the lead single, entitled "Lovin' It" off their album. BET refused to play this album because it was, and I quote, "too intelligent," according to an unnamed executive. Here's how I feel about BET, as addressed by Aaron McGruder.

Enough of that, just know that anyone who analyzes the images on television with and the words on the radio with their minds as they see/hear them already understands that artists are being "pimped." We'll say or do anything, without regards for the ramifications these things bring about for the entire community (and yes there are ramifications). It's the same thing with black actors. Wonder why they keep killing us at the beginning of these movies? Because there's always someone willing to take the job, that's why. Viewers protest, actors oblige. Same in hip hop. A few listeners protest, most rappers and fans oblige. We don't even realize that we're clowning ourselves for meager money while we make billions for corporate executives, many of whom would never allow their children - or anyone that they cared about - to exploit themselves in such a way. Why is hip hop dead? Ever seen the movie, "Ray?" The beauty of that movie is that it provides an in-depth look into the life of Ray Charles and the sources of inspiration for all of his music. Every song that he sings comes from a specific story from his childhood or his adult life. From his joys, pains, sorrows, and anguishes throughout his life - we got good music. Music that he sang because it was his truth, his experience. That gives it an authenticity that many of us in this generation have never known from music. Fans, listeners, and money came because people could relate to it and therefore supported it. Nowadays, it's backwards. We make music trying to come up with something catchy and simple (not to mention silly) that people will buy. Instead of telling our own stories and imparting the wisdom and lessons learned from our lives into inspirational and life-changing music, we desperately want to make a "hit." Every high school teenager you know is putting out (or has recently put out) a mixtape. Everybody thinks they can 'spit.' No one, however, is bringing anything new to the table. Instead, they make clone music that they hope will be a hit. Not because they've lived it, but because it sounds like something that went platinum and they're hoping to mimic the formula and the success. It's just like reality television. Very little of it is original, it is all derived from something else and adds merely a little twist. For instance, "Dancing With the Stars" begat the ill-fated "Skating With Celebrities." They don't even think enough of us to try and hide it anymore. That goes for both reality television and most of today's hip hop (so-called) music.