By Charles Glover, Jr.
As Black Music Month nears its end, it is important to recognize the impact Hip Hop has made in society. Interestingly, it seems as if the Hip Hop movement and culture have been more accepted than Hip Hop music, itself. Speaking about the music, President Barack Obama said: “Honestly I love the art of Hip Hop but I don’t always love the message.”
The cultural impact made by those who have embraced Hip Hop can be identified through the entertainment, fashion, technology, and business worlds. Hip Hop culture has sparked creations that are worth billions of dollars, yet Hip Hop music still faces challenges in appreciation and acceptance
In an effort to shift the message of Hip Hop to focus on serious issues, Chuck D of Public Enemy was strategic. He addressed social issues in songs such as “Fight the Power,” which was the title song of Spike Lee’s groundbreaking movie “Do the Right Thing.” Chuck D said that his mindset during his career had been about provoking thought on the black experience so that others can see their worth and value.
“We’re trying to fuel the minds of black people to know about themselves and that’s it in a nutshell,” he said, while Russell Simmons said that “Chuck D was already a person who wanted to change the African-American culture.” That vision inspired others.
Rappers like Queen Latifah, MC Lyte and Sista Souljah tackled social injustices in their music and made it clear that using music as a tool to shed light on inequality was important to them. Social issues still constitute a part of Hip Hop today as shown in music by Lupe Fiasco, Common, Lauryn Hill and Mos Def. Hill has fully embraced Hip Hop music, stating: “I’m musical but I was born into Hip Hop.”
The issues that inspired the social aspect of the music, such as black men and boys being targeted by police and society, still exist today. This is evident in the murders of Travyon Martin and Jordan Davis, unarmed teenagers who were gunned down by armed white men who “felt threatened.” Ice Cube voiced his displeasure with police tactics as being influential in N.W.A’s anti-police anthem “F the Police.” Ice Cube also referenced being inspired to do the music he performed with N.W.A. by the social commentary offered by artists like KRS 1 and Schoolly D.
“To me this gangsta [rap] stuff was already in the air but a group had never did it. It is unapologetically art. Just in your face. We were not looking for acceptance,” Ice Cube said. “We only wanted acceptance from the neighborhood.’
BET’s 4-part documentary on Hip Hop, The Message, takes viewers on a journey of the evolution of the message in the Hip Hop music and its, social, cultural and economic impact. The Message, narrated by Hip Hop star Joe Budden, gives brief accounts about the early stages of the genre, the eventual spread of the music and many challenges that faced those who supported and/or performed the music.
“Hip Hop is a seed planted and nourished amongst the ‘broken glass everywhere’ of mid-70’s New York. It has grown to be a worldwide phenomenon and dominant culture of at least one generation,” explained current president of music programming and specials at BET, Stephen Hill. He used the words from the original Hip Hop song “The Message,” by Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five to make his point.
The fourth and final installment of The Message will air on June 25, 2014.
Earlier this year, (February 24 – 27) VH1 aired its own 4-part documentary extolling the virtues of Hip Hop culture named “The Tanning of America: One Nation Under Hip Hop.” That series was the brainchild of entrepreneur and advertising executive Steve Stoute, who wrote a similarly titled book on the topic in 2011. Both series discuss similar topics and illustrate how Hip Hip has grown from a local form of enjoyment to a universal method of connecting.
As viewers watch The Message, they will be reminded of the positive and negative experiences that pioneers endured. Russell Simmons, LL Cool J, Ice Cube, MC Lyte, Pharrell, Nas, Luther Campbell, Angie Martinez, Snoop Dogg, Queen Latifah, Rick Ross, Salt N Pepper, Kendrick Lamar, Danyel Smith, Lil Kim, Master P, Foxy Brown, Funkmaster Flex, Big Tigger, and Nelson George are some of the many Hip Hop related stars that are interviewed throughout this series. They share their insight and experiences between the many segments that touch on the birth, trials and tribulations experienced during of the evolution of Hip Hop.
The Message is a worthwhile viewing experience, not to receive the total understanding of Hip Hop, but to bring back memories and spark thoughts about the current state of Hip Hop. The music has evolved, yet it continues to face scrutiny from fans and critics alike. Meanwhile the culture continues to flourish and set trends.
One thing that cannot be disputed about Hip Hop though, is it remains relevant and is still growing. The the desire for social acceptance and concern for relevance and respect that inspired the music is as relevant today as it was when the genre was introduced in the 1980s..–OnPointPress.net–
Stay tuned for Part 2 next Monday.
Charles Glover, Jr. is a management training consultant. Follow me @OpenWindowMES on Twitter.com.