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Hip Hop and Rap music are original American art forms and artists should be free to express themselves in any medium.  I am not for censorship of whatever music adults choose to enjoy.  This discussion is important on a political/governance blog because people make choices surrounding musical sub-cultures and the government is left to deal with the financial consequences.

In communities, we should be mindful that music can play a serious role in the development of young minds and establishment of value systems.  Since colonial days, older Americans have been concerned with the messages in music.  It seems that some current artists/entertainers inadvertently lead the youth down a negative path.  But, old people were once young people and our parents had issues with Prince, AC/DC, Rick James etc.

I content that the situation is much worse today than 30 years ago because technology can pump all kinds of thoughts into Junior’s ears while all we had was Soul Train and Bandstand.

Proper Context: People can listen to any music in its proper context. It’s art; it’s entertainment. If you stand on a strong moral foundation, exposure to ideas from music wouldn’t change who you are dramatically.  We loved Prince and still love him but I never worn eyeliner or a Captain Crunch Pirate coat.  Early rap gave urban youth an opportunity to battle with words and dance.  Later, the gangsta rap of N.W.A. and Tupac explained the problems of some urban youth in a useful way.  Again, the proper context was kids speaking about their circumstances and that’s why the L.A. riots were foretold by N.W.A. and Ice Cube.

N.W.A. was art imitating life.  As middle-aged parents, the living members of N.W.A. (rest in peace Eazy-E) have their children and grandchildren in safe, comfortable environments—gated communities with cul-de-sacs.  They want better for their kids and prisoners generally want better for their families also.

When real money came into the rap culture, the whole game changed.  People would do or say anything to make more cash…with no regard for societal effects.  Kids from good families made hardcore changes to their vibes to get a record deal.  It was life imitating art to the point that many college students (black, white, brown and yellow) can be distinguished from common thugs and street walkers.  As Gil Scott Heron said about another matter “it’s the ultimate realization of the inmates running the asylum.”  But, it this case the asylum is the whole community.  Senior citizens lock themselves inside their modest homes and dare say a word about the kids with no shirts across the street blasting filth that would make the devil blush.

School kids seek to emulate pimps and pushers rather positive, law-abiding members of the community.  Rap videos actually have some youth ignoring education and training because the million they plan to make in the hip hop culture will be much easier.  Of course, a person who develops expensive taste without money soon considers illegal money-making options.

Understand, hip hop is a culture—not just music.  It’s a way of life that involves dress and speech.  Lord have mercy on my community because too many kids are spending their formative years ignoring the foundations of a healthy family, career and home.  Instead, they are making themselves less employable if not unemployable—really, these fools are deployable.  Hey, we had wild phases in our youth but most activities didn’t have permanent consequences.  “NowhatI’msayin…Nowhati’msayin..naw meen.”

Of course, I am talking about the negative section of the hip hop culture and the positive section would be my selection if I was young today.  I recently listened to a Breakfast Club radio interview with Kanye West. When Charlemagne told West that he should go where he is “celebrated not tolerated,” I thought about my community and both major political parties but we aren’t going there.  When West said he listens to advise from Jay-Z and musical cues from new rappers, Charlemagne said that the Bible teaches “Old men for counsel; young men for war.”

1 Kings 12:8 But he forsook the counsel of the old men, which they had given him, and consulted with the young men that were grown up with him, and which stood before him. 

I love thinking about King Rehoboam’s situation and the current hip hop culture. This guy was the son of Solomon and the people asked him to make their yoke lighter.  The old guys told him to speak good words to them and they would be his servants forever.  But, Rehoboam listened to the guys his age and made the yoke heavier.  When I was young, I would hang with the fellows but the real advice for living came from those older gentlemen and ladies.  In college, I was listening to seniors, grad students, professors and young professionals because listening to other young folks primarily would be like the blind leading the blind.

If people don’t have solid elders in their corners, they live aimlessly and take advise from hip hop music.

I have lived in the “hood” a few times in life but I was never ghetto enough to love the struggle.  Like the yoke in the Bible passage, the struggle can be one’s circumstance.  Blacks in the South were generally striving for a better life…what’s the plan….what’s the good news?  To be frank, those who loved being ignorant and those to loved struggling were avoided.

Today, music executives who are only interested in revenue promote ignorant entertainers (I won’t call them artists) who will do or say everything negative to get more money.  As a result, we have a generation of youth influenced by ignorant peers more so than parents, the church or school.  They love the struggle as a way of life and being incarcerated seems like a badge of courage.  We know old prisoners begged the youth not the make the mistakes they made.

At times, it seems that the worst element of hip hop has a more detrimental impact on the community than the Klan.  Chuck D and Public Enemy in 1991 had an interlude after the song “Shut em Down” in which “Bernie Crosshouse” of the Klan thanks negative Blacks for destroying the community.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nskZM74NKkc  (at 4:30 mark)

I’d like to express our deepest gratitude at the destruction of the inferior n****r race, and I’m especially pleased to report that it’s destroying itself without our help. To all you gangs, hoodlums, drug pushers and users, and other worthless n-ggers killing each other, we’d like to thank y’all for saving us the time, trouble and legality for the final chapter of ridding y’all off the face of the earth. Your solution to our problem is greatly appreciated. So keep selling us your soul. Thank yuh

It turns out P.E. was correct in creating Crosshouse because certain elements of the community have us on self-destruct mode and hip hop music often glamorize these elements.  That glamorization isn’t necessarily a problem for the strong, grounded and well-balanced. But, people who are weaker, people with questionable home training and unfortunately people who raised themselves (the half-raised) will be influenced by the street from these lyrics and hypnotic beats.

Club friends: In homes where youth are trained with deliberation, kids learn the levels of friendship because some people allow kid’s exposure to explicit activities before middle school.  A young adult can kick it on the dance floor with wild friends but coming over to the table and hanging outside the club is a different matter.  To cut to the chase, some folks take sub-cultures created by music (gangster rap, heavy metal, goth) too far.  The artist themselves will admit that much of the image is pure fantasy but some people get wrapped up.

So, parents are teaching one thing and the hipsters on the corner are teaching something else.  Dam, the lyrics said this would happen.  Not a problem…just fire up a phat blunt and tune those haters out.

Solutions: We must have an honest and frank discussion about music and cultural decisions and possible impacts on individuals, the community and the nation. Paul from the Bible wrote a righteous second letter to the church at Thessalonica.  I should have been reading this in my youth rather than listening to the same rap cds over and over but that rap had a message.

2nd Thessalonians 3:10-15 For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that any would not work, neither should he eat.  For we hear that there are some which walk among you disorderly, working not at all, but are busybodies.

Now them that are such we command and exhort by our Lord Jesus Christ that with quietness they work, and eat their own bread.  But ye, brethren, be not weary in well-doing.

And if any may obey not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed. Yet count him not as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother. 

Yes, we still love our wayward brothers and sisters including those of other colors. But if you are recreational wreaking the community, I don’t too much mess with you—the disorderly need to get on the right path.  When people in old age look back at their lives, they often find that they were their own worst enemy and some of the people they chose to be around brought drama and struggle into their world.  The soundtrack to that drama was might have been questionable music.

Since I got a little to preachy, I would finish this writing by saying thank heaven for the positive cool rappers of my youth—Public Enemy, LL Cool J, Brand Nubian, Rakim. I should leave out the educational messages from rougher rappers like Tupac, Biggie and N.W.A. because Ice Cube was a poet before he became America’s dad.  See, people grow up and the sooner that happens, the better you will be.  The following are examples of the rap that I loved in the past and you should notice that rap from the 80s and 90s often sampled 60s and 70s R&B music.  That’s called respect.

P.E.- Shut em Down        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2wOcOBjB3uU

LL Cool J – The Breakthrough      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N0mk_RgA8-0&list=RDN0mk_RgA8-0

See, I fought with the devil, made a promise to God
I have experience in goin’ all the way to the top
It’s harder harder than hard all the suckers are barred
You used to try to talk down now your ego is scarred

See the problem is you want what another man has
His car, his wife, or his razzamatazz
But that’s weak, you gotta do work on your own
‘Cuz when you’re rich you got friends but when you’re poor you’re alone
So get your own on your own, it’ll strengthen your soul
Stop livin’ off your parents like you’re three years old
Instead of walkin’ like you’re limp and talkin’ yang about me
Why don’t you take your monkey-ass and get a college degree?

Or write a rhyme and ride a bike and try to live carefree
Hope my message reaches you before you’re seventy-three
A old man, when people ask you what you did with your life
You’ll say “I hated L.L. and I carried a big knife”
Brand Nubian- Slow Down https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KAvetlQbrA8

Public Enemy – Brothers Gonna Work It Out  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KHxkPNx23Og

Eric B and Rakim – Move the Crowd     https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jyl_j0g9AwU

Gang Starr – Jazz Thing https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=is5xMd1nT5o

Guru – No Time To Play         https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=09WzUhMZmFo

Brandy – I Wanna Be Down (Remix) (feat. Mc Lyte, YoYo & Queen Latifah  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LthQLQMilvo

2Pac – Keep Ya Head Up  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HfXwmDGJAB8

2pac – I Ain’t Mad At Cha       https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kt1XjVdyJ6o

The Notorious B.I.G. – “Juicy”                        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_JZom_gVfuw

3rd Bass “Pop Goes The Weasel”      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HzXI_ApY4dY

MC Hammer – Pray   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7xNSgBkum7o

MC Hammer – Turn This Mutha Out  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=74OBaLLi3tY

Grandmaster Flash- The Message     https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O4o8TeqKhgY

Afrika Bambaataa & Soul Sonic Force – Planet Rock  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9lDCYjb8RHk

Afrika Bambaataa – Looking for the Perfect Beat  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2RJlYzBhLg4

OutKast – Player’s Ball            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vFofKGKlWo4

Ludacris ft Field Mob & Jamie Foxx-Georgia https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KZW_VgFXm_w

Master P “Make’em Say UGH” ‌‌https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d5ZvzIOO6aU

House Of Pain – “Jump Around”        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KZaz7OqyTHQ

RUN DMC HARD TIMES      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qO2cakSiqDQ

Self Destruction          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jxyYP_bS_6s

NEWCLEUS – JAM ON IT     https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zEmg5GaAHbk

De La Soul – Me, Myself And I           https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FJEzEDMqXQQ

Pete Rock & CL Smooth – They Reminisce Over You (T.R.O.Y.) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BONgL61snlM

A Tribe Called Quest – Bonita Applebum       https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s6oO-1iWc1c

De La Soul “Buddy” ‌‌   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F69dt5clGPo

Black Sheep – The Choice Is Yours   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K9F5xcpjDMU

Digable Planets – Rebirth Of Slick (Cool Like Dat)https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cM4kqL13jGM

Arrested Development – Tennessee  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6VCdJyOAQYM

PM Dawn – Set A Drift On Memory Bliss      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q5lByFc7HiM

Queen Latifah ft. Monie Love – Ladies First   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hLB5bUNAesc

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Surprisingly, I agree with the rapper Two Chainz’s preoccupation with “I’m different.” We need some different mindsets in many aspects of our public and private lives because what has happen in the past simply isn’t fair, isn’t working and has us on a path to destruction.

Politicians: I have been waiting for two decades for a new type southerner officeholder/policymaker.  We need leaders who will tell the people the cold, hard facts—straight, no chaser; the good, the bad and the ugly.  A congressman or woman who goes to every community, builds trust, then sits on the tailgate of a pickup truck and tells the God’s honest truth about pulling everything on the fiscal table.

I have never been a fan of conservative columnist Cal Thomas but last month he wrote a classic about conservatives needing to “show up.”  The late Rep. Jack Kemp would show up in every neighborhood and people could sense his sincerity. Former RNC chairman Michael Steele tried to create a new subsection of conservatives who regularly dialoged with the other side and with regular non Republican folks but the Tea Party Movement wasn’t having that kind of different.

Tea Party People: America would be better off if those people weren’t so ticked off.  Their fiscal and governmental concerns are valid but being angry isn’t healthy or helpful.  Look, Black people have every right to be pissed with our bondage history in this nation but we (like the Native Americans) can’t carry that bitterness in our hearts.  The issues that have the Tea Partiers upset is still a pebble when compared to the boulder of slavery but we all need to make peace and move forward with positive energy.

Southern Youth: While this blog post started with Two Chainz I must take issue with the mindset of our kids.  The glamorization of thugs and strippers found in today’s hip hop is (in my opinion) is moving Black folks backwards.  In my neighborhood, the clean-cut kids with belts on their pants who speak English properly are different and I am so cheering for them.  The “yes, sir..no,sir” young ladies in my town are the remnants of our southern Black elegance.  That elegance is what we saw in the movie “The Help.”  I wrote a blog post once about Justice Clarence Thomas’s book about his grandfather.  Thomas’s grandfather didn’t like the government having the right to ask questions about what happens in his house.  I love that.

http://projectlogicga.com/2012/01/23/clarence-thomas-good-brother/

Hell, I will tell you about two chains.  The first chain was wrought iron and put by masters around the necks of slaves.  The second chains, which are golden, are in current times and put around the necks of slaves by slaves themselves.  I am different because I haven’t worn chains or any precious metal jewelry since 1979.  We need music like “De La Soul is on a roll…Black medallions…no gold.”  Two Chainz says “I wish a N-word would…like a kitchen cabinet.”  I wish the youth would watch our hip hop on VH1 Soul then view a Cosby Show marathon.

 

In summary, I hope that we create a movement of different in my community because what we are doing and where we are heading isn’t working.  We spend too much energy and time on the wrong things then struggle and suffer as a result.  All I want for my birthday is some guys who don’t reference to women as big booty garden tools. While Two Chainz says “me and you are cut from a different fabric,” I say that we are all woven into the same tapestry.

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Is hip hop taking us backwards?  I loved this art form in my youth but it seems (correct me if I am wrong) that young people are emulating the worst elements of society.  Slaves wanted freedom and that freedom didn’t really come until the 1970s. 

At church Sunday, the pastor, a veteran of the struggle, started his sermon by saying that freedom doesn’t give you the right to do just anything. We are still ticked that someone broke the windows at church. Did he really refer to the culprits as “devils” in a prayer the morning we discovered the vandalism.  Yeap..I like the pastor…he has teeth. 

My definition of “teeth” in the public policy arena is policy that has bite or a consequence element.  For example, healthcare reform might have had a provision stating that if I cross the 50 pounds overweight mark, they aren’t spending money and effort  saving me from me. “We saw you at Golden Corral putting in work.”

Dr. Martin Luther King paraphrased the Biblical prophet Amos when he said, “We are determined here in Montgomery to fight until justice runs down like water, and righteousness like a mighty stream.”  A quick glance at hip hop history’s use of water/rain takes me from Oran Juice Jones’ “Standing in the Rain” to Boys To Men “Can You Stand the Rain.”  My brother-in-law in N.C. used that last song as his sermon title the first time I heard him preach. 

Today’s hip hop has a tune by Atlanta rapper Travis Porter called “Make It Rain” and the beat is bumping.  But (oh my goodness), a sista (the fruit that blossomed on the African tree) comes in stating, “You want to see some –ss, I want to see some cash.”  Making It Rain involves rich cats going into the night or strip club, standing in the D.J booth and making it rain money.  You Tube videos show rain events with six figures going in six seconds.  To be honest, we had the Too Live Crew back in the day but that was a novelty.  We were in college or the military to improve our families’ situation…to move forward.

If you walk down a college campus today, the dress and vibe of some of the students would alarm you.  Some college students are making a concerted effort to be as thug-like and stripper-like as possible—including my college classmates’ kids who grew up in nurturing environments.  We are moving backwards on some level and since hip hop involves Black, White, Red and Brown, the drama knows no boundaries.    

If you don’t believe me, you can get shocked on the webpage WorldStarhiphop.com.  Since I gave up on most new rap music a few years ago, I don’t watch the videos introduced on WorldStar but the homemade cellphone videos of people fighting in public are disturbing.  We are talking brawls in Pizza Hut and mothers fighting in the street.  Colin Powell said we need to reinstitute the concept of shame and I agree.   When the fights start, the camera person often says “Worldstarhiphop…this is going on Worldstarhiphop.”

We were radical in college but we could talk with political and community leaders when we broke out the khakis, ties and blazers .  If I were in college today, I would be listening to Oakland rapper KHARI because he has teeth.   He drop one called “Thickness” about curvy women that has the interest of my college classmates who are now in their 40s.  The guy is a poet like L.L. and Chuck D so listen with caution to his track “The Beast” which is about Black men in prison.  He makes some thought-provoking points but the Oakland police must be much worst that the okay rural police in my town.  KHARI is a conspiracy theorist who seems to think that prisons and the justice system are designed to make money locking up “just us.”

Hip hop is an original American art form and the current rappers are worrying my generation like our generations’ rappers must have worried our parents, preachers and professors. I swear art isn’t imitating life—life is imitating art and pulling us down.  Are they reversing past gains?   When I see the current pol sci majors at my HCBU, I am going to recommend that they checkout L.L. Cool J.’s “The Breakthrough.”  We knew that L.L. was different and that he would be having a positive impact on American culture for years.  LL is hard and has teeth but it was well-intended.  What’s the intention of today’s rapper$?

The Breakthrough: LL Cool J

Knuckleheads spreadin’ gossip all over town
Every time I drive by you’re just standin’ around
Hundred-bottles in your pocket, forty-dog in your hand
Don’t you know you’re just a worker and your boss is my man?
L.L. this, L.L. that, soon as I walk in the place
I wanna take my gun and shoot you in your muthaf-ckin’ face
You’re playin’ me too close with the schemin’ and games
I guess the beef and the bullsh-t is the price of fame
Movies, records, goin’ on tour
Twenty-thousand people hip-hoppin’ on the floor
Whole parties body-rockin’, and everything’s chill
Get back to New York, and the suckers act ill
See I fought with the devil, made a promise to God
I have experience in goin’ all the way to the top
It’s harder harder than hard
All the suckers are barred
You used to try to talk down now your ego is scarred
See the problem is you want what another man has
His car, his wife, or his razzamatazz
But that’s weak, you gotta do work on your own
cuz when you’re rich you got friends
but when you’re poor you’re alone
So get your own on your own, it’ll strengthen your soul
Stop livin’ off your parents like you’re three years old
Instead of walkin’ like you’re limp and talkin’ yang about me
why don’t you take your monkey-ass and get a college degree?
Or write a rhyme and ride a bike and try to live carefree
Hope my message reaches you before you’re seventy-three
A old man, when people ask you what you did with your life
you’ll say “I hated L.L. and I carried a big knife”
Every day is a chase, every day is a race
and every day you’re being overpowered by my bass
Too much juice to be a deuce, I had to be a ace
It’s like the fire’s in my eyes and the gun’s in my face
I’m stompin’ stupid knuckleheads until they bleed
I’m the leader of the show, so it’s up to me to lead
I’mma lead you away from drugs and petty crime
Lead you away from wack beats and rhyme
Lead you to that ticket line
so you can come in my show and watch the stars shine
Get busy, not dizzy, wanna teach the young
The last man who didn’t listen ended up gettin’ hung
Not that I killed him, it’s just
He didn’t wanna trust
the words of a master that’s why you must
Take heed to the speech, it’s gonna reach your ear
Don’t try to say you can’t hear cuz the words are clear
Throwin’ flurries, punks scurry and I bury the rest
You better hurry up and rock a rhyme and give it your best
Cuz tonight’s the night we gonna see the big fight
Twelve-gauge on the stage in case it don’t go right
E-Love drives a tank, he’s strong like a truck
If you’re cryin’ while you’re dyin’ we ain’t givin’ a f-ck
L.L. Cool J is on the microphone
tellin’ all you punk ducks “Leave me the hell alone”
Cuz I’m rated X, born to snap necks
Straight up and down, no special effects
I’m the professor, the teacher, the hip-hop dean
If Russia bombed the U.S., they’d be scared to touch Queens
Cuz that’s where I live, and this is what I give
Turnin’ top-notch crews into fugitives
They run, they frightened, they hide from King Titan
like a sniper when he’s shootin’ or a viper when he’s bitin’
Here I am, tellin’ the truth
and I’m spreadin’ the word to my fellow youth
It goes man-to-man and jam-to-jam
I got hip-hop, rock, and love song fans
All you petty MC’s in the state of New York
Gettin’ a thousand for a show but you still wanna squawk
Can’t get a decent contract, your beats ain’t workin’
Dogged-out Pumas plus you’re manager’s jerkin’
Your mic sounds weak, remember that skeezer
I’m badder than Napoleon, Hitler or Caesar
I’m a hitman, but I’m not for hire
Fly girl’s desire, the man you admire
Not only on the stage, I rock in the park
and I’m a killer in the daytime, and worse after dark
So don’t never ever mess with the king of the sound
L.L. Cool J, the baddest around.

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Like Jill Scott, Angie Stone and Lauryn Hill, Erykah Badu is a straight-up artist who puts a message in her music and compels us to think.  Her new song “Window Seat” blew me away and even included a nod to blues guitar great Lightning Hopkins.  I am proud to say that Hopkins has been featured on the music tab on this blog since day one.  Badu will always leave you thinking.  What’s with the JFK assassination vibe in the video?  Could I date a sista with that many tats on that beautiful brown skin?  Has Badu aged a day? 

She ends the video with a monologue that seems to be aimed at some extreme elements from her native Texas but I better leave that alone.   Wouldn’t it be cool to sit on a back porch in the Lone Star state with Badu and her friends and have a long island ice tea party featuring music by Sam Lightning Hopkins.  I would love to attend that Tea Party.  

so, in my mind I’m tusslin’

back and forth ‘tween here and hustlin’

I don’t wanna time travel no mo

I wanna be here

I’m thinking

on this porch I’m rockin’

back and forth light lightning Hopkins

if anybody speak to Scotty

tell him beam me up….

http://pinboard.files.wordpress.com/2010/02/window_seat2.jpg

Window Seat—Badu

http://universalmotown.com/videos/playlist.aspx?plid=1457712391&v=76010451001&aid=0

Sam Lightning Hopkins

UPDATE: What the hell.  I thought Badu did that video as a “shoot” with actors.  It turns out that she just did it with tourists and kids walking around.  That might be a little too much.  Below is the speech she makes at the end of the video.

They play it safe, are quick to assassinate what they do not understand. They move in packs, ingesting more and more fear with every act of hate on one another. They feel most comfortable in groups; less guilt to swallow. They are us; this is what we have become, afraid to respect the individual. A single person within our circumstance can move one to change, to love herself, to evolve.

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