Monday, July 16, 2012

Be Careful What You Blame on Hip Hop

Before hip hop ever became commercially popular ( mid 80's) the Bronx, where hip hop began, had experienced 1. A heroin epidemic exacerbated by the Vietnam War 2. A wave of arson and disinvestment that had destroyed much of the housing stock in the South West portion of the bronx and had left many once thriving neighborhoods look like they had experienced aerial bombardment 3. A city fiscal crisis which led to the removal of the great music programs form the Bronx's public schools, the elimination of night centers and after school programs in the area's elementary schools and the cutting of Parks and Recreation budgets in half, eliminating the position of recreation supervisor in the Bronx's vest pocket parks 4. A series of riots during the 1977 Blackout which destroyed scores of stores in the Bronx's key commercial districts Given these multiple tragedies-- all of them "post civil rights" that beset the Bronx ( and soon would hit, in one form or another every industrial city inn the nation) can we really blame hip hop for having more elements of nihilism and cynicism than earlier forms of African American popular music? We should also remember that hip hop has always had a prophetic, inspirational side (the music of Grandmaster Flash, Public Enemy, Brand Nubian, Lauren Hill, and underground rappers such as Akua Naru and Rebel Diaz) and that white suburban males have been the largest audience for the most violent, misogynistic music This is not say that commercial hip hop should be exonerated from the a sharp critique of its lyrical content,but we should be careful of assigning too much blame to hip hop for the multiple tragedies that have befallen the poor and people of color in the US in the last 40 years

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