I used 2 love H.E.R.
There’s nothing like listening 2 some ol’ school jointz and then allowing yrself 2 b taken back so that u can relish in why u fell in love with them in the 1st place. Like hearing Rampage (shoutout 2 Psycho) bus’ Superthug @ carnival and watching damn near 15,000 people go nuts, or listening 2 It Takes a Nation... and know that u experienced something far more significant, and meaningful, than just vocals and beats. How abt driving thru London town n the early hours of the morning and having Beanie Sigel’s Feel it in the Air pop thru yr car stereo, or going 2 Negril in a full ride with The Chronic as yr soundtrack, or finishing up an exhausting 26 hr road trip, wanting nothing bt sleep, only 2 b fully energised by the Ante Up remix featuring Bus-a-Bus just as u’re rolling over the Brooklyn Bridge.
It’s all abt the passion invoked by the love of Hip Hop. Not just beats and rhymes, bt a livity. The culture, the code, the Essence or Rap. This thing of ours, this beautiful street science, the mass realisation of poetry in motion. Hip Hop. It’s such a strange relationship, ever since she 1st found me, stroked my face and opened my eyes. She schooled me 2 the many realities of this existence, made me self-aware, exposed both my pride and my shame, taught me 2 question everything; that Word is Bond, that Love is nothing if u don’t show it (“show me some Luv..!”), that Dogz and Catz can get along just fine, that instead of being made 2 feel less than bcos of who u r or where u come from, actually who u r and where u come from can empower u 2 overcome the restraints put on u by those who wld fear and despise u. She helped 2 do all that, and more. Suffice it 2 say that I’m somewhat protective of Hip Hop.
I used 2 go 2 Hip Hop Appreciation events. Always a lot of love there, and it’s always nice 2 gather in fellowship with other like-minded peeps. Yet, it became more noticeable 2 me (and predictable) that, over time, most of the attendance @ these events came from older headz that had love 4 the culture and art form from back in the day, dudes who knew their history. Most of the other attendees r usually young’uns who were able 2 find their voice thru Hip Hop, and want 2 experience this whole new landscape 2 the fullest. If u’ve never come across this kind of event then u’ve missed something, bcos altho it sounds somewhat run of the mill, 2 c this play out in front of u is a surreal thing.
The 1 thing that always, always gets me @ these events tho is running commentary. The “it ain’t like it used 2 b” observations, the “…back in the day…” remarks, the “these young catz don’t have a clue!” exclamations. Hip Hop, as with all things of historical import, is sometimes abt what’s being said, and more often abt who’s saying it. There r many many chronicles of the story of Hip Hop, and on the real, I’m not n2 telling that story here and now. From the beginnings of Cool Herc and the Zulu Nation up 2 the present, Hip Hop has always had something 2 say, regardless of who liked or approved of it, but the statement always had 2 be taken in context of the speaker. In that sense, Hip Hop has always been like a State on the Union address, informing us of where things stand and which way they may go in the immediate future.
Every so often, I look 2 strike up some convo with some of the veteran catz and, most of the time, when I ask who they’re listening 2 now, or who they think is poppin’, I get “..bruh, I ain’t really followin’ these new catz, cos it ain’t real no more”. 4 me rite there, that’s a switch off. I remember listening 2 KRS One in an interview abt his time as an exec 4 MCA, and when asked if he was able 2 influence the corporate culture there, he used the analogy of a finger in a stream, and that while the finger influenced the flow of water, when u remove it the water flows as b4. Same applies here. If the Vet’s of the community no longer engage or participate in the present day Hip Hop cultural flow, how can u complain abt the current state of affairs, of even blame the young’uns 4 taking a certain direction, based on the conclusions that they draw from what they c? Keep yr hand in, participate, don’t alienate.
Not that I an’ I wants 2 make the case that the yout’ dem r free from any kind of scrutiny, as personal responsibility still has its place, and the right 2 take from Hip Hop also comes with the responsibility 2 respect the gift that it is, and 2 give back 2 the culture. As Frank White says, there’s rules 2 this … Only, there’s a definite divide, and the less the older headz engage with the new school, the more of an erosion will be evidenced by the lack of observation of the rules that regulate this. New school needs 2 respect the architects, and older headz need 2 impart (and not patronize!) 2 the young headz the knowledge. Mutual respect, higher overstanding.
As I stated b4, Hip Hop is like a State of the Union address, and like all forms of address, it serves as a reflection of the larger environment from which it draws context. Let’s keep it real, there’s a lot of output from Hip Hop that’s not positive, but then this more negative side has always existed. But let me not pettifog, some older headz have a valid point; the negative output is on the increase. Even the less negative jointz out there now say very little, and whli yes, I do kno that it all started out as party music, from very early on the significance of artform 2 its audience became central in its expression. The paper chase is also represented strongly, as is a need 2 show and prove yr material worth; if u ain’t getting minted, then yr game is weak. Yr success is measured in yr excess. Hip Hop is a reflection of the environment from which it comes out of and draws from. We gear our education system 2 gain the skills necessary 2 b able 2 accumulate wealth, we replace religion and spirituality with the iconography of celebrity, we’ve moved our societies from community focused 2 aspirational desires, and then look baffled as 2 y the leading lights of Hip Hop all talk abt flash cars, big houses, celebrity chicks and openly deride those less fortunate. We live in a capitalist world, we use the mechanics of this 2 gain wealth, status, respect. The artists that rep Hip Hop magnify that. Hip Hop is our thing, it’s abt all of us who r a part of it or engage it. Hip Hop reflects us. Yes, don’t even try 2 play this off. If we want 2 c the culture repped differently, then I an’ I, u, me, all of us need 2 make the changes we want in the artistic output. If we all exalt and respect our Empresses and Princesses, then it becomes more difficult 4 an artist 2 put out something that contradicts that perspective. A lot of peeps, both within Hip Hop and outside of it, say they don’t like that there is a lack of positive lyrics in the music. Allow me 2 retort; there r a lot of conscious, positive and uplifting jointz out there by artistS who adore and respect this. U wanna hear positivity in Hip Hop, support those artists, buy their joints, go 2 their shows, drag unschooled cats so that they can experience uplifting WordSoundPower vibrations in a drama-free setting. The proliferation of technology now makes it even easier than ever 2 do this, bt we still have 2 take the steps, check out who’s doing it on that level, u can’t change the Game if u’re just content 2 sit in the stands and point a finger. Dip the finger in the flow instead, c what ripples occur.
Talking abt Back in the Day, there was a time when Hip Hop was switched on 2ward the positive, when there was a genuine movement 4 positive change in our communities, in the way we engaged each other, in the way that we saw ourselves and the world. Peace was the word and empowerment was the goal, and we knew that somehow we had 2 “fight the powers that be”… then the crack wars began, big money came n2 Hip Hop, and style began 2 reign over content. Again there r many documentarians who have chronicled this, and @ some point I may well create a body of work in that vein, bt let me posit this, was there any benefit from this sudden slide away from the positive? And if so, who were the beneficieries? And y wld there b a push 2ward the negative?
I wanna draw a parallel here, not an overtly obvious 1, bt an important 1. Back in the 60’s and 70’s there was a strong and definite movement that engaged peeps in an environment from which they felt alienated. The movement, the most visible aspects of which were musical and appearance, was much stronger and deeper that just songs and visuals. I’m talking abt Punk. Punk was, and still is by those who keep the flame, a whole culture 2 itself, with not just its own music, bt its own fashion, ideologies, codes and modes of interaction, dance, literature, visual artwork, film and other artistic output, lifestyle and community. From the outside it frightened many who cldn’t cross that bridge 2 engage it. Like Hip Hop it had negative aspects as well, as do all cultures. Yet it was the Music that spearheaded its rise n2 the gr8r consciousness, and when it became apparent that aspects of the culture were economically viable, Big Money found it way n2 Punk. Soon after, Punk-lite fashion appeared chain stores, record companies found acts that cld sell commercial Punk music 2 mainstream audiences, without educating the masses as 2 the larger culture. Economic power brings a certain level of freedom, and those with that power and who co-opted Punk, or their representation of it, had the power 2 influence the commercial aspects and not have 2 answer 2 the architects, the peeps that lived this. So Punk as a cultural force... well… sort of died a death. There r still those who keep it alive, and have 2 still fight the misconceptions and preconceptions every day, they still rep Punk 2 the fullest and have even carved successful careers even in the face of the ignorance of others. It’s funny how both with Hip Hop and Punk, if u r seen as 1 who reps that culture, u automatically become the spokesperson 4 it in its entirety, and must answer 4 all its ills. I was watching the opium box some time back (funny how addictive it can b), and saw Vivienne Westwood in an interview, where the interviewer 1st fawned over her, then began 2 try 2 make her answer 4 negative occurrences in the history of Punk, like all true Punks lived in the same house and were answerable 4 whatever crap some other punk did. Some things never change.
Hip Hop, whereas Big Money has made inroads 2 co-opt it, still is somewhat self-regulating, and bcos it’s also remains somewhat removed from whose that wld seek 2 own its soul, lays in the hands of those who, 2 some extent, live it and love it 4 all its flaws. This now global phenomenon that, as Common says has affected so many souls and connected nations, has enriched the lives of billons, Hip Hop affiliated or not, as well as enriching billions of dollars in the coffers of corporations. The beauty of it all is that it’s still abt the joy of participation. The banging of beats on the kitchen table (or on shop counters, on the knees, the dashboard in the ride...), the catching lyrical wordplay in a cypher, hearing 4 bars drop from a new joint in a club and getting yr collective minds blown, the pain of STILL waiting 4 Dre 2 drop Detox, the joy reminiscing abt c-ing Biggie Mic Control-ing Hammersmith Palais, or playing Eminem in yr head just b4 u have 2 face 1 of Life’s many tests, or even listening 2 a Japanese girl who knows virtually no English spit Shook Ones word 4 word, rhyme 4 rhyme and know that u both share a bond…
I cld go on and on, bt the point is this; the story of Hip Hop is age old, the story of triumph over adversity, of the insignificant becoming integral 2 the fabric of this space-time, the story of the power of unity. It’s not so much a matter of history tho, it’s on-going, present, it’s our story, and the continuing story of the world in which we live, from the perspective of the story tellers, the rhymers and scribers that spk 2 us and 4 us, and is probably the most democratic method of telling the tale of the people. Like all true democracies, the gr8r the participation, the more vibrant the democracy becomes. 4 u, by u, and if we all engage, we will continue 2 shape the reality of this thing of ours.
I rarely roll up 2 Hip Hop Appreciation days anymore, tho I try 2 reach the up and comers thru other means. Mayb the way 2 show love for H.E.R. and honour the Architects is 2 keep it movin’ whilst holding fast 2 the values that brought this whole thing 4ward.
I used 2 love H.E.R. I still love H.E.R. Even when she becomes wayward, or I become wayward, I still come back 2 H.E.R. I hope I’m blessed enough 2 never fail H.E.R. I will always ride 4 H.E.R.
Corrd the Seeker.