Hip-hop Is Doing Just Fine

Dear Friend,

The legendary Hip-hop group EPMD once said “Hip-hop is out of control.” If you turn on the TV or the radio and watch/listen to how Hip-hop is represented these days you would agree. Rappers are barely rapping. Their words are slurred to no end. They are overly confident: cocky. They are typically male and have nearly-naked women all around them. They have guns and drugs and huge houses and nice cars. The content is shallow at best. Surely, Hip-hop needs to grow up.

Here is the problem with that sentiment; it is not based in practicality. Take a modern mainstream rapper that fits the image I described. Let’s call this rapper Tritan Maxwell. Why Tritan Maxwell? It just sounds fresh. Tritan is all about exploiting women, selling drugs, acting really tough, and overall just living & rapping without a cause. We find Tritan and box him into a corner and conduct an intervention. He listens. He changes. He decides to refresh his whole image. The corporate interests that represent Tritan drop him. His influence in pop culture dwindles. Those corporate interests that used to make money off Tritan travel to the Southside of Chicago or the suburbs of Toronto and find another Tritan.

Tritan might have changed for the better, but the image and portrayal of Hip-hop has not changed a bit and the condemnation of Hip-hop continues unfettered.

Hip-hop has never mass-produced a singular, cookie cutter image of the culture; corporate America has. Before the BIG record companies started dumping millions of dollars into promoting & advertising rappers, the visible field of artists was incredibly diverse. Hip-hop produced revolutionaries like KRS-ONE, political activists like Killer Mike, ridiculously fun & innocent class clowns like Biz Markie, street-wise gangsters like NWA, and on and on the inclusive and diverse list goes.

When big record companies saw the huge impact (i.e. dollar signs) of “gangsta rap” they divested from groups like Public Enemy and over-invested in groups like NWA. The misrepresentation of Hip-hop was underway. Popular Hip-hop music in the late ‘80’s boasted a very diverse and healthy roster of rappers and mceees. Hip-hop in the late ‘90’s boasted a very diverse and healthy roster of rappers and mcees. Hip-hop today boasts a very diverse and healthy roster of rappers and mcees.

The change is what you see without searching. Radio and TV used to promote the broad spectrum of rappers in the late 80’s and early 90’s. But, by the late 90’s that was changing. The gatekeepers (i.e. record companies, magazines, video outlets, radio stations, etc…) began to only let through a limited viewpoint that did not promote and celebrate diversity. Instead, it stifled it. The power holders were not interested in good art or a healthy culture. They were interested in money. Point blank, period. And money they got! A lot of it.

I do not think that Hip-hop needs to grow up. I think capitalism needs to grow up. I need it to apologize to me and countless others who are indebted to hip-hop. I am speaking to record company executives, radio station PD’s, and video show producers that helped change the face of Hip-hop from one of healthy diversity to one of damaging singularity. I’m speaking to you on behalf of countless Hip-hoppers in saying we are upset with you. You took something so dear to us and exploited the hell out of it (correction “exploited the heaven out of it”). Shame on you. If you are still doing that. Stop. If you have already stopped, thank you. Go back and bring someone else with you. Hip-hop does not need a revolution, but the industry you were once a part of does.

Now, please excuse me as I have to go listen to ‘Them that Do.” You can too…


MC Till

Hip-hop is not dead and it doesn’t need to grow up.

You have probably heard of Hip-hop. It’s influence is everywhere from music to fashion to slang. Birthed in the Bronx, NYC in the 70’s but has since moved outward to affect the world. Just recently I was discussing the Hip-hop scene in Nigeria and Senegal via the facebook group “Everybody’s Hip-hop Blog.” Hip-hop is truly everywhere.

And just about everywhere is also the sentiment that Hip-hop is either dead or needs to grow up. I disagree. Sure, there are elements within any group of people that are bad. Bad teachers, bad cops, bad firemen, bad pastors, etc… That does not mean we are constantly screaming that these occupations need to grow up or that their entire enterprise is dead.

Hip-hop is righteous rebellion. It is innovative creativity. It is the physical response of a pure desire; a desire that screams to be included in an excluded group.

In over simplified terms the Civil rights movement screamed acceptance while the Black Panther movement yelled resistance. Hip-hop falls somewhere in between as it expressively and often explicitly states, “Be you and you are cool with us.” Or to put in Hip-hop terms, “keep it real.”

Hip-hop is alive. It is inspiring. It has changed people’s lives for the better and continues to do so. It does not need to grow up or be revived. It is doing just fine. Perhaps this is hard for you to digest because the hip-hop you see or have heard is all about violence, exploiting women, and drugs. Ah, that, I suggest, is mostly the manifestation of the evil side of American Capitalism. Tune in next month as we explore that subject.

MC Till

What If?

Sports are a throne to “What If” scenarios. Perhaps no sporting event in modern history exemplifies this “what if” scenario better than the recent Pittsburgh Stealers win over the Cincinnati Bengals in the NFL.

The ending of that game created a lot of “what if’s” for the losing Bengals. If you have no idea what I’m talking about let me offer a quick recap of the last few minutes of this football game. Cincinnati is in the lead with hardly 60 seconds to go in the game. They are very close to scoring again and essentially putting the game out of reach for Pittsburgh. First, Cincinnati fumbles and Pittsburgh recovers the ball. Then, one of Cincinnati players’ cold cocks a Pittsburg player. A penalty is called and Pittsburgh is in much better position to score and take the lead. Then, there is a confrontation on the field and a Cincinnati player pushes one of the Pittsburgh coaches. Another penalty is called. Now, Pittsburgh is in great position to score and win the game. They do both.

For sure, it was a heart breaker for Cincinnati who has not won a play-off game since the invention of sliced bread. It was hard to stomach for Bengals fans. I promise you there is not one Bengals fan that has not said “what if” several times since that game.

What if we did not fumble? What if we did not get that first penalty? What if we did not get that second penalty? What if, what if, what if.

The “what if” factor plagues musicians and artists as well. I think back over my music career and within seconds a few “what ifs” come to mind. What if I handed DJ Hi-Tek a cd I really believed in vs. what I thought was more trendy at the time? What if I made a better impression on Kirk Franklin when we met? What if I stayed in contact with this person in the business or that person? What if I performed better at this show or that show? What if, what if, what if.

What if never happened and never will. It is my personal me-made barrier. It distracts me. It blurs the overwhelming opportunities I have right now! Incredible opportunities are happening as I write this. I can choose to dwell on the past “what ifs” or I can fight back against those distractions by working right now in the present. I can. I will. I am.

I hope “what ifs” are not pulling you down. If they are let’s leave them in the past together. Because even though right now I’m optimistic and telling myself “yeah, I can do this” tomorrow will come and with it a “what if” memory will no doubt make its way into my thoughts. And if it hits at the right time when I’m already feeling a bit weak, I will not be immune from its traps. Hopefully, knowing that you are overcoming your “what-ifs” will inspire me to overcome mine.


PS- But, seriously, IF we had only kneeled the ball instead of running we could have gone to the Super Bowl in a few weeks!!!!!