“So, I try to find the clue in you/But evidently, white folks know more black history than we do “ – G.O.D. – Common featuring Ceelo Green
*In the classic tv series Roots there is a scene where the slave master whips Kunta Kinte until he submits to accepting the name “Toby.”
During the Hip Hop Era, the slave masters who own the major record labels simply have to throw a couple of dollars at Kunte for him to change his name to “Killa K” and devote his life to keeping his brothers and sisters in mental slavery…
For the last 20 years there have been numerous discussions about the plight of Hip Hop and the pseudo-culture that it created. What is rarely discussed, however, is the historical fact that the further the genre became disconnected from its African roots, the worst it became. Although, many people point to some sort of government conspiracy or some secret organization responsible for the demise of “conscious Hip Hop” what about the role that that shows like Yo MTV Raps played?
For the first years of MTV’s history , they did not hardly play any black videos. So when Yo MTV Raps was launched, to many, it was like having the first black president . But as the show gained popularity, rappers began to switch from being the proverbial prophets of rage to apologists for black anger. The era of Pro Black Rap was almost over before it really got started.
Let me make something clear. There is a distinct difference between Pro black radical rap and conscious Hip Hop. The era of what became known as “the Conscious Era, lasted from 1988-1992. But if you look at that era, critically, less than half of it was committed to teaching black people about black culture. Most of the period was dedicated to hippin’ middle class white America to the plight of the young black male in the ‘hood. Just like some have ,painstakingly, tried to make the semantic differentiation between “rap” and “Hip Hop” we must also make the same distinction between Pro-black Rap and Conscious Hip Hop.
The Rastas say that “every dread is not a Rasta and every Rasta is not a dread.” The same can be said about Hip Hop as every black rapper ain’t conscious and every conscious rapper ain’t pro-Black. Matter of fact , Pro- black Hip Hop predates the conscious era with songs such as “The Crown” by Gary Byrd and the GB Experience (1983) and “How We Gonna Make the Black Nation Rise” by Bro D and the Collective Efforts (.1985)
Few would argue the point that what is known as Hip Hop had its origin on the African continent or is at least a product of the African Diaspora. For a period, it was hard to separate rap music from the cultural/spiritual system that created it. However, like most things African, it fell victim to European cultural Imperialism.
According to scholars such as Dr. George GM James (Stolen Legacy), the theft of African culture dates back thousands of years when the Greeks stole their culture from Kemet (Egypt) . In terms of black music the late author, Del Jones would argue that we were mugged by “Culture Bandits.”
Also, white people have had a historical fascination with black radicalism, especially during the Black Power Era, as discussed in Tom Wolfe’s book “Radical Chic and Mau Mauing the Flak Catchers “ about a fund-raising meeting for the Black Panthers sponsored by Hollywood’s white “beautiful people.” So you can see why middle white America had a crush on “militant black rap” in the early 90’s.
Ice T once said that 80% of Hip Hop was purchased by white kids. What is not talked about is that the figure, if accurate, would also have to include conscious Hip Hop, giving white America a controlling interest in how black consciousness is relayed through the commercial media. This explains how black radicalism or Afrocentricity was replaced by “humanism” and multiculturalism.” So, we began to see Hip Hop through the eyes of white liberals in the same way that many of the younger black generation see the Black heroes of the past. Many are only familiar with a fictitious “post Mecca” Malcolm X who preached a message of universal brotherhood. Or only know about an “I Have a Dream” Martin Luther King, ignoring the fact that his last “Been to the Mountaintop” speech was actually a call for black economic empowerment. In Hip Hop, most people are only familiar with Tupac Shakur, the gangsta rapper and not the former leader of the New Afrikan Panthers.
So that leads us to where we are today, a time when there is, virtually, no movement in Hip Hop with the specific mission of educating young black minds about their history and the reigning king of conscious Hip Hop is a white kid named Macklemore.
But yet we scratch our heads as to why black communities are plagued with so many problems like the Black on Black killings in Chicago. We keep looking to white America for solutions.
Contrary to popular belief, there have always been black solutions for black problems in the fields of economics (Dr. Claude Anderson) , psychology (Dr. Bobby E Wright), education (Dr. Asa Hilliard), violence prevention (Dr. Amos Wilson), etc. However, just like the black leaders of the past , those who could offer the black community a black solution have been whited out of history
So what is the solution ?
We need a “Back to Africa Movement “ within Hip Hop.
During the early 20th century, Marcus Garvey started a Back to Africa movement in the US. While it has been mischaracterized as a plan to get all black folks to pack their bags and head for Zimbabwe, in reality, it was ideological in scope. It gave black people the courage to solve their problems independent from white America.
We need that today.
Just as Garvey’s Movement was attacked by those who did not want to psychologically disconnect themselves from massa, I supposed this campaign will be attacked on the same grounds.
So be it. It must be done.
When Garvey came to America he asked “where is the black man’s government army, navy and men of big affairs.” Today, I ask , where is the Hip Hop movement to educate black children?
And just as Garvey said “I can not find them..I will help make them, ” in 2013, I must do the same…