It's the powerful voice of a generation. It's word's reach from the cities of the United States to the shores of nations in Europe, Asia and everywhere in between. The culture has taught creative expression, poetry and art to millions across the globe. Yet for many of us in the U.S showing our love for the phenomenon that is Hip Hop often comes with a needed asterisk. "I love Hip Hop but I'm not a fan of this new stuff." "I love Hip Hop but I can't get with the music on the radio right now." "I love Hip Hop but I don't go to the clubs like that anymore because the music is too much." How many times have you heard one of these statements or even said them yourself? There is an ugly truth to Hip Hop that isn't new to today's material but has become way more apparent. Hip Hop is matching if not substituting much of its traditionally positive qualities with some of the ugliest creative energy in our society.
You know I gotta get props, I can't stop, wit out y'all
I be nothin', no wreckin', no checks, no rhymin', no cuttin'
No stages from pages, no phones, no beepers
No reason to put Queen in front of the name Latifah
-Queen Latifah "Just Another Day"
Decades ago it was Drugs, Sex & Rock Roll. Today much of the Hip Hop displayed for the masses attempts to embrace that mantra with a "we can do it better" mentality that pushes the envelope of taste and recklessness in ways that continue to surprise. While this superstar position has always been a part of the general musical landscape, today there is a lack of balance and accountability that greatly sways the needle in the direction of self-destruction more than ever before. Ice Cube, Dr. Dre & Snoop Doggy Dogg in the 90's faced congressional attacks on much of the music they created, Wu Tang was put through the ringer of media scrutiny for the raw unapologetic lyrics in their raps. While these artists proclaimed that they were merely expressing their reality we simultaneously had the undeniably uplifting work of McLyte, Run DMC, Common, Fugees, De la Soul and more on the same channels and radio waves. You didn't need to explain why you liked Hip Hop because it was understood that like any other genre there was material for different audiences. A mother could pick out a Hip Hop song she likes even from sporadic viewing of MTV or BET. That's not possible today.
Extreme entertainment rules the current entertainment landscape and Hip Hop artists have been given the license to put out more and more disrespectful, questionable content with no one saying anything about it. How does a woman truthfully like the mainstream material of Hip Hop music without having to forcefully disconnect from what's being said about her. The biggest stars in the game throw around the "B" word with so much regularity you can lose count and the endless list of rappers that have gotten in front of cameras to explain their use of the word is laughable.
All my b**ches love me and I love all my b**ches
But it's like as soon as I c*m, I come to my senses
And I would say these h*es names...
- Lil Wayne "Love Me"
Even if you ignore that one word you can't ignore the fact that at least in terms of how they are presented, women have made minimal gains in Hip Hop. They are still pieces of eye candy for the sake of decorating fantasy video imagery. Yes you get one or two stand out ladies who reach super stardom but there is no tangible female representation in the game. What Hip Hop can today's grown woman truly claim represents her?
Maybe we can look at the "N" word and the staple that that has become in Hip Hop to the point that citizens in foreign nations think that's just a common way to greet a black person. That's a discussion that I also see no truly conclusion being reached even as it pops up every couple of months. Hip Hop's reach and influence grows at a time when it's very hard to define what it stands for. Power without directions is incredibly dangerous and I can only hope we find a way to have to apologize and explain the thing we grew up loving so much.