Hip-hop and I grew up together. Has capitalism, commercialism ruined rap?
Hip-hop recently celebrated its 50th birthday, providing a perfect opportunity to decide if we as a collective currently recognize the global genre as a friend or a foe. As I engaged in various commemorative celebrations, I reflected on when the Grammys and other awards and programs refused to acknowledge rap music as a legitimate art form. Reminiscing on the nostalgic moments of hip-hop has reinforced my personal connection to the culture.
Unfortunately, for many of us, the love affair with hip-hop is over and has been for some time. In an interview with Darryl McDaniels of the groundbreaking group Run DMC, he highlighted to me the lack of responsibility in today’s hip-hop and attorney Qiana Barton agrees, “Loving hip-hop has become one of the more challenging relationships in my life … It’s hard sometimes when the thing you love doesn’t love you back.”
Hip-hop & I
Hip-hop and, specifically, rap music, and I are about the same age. This global culture, which includes emceeing, DJ’ing, breakdancing and graffiti, was created by innovative Black and Latino youth living in abject poverty in the Boogie Down Bronx. They created cultural expression against oppression. Hip-hop helped these groundbreaking adolescents channel their energy into a vibrant sub-culture that would eventually change fashion, linguistics, marketing, media and nearly every art form.
During the early days of hip-hop, I was a pre-teen in nearby New Jersey and I was entirely immersed in the cultural phenomenon. I once owned the 12-inch version of “Rapper’s Delight” and fully understand the importance of the groundbreaking song, “The Message,” and the ending of the low budget music video where the Furious Five, unjustifiably, all get shoved in one police car. I can still remember exactly where I was when I first heard the beatbox instrumental for “La-Di-Da-Di” and the deep sadness I felt the summer of 1987 when I was told DJ Scott La Rock was murdered — the first of many prominent hip-hop deaths.