Music & Entertainment

A Coming of Age? Hip Hop at 40

A Coming of Age? Hip Hop at 40

By Ashahed Muhammad @AshahedM


The dawn of a new era of responsibility or simply a powerful commercial tool?

( – By all legitimate historical accounts, DJ Cool Herc is credited with being the inventor of Hip-Hop in the Bronx, New York on or around  August 11, 1973.

His legendary parties and creative method of playing old funk records while isolating the drum beat portion known as “the break,” are major foundational aspects of Hip-Hop culture and history.

Hip-Hop consists of several primary elements: rapping, break dancing, graffiti and the role of the DJ. There are other aspects that are undeniably connected such as clothing and terminology. As a cultural art form,  it is undeniably true, Hip-Hop’s impact  is felt far beyond the place of its origin.

With 40th year anniversary commemorations taking place across the country, there are wildly varying  opinions of what Hip-Hop actually “is.” Some believe Hip-Hop music is simply a form of entertainment that can used as a means to perhaps escape poverty and achieve extreme wealth. Others believe it is an influential marketing tool to be used to sell products and popularize brands. Still others believe it should be used to amplify the voices of the oppressed by addressing relevant social, cultural, and political issues.

In part 21 of his year-long lecture series titled, “The Time and What Must Be Done” the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan took square aim at the thought-controllers who shape the minds of the masses and showed many rappers that they are in many cases being used as pawns in the global “Game of Satan” with their influence being negatively used to destroy the moral fiber of the American people, and the morality of the entire world.

“So these Satanic minds have encouraged filth, they encourage vulgarity, they have encouraged savagery. They have encouraged that which it appears that we delight in to the point that so much evil and filth is coming across television, radio and movies that filth and vulgarity are now the order of the day,” he added.

It appears as if some members of the Hip Hop nation have been listening. Recently, there seems to be an increased willingness—especially by some notable “mainstream” Hip-Hop artists—to speak out and confront controversial real life issues.

Many spoke out regarding the Trayvon Martin killing and subsequent acquittal of George Zimmerman, in fact, in a recent radio appearance, rapper T.I. spoke of his respect for the dignified way Trayvon’s parents Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin have handled themselves during this entire ordeal.

“My hat goes off to the Martin family, because if it was me and my child, there wouldn’t have been no trial,” said T.I. “I’d have been on trial. It would’ve been the trial of the father who killed the man who killed [my child]. That would have been my story.”

Kanye West, who spoke at the Nation of Islam’s headquarters Mosque Maryam and lent very public support for the Millions More Movement in 2005, in a recent New York Times interview, discussed his latest creative offering “Yeezus” containing  such provocative song titles as  “Black Skinhead” and “I Am a God.”

He recently told a New York Times interviewer: “I’m a professional musician because I have the structure of Universal Records. I’m a professional creative,” he continued, “I’ve never been allowed to be in a continually creative structured place that makes product. I’ve had meetings where a guy actually told me, ‘What we’re trying to figure out is how we can control you.’ In the meeting, to me! Why do you want to control me? Like, I want the world to be better! All I want is positive! All I want is dopeness! Why would you want to control that?”

He went on to say some of the lyrics in his song “New Slaves” were inspired by the frustration he has felt attempting to use his gifts and talents to improve conditions.

“I want to tell people, ‘I can create more for this world, and I’ve hit the glass ceiling.’ If I don’t scream, if I don’t say something, then no one’s going to say anything, you know?”

Educator and lyricist Narubi Selah said the term “New Slaves” is a misnomer, because it implies that there was a time artists were not slaves within the industry.

“Slavery begins first of all in your mind,” said Ms. Selah. “So media moguls, corporations, their aim is to enslave you mentally first…we think we’re so free, but we’re not,” she added.


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