Tales From the Hilltop
An intelligent, yet Devil's Advocate view of the world

Episode Fifty-Two: Why Hip-Hop Simply Needs to Die

If you are black living in America, chances are at some point in time, you’ve seen your share of injustices. Some may happen directly to you, some just may affect you from afar. From overt and subtle racism to police brutality, to economic sabotage (some done by our own selves) and everything in between, we’ve experienced it all. Even in music, where we hear how some artist gets screwed over for money owed to them or an award the masses know they should’ve received but didn’t, sometimes living in this country will mean we as a collective whole will watch our livelihood get humiliated.

And that humiliation hit way too close to home last night at the Grammy Awards.

For all those that bothered to watch in a cross between confusion, horror, and outrage, we witnessed Hip-Hop basically being used like a prostitute on a world wide stage, as the Grammys (or the “Shammies”, as I like to call it) basically whored out this once wild, rebellious, and masterful art form to satisfy two agendas at the same time: fulfilling the next “Great White Hype”, and pretty much shoving the LGBT movement down all of our throats. I’ll explain this further.

After releasing one of the most successful Hip-hop albums in years, a young emcee from Compton named Kendrick Lamar was pretty much on target to win his first Shammy award for best Rap Album. And why not? Anyone’s who heard this album, entitled, “Good Kid m.A.A.D. City” agreed that it’s been a modern musical masterpiece since its debut back in October 2012. The field he was up against didn’t seem to be much of a challenge to topple this album, either.

Not so fast.

Enter a young emcee and from Seattle named Macklemore, who himself had been on a rise in 2013 with his album (along with his DJ, Ryan Lewis) “The Heist” and figured to give Kendrick a challenge, at least. But hey, he wasn’t going to win most of us thought, so it didn’t matter, right? Right? Wrong.

Not only did Macklemore take home the award for best Rap Album, but also won in every major Hip-Hop oriented award. Shows what we all know, I guess. This insult, to award an artist an award he himself said he didn’t deserve (maybe in an act of predictable humility to avoid not becoming a villain to the Hip-Hop masses in the process) wasn’t the end of it. At the end of the night, one of his singles entitled “Same Love” was performed live. Who cares, right? Wrong. You see, “Same Love” is pretty much the most progressive pro-homosexual based song ever, and it was done in over-the-fashion, complete with a live mass marriage ceremony of lesbian and gay couples during the song’s performance at the awards show.

Now, understandingly so, the Hip-Hop community is beyond outraged at these events.  Not only has a mediocre artist been given one of music highest “honors” in a culture that clearly never saw him as that deserving of it, but the art form has also been used to push an agenda that Hip-Hop itself has never come to terms with being OK on. Basically, what has happen is that “the machine” that we all knows run the music industry was on full-display last night, and the message was clear,

“Hip-Hop is no longer under it’s true fan base’s control. We have taken it over and it no longer matters what you think, say, or do about it.”

So honestly, here’s the only solution we have left as to what to do with this once proud art form:

Kill it. Destroy it. Totally dismember it, brick by brick, until it fades away.

As I’m sure you’re reading this is wondering if I’ve lost my mind, just read further. There are too many people involved in Hip-Hop for all the wrong reasons. Like any musical art form, this is supposed to be about expression, about our voice in the inner cities where it began, about the state of the youth, and about how hip-hop was living poetry crossed with musicianship, attitude, and a sense of humility that stemmed from it originating in the “underground”, away from mainstream eyes and schemes. Now, it’s been about chasing a dollar, making the best hit, or selling the most albums. It’s about using songs to promote the next big product. And yes, it’s now about pushing out agendas that were once against the fundamental core of Hip-Hop.

OK, let me state some things: for the record, this is not (just) about Macklemore being white. Truth be told, white folks that have come correct in this genre have always been welcomed with open arms and honored as such. The success of acts like Eminem and the Beastie Boys have most came on the co-sign of the Afro-American populous, because they present their music with such skill and flavor, that the populous didn’t care about their skin tone. However, when you know once artist didn’t deserve that award and was given it anyway, mostly to the Shammy committee deciding it was time to introduce a new white sensation, it’s hard not feel a certain type of way about the results.

Believe it or not, this isn’t about gay marriage either (not entirely). This country has made major strides in the past decade about becoming acceptant (or tolerant, at the minimum) about people choosing that lifestyle. However, when you have a show literally throw in the country’s face that being personal affairs on public display just to prove that they can, it becomes less about genuinely being for the cause and more about the LGBT community proving that it has enough political power to present anything it wants to anyone. The issue with this is if we have been taught that while everyone deserves respect for any choice of that magnitude of their life, while at the same time been asked to keep their private matters well…private, then shelving a mass LGBT marriage ceremony on live TV seems contradictory at best and condescending to the rest of us all at worse. The fact that Hip-Hop seems to be the choice vehicle to move this on has proven that Hip-Hop is no longer a looked at as a true genre of music, but has been relegated to being a sub-genre of Pop music, which is completely opposite to it’s true essence.

So now, killing hip-hop would make total sense. Destroying Hip-Hop would take it away from the mainstream, sending a message that the population who built this art form should have the final say of what’s acceptable to use it for and what’s not, not agenda-pushers or people with a get-rich-quick scheme. Deconstructing hip-hop also would tell “the machine”, the “powers that be”, or however else you choose to address them that the people, not corporate execs or label A&Rs determines who is deemed the top artists and who’s still climbing that mountain. This right has been taken away from the true believers of this culture over the last two decades or so, but never in such a brazen and outright disrespectful way as it was last night. If you love Hip-Hop like I do, no doubt you felt that watching this (which I did for all of 30 seconds, because I have given up on the Shammies since 1997) was like seeing a person being sliced open straight down the back, and having a bucket of salt being dump trucked into their wound in a public square. So, to end this pain and shame that Hip-Hop has now been reduced to, I believe this is what needs to happen; Hip-Hop simply has to die. Only then, when it’s no longer cool for people who never respected this culture or its principles in the first place to use it for their own doings or to score “cool” points with the rest of us, can it be re-born on the strength that it will remain an underground phenomenon until the people decide if it’s ready to be shared with the rest of world, in a manner that doesn’t totally exploit it. At this point, blaming the Shammies for allowing this to happen seems to cliche, this needs to be addressed more at the source since this seems to keeps happening when it’s time for Hip-Hop to be presented to the masses in this light.

I find two things very sad and telling about last night’s events. One is that Macklemore’s album is entitled, The Heist, which has never seemed more appropriate and ironic. Two is that rappers all the time are heard saying “death before dishonor” when it comes to the respect of their craft in songs, in interviews, and on social media. Well, hip-hop, if it hasn’t been dishonored enough, certainly was last night. So, if this is true, what do YOU think should happen next?

 

1/27/2014

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