Indecision 2012: Why Is Hip Hop Missing In Action?

| March 8, 2012

By MARK GUNN
Your Voice Contributor

This election year will be a major turning point for the direction of this country.

There are those who want to take the country as far right as far right can go, even at the risk of going over the cliff, and then there’s the rest of us.

The last three years of the Obama Presidency have brought out the best in some and the worst in others.

Ordinary people taking to the streets in protest of inequality on many different levels and politicians hell bent on imposing the very same big government they claim to despise.

All of this is going on with a very nasty undercurrent of some of the ugliest racism I’ve seen from this country in a long time.
People have stepped up and taken sides but where is the Hip Hop community?

I find it bitterly ironic that with the election of the nation’s first Black President, rappers have been silent.

Painfully silent. Why is that? Could it be that the problems facing ordinary Americans, the very same problems that rappers used to give voice to, just don’t fit into the “clock dollahs, make it rain at the strip club” mentality that seems to be the latest dumbed down flavor of the month?

It’s also ironic that an art form that brought about political and social awareness along with a sense of pride has been reduced to so much mental mush.

Instead of challenging streams of thought, it grinds the average brain to apathetic pabulum.

I’ve been around since before Hip Hop went mainstream more than 30 years ago, and as a radio personality, and have seen it grow into a force of good and inspiration.

Groups like Public Enemy and Boogie Down Productions led me down the path to a knowledge of self.

Artists such as Paris, Kool Moe Dee and X-Clan made it cool to be Pro-Black without being Anti-White by including historical text in their album’s liner notes.

Songs like “Fight The Power,” “Self-Destruction” and countless others not only had a vicious beat.

More importantly, they were lyrically potent.

Even groups like N.W.A. were important because, as offensive as some found them to be, they had an important message about a side of life that most whites never saw.

Where is that mindset when we need it the most?

The sad irony is that these days people listen to rap more for the beat than they do the actual rhyme.

There are segments of the Tea Party that literally want to rewrite history by removing all references to slavery from school text books.

There are those in Arizona that are moving to end any Ethnic Studies classes in a state with a large Latino population. Where is the Hip Hop movement and why are they not speaking out against these atrocities?

Hip Hop stepped up in a major way during the 2008 election and the numbers of younger voters went through the roof.
There were those that were apathetic that voted for the first time.

However, instead of keeping a sustained message about the importance of voting and becoming politically active, Hip Hop went back to business as usual: “Glitz, Guns & Girls.”

It’s no surprise that the same apathy that plagued us returned as evidenced by the shamefully low voter turnout in the 2012 midterms.

Just think what might have happened if more voters did as James Brown once said, “Get on up. Get into it. Get involved.”
Why am I so critical of what’s happening in Hip  Hop?

Simple.

What was once a powerful force for education and change has become a 21st century version of “Steppin’ Fetchit.”

In order for more young people to become involved, they must be reached in a way they can relate to instead of consuming a non-stop diet of mind – numbing “nincompoopness.”

Today’s artists must be made to account for their fundamental lack of respect of the art form and those that came before them.
They must be held accountable by parents taking a more active role in what their kids listen to.

We must follow the example of the Occupy protests by Occupying Hip Hop.

Speak volumes by withholding your support. You do that through your pocketbook. Choose music by those artists that speak on the important issues of the day instead of the gangsta fairytales weaved in a haze of alcohol and pot.

There are a lot of voices that want to make decisions that will have a great effect on the future.

The Hip Hop Generation is a big part of that future.

You can either use your voices and talents to speak intelligently about the issues or you can continue the current trend of buffoonery that has no redeeming social value.

On second thought, if the best we can get about politics is Wiz Kalifah’s “votin’ good” quote, I’d rather the Hip Hop community keep its collective mouth shut.

Mark Gunn is a radio personality on Magic 101.3 (WMJM) and is celebrating his 10th year in Louisville.

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  1. Martha Boltz says:

    Good article, Mark, but I confess I dislike hip hop and rap totally — the language is offensive, the thought process and feelings are offensive, and the fact is, IMHO, that it’s not music, it’s basically “noise” – my husband’ comment as well. I realize I’m the older generation, but I look back at the music, popular music, that has stood the test of time. Why? Because it has a sense of sanity, it’s pretty, and most of all it’s singable, hum-able, the kind of stuff you want to hear over and over again. Melody is a pretty integral part of true music, along with a basic sense of rhythm and style. Shouting and screaming, and drums or bass so loud you hear it two cars over, is not music.

    I know you will disagree vehemently, but maybe that’s why you are seeing the apathy toward it as well as to everything emanating in 2008. Keep writing though!! My Voice won’t be here til next week, so I will look for it then.