BENEATH THE SPIN • ERIC L. WATTREE
The hip hop community takes great pride in "keeping it real." But are they really keeping it real, or are they simply struttin' around saying, "look at me," while the corporate elite have them unknowingly doing an updated version of Steppin' Fechit - right down to the ape-like body language?
Now, it's not my intention to broad-brush an entire community of artists, because old-schoolers make that mistake every generation. Their ears just aren't attune to a new and different approach to music - Swing musicians did it to Dizzy and Bird when they developed be bop, and many musicians and critics did it to Miles and Coltrane (especially Trane) when they began to push the boundaries. But in the case of hip hop, it's a little different.
Dizzy, Bird, Miles, and Trane were all well schooled musicians with total control over content. These musicians were the best in the world. They knew more about music than a brain surgeon knew about medicine. In addition, they were totally focused on the art, not self-aggrandizement. But many young hip hoppers, on the other hand, are young, undereducated brothers off the street who are paid large sums of money to portray the Black community in their own image. So while Miles and Trane represented the genius within the Black community, many of these young brothers - certainly not all, but far too many - are rewarded by corporate manipulators to magnify Black dysfunction - and the more dysfunctional, the better.
This is not just my opinion. My position can be substantiated by facts. The fact is, most of these young people don't even have the skill to create their own music - they have to "sample" the music of their predecessors who understood the importance of taking the time to learn music theory, or at the very least, learning to play scales and chord progressions on a musical instrument. And spoken word artists like Oscar Brown Jr. and Gil Scott-Heron were actually poets who took the time to learn the rules of English grammar so they could uplift and educate the community with their eloquence. So to listen to one of these brothers not only constituted a class in history, poetry and English grammar, but they also had the ability to inspire the next generation to educate themselves.
But many of these young brothers who pass for stars today specialize in dumbing down the Black community. Their lyrics are amateurish, their rhymes are clumsy and predictable, their grammar is atrocious, and their message is dysfunctional - they denigrate black women, promote crime and drug abuse, and drag the Black community through the mud. In short, they promote the position that ignorance is bliss. As a direct result, instead of inspiring their fans to a higher level of intellectual achievement, it leaves them unable to speak simple business English, which is essential to getting through a job interview.
And this is not happening by accident. Since the corporate elite in this country can no longer physically enslave the people, they've decided to enslave our minds. In the sixties and seventies the Black community began to move forward, then in the eighties Ronald Reagan flooded the inner cities with drugs in order to support his illegal war in Nicaragua. That effectively took out an entire generation of Black people. As a result, in the following generation we were left with young people who were raised by dysfunctional parents - which means that they were severed from everything in their heritage that took place prior to their parents. These young people are not even Black anymore, at least culturally speaking, they just have dark skin. Am I lying? Count the dark skinned sisters in their videos.
The corporatists continued their assault on our identity by mounting a brutal attack on the nation's educational system and depriving young people to an exposure to history. They then took over all of our access to information by repealing the Fairness Doctrine and taking over the media, leaving our young people completely vulnerable to corporate programming. Consequently, the very same thing is happening to them - and to you - that FOX News is doing to the Teabaggers; it's just a little more subtle. So is there any wonder why young people are prone to promote a form of "music" that's anti-Black, and denigrates the very womb of their own culture? I think not.
And this situation has not only impacted the hip hop community. We now find ourselves in a community where Black people in general are just as racist towards other Blacks as any racist Hillbilly. Think about how you're treated on your job by many of your Black managers and superiors. Many Black people who work for the U.S. postal service, for example, are treated so badly by they're Black superiors that they're literally praying that these Black overseers be replaced by White people.
So if we want to save the Black community, we have a Herculean effort before us. The first thing we must do is stop allowing ourselves to be distracted by all the little goodies that appeal to our hedonism. We've also got to limit the time we spend partying and shakin' our booties and start paying more attention to our kids and what's going on around us. Excessive partying is for kids. When you're an adult it time to take care of business.
Being a parent is about much more than just sitting our kids in a room in front of the television set and feeding and watering them like plants. One of the reasons that we often wonder why we don't understand our own kids is because they're being raised by BET, MTV, and ESPN. Even as I write this sentence they're probably somewhere being programed by a radio or television whispering in their ear, teaching them twisted corporate values instead of your own.
And consider this. If they're being taught by the media that the only thing women are good for is sex, what kind of husbands are they going to become? If they never see the pimps on television riding around with kids in the backseat, what kind of fathers are they likely to become? And if they're being taught that drugs, big cars, and bling are the only things that make life worthwhile, yet, they're too illiterate to get a job, what do you think they're going to turn to? That's right - crime.
Now that, my people, is keeping it real.
Miles Davis and John Coltrane
We knew him as Miles,
the Black Prince of style,
his nature fit jazz to a tee.
Laid back and cool,
a low threshold for fools,
he set the tone
of what a jazzman
Short on words,
and unperturbed, about
what the people thought;
frozen in time, drenched
in the sublime,
of the passion
his sweet horn
Solemn to the bone,
distant and torn,
even Trane could
scarcely get in;
I can still hear the tone
of this genius who mourned,
that precious note
that he couldn't
Eric L. Wattree
Religious bigotry: It's not that I hate everyone who doesn't look, think, and act like me - it's just that God does.