A Hip Hop Activist Speaks Out on Social Issues is a collection of essays that offers readers brutally honest analysis and commentary regarding a range of social issues and injustices, often ignored by the American corporate media, government and mainstream educational systems. Mass Incarceration, the Military Industrial Complex, Institutional Racism and Capitalism, are just a few of the topics which are deconstructed throughout this unique book. This book also offers up a medley of tangible solutions and challenges for readers to build upon, in an effort to create a better society by collectively ending the longstanding legacy of social injustice within America. This book is riddled with often untaught history and perspectives which make it a great education tool.
Corporate Hip Hop, White
Supremacy & Capitalism
September 15, 2009
"I won't believe the hype I understand the Media dictates
The mind and rotates The way you think And syncopates slow
pace . . . Brains Can't maintain A certain Insipid inane crass
rain. Insane lame Traditions All praise fame Positions Want to
be a star. Drive a big car. Live bourgeois . . . And won't know
who you are. Lost in the source And praising the dollar"—Kool
Moe Dee (1989)
It is undeniable that hip hop culture is one of the most powerfulmarketing tools America has seen in quite sometime. Had hip hop beenaround during the earlier part of the 20th century the unscrupulous publicrelations pioneer, Edward Bernays, would have probably also used it topromote the smoking of Viceroy Cigarettes to women. Various aspects ofhip hop culture, mainly rap music, generate billions of dollars. However,who is generating this wealth, where is it going and at what cost?
Hip hop culture (rapping, djing, graffiti art, and breaking, etc.) wasunequivocally created by youth of color in the Bronx during the early1970s. Even though the origins of hip hop are entrenched in African/blackand Latino communities throughout New York City it is currently pimped/used by large white owned corporations (media, record labels, etc.) to createastronomical bottom lines, reinforce capitalistic ideals, and adversely massprogram black and brown youth. Hip hop has been co-opted, from theblack community, by the white corporate establishment in much the samemanner as was rock-n-roll (originally called rhythm and blues). Everyonefrom Allan Freed to Pat Boone cashed in on the original works of blackartists, many of whom died penniless. However, where the corporateestablishment left off when it came to thievery of rock-n-roll they pickedup with hip hop. Once white corporations recognized the multi-billiondollar earning potential of rap music, the mass commercialization of hiphop began. They bought out everything from record labels to urban radiostations. Their unfettered corporate feeding frenzy was similar to that ofthe European conquest of lands inhabited by people of color.
RAP (rhythm and poetry) music has provided corporate radio stationsand record labels, alike, with gigantic revenues almost beyond their wildestcapitalistic wet dreams. The corporate takeover and commoditization ofhip hop began to grow exponentially in the early to mid 1990s. The moremoney they made the less diversified rap music became on the radio andtelevision airwaves. Balance on the mainstream airwaves rapidly became athing of the past. Before corporate usurpation of rap music record labels,and subsequently airwaves, the fledging genre (RAP) was the embodimentof resistance for many. During the late 1980s and early 1990s rap musicprovided many African/black and Latino youth, including myself, withcountless hours of culturally edifying and politically oriented music. IfI was not learning how to "Fight the Power" I was proudly sporting myleather African medallion and rocking the map of Alkebulan (Africa)shaved in the back of my head.
These behaviorisms, however, did not emerge out of thin air; I wasactually mimicking my favorite rappers. Witnessing lyrically gifted brothersand sisters embrace their Africanness on album covers and in music videos,I could not avoid doing the same. Whether it was Queen Latifah standingproudly in front of the image of Africa on the cover of her album "AllHail the Queen" or watching Chuck D wear his African medallion in the"Fight the Power" video, I was profoundly influenced. With each lyric thestronger and more confident I grew as a young black man. My desire tolearn more about my African ancestry as well as to become more involvedin social issues affecting people of color deepened by the day. And beyondall that, I developed critical thinking skills that I carry with me to this day.I, however, was far from a novelty. This transformation was occurringwithin the psyches of black and brown youth throughout America. Thiswas the power of "Golden Era" Hip Hop.
Despite the vastly racist and white supremacist personality of America,African/black and Latino youth continued to psychologically resist. Evenas a youth I knew very well the root causes of many social maladies withinthe African/black community. Those causes were inextricably linked tothe racist culture of America and its plutocratic government. My favoriterappers "spoke truth to power." Guru, of the iconic rap group Gangstarr,was right on point in 1992 when he said,
"You can't tell me life was meant to be like this
a black man in a world dominated by whiteness
Ever since the declaration of independence
we've been easily brainwashed by just one sentence
It goes: all men are created equal that's why
corrupt governments kill innocent people
With chemical warfare they created crack and AIDS got the
public thinking these were things that black folks made
And every time there's violence shown in the media usually it's
a black thing so where are they leading ya . . .
To a world full of ignorance, hatred, and prejudice
TV and the news for years they have fed you this foolish
notion that blacks are all criminals violent, low lifes,
and then even animals
I'm telling the truth so some suckers are fearing
me but I must do my part to combat the
Disenfranchised youth could never expect to get that type of criticalanalysis from the US corporate media, then or today. Rap music wasunequivocally our social, news, and educational medium. Americanclassrooms, as they are today, were filled with racist, biased, and factuallyinaccurate white supremacist propaganda. Hip Hop music filled in thegaps, exposed the lies, and opened the doors to inquiry that Americanpublic education never did. All of the aforementioned aspects of "GoldenEra" Hip Hop music are among the reasons why the white establishmenthad to co-opt Rap. White corporate America very well knew the powerand potential of rap music to galvanize, mobilize, and organize youth ofcolor from stolen coast to stolen coast. This is precisely why they had totake it over.
By methodically buying out rap record labels, the corporate majorswere able to silence progressive voices, all the while promoting rapperswho would embody an image of black people that corporations felt morecomfortable with. As odd as it may sound, the white establishment feelsmuch safer with the image of a black man toting a gun with his pantssagging as opposed to the image of a black man, or woman, intrepidlybucking the system via their lyrics. The resistant black youth represents adirect threat to white establishment power. This is why, by the mid to late1990s, mainstream rap music had been overtaken by a dull sameness. Then,as now, cookie cutter themes prevailed in corporate rap music, themes ofsenseless violence, excessive materialism, and misogyny.
Corporations pretend to avoid "controversial" topics and themes.Yet when it comes to songs featuring black men degrading black womenit is never too controversial. And when it comes to black men rappingabout senseless violence directed towards other black men that is nevertoo controversial or too political. However, if a black rapper, of eithergender, addresses the plague of police brutality then the artist is summarily"white-listed" as too "controversial" and prevented from ever seeing thelight of day on any mainstream outlet. The clear message they are sendingis that if you are black and willing to rap about what they want you torap about you will be dully rewarded, however the minute you dare tryto step outside of the "box" and attack their power structure, you will beomitted.
It is as if the days of the "Minstrel Show" have returned. Thoserappers who are most willing to step into the corporate supportedstereotypical costumes (lyrically and physically) are the ones who willreceive the record deals and unfettered airtime. The utter lack of thematicdiversity in mainstream rap music has given black and brown youth a falseimpression of what options actually exist in the genre. Viacom and ClearChannel want black youth to embrace self-destructive imagery, while thecorporations reap the windfall of purloined, mangled culture. After all,that is how America built its empire, on the backs of stolen Africans andstolen lands.
It is not beyond black people's ability to control their own mediaoutlets at every level, from music to news to entertainment. It is well withinour limitless ability to organize, mobilize and establish our own mediums.Such an initiative for more independent progressive black/African mediais needed now more than ever. Until then, as Chuck D, Ice Cube and BigDaddy Kane figuratively said, "Burn Hollywood Burn."
Solomon Comissiong is an educator, community activist, author, public speaker and the founder of the Your World News community media collective. Your World News aims at providing news, information, critical analysis and commentary on a range of issues and topics that are often methodically ignored by the US corporate media.
Mr. Comissiong is also an educator and administrator on the university level. Solomon teaches college courses based around Hip Hop Culture, media literacy and social issues. Solomon utilizes thought provoking Hip Hop as a tool to engage and empower audiences, young and older. www.solomoncomissiong.com
Comissiong has once again produced an intellectually captivating, read-until-the-end deconstruction of society and history. The language in this book is passionate, energetic, and honest; a must have for anyone who is on the path to knowledge and is solutions oriented.