Using Hip-Hop to Stimulate African Consciousness
By: Ahmad R. Washington
In his talk with the Temple on Sunday (7/27), Baba Derrick Jackson discussed how African American self-hatred is a predictable byproduct of our not having received any therapeutic interventions after hundreds of years of unrelenting terror that began when European invaders kidnapped our ancestors from the shores of Africa. Today, one could argue that nothing exemplifies this self-hatred more than the fact that much of the anti-African content produced by elite Euro-American corporations is consumed as “entertainment” by our people, including corporate-sponsored hip-hop culture and rap music. By corporate-sponsored I mean the large media corporations that literally run hip-hop culture and rap music (Love, 2013; Rose, 2008).
Because a disproportionate amount of this corporate-sponsored rap music and related programming (see Love and Hip Hop) recycles old racist narratives that presume the pathology of Blackness and Black people (Love, 2013; Rose, 2008), we must engage the youth in conversation about the relationship between corporate-sponsorship in rap music, the aforementioned racist narratives and self-hatred.
In doing so, we must not ‘throw out the baby with the bathwater’ by dismissing hip-hop culture altogether because this makes it difficult to connect with the young people we seek to attract. Instead, we must recognize that hip-hop has not always been this way, and that alternative messages within the culture exist. Lastly, we must reveal how corporate-sponsorship in rap marginalizes socially-conscious rap music* to assist in Racism/White Supremacy/Domination (Fuller, Jr., 1984).
Consider the fact that despite achieving varying degrees of commercial success, it is highly unlikely that you will ever see or hear artists like Yasiin Bey, Dead Prez, Common, Narubi Selah, Dee-1, Jasiri X, and Gods’Illa on television or radio. Young people have to understand that this is by design. Elite Euro-American corporations, as defenders of the system of Racism/White Supremacy/Domination (Fuller, Jr, 1984), cannot afford for these artists’ words to reach the masses. Thus, it should come as no surprise that corporate sponsors choose to distribute blatantly racist and sexist material rather than highlight the work of Talib Kweli because to introduce young African minds to Kweli means exposing them to his work:
“Yo I was sold to a sick European by a rich African battlin'
Middle Passages, I can't go back again…
Battle in the wilderness of North America
Ran by the river, only stoppin' to pray
Chased by predators
Terrorists with etiquette who vote and kill their president
Their capacity for evil so evident and prevalent…
Fastforward to 2003, ni@@as beef
The psychology of children of slaves run deep”undefinedTalib Kweli What’s Beef
While critics of rap music often disagree with the graphic language some artists useundefinedwhich is legitimateundefinedit must not be forgotten that socially-conscious artists like Kweli and others (i.e., The Last Poets) use such this language to describe what stands alone in human history as the most treacherous, the most vile, and most inhumane set of circumstances one group of people has ever committed against another (notice the similarities between Kweli’s reference to the Middle Passage and Ani’s (1994) description of the Maafa).
Since so many young people in our community gravitate towards hip-hop culture, we must incorporate the affirming messages from hip-hop and rap music to stimulate African Consciousness. For those who are unfamiliar with these artists, there are resources that can assist. Take, for instance, Rap Rehab (http://raprehab.com/). On this site you can find commentary on corporate-sponsorship in rap music. Rap Rehab has published articles on how corporate promotion of certain artists reflects disdain for Black people (http://raprehab.com/the-music-industry-hates-black-people/) and how these decisions operate as part of a New Willie Lynch (http://raprehab.com/the-new-willie-lynch-how-to-make-a-rap-slave/) system.
If we are to help in the healing of our people as Baba suggested, we must use interventions that speak to the trauma that precipitated our current condition. These interventions must be culturally relevant and authentic, and affirm our humanity as Africans first. I believe this can be done using the work of the artists I listed above and others like them. Peace.
*By socially-conscious rap music I mean music that explores how the legacy of historical events like enslavement have a very real, but profoundly different, impact on people belonging to different racial and socioeconomic categories.
Ani, M. (1994). Yurugu: An Afrikan-centered critique of European cultural thought and behavior. Washington, DC: NKONIMFO PUBLICATIONS.
Fuller, Jr., N. (1984). The united independent compensatory code/system/concept: A textbook/workbook for thought, speech and/or action for victims of racism (White supremacy).
Love, B. (2013). ‘Oh, they’re sending a bad message’: Black males resisting & challenging Eurocentric notions of Blackness within hip-hop & the mass media through critical pedagogy. International Journal of Critical Pedagogy, 4, 24-39.
Rose, T. (2008). The hip-hop wars: What we talk about when we talk about hip-hop-and why it matters. New York, NY: Basic Books.