After the death of Tupac Afeni Shakur, radio stations saturated the airwaves with his arguably most progressive song, “Changes.” As my father drove me to elementary school, Tupac spoke to both of us. I’ll never forget my confusion. In the driver seat, my father was moved by a dead man’s words, but in the passenger seat, I sat, naive to those lyrics’ significance. As years passed and life happened, I encountered the inequities of which Tupac warned me. Life, as a black male, delivered certain circumstances and experiences–being called “niggar,” learning about women, neglect in the education system, stereotypical black masculinity, encounters with police, black-on-black crime, a thirst for philosophy, and a confusion about who I am, who I should be. These circumstances and experiences provided the context for me to understand Hip Hop, and Hip Hop has provided me with the philosophies to understand myself.
Greater than just a source of inspiration and self-realization for a minority group, Hip Hop has been posited as an indicator for society’s current state and future direction. Our politicians, though arguably well-intentioned, depend on corporate sponsorship and political favors to secure future office. Public opinion and need become increasingly less valuable. Every media network, from the channels on your television to the stations on your radio, is controlled by four major corporations–Viacom, Fox, Time Warner, and Disney. They determine what entertainment and information you receive, not the public. In a true democracy, our government governs with the consent and to the extent that the people wish to be governed; such is to say that the people govern our governors. In our “democracy,” our politicians are governed by the dollar, and the people are not motivated to reclaim their power because the media giants pacify our democratic voices. Those voices survive in Hip Hop, misguided and insightful, coded and honest, beaten and brave, and politically-inspiring because they refuse to be politically correct.
America is broken, a superficial advocate for democracy with deep roots in imperialism and exploitation, sending our sons and daughters to murder and die for capital gain, developing a prison-industrial complex that imprisons our black men for non-violent drug offenses and denies conditional criminals a lifestyle of legitimacy, denying our children adequate learning environments and materials that will prepare them for our global economy, and designing police forces that harass more than they help people. In a nation, devoted to covering its blemishes and putting bandages on its cancer, there are citizens devoted to examining our ailments and searching for cures. Those brave citizens deserve to be revered as such.
This blog was designed to bridge the gap between poetry and politics, rappers and professors, individuals and their communities, our American reality and the American Dream. Dare to question what you know and investigate what you don’t. Open your eyes to the perspectives of your brothers and sisters. Push your conscience to a level of understanding that others would repress. On this blog, you will be introduced to and updated on Hip Hop’s contemporary philosophers. I encourage you to join us in hearing and discussing their message. The message is in the music.