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<nettime> FUCK HIP HOP: A Eulogy to Hip Hop
Paul D. Miller on Sat, 4 Jan 2003 15:24:41 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> FUCK HIP HOP: A Eulogy to Hip Hop

if you're as bored with conventional hip-hop as a whole bunch of us are
these days, well... read on. Criticcs+A&R types+Mags... the whole deal=

Saul Williams forwarded this to me, and yeah, I gotta admit, the bro has
some points... just another salvo in the culture wars... Boredom in the
face of a totalitarian state... you couldn't think of a weirder situation.
But hey... it's the 21st century. Between clones, cults, twisted
propaganda from the Bush clan, the general sense of myopia in the media,
and the basic numbness of the populace of the good Old U.S. of A... who
would ever think, like Michael Moore points out - that fear and mass
delusion create - pathological boredom...  "Bowling for Columbine" - my
pick of the SOUND of the year... bullets from K-Mart in the television
skies of the collective mass delusion... 21st century schizoid man in the
urban jungle... fiber optic cables, re-routes exit codes of a planet put
in parantheses by satellites in the sky. Can critics get more boring? Can
art shows based on hip-hop be evn duller? Can the U.S. become even more
totalitarian? This, folks, is just the beginning... Dada for the masses
becomes net-culture dispersion. Check the zone...


A Eulogy to Hip Hop
by Pierre Bennu
Dissident Voice
December 18, 2002
I know you've been thinking it. And if you haven't, you probably haven't
been paying attention. The art we once called hip hop has been dead for
some time now. But because its rotting carcass has been draped in platinum
and propped against a Gucci print car, many of us have missed its demise.
I think the time has come to bid a farewell to the last black arts
movement. It's had a good run but it no longer serves the community that
spawned it. Innovation has been replaced with mediocrity and originality
replaced with recycled nostalgia for the ghost of hip hop past, leaving
nothing to look forward to. Honestly when was the last time you heard
something (mainstream) that made you want to run around in circles and
write down every word. When was the last time you didn't feel guilty
nodding your head to a song that had a 'hot beat' after realizing the
lyrical content made you cringe.
When I heard Jam Master Jay had been murdered, it was the icing on the
cake. A friend and I spoke for hours after he'd turned on the radio
looking for solace and instead heard a member of the label Murder, Inc.
about to give testimony about the slain DJ's legacy. My friend found the
irony too great to even hear what the rapper had to say.
After we got off the phone, I dug through my crates and played the single
"Self Destruction." The needle fell on the lyrics:
"They call us animals
I don't agree with them
Let's prove em wrong
But right is what were proving em"
The only thing that kept me from crying was my anger trying to imagine
today's top hip hop artists getting together to do a song that urged
disarmament in African American communities, or promoted literacy, or
involved anything bigger than themselves for that matter. I couldn't
picture it.
All I could picture were the myriad of hip hop conferences where the
moguls and figureheads go through the motions and say the things that
people want to hear but at the end of the day nothing changes. No new
innovative artists are hired to balance out a roster of the pornographic
genocide MC's.
In their place, we're presented with yet more examples of arrested
development - the portrayal of grown men and women acting and dressing
like 15 year olds. Balding insecure men in their mid 30's making entire
songs about their sexual prowess and what shiny toys they have and you
don't. The only hate I see is self-hate. The only love I see is self-love
All one needs to do is watch cribs and notice none of these people showing
off their heated indoor pools or the PlayStation Two consoles installed in
all twelve of their luxury cars have a library in their home. Or display a
bookshelf, for that matter. No rapper on cribs has ever been quoted
saying: "Yeah, this is the room where I do all my reading, nahmean?"
To quote Puffy in Vogue magazine Nov, 2002: "Diamonds are a great
investment. They're not only a girl's best friend, they are my best
friend. I like the way diamonds make me feel. I can't really explain it,
its like: that's a rock, something sent to me from nature, from God, it
makes me feel good. It's almost like my security cape."
If rappers read, they might know about the decades of near-slavery endured
by South African diamond miners. Or the rebels in Sierra Leone whose
bloody diamond-fueled anti-voting rampages leave thousands of innocent
men, women and children with amputated limbs.
Often, hip hop's blatant excess is rationalized with, "We came from
nothing." That statement rings hollow given even a little bit of context.
African Americans have been "coming from nothing" for 400 years. That
didn't stop previous generations of artists, activists, and ancestors from
working toward a better situation for the whole, not just themselves. It's
grotesque to see such selfish materialism celebrated by a generation who
are literally the children of apartheid.
The time has come to re-define the street and what it means to come from
the street. Yes, criminals & violence come from the streets, but so do men
and women who live their lives with kindness, and within the realm of the
law. The problem with making 'street' or 'realness' synonymous with
criminality is that poor black children are demonized. You never see the
image of middle class white children killing each other promoted as
I respect the ability of an artist to explore the darker side or
extremities of their personality but when that's all there is, there is no
balance. In previous years, NWA existed simultaneously with Native
Tongues, Cypress Hill and Digable Planets, Gangstar and 2 Live Crew.
There's room for thugz, playaz, gangstas, and what have you. My issue
(aside from the fact that rappers spell everything phonetically) is that
they have no heart. Rappers reflect what has become a new image of success
where money is its own validation and caring is soft unless you're
dropping a single about your dead homie.
Question: Why haven't these so-called "ballers" gotten together and bought
a farm, a prison, a super market chain, or chartered a school?  But they
all have clothing lines. Smells like a sucker to me. The lack of social
responsibility from people who claim to 'rep the streets' is stunning.
Yet we still have had the hearts and minds of most of the world. We negate
this power if we don't step up to the plate. Our perspective needs to
change; our whole idea of power needs to globalize. Gangsta shouldn't be
shooting someone you grew up with in the face. "Gangsta"  is calling the
United States to task for not attending the World Summit on Racism in
South Africa. "Balling" shouldn't be renting a mansion; it should be
owning your own distribution company or starting a union. Bill Cosby's bid
to buy NBC was more threatening than any screwface jewelry clad MC in a
video could ever be.
As a DJ, it's hard: I pick up the instrumental version of records that
people nod their head to -- and mix it with the a cappella version of
artists with something to say. It is expensive and frustrating.  But I
feel like the alternative is the musical equivalent to selling crack:
spinning hits because it's easy, ignoring the fact that it's got us
dancing to genocide.
There are plenty of alternatives today but you'd never know it through the
mass media. Hip hop has become Steven Seagal in a do-rag.  Meanwhile,
media radar rarely registers artists like Cannibal Ox, Madlib and the
whole Stones Throw crew, Bless, Saul Williams, Bus Driver, Del, Gorillaz,
anything from Def Jux, Freestyle Fellowship, Anti Pop Consortium, Kool
Keith, Prince Paul, shit Public Enemy -- the list goes on for ever. I get
some solace from knowing and supporting these artists, and from the fact
that around the world from Germany to Cuba to Brazil to South Africa, hip
hop's accessibility and capacity for genius is still vital, thriving, and
And yes even amongst the bleak landscape in this country, wonderful things
do happen. Like Camp Cool J and various artists donating money to research
AIDS and even lend their faces to voting campaigns.  Russell Simmons,
among other socially conscious endeavors, led a rally to stop NYC's mayor
from cutting the school budget and donates part of the proceeds from his
sneaker sales to the reparations movement. The lack of coverage of efforts
like this is as much to blame as any wack MC with a platinum record.
I'm not dissing the innovators of the art form, or those of us who got it
where it is today. I will always play and support what I feel is good
work. I guess this rant came more out of what Chuck D said at the end of
Self Destruction: "We've got to keep ourselves in check,"  and no one has
checked hip hop for some time.
I've entertained the idea that I might just be getting old. But if it's a
function of my age that I remember hip hop as the people's champ, so be
it. I was raised on a vital art form that has now become a
computer-generated character doing the cabbage patch in a commercial, or a
comedian 'raising the roof.' That's not influence to me, that's mockery.
Hip hop my friend, it's been a great 30 years filled with great memories,
and it's been fun to watch you grow. We've got dozens of broke innovators
and plenty of mediocre millionaires out of the deal, but I really need my
space now and we've got to go our separate ways.  I will always love you,
but it's time for me to move on.
Yo, what happened to peace?

Pierre Bennu is an award-winning filmmaker, poet, artist and performer. He
is, along with wife Jamyla, a founder of exittheapple, a creativity
collective focusing on film and digital media, visual arts, literature,
dance, and music. He is the author of Bullshit or Fertilizer?: Tough Love
for Artists on the Fence.

"None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe 
they are free...."
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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