Posted by Robert
Rap News Network
9/24/2004 5:18:26 AM
Tags and topics realted to this article include Various Artists.
The songs on a recent afternoon rap hip-hop FM radio show include P.I.M.P., 50 Cent's ode to players and promiscuity, and What's Happnin!, the gun-toting boasts of the Ying Yang Twins and Miami rapper Trick Daddy.
Out of nowhere, the bass begins thumping. A raspy-voiced man roars:
Why did Bush knock down the towers ...
Why did crack have to hit so hard ...
Why they let the Terminator win the election
Come on, pay attention ...
Why Halle have to let a white man pop her to get a Oscar
Why Denzel have to be crooked before he took it
"He doesn't offer solutions, but the questions are profound," said Erik Parker, music editor at Vibe, a magazine that chronicles hip-hop culture. "They have enough depth that they are implied that there needs to be some kind of wakeup call in this country."
The rap, titled Why?, is not the kind you'd expect from Jadakiss, a hip-hop artist who has penned songs such as Ryde or Die, B--.
And it certainly isn't the kind you'd expect in heavy rotation on mainstream radio stations or at the club; it breaks practically every rule of hip-hop, at least the formula that has catapulted the music into a billion-dollar industry. Sex, bling bling and thuggery, all the things that brought the genre to the attention of the masses, are absent.
Weeks before what many are calling the most important presidential election of our time, machismo and excess aren't getting national attention as much as politics infused into hip-hop lyrics.
This isn't the first time hip-hop and politics have married.
"Before, you had artists that were political," said Bakari Kitwana, former editor of the Source, the so-called bible of hip-hop culture. "The political hip-hop artists became more marginalized. It made it less fashionable for artists to be political because it diminished their influence."
By the 1990s, albums such as Dr. Dre's The Chronic were hot; Sister Souljah's more political 360 Degrees of Power was lukewarm.
And though political songs still take a back seat to songs that make people dance, something happened after the 2000 presidential election. Angered by the recount, the genre's heavyweights organized a grass roots movement that has made politics "more fashionable and accepted as part of what hip-hop is," said Kitwana, who also wrote The Hip Hop Generation: Young Blacks and the Crisis in African-American Culture.
On BET and MTV, at cross-country summits and in magazines, iconic figures such as Russell Simmons, P. Diddy, Jay-Z and Eminem are imploring the Hip-Hop Generation - the 18- to 35-year-olds who get their news from outlets such as MTV - to register to vote.
But there's another influence besides the 2000 election: Hip-hop is getting old. This month marks 25 years since the release of the Sugarhill Gang's Rapper's Delight, which eventually entered the Billboard Top 40, the first time a rap song achieved that feat. The pioneers of the genre are now fathers, mothers, husbands and wives. What may have mattered to them as teenagers and young adults - cars, money, jewelry, clothes and women - matters less as 30-, 40- and 50-year-olds. They want what is best for their families: access to good schools, good jobs and a good quality of life. The person sitting in the Oval Office determines if access is granted and more, Parker said.
"The issues that affect the world are directly the result of voting for or against a president," he said. "We have an Iraq war. That was a decision made by a president that may not have been made by another president. ... In voting for George Bush in 2000, in essence, people voted for what has happened; whether you like it or not, that's what it is. This is what we did as a nation."
On some level, Kitwana said, the hip-hop's political motives are self-serving. Songs have become formulaic and consumers are fed up.
"The music has done all it's go
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