Dead Prez had a line in “It’s Bigger Than Hip Hop” that went – “Uh, one thing ’bout music when it hit you feel no pain/White folks say it controls yo’ brain/I know better than that, that’s game”. When this lyric was spit by M1 of Dead Prez, all who listened to it repeated the same phrase, or something similar either out loud or in their minds; yep, they’re trying to make rap music the blame for the problems in our neighborhood, it’s not the music.
Because hindsight is 20/20 can we say that now? I say not!
If we, Black men continue to say that hip hop lyrics and music does not play any role in the way we act on any level, then you my friends, are in denial. And when you read this and still say that it doesn’t play a significant part in the way our communities have been shaped over the past 3 decades, then not only are you in denial but you’re a blooming idiot and more than likely a part of the problem that plagues us. Any rational person who wants to be, or is, a part of the solution should be able to correlate hip hop and the landscape of the United Mind-States of African America, with the violence and misogyny that is prevalent within our communities today.
To make it easy for you I’ll sight a few instances that can show a direct cause and effect type of outcome.
In 1991 Ice Cube said “I told all my friends, don’t drink 8 Ball cause St Ides is givin ends” in his song “Steady Mobbin”. Shortly thereafter St Ides became the #1 selling beer in the Black community, this gave rise to commercials by just about all the top rappers of that era. From Ice Cube, to 2pac, Dr Dre, Snoop Dog, The Geto Boys, Mc Eiht, The Wutang Clan, Biggie Smalls, Cypress Hill, EPMD, Redman and even Eric B and Rakim got in on the money grab. St Ides was paying rappers to endorse their malt liquor and it worked to the tune of millions and millions of dollars in sales. This was the very first time that I had noticed the power of hip hop. I never correlated the fact that the reason that I was drinking Old English 800 was because NWA rapped about it constantly, or that we went out and bought Brass Monkey because the Beastie Boys wrote a song about it. But when Cube said that line in his song and then did subsequent commercials, I saw firsthand how hip hop lyrics influenced our buying habits, so why wouldn’t they affect other things as well.
The very next year Redman came out with a song called “How To Roll a Blunt” in which he rhymed about how to use a cigar as rolling paper for weed instead of using joint paper. Before this song people smoked joints instead of blunts, although blunts had started hitting the streets before the song came out but it solidified its place in black communities after Redman wrote about it. Blunt cigar makers have made 100’s of millions to billions in revenue off the sale of Blunt cigars since that song was made 20 years ago.
Grand Puba was the first MC I heard rap about Tommy Hillfiger, and his clothing line dominated the urban fashion scene for a decade.
Biggie Smalls made Versace and Coogi household names in the ghetto to the tunes of 100’s of millions in sales.
Biggie and Jay Z made Cristal champagne a household name and sent millions of black men and women to the stores to purchase overpriced champagne so that they could look like they were ballin!
The list could go on and on, but you get the picture.
Hip Hop lyrics have influenced trend after trend in this country and around the world. Peoples buying habits follow the lyrics, so why do some people believe that hip hop lyrics about violence and misogyny don’t do the exact same thing.
In 1988 a little known group from Compton California, burst on the scene with their debut album “Straight Outta Compton”. This was the beginning of what they called reality rap, but was the world dubbed as “gangsta rap”. What people didn’t realize at the time is that it was both. What they saw on the streets of Compton as what was reality, translated to the rest of the world as gangster, because the level of violence being spoken of in their lyrics was only prevalent in gangster movies, and only being perpetrated by gang members in other black neighborhoods across the nation.
Although these things were happening in every major metropolitan area in the nation prior to NWA’s rise, seeing this type of attitude being portrayed in what was now a mainstream format, via radio, gave rise to a sense of bravado from gang members and non-gang members alike across the nation. Compton was on the map because of its “gang violence” so other cities tried to emulate them. This led to more violence by gang members because they thought that if they could make it in the hip hop industry by showcasing their gangster attitudes, just like NWA did.
Well it worked, shortly after NWA’s rise came, The Geto Boys, Mc Eiht, Snoop Dogg, The Dogg Pound, Cypress Hill, Spice 1, Too Short, Mobb Deep, etc. People started to emulate the lyrics of NWA in their own style, talking about the streets that they came from and soon enough Black neighborhoods across the nation were seeing an uptick in violence.
The reason for this was because a new attitude had been born out of the emergence of gangster rap. It was the shoot first or get shot era at that point. If you were in a gang or in an altercation, you didn’t want to wait around to see what the other person was going to do, you had to strike first. As Mobb Deep said, “survival of the fit, only the strong survive”.
That’s the exact attitude that all these mc’s translated to urban youth during that time period, and then to top it off Boyz In The Hood came out, followed by Menace 2 Society and Juice. This was the icing on the cake. Gangsta rappers, playing in violent gang movies, with a gangsta music soundtrack. The hood would never be the same, but Dead Prez said that they knew better than that, it wasn’t the rap lyrics, it was something else, but they never said what that something else was.
I strongly believe, as a matter of fact know, that the rise of what was dubbed as Gangsta Rap was the beginning of this epidemic in the early 90’s, and adding the movies to it helped to solidify the gangsta attitude that led to a decade of the worst black on black violence ever seen and it is still prevalent in our communities till this day, that’s why urban communities across this nation still resemble war zones.
And now in 2012, they’re doing a movie about the rap group, NWA that kicked off the bloodiest 2 decades in the history of the United Mind-States of African America.
If it wasn’t this, then what was it, voice your opinion?