As I sat & listened to the VP debate (“Say it ain’t so, Joe“) last night, the thought crossed my mind that the average American teen has little to no idea about what the hell is being said. The remaining thought I was left with is that we’re missing a strong voice to speak for our generation. Where’s the translator for our youth who couldn’t understand the debate & don’t realize the significance of the swift changes taking place in America? Where did the politics of being political go in rap?
I spent the better part of last week listening to some of Paris’ old material & remembering how, yeah I knew I was Black so I was supposed to dislike Bush. However, I didn’t know why exactly, not during my teenage years, that information would be revealed to me as I grew older. Back then, I knew nothing about domestic or foreign policy. But I did have a copy of Sleeping With The Enemy that helped me see a point of view that wasn’t available via traditional media & definitely was rawer than any talking head on the boob tube would dare phrase the shit. It was blunt & outspoken. Violent. Full of rage.
Ever heard of Yusef Hawkins? Latasha Harlins? Tawana Brawley? All three of those names are associated with incidents that were far removed from me. But I knew about those injustices via rap. I had a Paris, a Pac & a PE there reporting what was going on in every hood America. There was X-Clan to give me knowledge of historical figures of African descent and Arrested Development to speak of our forgotten relationship to ancestral spirits. They were there for me, playing the role of interpreter & teacher.
But now…where are the voices of those who were raised to these same albums right alongside me? Was I the only was listening? Did they turn their backs to these teachings? Did no one else get the message or is that I didn’t get the memo that immoral pays greater dividends than imparting morals?
There’s no true outrage or even the slightest bit of anger being expressed in the music. Instead, it’s self-preserving attitude of “let me get on & feed my family; fuck the others.” Rap is empty rhetoric right about now. There’s lyricists, rappers & there’s subterranean backpack rocking cats living the culture…but there’s no one speaking to the listener about how to make sense of everything that’s going on around us, especially for the kids. Say there should parents and other role models involved. That’s true. But at the same time, my friends & those I emulated on TV & from music seemed more fantastic & wise than my parents did when I was young. Those images & their perceived behaviors were what I emulated. Truth of the matter is their public personas weren’t that bad. They stood for something…besides paper, pussy & pistols.
And it’s part of the reason why we have our fair share of Latarian Milton’s, doing “hood rat stuff” with their friends. And now, instead of being on the serving end, there’s so many left on the receiving end of coffee, donuts & death.