I haven’t been to a funeral for almost two years. It’s not that no one I know has died since then, it’s just that I am uncomfortable with the idea of living in the past. Those people who died are gone. We have our memories, we should cherish them, but the whole idea of forcing ourselves to gather and make each other sad for a couple of hours on behalf of someone who is gone has never sat well with me.
I understand why people need the feeling of catharsis, the time to process. But when that moment is over, it always seemed a better use of time to look forward to the future. I especially found it hard to relate when my parents would insist I get dressed up and sit at the memorial service of their old friends, people I did not remember, and who had no material effect on my life.
It pains me to see the hip-hop establishment doing the same thing to its youth (as much as it pains me that there even is a hip-hop establishment, which seemed like the worst thing that could happen to the culture when I was growing up). Kids are forced to relive the stodgy old memories of icons and legends that they never knew, who hold no meaning to them. If they speak out, they are sharply rebuked in an attempt to bring them back in line with the established thinking. It’s an embarrassment to me to see hip-hop become the exact thing it rallied against throughout its formative years.
It seems every time a new rapper comes onto the scene, they are forced to account for their whereabouts within a historical timeline they weren’t part of. Recently, this cyclical phenomenon caught up another pair of up-and-coming artists, Lil Xan and 03 Greedo, when a pair of interviews resulted in both being lambasted for their comments about the late, great Tupac Shakur.
When it comes to rap music and hip-hop culture as a whole, I fear we’ve become too much like the characters in the story “The Emperor’s New Clothes.” It’s a story everyone knows, in some form or another.
Written by Danish author Hans Christian Andersen, the short story covers a pair of weavers who trick an entire kingdom into praising their ruler’s fancy new duds, only to find out he’s been parading about in the buff. The only reason nobody says anything is because the scammers spread a rumor that the cloth is only visible to people of intelligence and refinement, so when the citizens can’t see the clothes, they falsely assume it’s because they’re too stupid or uncultured, rather than the logical conclusion that the emperor is naked. The only person willing to speak out against the insanity is a small child, who calls out the trickery, immediately putting everyone in the kingdom to shame for taking part in the sham.