Public Enemy’s Chuck D once remarked that Hip-Hop culture is Black America’s CNN. Although many considered this keen observation little more than a flippant comment by a rapper seeking attention and increased record sales, when viewed through an appropriate prism, Chuck D’s observation is quite profound. When Chuck D made this statement during what we now term the Golden Age of Hip-Hop, Black America, particularly its youth, was being led through phenomenal changes by a relatively knew youth culture; today it is called Hip-Hop. Above and beyond anything else, Hip-Hop Culture, particularly Rap Music, allowed for these young African-American men and women to define who they were and thereby forced the world to deal with them and their vision of how the world should be.
Larger society was predictably against this change that they did not generate and could neither understand nor control. The politicized youth of the day apparently believed that they had something to say and created a vehicle from which it would be heard. They were pointing their race, and by extension the entire world, in a new direction. It was against the backdrop of voluminous criticism against rap music, the musical arm of Hip-Hop culture, that Chuck D posited that the musical genre was Black America’s CNN.
Chuck D., Public Enemy’s lead emcee, explained that if you wanted to know what was going on in South Central, Los Angeles, all you needed to do was listen to N.W.A. If you wanted to know what was occurring in Houston, Texas, one only needed to listen to the Geto Boys, or if the urban environs of New York piqued your interest, Rakim and Brand Nubian were more than capable of sharing contemporary occurrences; this list goes on and on. The emcee is analogous to a news reporter issuing dispatches regarding African-Americans and a fortune teller accurately depicting, or quite possibly shaping, the future.
During the Golden Age of Hip-Hop, Rap Music, despite its exponentially increasing, seemingly inherent, lyrical and visual contradictions, was painting a picture, one that was not always beautiful nor in focus, for the world to see. However, one could never deny that it was simultaneously bold and politicized. Although there was much to criticize about that generation of emcees’ and those adherents that followed their lead with a nearly cult-like obsession; there was little doubt that they were proud and determined youth supported by an unending political consciousness and esteem level that facilitated their ascension to the vanguard position of American, and global, popular culture.
‘Oh, to long for the days of yesterday.’ Little did we know that a mere twenty-years after Public Enemy advised African-Americans to Fight The Power! and the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan detailed to the Black nation their duties as a righteous people and their duty to teach to others what they do not know, that Hip-Hop Culture would not only transform into the most powerful cultural force the world has ever known, but also even greater ability to offer vivid, high definition, portraits. Portraits that depict the contemporary state of African-Americans. It is not the clarity of the picture that is causing unprecedented consternation, it is the grotesque and disfigured portrait of Black youth that frightens previous generations of African-Americans .
Considering that Chuck D’s construct that Hip-Hop Culture is Black America’s CNN has stood the test of time, let’s take a quick look at one of the most recent news dispatches flowing from the front line of Hip-Hop culture offered by Rich Homie Quan. This report is particularly meaningful for what it conveys regarding the terms by which young African-Americans are defining themselves. One must remember that an individual’s personal reflection reveals so much about how they view themselves, others, and the world around them. For instance, emcees from New York during the Golden Age of Hip-Hop, particularly those who were members of the 5% Nation of Gods and Earths, referred to themselves as God’s. Although we can contest the basis for such a designation, one is hard pressed to charge such individuals with anything less than an overabundance of self-esteem and love for their people.
Quite possibly the most succinct articulation of contemporary emcee’s and their cult-like followers who allow contemporary lyrics to disproportionately influence their thoughts, dreams, and goals in much the same way as my generation did, is Rich Homie Quan’s ode to ‘bromance’ — meaning an unusual romance between at least two men —My Nigga; an articulation of pervasive ignorance that became even more disturbing when it was revisited with a remixed version involving the female emcee Nicki Minaj.
Although many wish to excuse away such recordings as being merely for entertainment purposes, such individuals are in error. Human beings are social beings, meaning that they have learned everything that they know. It is the culmination of these external stimuli that provides human’s with an understanding of their environment. It is not strange, it is actually predictable that individuals from my generation who had Black Nationalist messages drilled in their heads by rap emcees’ often adopted some variant of Black Nationalist politics. Considering such, it is likewise reasonable that African-American youth after hearing recordings like Rich Homie Quan’s My Nigga, over an extended period of time will begin to integrate its tenets into their lives and thereby become for lack of a better term, Niggers.
Unfortunately, it appears that the current state of Hip-Hop culture, if we are to believe the Black CNN, has turned into a manufacturing plant for the production of socially unacceptable, morally deficient, low self-esteem having, materialistic, ends-justify-the-means avaricious Capitalists, hyper-sexual, drug abusing, illiterate, and inarticulate beings. If that is too difficult to remember, just call them Niggers, that is what everyone, including themselves, calls them.