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August 27, 2004

What Jimi Can't See

Jimi Izrael wrote a scathing critique of hiphop, he just doesn't realize it. Although he says that "Hip Hop music is the voice of America's poor blacks and Latinos.", when it comes to whitefolks he says:

First, there is the presumption that putting rappers at the podium will turn millions of black kids into a political force. But most of the millions of people who buy hip-hop music these days are white, and they have little or no comprehension of the deeper meaning of hip-hop culture or the social forces that begat it. They know only about rap music, break-dancing and baggy clothes. Young white kids can't truly relate to being black, but many can relate to being alienated. They grasp that message, along with the cartoonish violence, slanguistics and fantastical opulence of hip-hop life. They can't be rallied to adopt hip-hop's social agenda because they only listen to hip-hop, while we live it every day.

What Izrael says about white suburbans actually applies to every hiphopper, what he says about the first person plural only applies to hiphop's literati and others so inclined.

There is no deeper meaning of hiphop culture. It is what it is, and anybody anywhere can walk into any level of hiphop consciousness. It's exactly the same for opera, bhangra, dance hall, oi, gregorian chant and any other kind of music on the planet. Hiphop's social agenda is about as thin as as the pants on Lil Kim's ass. There is absolutely nothing hiphop has discovered through its 'politics' that adds any dimension of understanding to what black and latino politics have been. Hiphop consciousness is not political, it's simply about understanding and appreciating the music, which (duh!) over the past 20 years lots of people around the world have done. White kids understand everything about hiphop there is to understand which is rap music, break dancing and baggy clothes. If black and Latino kids are more invested in this 'deep meaning' of hiphop, more's the pity for them. But there is nothing about being black or latino with regard to hiphop that make them any different from their white brothers and sisters who consume the same products.

There is a real and significant difference between appreciating hiphop and actually performing hiphop dances, designing hiphop clothes or performing on a mic. But hiphop is merely a style, a flavor. Being down with the flava doesn't make you a dancer or a designer, and it sure as hell doesn't make you effective in politics. People who study dance, clothing design and politics have more to teach hiphop than hiphop has to teach them, and until we see the Hiphop Institute at Harvard, it will always be that way. As far as I know there is a turntablist instructor at Berklee, but the rest is all street apprenticeship. Street wisdom is good around the way. Didn't somebody rap about dying for a rock and dying for a block?

Hiphop's industrial base is disposable income. It's a bourgie institution which feeds on itself. It's politics, were they expressed, would bear the same contradictions and conflicts as that of the larger society. Hiphop, which is incapable of forming coalitions of any sort (not since Self-Destruction) would be hard pressed to get any coherent policy developed. But Russell Simmons does not make a think tank any more than Bono, and anyone with any hope for a new politics in the US needs to think long and hard about how Rock and Hollywood have developed their politics. Scary huh?

I know enough about hiphop to know that Aaliyah, Left Eye & De La Soul all took a great deal of pride in the fact that they could take their money and go hide away in other countries. That's where they found their peace away from the dimegrabbers, bootyshakers and sucka MCs who were just shorty versions of themselves. Hiphop's hierarchy despises its own roots because it exposes clearly how much it's just the ego trip of spoiled young Americans masturbating in the mirror or pointing a nine at it's own head.

Hiphop is a revolution of expression, but it only rarely expresses anything of enduring value. To desire hiphop politics is simply a desire to transcend the shallowness of the hiphop world. I think many hiphoppers will do just that, but I think they'll be loathe to call their mature politics 'hiphop politics'. Hiphop, just like Rock is all about youth. We hope that they'll grow out of it.

Posted by mbowen at August 27, 2004 09:27 AM

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COBB COMMENTARY: What Jimi Can't See from Booker Rising
He argues that hip hop ain't nothin' special in being a force for change. "To desire hiphop politics is simply a desire to transcend the shallowness of the hiphop world. I think many hiphoppers will do just that, but I think they'll be loathe to call... [Read More]

Tracked on August 29, 2004 01:25 AM


I disagree with the statement that blacks and latino's can't relate more to the music, because quite simply it is blacks and latino's who attempt to overtly immitate and live this lifestyle.

While a wigger may attempt to superficially mimic it, the young black or latino in poor enviroments utilize hip hop as the social role model that is not other wise present in the home.

Back in the day, you know about X-Clan and BDP, PRT Brand Nubian, even Ice Cube among others did drop sociologically relevent rhymes.

If channeled right, hip hop can be a powerful force for change. Will it happen? Doubt it. So I agree with your ultimate thesis.

Posted by: hirez at August 27, 2004 02:43 PM

The future is here: Harvard University's HipHop Archive DuBois Institute (click below)


By the way, we have matured...don't sleep on us yet...smile

Read and forecast the future impact of hiphip culture
click here http://micro.squarespace.com


Posted by: Akil at August 28, 2004 02:06 PM

We can disagree, man. I won't start shootin'.

Posted by: jimi at September 7, 2004 07:36 AM

We can disagree, man. I won't start shootin'.

Posted by: jimi at September 7, 2004 07:37 AM

You're still the man Jimi.

Posted by: Cobb at September 7, 2004 08:30 AM