Geraldo Rivera tried to slam Kendrick Lamar, as well as hip-hop as a whole, after the Compton rapper’s performance at the BET Awards this summer. Geraldo used his platform to blanket hip-hop as hate, while Kendrick used his response to invoke his First Amendment right. Now, America may be using the song in question – “Alright” – as an anthem.
Marchers took to the streets of Washington D.C. this past weekend, chanting the words to the song while celebrating the Million Man March 20-year anniversary. (See video below.)
So why does hip-hop garner so much negative condemnation?
When you look up the definition of music, you will see terms like “melody, harmony, art and expression.” Most music is written according to life experience, a symphonic mural of the artist’s view of his or her life. Hip-hop has always seemed to be at the forefront of debate. Hip-hop is more than just music, it’s a fashion, it’s a language, it’s a business, it’s a culture. No genre in the history of music has been made to carry such a heavy burden. Now you want to say “it,” meaning “Hip-Hop,” has done more damage to young African-Americans than racism?
One of the most controversial records of all time is “Cop Killer” written by Ice-T and Ernie C of heavy metal band, Body Count. I always found it interesting that with all the controversy and backlash surrounding that particular song, only hip-hop was made to tow the negativity. They don’t have press conferences about heavy metal bands singing about domestic violence and suicide. I haven’t heard it said that Madonna is to blame for the promiscuity of young women or that Lady Gaga’s whole mantra is damaging to the wholesome fabric of young White America.
Marvin Gaye’s 1971 record “What’s Going On” is a lyrical look at the social consciences of that era. If you listen to that album today, those same things mentioned are still happening. There was said to be debate about the release of that album because of the political ramifications of it, as well as what it might do to Marvin’s image. The portrait he painted of the hardships and outcries of that era still exist today. The line “picket lines and picket signs, don’t punish me with brutality” was speaking of protest and police brutality long before hip-hop’s inception. I don’t recall Marvin Gaye or R&B music being held responsible for the Vietnam War, or the riots that were going on right here on American soil.
In the case of Kendrick Lamar’s “Alright“ from his smash album To Pimp A Butterfly, the song speaks of the hope for his community, despite everything going on in it. This album is a metaphoric look at the life Kendrick has lived, and each track is a chapter, much like Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On.” In order to give a proper interpretation of any song, you must listen to it in its entirety. If hip-hop is so damaging, doesn’t Big Sean’s “Blessings” give young people hope? Although we have freedom of expression, isn’t it an adult’s responsibility to exercise their due diligence as parents to adhere to the warning labels if young African-Americans are not old enough to interpret them?
In my opinion, hip-hop has not done more damage to young African-Americans than racism in recent years, it’s the ignorance of a lifetime that has done the most damage. People are afraid of what they don’t understand. Most can’t relate to or see what’s going on in urban areas, so when the verbal picture is painted, it is viewed as a rally cry of hate instead of a chant for hope and change. Hip-hop has produced a billionaire such as Dr. Dre. The Godfather of Hip-Hop, Russell Simmons and rapper Jay Z are multi-million dollar business moguls, according to Forbes. MC Lyte is the voice of BET television network, rapper Yo-Yo was chosen to speak before congress by the legendary Maxine Waters. N.W.A member Ice Cube is now a major movie writer/producer. Rappers LL Cool J, 50 Cent and Queen Latifah are major film actors/actresses. How about the fact that hip-hop produced Nelly, a rapper that makes sure young African-Americans go to college every year, and T.I.’s Family Hustle, which is all about positive family values? You see, racism is a belief of hate/fear that has been taught and passed down for generations. The misconception is that racism doesn’t exist, reality is it does, the presentation is just different, and it existed long before hip-hop. Instead of condemning hip-hop, try educating the masses so the things the artists are rapping about can change and the hate that is being taught by the miseducated can die. In the words of Kendrick Lamar, “But if God got us we then gon’ be ALRIGHT.”
What’s your take, why does hip-hop garner so much negativity?
VIDEO SOURCE: Vine | PHOTO CREDIT: Getty