Note: During the 1800’s the drum was banned throughout most of this hemisphere, for fear of unregulated communication amongst the Africans, for fear of rebellion.

Hiphop is, largely, the unadulterated voice of much of young African America. Over half of Black America is under 30 years old, so it shouldn’t be surprising that, as it has been since World War II, the nation’s most dynamic popular cultural expression would be rooted in the young. Hiphop’s scope covers the social waterfront. The art form is as positive, as negative, and as diverse as African America itself. In terms of perspective, everything is included from ignorant, backward and sexist crap, to some of the most poignant, socially conscious, politically focused and jammin poetry ever recorded.

Two of the main reasons people have difficulty recognizing rap as America’s most potent, lucrative, and useful form of poetry is the influence of the corporate music industry and the fact that the hiphop culture, like bebop, was created by and is still primarily associated with, the most despised sector of one of the most despised groups in America, young Black people. The hiphop culture, which has gone world-wide, is largely decentralized and is being molded by people many Americans feel should not be seen, nor heard, let alone actively participating in the definition of the American reality. In the minds of many, these people or even better, “those people” should be in lines waiting for handouts, not pulling bank in the vanguard of the United States’ most mass-based cultural upsurge since the commercialization and semi-desegregation of “race music”, in the late 1940s and early 1950s, which later became known as “rock and roll”. And as with rock and roll, those who create the art are not generally those who have primary control over its shaping and mass marketing.

Hiphop, which includes rap and other forms of poetry, house music, speech bites, interview segments and all sorts of other samples, is the world according to young urban African America. Anything ever recorded is now fair game for mix masters. In the mix everything is made new again, to be served up “slammin” to all with ears.

Far more appreciated internationally, like jazz, hiphop is undeniably a product of the not so rich, not so famous, not so respected African American masses. Not the sons and daughters of Mr. and Mrs. So-and-So, but average, everyday people create hiphop. It’s the most recent link in a Black cultural tradition that goes back through hype DJs, West Indian toasters, prison rhymes, bebop poets, scat, dub, calypso, country preachers, blues, work songs, field hollers, juba, chants, call and response, spiritual chain reactions, African talking drums and griots.

The incredible diversity of the hiphop landscape is generally not perceived, mainly because most mainstream media is almost solely concerned with keeping butts shaking, while minds remain asleep, therefore in check.

Despite this, hiphop remains a danceable mirror of society. It is for many a democratic tool of social analysis and a cultural/political/economic trigger for the resurgent African American liberation struggle, a movement that has always had an uncelebrated positive spillover effect on the nation as a whole. Here’s the deal. It’s nation time, again! And if self-determination is good for Eastern Europe and Southern Africa, we know good and well that it’s all right for the rest of the world. For many, the theme is red, black and green. The call is for national liberation for the African American nation. The message, just as with Curtis Mayfield’s “People Get Ready/Keep on Pushing/Move on Up” of 40 years ago, is in the music. And even with virtually no airplay, the message gets through to large portions of new generations, which are still on the rise and at odds with the status quo, all over the globe.

At its best, when enlightened minds control the means of production, the message of self-assertion, social uplift and justice, for which fallen heroes have given their lives, carries on, sampled, in the mix. If you haven’t heard it, you should listen more closely. It’s true that artists and entrepreneurs such as, Russell Simmons, Public Enemy, the Asiatic Shabazz Posse, Mark Rodgers, Harmony, Society of Soul, Rakim & Eric B, Jesse West & Sugar Free, Lakim Shabazz & PRT, Paris, Professor Griff, Professor X, Gangstarr, X-Clan, Queen Latifah, the Chosen Ones, Positively Black, Rich Nice, Laquan, Sister Souljah, KRS-ONE, Movement X, Queen Mother Rage, 2 Kings in a Cypher, Ntyce, Digable Planets, the Coup, Arrested Development, Guru, Kirk Franklin, Dead Prez, Gospel Gangstaz, Divine Styler, the Goodie Mob, Bahamadia, Angie Stone, Prince Akeem, the Fugees, Erykah Badu, Spearhead, and Linque, Tupac and Biggie too, in some important ways, effectively did for the 90s, and are, in some cases doing for earlier 2000s, what people like Cab Calloway, Eddie Jefferson, and Lamberts, Hendricks, and Ross, did for the 1930s, 40s, and 50s, and what people like Mayfield, Berry Gordy, H. Rapp Brown, Kwame Toure, Malcolm X, Bernice Reagon, the Last Poets, Nikki Giovanni, the Watts Prophets, Gil Scott-Herron, Haki Madhubuti, Amiri Baraka, Odetta, and James Brown, all of whose influence can be heard in the mix, did for the 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s, “on and on . . . we don’t stop!”

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