The Death of Hip Hop and R&B. What Happened?

I have always believed that if you can control what someone hears and sees, you can also control what they think. When I was a kid, music was my best friend. Sometimes, it was my only friend. Donny Hathaway once sang, “Hang on to the world as it spins around. Just don’t let the spin get you down. Things are moving fast. Take it from me, someday, we’ll all be free.” Stevie Wonder sang about living “just enough” for the city. Marvin Gaye sang about the “Inner City Blues.” James Brown sang, “Say it loud! I’m Black and I’m proud!” However, the song that changed everything for me went like this. “A child is born with no state of mind. He’s blind to the ways of mankind. God is smiling on you, but he’s frowning too because only God knows what you go through. You grow up in the ghetto living second rate, and your eyes they sing these songs of deep hate. Don’t push me ‘cause I’m close to the edge. I’m trying not to lose my head.” That was Grand Master Flash and the Furious Five. The song is called “The Message.” During those days, music made us dance, but most importantly, it made us think. Music gave us a voice. Music propelled us to a better place intellectually. Music made us feel connected. Music gave us hope. It didn’t matter what you were feeling at the time, music had a way of making us feel like everything was going to be okay. The musical stars of yesteryear were successful, but they rarely, if ever made a song about their personal wealth. Music was real, and when we heard it, we felt confirmed. What happened? Today, it seems like music covers three areas; drugs, sex, and money. Hip Hop has become rap. Notice the difference between the proper and common noun. Hip Hop is proper because to me, it’s an art form that is unparalleled. In order to be a Hip Hop artist, you’ve got to have talent AND intelligence. This is not absolute, but these are some of my favorite Hip Hop artists: Melle Mel and Grand Master Flash, Big Daddy Kane, Rakim, Afrika Bambaataa, Doug E Fresh, KRS-One, Mos Def, Big L, Nas, Kool Moe Dee, LL Cool J, Run DMC, Tupac Shakur, Eminem, Jay Z, Kanye West (Old Kanye), Scarface, A Tribe Called Quest, Busta Rhymes (Underrated and Often Overlooked, but he will be known as one of the best of all time), NWA, Biggie, and many others. If I overlooked anyone, please charge it to time and not to intent. Today, we have rap. In my opinion, rap is nothing more than corporate sponsorship in musical form. It seems like these rappers have no real voice, and even less variety in their delivery of the same message. Our children are listening to rap. It’s not by chance that kids are more interested in smoking weed than they are in reading. It’s not by chance that our kids are having a difficult time with subject and verb agreement. It’s not by chance that many of our young girls would rather be strippers than maximizing their individual and collective power. It’s not by chance that many of our young men would rather gang bang than maximizing their individual and collective power. We live amongst a tattooed generation with absolutely nothing to say. These are my thoughts. If you have a microphone to the world, say something that will benefit someone other than yourself. While we are happy that you have “made it,” give others the blueprint on how they can make it too. Owning a Benz doesn’t mean you’re successful. Having sex with a beautiful woman who otherwise would never deal with you if you didn’t have money doesn’t make you feel whole. Wearing gold and diamond necklaces doesn’t make you a king or queen. Being “ratched” doesn’t make you look good. I have always believed that the quickest way to destroy any group of people is to pervert them to the point in which they become the instruments of their own self-destruction. There are quite a few rappers who have escaped the perils of inner city life through rap music. However, those escapes are Pyrrhic victories. A Pyrrhic victory is a victory that has come at too great a cost. The cost of their success, unfortunately, has meant the demise of some of our children. That’s honest. We need to bring back talent. We need to bring back class. We need to bring back hope. We need to bring back intelligence. We need to bring back unity. We must be the solution to our own problems. If we are waiting for someone to save us from ourselves, then we clearly have no idea what freedom even means. Freedom begins first in the mind. Following that, actions follow. Wake up, for our children are listening. My point; save Hip Hop and Rhythm and Blues! I recently had the privilege of meeting an up and coming Hip Hop artist. His name is Dre, and his talent is INCREDIBLE! Get ready, he’s coming! Until next time, take care of yourself. Also, this week, do something to benefit someone other than yourself. You might just change the world! Gee

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