The Racialization of Music: Part 2: The Power and Criminalization of Hip Hop

The following post is part two from this post about the Racialization of Music.

One area where the racialization of music is particularly evident is within hip hop. We can all agree that hip hop perpetuates stereotypes, such as black people being thugs and ho's. However, we have to make the distinction that hip hop is not to blame for these stereotypes. These defining images were created by the system of white supremacist capitalism and was unfortunately adopted by commercial areas of hip hop, which is the same area that record companies choose to propel to the forefront of the media.
For example, it is incredibly evident that ideas of black womyn being hypersexual, circa the spectacle of Sarah Baartman, are also seen in commerical hip hop music through the sexed out personas of rappers. We must realize the evident agenda in this, the furthering of stereotypes sustains the purposes of white supremacy.

Hip hop, in its present commerical state is being used to promote a capitalist, white supremacist agenda, while simultaenously being scapegoated for the world's problems. For example, remember when 2pac was persecuted becuase a guy listening to his album shot two cops? Another example is how society continuously blames hip hop for sexism and misogyny. However, the ultimate reason why Hip hop is criminalized is because blackness is also criminalized. Andrea Smith, in her article, "Heteropatriarchy and the Three Pillars of White Supremacy: Rethinking Women of Color Organizing" says, that "we can actually look at the criminalization of Blackness as a logical extension of Blackness as property." Thus we can say that even though hip hop is a entity that is multicultural, it is criminalized and commodified at the expense of black bodies. I think we deserve much more as the creators of hip hop, however, white America always has the power and privilege to twist and distort good intentions.

Hip hop is a billion dollar a year industry and is also the most popular musical genre to date. It has surpassed being a part of media to become a media itself. Much like the news and also other forms of art, hip hop, as an entity of mass media, has the power to influence pop culture. No wonder why white America hijacked and now owns it. It can influence people to dance and dress in provacative or fly ways, it can inspire people to become more aware of social justice issues, and it also has the power to dumb people down. Hip hop is used to sell everything from cars to cell phones. White Corporate America has stolen hip hop to further its capitalistic purposes, however, this offers no real agency for the black people whose music is being abused. Hip hop was created as an organic, anti-colonial tool of expression and what was particulary beautiful about that expression was that it was used as a tool for black Americans, particularly black men, who had been shut up, marginalized, stigmatized and deemed invisible by dominant society. Now, commercialized hip hop is used to further ideas of black hypermasculinity, capitalistim, and violence against the female and queer; which in turn only fuels a corporate agenda for white America. Black men and black women have once again been shut up and we don't have hip hop as an outlet for mainstream expression any longer.

Do we really want to support the commercial hip hop that perpetuates stereotypes about us and therefore furthers our own oppression? We must constantly be aware of the power we have as black American consumers to dictate trends as far as what is being sold to and bought by us. We cannot allow white America to continue to own hip hop and dictate what parts of it we see, use and listen to. We must be concious consumers and seek out alternative hip hop music that uplifts, enlightens and empowers us. Nothing that you get from commercial hip hop on the radio or in the mainstream media will be good for you and definitely not good for the black American community.

Rappers and producers: Quit making music if you love money and fame more than you love the people.

Come on baby, light my fire, everything you drop is so tired, music is supposed to inspire, how come we ain't getting no higher?" -L.Boogie

Lessons from M.X.

So as I have said before in a previous post, I have been trying to make a point to read speeches from those deemed leaders in liberation movements. So far, I have only read Malcolm X's "After the Bombing" speech, because I've been busy. Anyway, for this post I wanted to highlight that speech and specific points that he makes about social justice organizing in this country. I don't think that most people of my generation know how smart Malcolm X was, all we know is the name "Malcolm X." We don't know any of his words or what he really stood for. Or that he was pretty funny too.

One point that he talks about is oppressed people becoming enlightened and aware of the colonial situation in this country. "The newly awakened people all over the world pose a problem for what's known as Western interests, which is imperialism, colonialism, racism and all these other negative vulturistic isms. But the internal forces pose an even greater threat only when they have properly analyzed the situation and know what the stakes really are." So we can see here that Malcolm is emphasizing education and knowledge about the oppressed situation, which I totally agree with. He goes on to say, "the man knows that if Negroes find out how dissatisfied they really are -- and all of them, even Uncle Tom is dissatisfied, he's just playing his part for now -- this is what makes them frightened. It frightens them in France, it frightens them in England, and it frightens them in the United States." So we see that knowledge really is power, as corny as it sounds. That there is no hope for ending your oppressive situation if you don't even know what oppression is and that it is designed to be seen as invisible.

Another important point is alliances among struggles. "They'll do it to them today, and do it to you tomorrow. Because you and I and they are all the same." I think this integral to remember. Above all, we are all one people. If they do it to them, they'll do it to you. He continues, "and one of our first programs is to take our problem our of the civil rights context and place it at the international level, of human rights, so that the entire world can have a voice in our struggle. If we keep it at civil rights, then the only place we can turn for allies is with in the domestic confines of America. But when you make it a human rights struggle, it becomes international, and then you can open the door for all types of advice and support from our brothers in Africa, Latin America, Asia, and elsewhere." Oppression is never faced in solitude, the oppression of one community is also the oppression of every other community. We must create alliances and solidarity among our communities.

With the election of Obama, people, mainly oppressed people seem to have a lot more faith in the political system with no factual basis supporting this faith. "Some of these liberals who grin in your face like they're your best friends, they have money tied up in the Congo." Liberals are not angels, and they are not anarchists. They have a hand in the capitalist oppressive system that we live in as well. Don't allow yourself to be fooled thinking that Democrats are so liberal and great, that they aren't oppressive to your situation. In actuality, most Democrats know that they have to somewhat liberal for the preservation of their party and ideals, Republicans are just more bold with their marginalizing.