Both Hip Hop & I have come a long way since 1982 when it blessed my life. It is a worldwide game-changer, while I owe much of my cultural, artistic, & personal development to its influence. As I get ready to round out this 3rd decade of living, I can honestly say that I’m just as much in love with the art form as I’ve always been, in spite of its’ obvious issues. The good thing is that I’m definitely not alone. It’s not unusual for me to start a verse of some joint & have a female friend of mine finish it. One of my sistafriends’, whose the mother of two pre-teen sons, loves to play around with the saying ‘Yeezy Taught Me’. Mind you, she’s a Sociology professor & working on her dissertation.
To that end, many of us as Hip Hop loving sistas, are deep in the midst of raising children who are scrimmaging through our CDs and cassettes, asking questions about the music & the artists that we grew up listening to. For example, on several occasions, I have found myself schooling my nephew on the music I played so loud that it rattled the walls of my room, causing my mother to demand that I ‘turn them talking folks down!’ Thanks to him, I had to own up to the fact that I wasn’t a fresh-faced teen or college age girl anymore as I spoke, in past tense, about artists in my music collection such as Ice Cube’s Amerikkka’s Most Wanted or A Tribe Called Quest’s The Low End Theory. When he called for the first time during his freshman year in college, he made a point to tell me that he was bumping some ‘old school’ — Goodie Mob’s 1998 classic, Still Standing. I was about to get defensive about that labeling, but then, I had to remember, he was only seven when the album dropped. Now that he’s getting ready for his junior year, he’s rather discriminatory about his music selection, opting for Common, Lupe Fiasco & Big K.R.I.T over Gucci Mane & 2 Chainz. I like to think I had something to do with that — but since he’s a ‘grown’ man now, he probably won’t admit it. :-)
Without a doubt, women have been highly instrumental in pushing Hip Hop into the social landscape & global spotlight. Using our money for albums, posters, concert tickets, magazines, etc., along with our starry-eyed adoration of emcees, we defended its’ right to be as bold, unapologetic, uncouth, and yes, as misogynistic as it wanted to be. See, that’s the thing. You can’t possibly be a sane Hip Hop loving woman and not admit that it has, and continues to be, quite disrespectful to women. However, Hip Hop didn’t invent misogyny, if anything, it simply exposed it — but breaking that down would require another post.
At the same time, Hip Hop has to be credited for how much it has fueled Black womanhood with its presence over the last 30 years. For instance, stepping out at fifteen years old, Roxanne Shante made it clear that young Black boys weren’t the only ones rocking out to the rap jams in those New York City housing projects. With Queen Latifah’s ‘Ladies First’ and ‘U.N.I.T.Y‘, young Black girls were able to garner self-respect & celebrate Black womanhood. From Salt N Pepa’s ‘Push It’ to MC Lyte’s ‘Paper Thin’, we learned how to embrace our sexuality on our terms, enjoy the party vibe & define ourselves. It has to be noted that, through Hip Hop, many nameless Black girls, invisible in the larger society, found their voices. I know I did. Hip Hop culture has cultivated several dynamic Black women that are excelling in various areas of society. Some sistas, such as Beverly Bond, are using Hip Hop as a community builder. Her organization, Black Girls Rock! uses the art form as a way to mentor young girls while combating the troubling images of Black women in the media. Dr. Ebony A. Utley, author of Rap vs. Religion: Understanding the Gangsta’s God, provides social commentary involving Hip Hop as a means to garner individual power and Dr. Dia, founder of H.Y.P.E Hip Hop Therapy, is hard at work with ensuring that today’s youth are aware of the principles of Hip Hop while empowering them to better their lives.
As for me, I sat in an African American Literary Theory class during the Fall 2011 semester and began developing a literary theory incorporating Hip Hop for the purposes of reading African American literature. Also, last year, my friend who teaches History/Government at a predominately Black high school asked me to do a class presentation that used Hip Hop as a connection to Black history.
Afterwards, I recall how energized I was by the students’ interest. It wasn’t until earlier this year, after a Spoken Word Artist/Emcee that I know hosted a teen open mic in his hometown, that I felt truly inspired to really work on something that would foster a working relationship between the older & current members of the Hip Hop community. So, on June 16th, which will be Tupac’s 41st birthday, the Mic Check Hip Hop Youth Seminar will debut. With an assortment of scholars, writers, business owners, and Hip Hop artists, it is our goal to help young people sort through the societal ills that have been blamed on Hip Hop & the corporate trickery that burdens & continues to hold the art form captive. It’s definitely about making sure the youth are aware of the history and the power of the music that dominates their lives. This, I believe, is my obligation to the youth as well as a way to show my love for Hip Hop. After all, it’s the adult thing to do, right?