In the late 70s rap music hit the scene and black people embraced the genre. The first song that made the world sit up was Rappers Delight by the Sugar Hill Gang. Rap music became hip-hop and up until 1990 had a semi-positive impact on African American youth. The pro-black voices from that time opened many eyes to the issues that faced African Americans. The ten years of empowering rap music has been replaced with three decades of degradation. Is 10 years of positive impact from hip-hop music worth these current results?
Let’s look at hip-hop music and the dividends from its impact on the African American community like a business. If you look at the status of the African American community after 40 years of hip-hop you will see pain and suffering. From a business standpoint, hip-hop has been a failed business adventure. Let me clarify; from an African American standpoint hip-hop has been a failure. From a society that has been against African Americans for 500 years, hip-hop is a smashing success.
Music has always been a guiding force to keep African American morale up. The R&B from the 50s through the 80s often talked about black pride and achievement. In its earliest form hip-hop focused on these same topics. The golden age of what is called conscious rap/hiphop was from 1984 to 1990. Hip-hop was a platform that was being used to open African American eyes to the machinations of US society. Almost every famous hip-hop group had a socially aware song. During this time frame many radio stations did not play certain groups, Public Enemy for one. Hiphop was awakening a fierce sense of black pride in teens across the USA.
The conscious hip-hop movement made certain factions in the USA nervous. These factions understood that the genre was too far gone to be stopped. Hiphop was beyond the point where you could just make it vanish. Plus, these factions were making money off hiphop artists, and in the USA money talks. Instead of attempting a kibosh of hip-hop these factions corrupted the genre. The same attributes that made hip-hop so dangerous could be twisted to make the music a tool of self hate, murder and degradation; hence, the introduction of gangster rap. Gangster rap took the rebellious spirit of African American teens and guided it from anger over society’s ills to other African Americans. The group NWA was the first major tool in this transformation.
The success of Straight Outta Compton opened the door for many other groups to begin the verbal assault on African American minds, bodies and more importantly lives. From the Geto Boys to Master P to GloRilla, hiphop has sold murder, drug selling, sex and low morals to African American youth. The good time rap music and politically conscious music from the 80s has been transformed into a tool of self hate that has never been witnessed before in the history of this planet.
The dress, behavior and conditions of the African American community often come from hip-hop artists. The big push at one time from hip-hop was malt liquor and marijuana. That has evolved into popping pills and alternative lifestyles. Murder, drug selling and sex are the foundation of hiphop in 2023. The effeminization of African American males while making African American females masculine has become another mainstay of modern hip-hop. Was the few years of conscious rap music worth these results?
There are many who will argue that there is still conscious hip-hop around. I am not saying there isn’t. I am saying the masses of African Americans are listening to the buffoonery and exploitative music more than the conscious version of the genre. Looking at the African American community I still ask, “Was it worth it?”
Frank James IV © 2023
The opinions expressed in this editorial are those of the writer and not of the Milwaukee Times Weekly Newspaper or HT Group, LLC, its staff or management. “Being Frank” is a bi-weekly column exclusive to the Milwaukee Times Weekly Newspaper.