Water Mosaic echoes from home

pondering the mysteries, simplicity, and humor of life

Friday, March 11, 2005

Truth Tellers of the Hip Hop Genre

I caught an interesting interview with author Jeff Chang on NPR yesterday. Chang is the author of Can't Stop, Won't Stop a chronological history of hip hop music that has extended for three decades. In the interview, Chang describes the evolution hip hop has seen dating from the Sugar Hill Gang to 50 Cent.

In his book, DJ Cool Herc provides an introduction that tells how hip hop was all about "come as you are, we're family. It aint about bling-bling. It aint about your $200 sneakers. It aint about how big a gun you got. It aint about your ride and the rims that spin." But over time, these things have encompassed what hip hop's identity is all about. Even though hip hop has become much of an image that entails these things, hip hop is still considered truth telling by Chang. Hip hop, describes Chang, are the stories that aren't told on the evening news. They are the stories that resonate in the streets and alleyways of urban life that media and much of society neglects. Some artists make little distinction between art and activism, while others just run their mouths (Sir-Mix-Alot for example). While much of the rap music that is mainstream today is stereotypically gansta and carries a violent reputation, it was originally brought to the African American community as an avenue of revolution and redemption.

Sounds to me lot like the Hebrew Prophets...well...minus the turntables. Weren't these prophets truth tellers to their societies who pleaded for equality and justice? Were rappers like Ice Cube and Tupac modern day prophets that talked about the harshness of urban life and the redemption that lies in wait of it?