The state of hip-hop in 2008
Like everyone else, I have a slew of emails hitting my mailbox every day from various news sources. This daily onlaught of info usually includes at at least one or two missives from All Hip-Hop, “the most widely read Hip-Hop …
Like everyone else, I have a slew of emails hitting my mailbox every day from various news sources. This daily onlaught of info usually includes at at least one or two missives from All Hip-Hop, “the most widely read Hip-Hop entity in the world”.
Usually I just look at the headline and delete. It’s how you have to operate with information overloads – I bet loads of you saw the word “hip-hop” in the headline here, said “no thanks” and clicked through to Perez instead (no fibbing, we see the stats). It’s the same with the All Hip-Hop nibs – there’s usually no need to read any further to find out about what Pitbull thinks of Sarah Palin, Heavy D’s new reggae album, how Jaden Smith is going to star in a remake of the Karate Kid or that Busta Rhyme’s lawyer has filed a complaint against “machine gun-toting police” in London.
Most of the stories revolve around guns, arrests and court cases – Maury Levy would make a fortune from this lot. The sheer monotonous content of those headlines makes you think about the current state of play in the hip-hip world. Has hip-hop really become all about, to cite one of the more recent stories, ex-Death Row boss Suge Knight (I was going to use a more colourful description but then remembered some key passages of Ronin Ro’s “Have Gun, Will Travel” and thought better of it) suing Kanye West over a shooting? And no, Mr 808s & Heartbreak didn’t pull the darn trigger.
Per the story, “Knight was shot in the right leg at Kanye’s pre-MTV Video Music Awards party at the Shore Club, located in Miami” in August 2005. “Initially some speculated that Knight accidentally shot himself, but that claim was later refuted after eyewitnesses confirmed that at least six shots were fired during the incident. The assailant was never apprehended.”
Knight claims West is liable because the bad man with the gun was able to get past the party’s security with a deadly weapon. He is now claiming damages for his medical expenses and, more importantly, mental anguish for “the loss of use and enjoyment” of a diamond stud earring valued at $135,000. Oh and he also had to take a private jet back to California after the incident and needs that bill to be settled. Naturally, the reader comments over on All Hip-Hop following the story are fairly colourful.
All of this kerfuffle reminds me of a quote from a few weeks ago when I was chatting to Messiah J & The Expert about their new album for a Ticket interview. When talk turned to the current state of the game, Messiah J added a proviso after he had bemoaned the current culture for everything we’ve talked about above. “I hate shitting on hip-hop – it’s like dissing a family member”, he said. “It may be acting up a bit so you’re going ‘oh no, cop on’. But because we know what it is capable of doing, we continue to stick by it.”
Many of us feel the exact same way. We’ll claim to all the haters and detractors that the big names covered by All Hip-Hop and their ilk do no represent the real hip-hop nation that we grew to love. We’ll say you gotta check what Chuck is saying these days. We’ll talk about what’s going on in the underground, point to the fact that the White House is about to be painted black and holler that a change is about to come. Hell, we might even quote some lines from Wimsatt.
Of course, all of this is right and bang on – there’s far more to hip-hop than the flotsam and jetsam which makes the yellow press headlines. Even All Hip-Hop know this and occasionally cover stories which are more about good causes and positive issues than bling and bitching. But the pendulum keeps swinging back to the thugging and that’s where all the attention goes because that’s where all the cash is. I don’t think I’m alone in finding it hugely sad that one of the most creative and life-changing cultural forces of all time has been reduced to using tawdry hard-chaw carry-on to hawk tickets, t-shirts and traction. You have to wonder if hip-hop is doomed to keep on heading down the same sorry street forever and ever.