Favorite quote: “The company doesn’t care… they care about money. If you look back in Hip Hop in 1989, righteous was selling, so they was down with righteous… but now nonsense sells, so they down with nonsense”
Lately, I've began to feel more and more annoyed by Hip Hop Progressives and Activists who believe the genre was somehow 'good for them' when record companies didn't get it. The so called 'conscious' Hip Hop came through to the populous, the so called "Golden Era" (Tribe, De La, PE, etc etc etc.)to revolutionize America. In my understanding of Hip Hop, there was no board meeting about that. Rappers and crews had differing approaches and interest in content; some wanted to get laid, others wanted to smoke spliffs, some wanted revolutions, and others wanted to show off wordplay. As a Hip Hop head of the mid 80s, I do feel there was something in the air about the music that changed our society, I saw it happen right before my eyes. But in the end, I agree with Young Guru that companies only wanted to stack duckets, and his quote took the words right out of my mouth.
His quote challenges me to question the validity of 'conscious' music, who's foundations are in a capitalist society, particularly the music of the "Golden Era". His view lays it out that Righteous and Nonsense are both commodities with a shared value of only making money. This cheapening of my prior purist views of Hip Hop as a revolutionary force feels similar to when I went to Latino conferences that were sponsored by Walmart, Target, and any other exploitative corporation seeking some positive spin in their exploiting and racist/classist practices. For me, it undermines the nuggets and jewels spat by MCs of authenticity, independence, power, and uplift. Sorry to say it, but it hurts.
Young Guru is right that it makes a lot more financial sense to DIY and make it on your own. And a lot of Hip Hop Progressives will tell me to look there for 'that real shit'. But I only ask that you share with me some good progressive hip hop artists... cause the lot I've heard so far sound like they all read the same books, use the same dictionary, and talk the same over and over again about issues that I heard in my younger days. You can be progressive and be artistic, innovative and experimental... which I don't see too much in the genre nowadays.
The last piece of advice that I'd like to give 'conscious Hip Hop" is to understand that you are working with a genre... a medium with a set of rules and regulations on what makes it what it is. Hip Hop WAS musically progressive as one of the first overtly 'cut n' paste' postmodern musics in recent history. The development of wordplay, DJing, and visual components challenged people musically. But that all changed over time as it should. Its not 'progressing' anymore when it is totally saturated in U.S. culture. You are the progressive, your actions are the progressive. Hip Hop is merely a tool to get the job done.
There was a time where I held onto Hip Hop as a 'revolution' and 'rebel' music. I held hard when the Jiggy era showed up, when Thug and Trap music came through, where regional Hip Hop ostracized me. I came to the conclusion I was holding onto rules of communication, a medium of art, who's revolutionary angle has since become co-opted and diluted to the larger society. Holding onto it like it is some revolutionary act looks silly to me: conformist, and old. Progressiveness and revolution are actions people make, and it would make a stronger case to be inclusive, open minded, and willing to listen to new things... seeing these mediums as vessels of change, and not change itself.