Hip-Hop’s First World War

Damn straight we at war, and hip-hop is wounded. On street corners from Brooklyn to Brixton, South Central to Shanghai, arguments, conflicts and battle raps occur to overstand whose side you on? Pop hop or "real" hip-hop? Regardless of where a hip hopper is located, the world bows down in respect to what the African-American […]

Damn straight we at war, and hip-hop is wounded.

On street corners from Brooklyn to Brixton, South Central to Shanghai, arguments,

conflicts and battle raps occur to overstand whose side you on? Pop hop or "real"


Regardless of where a hip hopper is located, the world bows down in respect

to what the African-American and Hispanic youth have created. For it has connected

black youth and pierced through national boarders and languages

barriers. For example the Black French have taken hip-hop and placed it into

a coherent expression in their tongue. Ghanaians in West Africa have also blended

their own hi-life to hip-hop creating a new offspring in "Hip-life."

But the "Black Briton" has always had

a special relationship. A cousin in bondage in this western hemisphere, one

dominated by the modern super power and the other by the former, sharing similar

experiences, living in similar

conditions speaking the same language. Without question Blacks in Britain were

energized by this new art form and were with it from day one. No skeptics, no

second thoughts. It was what we had been waiting for. hip-hop is ours.

Public Enemy kicked down the barriers with "Tour

of a Black planet" and those who saw PE at the Hammersmith Apollo tell

legendary stories of their experience. It sent chills down our spine hearing

the tours introduction ringing

out of the "Nation of Millions…" classic. We had been recognized

as worthy comrades in this hip-hop squadron. And we gave Chuck unquestionable

support when watching him whack up interviewers. These were our men. And he

didn’t just stop with these shores, but converted hip-hop soldiers in places

most rappers didn’t know existed.

South Africa, Australia, Ghana, Britain, France

and beyond, all pledged allegiance. Blacks were the primary targets, but whites

couldn’t help but to be drawn. This was the time when everybody hated us. Other

music forms, parents, the industry, radio, television, they hated it. And we

loved their hate… f### ’em. This is ours. After we waved goodbye to Jazz,

Blues, and Rock n Roll we had something to express ourselves in again. And we

weren’t going to allow it to be f##### up. This time around, our hip-hop radar’s

were out and even more sensitive.

You bet, for anyone who even hinted on f######

up the game were being swiped on from all directions. Whether it was fake gangsters

or commercialism. They were being swiped at by Jeru on "Come Clean"

or O.C’s "Time’s Up."

You had to go through a screening process before

you were accepted. Even West coast gangsters initially had a hard time joining

the squad.

The lines were drawn, and they were clear. Barriers

with men standing strong on post like FOI

guards. hip-hop over here, industry Negroes over there. You mess up, you get

dashed. So MC Hammer was expelled after he broke the code. No argument. Vanilla

Ice went the same way. The issue didn’t have to do with race; cause white folks

have been in hip-hop from early on in one way or another. Whether it was Beastie

boys, 3rd Bass, DJ Muggs, House of Pain or that kid you once ran with. But they

weren’t industry backed and kept allegiance with what hip-hop was.

Neither did it have to do with being signed to

a major label, but retaining the art form and not sacrificing it in the interest

of commercialization.

However our early warning indicators weren’t

enough. For Saddam Hussein knows when these men want to invade, their gonna

do it from every angle. And you’d have to be on your best Shaolin guard to defend

against it. And invade

they did.

They launched their invasion, with lyrical inspectors

for topic restriction. They gained ground, closed the gap and enticed members

to convert. Some were convinced of their sincerity. Jumping ship proclaiming

"its all about the Benjamin’s what?" some went AWOL. Others said they

were going and coming back, screaming they were just "keeping it real dawg!"

And soon these "hip-hop" cats were defending People who were ostracized

such as Hammer.

Consequently the "Keep it real" cries

from the hip-hop fraternity were diminishing. But ironically these same "Keep

it real" screams were growing on the side of this new growing rap industry.

Growing in credibility with the induction of the defected hip-hop guards sporting

new bling bling suits. They turned their back on pro-black hip-hop Common documented

our suddenness as it slipped away.

Jeru documented our desire to get it back and

attacked Puffy. (Reflective of hip-hop’s new departure, civil war and impending

international conflict.) Puffy survived. Jeru was applauded but was still shot

down. Taken hostage, now missing in action. Puffy got new converts and was able

to capture more emcees from the hip-hop camp and trained them in the art of flirtation-

Flirting in-between enemy lines.

Releasing beaten down R & B hook songs, while

being respected as hard. Hip hoppers put down their armory when these deserters

came back, closely examining them, asking each other "is he on our side

or not, for he sure looks like he’s still got the stripes." This converted

a lot of heads that previously frowned at hip-hop They were now down with this

new acceptable look.

More people, meant more sales, which meant more

money, which meant the industry had found the model to work off, a model to

re-define as hip-hop, while still claiming to "keep it real." (But

only if you stick to this model.)

However this confusion and blurring of the lines

is more an American phenomenon. On this side of the Atlantic (as in Canada)

there is still a clear definition of the embodiment of hip hop principles and

what isn’t. It has always been a struggle for home-grown artist to be recognized

by the industry.

It is still raw, rugged and creative. Remnants

of hip hoppers exist all over the world that are reflective of the old pre-bling

hip hop era in the states. Rugged backpackers, freestyle frenzied, skill survivors.

So you bet Nas was the man all over the world when he dealt with Jay-Z.

There just was no argument over this in the hip-hop

communities. Though alert signs are up, for of late the British industry have

tugged on to the R&B rap factor and are manufacturing groups to impersonate

the R&B rap from the home of hip hop. (Blazing Squad and Big Bruvaz are

names to be weary of.)

So all over the globe the industry by passes

the hip hop community to create soft rap impersonators for the interest of mass

sales. The marketing of these "hip-hop" groups are not aimed to the

hip-hop masses. The foundations have been left to the sidelines. Heads outside

the states are fighting as hard as anyone to bring back the days of old.

Canadian artist K-OS dropped a whole album entitled

"EXIT" confessing in rhythmic performance how "yesterday, wack

emcee’s all seemed so far away/now it seems like that their here to stay…"

Fe real, we’ve lost ground, they used expert guerrilla tactics and crept in,

and now whack rappers are charging whack rappers for being whack.

Instead of sitting down and inventing the slickest

most original raps to rise to fame with, we’re looking for the sexist lady regardless

of talent to sing the hook. Where are the lyrics? We cry. This putting down

the guard has allowed us to lose more than a few good men. For this present

crop of hip-hop emcees have different values from the old days.

It is not controlled by hip-hoppers, because

these present custodians didn’t do their best to defend what we had. Which means

we created the climate for a rapper to rise to the ranks without having the

same presence, skills and creativity as the rappers of old. This time backed

by the industry, rapping like us.

But not looking like us.