However this period prior to the upcoming U.S elections represents the first time Hiphoppas at large have been targeted as a significant block of voters. Many organizations are working to educate and create greater participation in the electoral process among hiphoppas all over the United States. The National Hiphop Political Convention convened this past July in an effort to galvanize support for an agenda that represents the needs of the Hiphop population, the majority of which are still people of color. The Hip-Hop Congress held its annual gathering in the spring and Russell Simmons' Hiphop Action Summit is continuing to solicit activists. While many of these organizations, and many more such as the Temple of Hiphop(www.templeofhiphop.org), The Hiphopscholar.org and Conscious.hiphop.com to name a few are working on various levels and as many different agendas one question remains. Why Us?
What is the great interest in Hiphop or those designated as the Hiphop generation? Firstly and perhaps obviously is the fact the Hiphop generation is moving into the 25-35 age range. Many who were born on the heels of the *civil rights era and prior to the recession 1980s are reaching an age range where influence and income are increasing. A recent interview with Hiphop clothier pioneer Karl Kani suggest the Hiphop generation is growing up and so are their interests, tastes and understanding of politics.
This increased mobility for the first wave of hiphoppas doesn’t mean they lose their ties to Hiphop culture, but rather their depth and understanding of the world through hiphop socialization is taking new forms. In fact many involved in politics on a state and local level are representatives of the hiphop generation ranging from Jesse Jackson Jr. to Ras Baraka son of famed poet Amiri Baraka.
Before proceeding it is important to note that the culture of Hiphop of the late 1970s to 1989, is markedly different than the rap industry and hip-pop culture of present day. Hiphop culture for the earlier generation included groups like Public Enemy, A Tribe Called Quest, Poor Righteous Teachers, X-Clan, BDP, Paris, GrandMaster Flash and the Furious Five, and a host of others as the norm in terms of rap artists. These rap artists would influence the culture of Hiphop with their diversity of lyrics. Some artists, such is the case with Public Enemy and X-Clan, had overtly political themes with the intention of educating their audience.
Other groups such as A Tribe Called Quest offered lyrics that were not necessarily heavy handed with a political message, however still delivered a progressive message in a unique stylized manner which defined the creative intelligence of Hiphop in this era. Given this background many Hiphoppas of this generation developed a keen sense of politics and social awareness.
Fast forward to 2004, where the Rap industry dominates youth culture and many of the key artists are defining success in terms of material wealth. The fact that the Rap industry is a multi-billion dollar business is not lost on the powers that be. Each party in the political process is recognizing there are votes to be had and to varying degrees working to secure them.
Contemporary hip-pop via the rap industry is virtually everywhere on every thing. Films, TV, print advertisements and of course radio. This industry has produced some of the youngest CEOs, of which many are people of color. Although many younger hiphoppas identify with them, the politics don't necessarily support grassroots hiphoppas. For example the flow of big name rappers creating and or investing in liquor companies, which target an already disproportionately hit target audience. While many activist groups are taking advantage of the interest in hiphop by raising important issues such as education, the prison industrial complex, racial profiling, aids research and awareness, it is important not to forget lessons of the past.
Prior to the downfall of many progressive organizations
of the 60s they too were courted by the larger political machine and many
of the leaders instead of leading for social change created leading as
an occupation. Moreover as in the case of the Gary Political Convention
in 1972 many of the activists had wonderful well intentioned programs that
never left the ground. The current state suggests one of two
things; 1 Rap is profitable and uncritical consumers are easily lead in
the wrong direction 2 This is the moment for Hiphop culture to have its
next Renaissance. Time
By Akil, the hiphopscholar @ www.hiphopscholar.org
Bob Bryan / Loida Mariano
Bryan World Productions, LLC.
PO Box 74033
Los Angeles, CA 90004
Tel. Number: 323 / 856-9256
Fax Number: 323 / 856-0855