It’s possible that I should have done some surfing in Mexico. Instead, I’m doing my surfing online. I came across a months-old post re: rappers criticizing Oprah Winfrey. I couldn’t find the original articles, but I posted about the overall context of the conversation on the Acting White blog. Here’s what I had to say:
Ms. Winfrey is the target of attacks from many circles. I come to this discussion a bit late – and was unable to find the articles on the Post. Nonetheless, I have no interest in 50’s critique.
I believe there are some relevant things here though. In one of your other posts, you highlight the failure of black leadership (political and spiritual) to jump into the fight on AIDS infection. Their belated entry has had tremendous consequences.
The same can be said of the reticence (intergenerationally) of wealthier black folk to subsidize (read invest) in the creative output of young people. Hip hop did not begin as a nihilistic foray into misogyny, gangsterism and the like. It evolved. In fact, the groups who articulated an ethical paradigm also often preached a nationalist orientation which has typically been perceived as krytonite by wealthy black folk. Black nationalism is not good for business, but cultural nationalism is vital. Our wealthiest folks seem to often miss this nuance.
Having blown opportunities in R&B, rock n’ roll and jazz, hip hop was bought off the auction block in the mid-1990’s – well after it have proved it’s staying power as a viable genre and economic engine. An alternative route, which could have been led by our millionaire preachers and big-budget non-profits and retired artists, could have built a framework and established standards that would have resolved much of this “crisis.”
Ms. Winfrey, as a billionaire and visionary, may bear some responsibility for the evolution of this unintended mess, but it is nothing more than I claim to bear – nor is it a burden subject to criticism from practitioners like 50 with limited verbal skillz.
Hip hop is a product of corporate America precisely because it was orphaned by black folk. This latest manifestation of “devil music” was reviled and cast aside before it’s potential to transform lives and reverse economic fortunes was ever understood or embraced.
And finally, black folk are NOT hip hop’s permanent audience. Just as white Americans and Europeans have stepped into the vacated breach of blues, jazz and rock n’ roll, we will surely witness a mass migration of black folk from hip hop. My generation created the art form but has already begun to move away because those most prominent artists are mere shells of what we intended. An art form that is so entirely divorced from its roots cannot stand. It must surrender it’s appeal. It must, in this American context, eventually become the watered down domain of white replicants. This has already happened with DJ’ing. When you get a chance, look at the “identity” of the most recent winners of international spinning competitions. It’s not “kids from the ‘hood.” Those days are over. The end of hip hop is already on the horizon.