Hip-Hop’s contribution to black poverty…
(ThyBlackMan.com) Hip Hop promotes blacks living beyond their means, skipping out on education…
The debate has raged for centuries about whether art influences society or where society is influences art. In the case of popular hip-hop music, the “art” both creates and justifies society, even at it own expense.
As more communities dip below the poverty line and into unemployment, the more popular hip-hop has glorified direct paths to poverty. Hustlin’, the devaluating of formal education and crew dependency are direct paths to poverty for many of the poorest listeners of popular hip-hop. While hip-hop has fans from every socio-economic background, it is the poor listeners that I am concerned with. Those that are currently in poverty are being inspired and beaten over the head with a mentality that will only continue the cycle of poverty.
In most cases popular hip hop is telling the story of the poor and may be a reflection of the communities from which the artists are bred. But it’s a different demon, speaking to itself, feeding on itself and then nurturing itself amongst the poor under the façade as a pursuit to wealth and riches. To the less fortunate and mis/undereducated the glitz and glamour of the tales told in hip hop are taken as wisdom and truth.
It may be “real talk” but it is not honest because hustlin’ will lead many back into poverty. While Curtis Mayfield and other singers did speak about pushers, pimps and junkies, it was balanced out and spun as cautionary tales not as tales of glory. The hustlin’ glorified in today’s popular hip-hop music is characterized as a lifestyle that will continue forever. There should be a disclaimer played before popular hip hop songs that states emphatically that hustlin’ is not suitable for everyone and could lead to poverty. For many poor children and young adults it has and it will.
Imagine, ten poor children who get inspired to become hustlers. Not just drug dealers but scam artist, thieves, car-jackers, home invaders, counterfeit money launders and etc. Of those ten how many will become so successful at it, that they become financially self-sufficient? Very few. How many of the financially self-sufficient will avoid death or incarceration? Only the very lucky. Then after years of hustlin’ how many will be thrown back into poverty? All.
Now think of the impact that this has on the families of these individuals. Because of a foolheardy choice to pursue a path of hustlin’ laid out by some careless rapper, a potential income earner and wealth builder for the family has been removed from the equation. This individual has now transformed himself from a once potential source of income, to another mouth to feed. Now what do you get from having more mouths to feed than resources? Multiplied Poverty.
So I ask. Why is hustlin’ so prevalently glorified in today hip-hop and expressed as a viable option for our children if it will lead those that survive back to poverty? What if instead of glorying hustlin’ popular hip-hop glorified earning honest income through gainful employment or even entrepreneurship?
“Before you re-up, get a laptop. Make a business for yourself, boy, set some goals, make a fat diamond out of dusty coals.. ” – Big Boi of Outkast “Bombs Over Baghdad”
But there is a catch. To do become gainfully employed or to have a successful business of your own , one would need the right tools. Education is the most fundamental tool of all but formal education is devalued in hip-hop. If fact it is even ridiculed.
“I’m gonna learn too, I’m gonna be super smart. So I too can die without money but I’m gonna be the smartest dead guy.” – Kanye West “Lil Jimmy Skit”
Education is not the guaranteed path out of poverty. Education is a tool that can be used to open doors. The greater the tool the more doors that can be opened. However, popular hip-hop doesn’t see it that way. Those same artists that make seem as if hustlin’ is for any and everyone will make it seem that formal education is not.
What if these smart artists touted smart as the new gangsta? What if “How low can you go” was replaced by “how high can you score”? Think of how many more children will be lifted out of poverty through education. While I understand the importance of street cred what is the good of having credibility on a street full of illiterates? That brings me to my next point, in dependency or the crew mentality.
It already been discussed on how many of the women who chase ballers or bosses end up in poverty, but we hardly discuss the boys in the crew. Among the poor, the crew mentality is as prevalent as the gold digger mentality. The result is often the same, poverty. But being down with the crew is campaigned in hip-hop.
Popular hip-hop artists love talking about taking care of their crew. This fosters an inter-dependency on the crew and/or the central figure of it. As an artist grows hoards of people began to crowd him. His crew gets larger. Are they supporting him or hoping for crumbs from his table once HE eats?
This mentality of dependence is encouraged and glorified by rappers and then forced back upon the potential breadwinners of poor communities. Athletes, politicians and even members of are own family are thrust into positions of sharing with the hood. But what happens if they succeed? People quickly find out that these people did not have the ‘Whole hood on their back’ just a select few.
We go from …”I put Marcy on the map, I put Brooklyn on my back”-Jay-Z “Put On Remix” to “That’s just how the game goes. I don’t owe nobody jack. Grown men want me to sit ‘em on my lap but I don’t have a beard and Santa Claus ain’t black.” – Jay -Z “What We Talking About”
They may get a turkey around Thanksgiving or school supplies but they find out the hard way that they person that they looked to for table scraps was no Santa Claus. The poor hope they keep it real sadly, many keep it to them to themselves. Unfortunately, it may take years before many realize that the time they spent hanging with the crew and the BOSS could have been better spent building something for themselves. Now what if instead of interdependency popular hip-hop talked about being self sufficient?
“You ain’t promised tomorrow, so get your paper up/You can’t always just borrow and asks for favors bruh /Stand on your own two, never covet thy neighbor’s stuff” – Talib Kweli Hostile Gospel
If hip hop made the crew mentality less cool and less people will find themselves led on this path of disappointment and poverty. Being down with the crew should be described for what it is, a waste of time. Wasting time leads to poverty.
By speaking about hip-hop’s direct contribution to the mentality of poverty, I hope to generate dialogue among artists as I see the potential for hip-hop to be the catalyst for change. If just a few more of the popular artist replaced hustlin’ with seeking gainful employment, if smart became the new gangsta, if self sufficiency was put before crew dependency, it would help. Even if not but one child gained inspiration and did not follow the paths laid out by popular hip-hop it would be worth it. To the popular hip-hop artists reading this blog, don’t hope that the poor make in it spite of your music, hope that they make it because of your music.
Written By Brandale Randolph