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Hip-Hop’s contribution to black poverty…

July 27, 2010 by  
Filed under Ent., Misc., Music, News, Opinion, Weekly Columns

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( 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


10 Responses to “Hip-Hop’s contribution to black poverty…”
  1. Sara says:

    Also regarding Bboy looner’s comment on family:

    I would also point out, that some “families” are unhealthy.

    We all have family members who do unhealthy things. That doesn’t mean it’s good for us to hang out with them and pick up their bad habits, just because they’re “family”.

    Not all “family” is good company to keep.

  2. Sara says:

    I know this is a few years later after this article was published, but I wanted to say a few things in response to Bboy looner.

    I understand your point about mainstream hip hop vs, underground, but the point is actually kind of irrelevant.

    It doesn’t matter. Why?

    Because even if hip hop has been “stolen” by white people, black people are still listening to it!

    And the point that the author is making is valid. And, even with the real hip hop, most of it still doesn’t have a positive, and uplifting message. A lot of it is still just venting about life in poverty, and the problems in a life of poverty.

    It’s still not giving a message of hope, and inspiration, to inspire kids to do better with their lives. It’s just saying “poverty is hard.” “Yeah bruh/sistah I feel you.”

    That’s not inspiring someone to get a college degree.

    Also, with your “Crew” comment, I get that you see crew as “family” but hanging out with people who have bad habits and encourage you to do the same is not the same as real family.

    And that’s not the same as having healthy associations who will lift you up, rather than encourage you to stay put in the same habits.

    If you associate with people who are poor, you will become or stay poor yourself.

    As a famous Tibetan Master said:

    “A crystal, when placed on a piece of cloth, takes on the color of that cloth, whether white, yellow, red or black. In the same way, the friends with whom you keep company the most often, whether suitable or unsuitable, will greatly influence the direction your life and practice take.”
    – Kyabje Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche.

  3. Steph says:

    Message to Bboy Looner:

    I like your brilliant comment. I would had that it is not new what is happening now. The mainstream used to pay big money to make sure that our people would get involved in minstrel shows.

  4. Gist Naija says:

    Among all the Hip Hop, Tupac contributes the graeter to the black people. Tupac doe not speak rubbish but the BITTER TRUTH.

  5. Bboy Looner says:

    BIG bucks, i meant to say… not BOG bucks

  6. Bboy Looner says:

    Sounds to me like you are mistaking Hip-Hop for Hip-Pop.

    “Hip Hop” was BOUGHT by the white corporate music industry. THEY ARE THE ONES WHO PAY BOG BUCKS to solicit hustling, misogyny, crime, money, pimpin, ho’s, drugs, and all the other things that “lead to poverty.” -Specifically leading -BROWN PEOPLE- to poverty, and in their white supremacist minds ideally leading them (people of color) to kill each other in order to exploit them. This is NOT where true Hip Hop comes from. That is “commercial rap” aka “Main Stream Hip Pop” you are speaking about.

    The 4 elements of Hip Hop: Graffiti, Bboying, DJing, and Emceeing, came about in New York in the 60’s/70’s as an outlet for impoverished people and Outlaw gangs who had very little and lived in DANGEROUS situations, to express themselves in alternative ways over violence. Afrika Bambaataa saw these expressions as something positive and encouraged the youth to develop their artistic sides as a means to rise up from poverty. SO he turned his outlaw gang from the Black Spades into Zulu Nation. He dubbed this new movement, hip hop.

    “CREW” was family. and instead of going for “self” as you say, which is the problem with capitalism (profiteering at the expense of others, exploiting others for self), we should b acting as families to help each other raise our kids, educate our communities, grow our own food, and do all the things our GOVERNMENT wont.

    And I LOATHE LOATHE LOATHE the military advertisements you have here on your site. As an African American male, you obviously cant see how this is perpetuating the White Supremacist ideals that built this country on the backs of your people on top of stolen land at the cost of the lives of the natives that were already here in so called “America.” It is the military who steal our tax dollars for the modern day colonization of other countries in order to monopolize resources so we can have laptops and cell phones. If they didnt steal our tax dollars, ALLLL that money would be going into our communities. we ALL could get education for pennies, food, shelter, clothing, and medicine would b readily accessible for EVERYONE -black, white, green, or whatever. Not for free, but not for money either. We dont need money to eat. Food grows. we just need to work together to grow it, so it wouldnt be “free” but it would cost any money -it would be contributory.

    but mainstream Hip Pop, reaches the people of color. and “they” (white corporate amerikkka) know that.

  7. Toni Carter says:

    As a young college student I enjoyed reading your post although I have some things I disagree with. I just want you to keep in mind that not all rappers are the same some of them say the things that say because the public wants to purchase this kind of music. This genre of music is a complex one it has some good aspects and negative aspects. Our society is being “dumbed down” because alot people want to hear things about sex, drugs, etc. but also White Americans purchase more rap then anyone else. I feel as though they have capitalized on a form of Black music once more and helped turn it into something negative. Who owns the record labels? Who are the Marketing Executives? Nine times out of ten they are not Black people.

  8. Giosincere says:

    Cautionary tales and not tales of glory.
    Your command for english is amazing.
    Powerful Article!
    So sad no one commented!
    They rather argue and be subjective
    on other articles.
    It is what it is!

    How high can you score?
    How high can you score?
    That would be a dope song.
    We need more people like you

    Yes yes yes!
    This needs to be reblogged..reposted..

  9. Excellent article and I like how DEEP you go into MENTALITY that’s right up my alley. It goes hand in hand with ENERGY.

    Hip Hop has changed to JAIL CULTURE ENERGY. It’s like we are in prison. The only alternative is to TEAR DOWN this culture to build it back up.

  10. Staff says:

    Sometimes my people just don’t care… Sad indeed…

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