by Solomon Comissiong
Hip Hop music has been hijacked by corporate Klansmen who suppress the righteous lyrics of artists “like Dead Prez, Capital X, Immortal Technique, Rebel Diaz, Jasiri X, and Bahamadia.” Rap artists that have enslaved themselves to the production of stereotypes and gratuitous violence should be rehabilitated, if possible, but “we must boycott any music that denigrates people of color and women.”
“The white corporate media that popularize racially stereotypical images hate black people just as the KKK does.”
The late great African freedom fighter, Harriet Tubman, once said, “I freed a thousand slaves. I could have freed a thousand more if only they knew they were slaves.” This statement clearly alludes to the fact that, after a long period of brutal enslavement, many (not all) Africans had been force-programmed to accept their inhumane bondage as “normal.” Generations of Africans were born into one of the world’s most brutal forms of bondage: chattel slavery. Thus, they were literally forced to endure a most unnatural state of being. Africans were brutally beaten, raped, lynched and worked to death, for hundreds of years. Their European enslavers were nothing less than devils roaming planet earth.
Despite these horrendous conditions there were some Africans who were oblivious that they were, in fact, enslaved. This aspect of slavery presented arduous challenges to freedom fighters such as Harriet Tubman, Nat Turner, Denmark Vesey and Gabriel Prosser – trying to free those who were unaware of their bondage, physical or mental. Fast-forward to the year 2013, this remains an arduous task.
Chattel slavery may be a thing of the past, however, the US prison industrial complex legalizes mass incarceration/enslavement of African/black men and women. The 13th Amendment to the US constitution attempts to justify it, stating, “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.” Mass incarceration is involuntary servitude, where prisoners are forced to make products (lingerie, computer components, clothing, etc.), all to be sold within the so-called “free market.” Capitalism, institutional racism and white supremacy are all key ingredients within this brew from hell.
“Mass incarceration is involuntary servitude.”
Today, mental slavery is perhaps even more prevalent than the physical form, and it takes place within many different platforms. One of these platforms resides within the duplicitous realm of mainstream, corporate-backed Hip Hop.
Hip Hop is a culture created and cultivated by African/black and Latino youth who had been systematically marginalized by the United States’ white supremacist and instituitionally racist society. These youth created Hip Hop as a means to express themselves – socially, politically and culturally. Hip Hop’s creation and inception was free of Euro-American influence – at least within the earliest stages. These youth of color did not need their medium manipulated or diluted by white people who never gave a damn about them or their communities. In essence, youth of color did not need to have Hip Hop altered and co-opted by white America in the same manner that Blues, Jazz and even Rhythm & Blues (Rock n Roll) was. However, Europeans are always on the lookout for cultural “products” to exploit. People of color should be extremely wary when white people start to take an interest in our community or cultural creations.
In the case of Hip Hop, exploitation of the cultural medium is the most significant contribution white people and their media corporations have had on rap music (one of the elements of Hip Hop Culture). These corporations have created virtual plantations with slave masters disguised as CEOs and overseers masquerading around as record executives and A & R (artists and repertoire) folks. Their goal has always been to make as much money as they can, exploiting Hip Hop and its artists of color, all the while reshaping it into something that comports with their racist sensibilities.
White corporations that have stretched their slimy tentacles over commercial rap music are the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) of the media. The KKK is a white supremacist hate group whose origins date back to the 1800s. The white corporate media that popularize racially stereotypical images hate black people just as the KKK does. They are hell bent on destroying the images and minds of millions of black youth, actively suppressing any culturally empowering or politically revolutionary oriented aspects within rap music. They could not give a damn about the systematic oppression levied upon communities of color. They are no different from the virulently racist Euro-Americans who created racist and dehumanizing imagery during the early 20th century, and prior. And like today’s corporate Ku Klux Klan media, they used those racist images to sell their products.
“Corporations have created virtual plantations with slave masters disguised as CEOs and overseers masquerading around as record executives and A & R (artists and repertoire) folks.”
It has become convenient to solely lay the blame on black and brown rappers (they are not emcees) for the psychologically destructive lyrics and images they display within their “music.” These young men and women are nothing more than tools used by white record executives to accumulate boatloads of money. This is always done at the black community’s expense. It is tragically disconcerting that many of these young men and women are mostly oblivious to the fact that they are being exploited like prostitutes. The shiny trinkets and money these corporate slave masters throw at misguided rappers are rewards used to keep them mentally obsequious to capitalism and the plantations they dwell in. They are not unlike the enslaved Africans whom sister Harriet Tubman was trying to convince that they were, in fact, slaves.
Of course, there are some so-called rappers who are willing participants in the own exploitation. They have become more than comfortable with the lavish lifestyle their corporate media slave masters have rewarded them with. It matters little to them that the stereotypes they are helping their white puppeteers promote, are causing tremendous psychological damage to youth of color. These willing participants are more like Sambo from Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin. They truly enjoy being the overseer of the white media’s premeditated destruction of the African/black psyche and image. They are consorting with what should be seen as a direct enemy to the black community.
“There was two kind of slaves. There was the house negro and the field negro. The house negro, they lived in the house, with master. They dressed pretty good. They ate good, cause they ate his food, what he left. They lived in the attic or the basement, but still they lived near their master, and they loved their master, more than their master loved himself. They would give their life to save their masters house quicker than their master would.” – Malcolm X
Corporate backed African/black Hip Hop artists should abscond from the plantations they have been programmed to mentally dwell within. They should rebel against their media slave masters (i.e., Warner Music Group, Sony Music Group, Universal Music Group, etc.) and create music collectives and art that directly empowers, edifies and politically inspires the communities from which many of these artists come. In essence they should invoke the spirit of many of our ancestors who rebelled against the oppressive and unnatural conditions they were held in. Just as the Africans rebelled during the Haitian Revolution, these African/black Hip Hop artists should do the same – inspiring Hip Hop artists all over the corporate media airwaves (plantations) to emancipate themselves.
“Some so-called rappers are willing participants in the own exploitation.”
These artists need to say, “To hell with the corporate music/media Ku Klux Klan,” and begin to pool their money, resources and time, in efforts to develop truly independent African/black record labels. However, before they can do any of that they will have to be made aware of their present status as subjects within the thriving plantations created for their ilk. Fans, concerned Africans and supporters of Hip Hop will need to be the ones to bring this fact to their attention. They need to be reminded that if you can’t write or rap about the institutionally racist and systemic issues that plague their communities, how can you even consider yourself a free man or woman? If the corporate media plantation (and those who control it) prevents you from utilizing your music to empower your people, you are far from being free.
Hip Hop was crafted by people of color within neglected and oppressed communities. Hip Hop was created by African/black youth with Latino youth significantly contributing to its cultivation and development. It is a means of expression. It has long been a medium used to exert resistance to various forms of oppression. It is reprehensible that it is now being used as a tool to further oppress and keep youth of color from seeing US society for what it truly is – a wasteland of white supremacy and structural racism. This is exactly why these Ku Klux Klan music groups, and media corporations (Viacom, Clear Channel, etc.) do all they can to suppress the music of artists like Dead Prez, Capital X, Immortal Technique, Rebel Diaz, Jasiri X, and Bahamadia, among many others. These artists, their imagery, and music are routinely suppressed from the mainstream airwaves.
While the Klan media suppresses songs like: “Malcolm, Garvey, Huey” by Deaz Prez, they promote songs like “Birthday Song” by 2 Chainz featuring Kanye West.
One song (“Malcolm, Garvey, Huey”) has lyrics like this: “I live, I die, I organize,
Everything I do – revolutionize, I build what’s good for the whole damn hood, Study G’s like these, really think you should, I study Malcolm Garvey Huey, Malcolm Garvey Huey.”
The other song (“Birthday Song”) has lyrics like this: “When I die, bury me inside the jewelry store When I die, bury me inside the Truey store True to my religion, two of everything I’m too different So when I die, bury me next to 2 bitches.”
It should be blatantly obvious why the Klan corporate media would suppress the liberating lyrics of artists like Dead Prez: they are empowering and edifying, especially to youth of color. However, the lyrics from artists like 2 Chainz, are mentally destructive, misogynistic (especially to women of color) and racially stereotypical. Many of the other songs the Klan media promote depict black men directing senseless violence toward one another. Klan media give the thumbs up to this type of rap music because, like the real Ku Klux Klan, it is capable of destroying black lives, one young mind at a time.
“It is time we helped free them by demanding they end their ‘coonery’ and start making music that uplifts and inspires the oppressed masses to resist.”
Hip Hop is not the problem, the white media corporations that have hijacked it are. Yes, there are rappers (not emcees) who are willing to do whatever it takes to earn a quick buck and get famous. They are prisoners of war in the battle against capitalism and white supremacy. It is time we helped free them by demanding they end their “coonery” and start making music that uplifts and inspires the oppressed masses to resist. Many of these rappers are misguided. This tends to happen within extremely white supremacist societies, as is the case with the US. It pressures the racially oppressed to assimilate as a means toward “getting ahead,” in life. The notion of “getting ahead” is merely relative, as well as a wretched illusion. While they believe they are “getting ahead,” they are really falling behind culturally, losing their identity, and perpetually being used as pawns. Their existence within the corporate music industry has been made possible by an inherently racist and exploitative system. This system prevents them from mentally venturing away from the “plantation.” Their minds must be freed. If they are eventually freed they will one day undoubtedly regret the decisions they once made simply to “cash in” and gain “fame” by lacing their lyrics with sexist, misogynistic and racially stereotypical content.
“The house Negro, if the master said ‘we got a good house here’ the house negro say ‘yeah, we got a good house here.’ Whenever the master would said ‘we,’ he’d say ‘we.’ That’s how you can tell a house Negro. If the master’s house caught on fire, the house Negro would fight harder to put the blaze out than the master would. If the master got sick, the house Negro would say ‘What’s the matter, boss, we sick?’ We sick! He identified himself with his master, more than the master identified with himself.” – Malcolm X
We must free those who are oblivious to their slave-like status within corporate backed Hip Hop. We must let them know of the powerful role they can play within a much-needed social revolution. We cannot support the plantations they dwell on by buying their music. After all, would you go to a “slave auction” and purchase human chattel or anything sold by a “slave master”? No, our objective would not be to support the reprehensible institution of slavery, our objective would be to free those standing on the auction blocks. And we must let it be known why we are boycotting the purchase of music from corporate Hip Hop plantations.
“And if you came to the house Negro and said ‘Let’s run away, Let’s escape, Let’s separate’ the house negro would look at you and say ‘Man, you crazy. What you mean separate? Where is there a better house than this? Where can I wear better clothes than this? Where can I eat better food than this?’ There was that house Negro. In those days, he was called a house nigger. And that’s what we call him today, because we still got some house niggers runnin’ around here.” – Malcolm X
Of course there will continue to be those rappers and record executives of color that will continue to side with their “Massas,” just as there were during the times of chattel slavery. Those are the individuals who know the nature of the so-called “game,” and to some degree profit from the system. It matters little to them how many women/girls are targeted as sexual objects because of the music they help promote. They could give a damn about the young boys who are transformed into sexual predators because of that same music they promote. And they clearly don’t give a damn about the image of people of color or the endorsement of the senseless structural violence they champion, each time they follow their master’s orders. They have clearly made their deals with the devils of capitalism and white supremacy. Money is the name and selling out their communities is the “game.” These “Sambos” understand full well the damage they are helping to create.
“They have clearly made their deals with the devils of capitalism and white supremacy.”
Music has the ability to inspire and motivate those who seek freedom and justice. The beat of drums serves as a pulse for the movement, along with the voices of those chanting, singing, or even rapping. Take for instance the Stono Rebellion of 1739, where dozens of enslaved Africans in South Carolina decided to no longer accept the unnatural state of slavery. They refused to live any longer within those inhumane and brutal conditions. These courageous Africans banded together, led by an African named “Jemmy,” and proceeded to recruit/free as many of their brothers and sisters as they could. The beat of their native African drums set the audio tone for resistance. The history of the Americas is punctuated with such rebellions. However, far too many of us have allowed an oppressive system to teach us our history, and because of this we are unaware that resistance is within our cultural DNA.
“But that field negro, remember, they were in the majority, and they hated their master. When the house caught on fire, he didn’t try to put it out, that field negro prayed for a wind. For a breeze. When the master got sick, the field negro prayed that he died. If someone come to the field negro and said ‘Let’s separate, let’s run,’ he didn’t say ‘Where we going?’ He said ‘Any place is better than here.” – Malcolm X
It is long overdue that we regain our cultural resistance, identity, and mediums, in order to serve our struggle for human rights, liberty, and social justice. It is time we gathered all of our “drums” (and voices), to begin the necessary process of mentally liberating as many of our brothers and sisters from the corporate media plantations on which they subsist. Hip Hop is not for oppressors. We should never allow it to be utilized against our own collective interests. However, we cannot free those who are willing to be liberated if we refuse to speak out. We must boycott any music that denigrates people of color, women or supports senseless structural violence. We must be willing to organize and educate as many misguided rappers as we can – converting them into Emcees aptly educated to deliver lyrical daggers at systems of oppression. Hip Hop must be ripped out of the hands of the Ku Klux Klan music groups, and placed back in the hands of the people.
Let the spirit of our ancestors guide us.
Forward Ever, Backward Never.
Solomon Comissiong is an educator, community activist, author, and the host of the Your World News media collective (www.yourworldnews.org). Mr. Comissiong is also a founding member of the Pan-African collective for Advocacy & Action. Solomon is the author of A Hip Hop Activist Speaks Out on Social Issues. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.