Kid Cudi: “Hip Hop Setting Black People Back.” He’s Right…. Kinda

On The Arsenio Hall Show, rapper Kid Cudi said that hip hop is holding Black people back.

And he’s right… kinda.

Hip hop is no longer the pinnacle of social rebellion that it once was. From Sugar Hill Gang, to Rakim, and now Chief Keef, hip hop no longer serves as a lyrical expression about the intricate facets of life. Hip hop was once a creative way to provide commentary about societal ills. Music was not the only avenue of expression; spoken word, freestyling, beat boxing, break dancing, and graffiti were the methods artists used to share their cultural integrity. Watch this fantastic freestyle cypher below featuring some of my favorite hip hop legends.

But those days are gone. Hip hop, in this generation, is a substandard where ghostwriters, auto tune, and bad bitches prevail.

Despite the decline of lyrical and creative prowess, I don’t know if I would say that hip hop is ultimately setting Black people back. Certain segments of the African American community know not to take hip hop too seriously. I call us the new age Talented Tenth; we’re educated middle-class African Americans with professional ambitions that we wouldn’t dare jeopardize for Chief Keef. We avidly listen to hip hop but we know that the caricatures before us are not how we see ourselves.

We’re more inclined to respect the creative work of the Kendrick Lamars, J. Coles, Drakes, Tyler the Creators, Kid Cudis, and other rappers of similar ilk. We value their ability to merge the worlds of catchy production with insightful lyrical quality. We go to their shows, watch their videos, and buy their albums.

And while we may twerk in the sanctuary of our homes, or jump around in the club to the latest DJ Khaled record, by 9am, we’re ready for work. We know how to have fun, but after we handle our responsibilities. We’re geared with educational access, effective health services, and stable communities; these benefits are instrumental to our success, and we dare not take them for granted considering they were hard for our ancestors to ascertain.

But for the segment of the Black community without these socioeconomic staples, hip hop just may be “setting them back.” I won’t speak for this segment because it’s not one I identify with, but from what I witness in my own neighborhood, hip hop is a past time. Hip hop is a way to chill. I strongly doubt hip hop is setting them back…but the lack of job opportunities, the dilapidated school systems, the police brutality, and the broken families certainly are.

I completely understand where Kid Cudi is coming from. Hip hop isn’t for the faint of heart; it takes a very strong person to see past the facade of contemporary hip hop. However, I do believe that hip hop is causing more harm in other communities than it is to Black ones.

For non-Black communities, hip hop is fueling ignorance about African Americans. The ignorance of others is not the onus of African Americans to correct; it is not our job to educate uneven societies about the glorious diversity that is Black culture. They must do this for themselves.

But, the largest consumers of hip hop are white. Many are from very isolated and rural communities that lack diversity. These groups have relatively no exposure to Black people, other than what they see in the media. I fear that hip hop is exacerbating what little understanding these groups have about the Black experience. It’s important for non-Black communities to understand that hip hop is not to be taken seriously. Unless of course, it’s serious hip hop (think Talib Kweli, Mos Def, or Lupe Fiasco).

Kid Cudi’s revelations are valid… he’s just speaking to the wrong group of people.

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10 responses to “Kid Cudi: “Hip Hop Setting Black People Back.” He’s Right…. Kinda

  1. This is so true! So many people missed that transition when mainstream hip hop shifted from artistic expression to empty entertainment. People are out there trying to take the lyrics to heart, and they don’t realize half of those rappers are not and have never lived the kind of lives they talk about in their songs. They may talk about “hoes and strippers” but they’re happily married men. It’s a job people. A lot of them will say whatever makes them money. How many people where you work truly love their job and how many just do it for the check? Keep things in perspective, folks. We’ve really got to put more distinction between artists with something to say and artists who are just trying to max out on payday.

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  2. The music also went through an industry change from when it first began (as with your examples of breakdancing and beat-boxing) , in that rappers who could sample freely back then, to build a song, can no longer even play those songs, due to current copyright laws. There were a lot of law suits. Hip Hop can’t be the same “pinnacle of social rebellion” without “paying all interested parties” to rebel which turns out to be a little anticlimactic.

    I liked your line, “We avidly listen to hip hop but we know that the caricatures we see before us are not how we see ourselves.” “Caricature” being an important word, the separation between artist and art, writer and writing, performer and performance should be pointed out to all audiences. The “arts” deal in stereotypes to tell and promote their self-interested stories and in so doing find out or reveal some human truths, but it’s all propaganda on a certain level.

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  3. I respectfully disagree with Kid Cudi’s opinion and your post. You wrote, “I fear that hip hop is exacerbating what little understanding these groups have about the Black experience.” While some aspects of hip hop do play into certain sterotypes, what really exacerbates the issue is racism and white supremacy and people not wanting to acknowledge larger systems of oppression. Talib and Mos Def aren’t the only “real” or serious hip hop artists; it’s important to take people like Chief keef and Future and others who are not famous seriously because their lives tell us a lot about what it means for some to be black in america. Sure, it may not be “conscious” rap music, but it’s honest and it shows the sturggle of people who manage to thrive in a country that so actively works against them. Of course, we should still critique all rappers (lupe fiasco may be “serious,” but his song ‘bitch bad’ is problematic).

    I don’t think hip hop is to blame for how non-blacks negatively think about blacks. What sustains the negativity is people thinking that commercial hip hop (made popular by whites who control the music industry) is ALL hip hop. Hip hop must be taken seriously, as it tells us so much about American culture.

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