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.