Column: MLK, 50 Cent and the bastardization of the hip-hop generation

By George Ploss

The early to mid 1980’s was a dark period for millions of Americans. The Reaganomics era was pure hell for the inner-city of the United States. With a recession in the horizon, AIDS on the rise and the influx of crack cocaine, millions of lives were destroyed.

It was as if President Reagan defeated communism while sacrificing the black, brown and gay communities of America. To many, the Cold War turned hot in the low-income areas of the United States.

Hip-hop matriculated during this period into the base of what is now so opulent in our culture today. Except it wasn’t just the music, there was a culture and mindset behind it that was birthing into the American mainstream.

The generation before this, the post civil rights-revolutionary era that is best known for the Black Power movements across the country was dying out, both literally and figuratively. The FBI had succeeded in COINTELPRO (Counter-Intelligence Programs) against black community activists that they deemed dangerous for numerous racial and political reasons.

And for the first time in a long time, the African-American was beginning to lack focus. Then God said, “Let there be hip-hop,” which became the counterculture movement for the African-American in the 1980’s. With public schools cutting funding across the board, which included music programs, hip-hop was a convenient way to make good music. All you needed was a couple of turntables and an MC (microphone controller).

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At first, hip-Hop highlighted parts of the American way of life that had been forgotten due to the country’s current socio-political climate: the street.

It dramatically showed the desperation and grittiness of poverty stricken black America. That didn’t sit well with the anti-communist, cookie cutter capitalist propaganda that was injected deep behind the retinas of the American eye.

The birth of modern hip-hop was essentially a rugged second renaissance of African-American expression. It was our way of making sure the world didn’t forget about us. But with corporatization, the music started generating serious money and certain aspects of its vast culture started being exploited.

In the early 1990’s when gangsta-rap exploded onto the airwaves with a deeply sentimental fury and cynicism paralleling punk rock, that violent, misogynistic adaptation of hip-hop became the most notoriously popular aspect of a vast culture.

So consequently, it was bad PR that provided a mental shackle that as the hip-hop generation, we’re all about money, drugs, violence and the objectification of women.

It was a minute aspect of our culture being browbeaten throughout the media that undercut the validity of a raw art form that extended to the culture behind it. Because it made millions, it continued to be subjugated and force-fed to the second hip-hop generation.

This stylized violence of the drug game and the streets became a mere adaptation of reality and became the frame of reference for those looking at us.

It turned into a battle of defeating a stereotype that is much more prevalent today with 50 Cents and Young Jeezys running a muck on the today’s airwaves misrepresenting a vast and intricate ethnic culture

As we mourn Dr. King, we should think about the legacy of the African-American and how far we’ve come and scratch our heads at the current climate of black American culture asking ourselves where the hell are we going?

What we see in the media angers vast majority of African-Americans, because this is how the world sees us. With shows like Flavor of Love and other modern minstrel acts that dominate post-modern hip-hop culture our main battle is shifting to just maintaining our dignity in the public eye.

That’s why we’re becoming bastardized.

Our immediate ancestors look at us with disgust in part to what is portrayed and in part to what we have internalized from it.

Hip-hop has become the defining aspect of our generation and we need to reclaim the legacy of our Civil-Rights era brothers and sisters at the root of hip-hop and control our destiny or our generation will be viewed as the beginning of the end of our greatness in America.

One Love.