Dec 10, 2008

Of the Times

While the jury is still out on Common's new joint Universal Mind Control, his recent point about hip hop changing now that Obama is President-elect is indeed an interesting thought. How will the new Commander-in-Chief influence the direction of a genre that most everyone agrees is not at it's most creative moment right now?

For all the complaints about hip hop's commercialism, hedonism, and any other negative 'ism that people might want to attach to the culture, let us not forget that hip hop's celebration of all things material coincided with the prosperous economic times and stock market explosion of the 1990s. Rappers were not the only ones poppin' bottles and buying corporate jets in the 90s, it's just that those Wall Street rappers didn't celebrate their excesses in music videos for the world to see. My point is that hip hop is only a reflection of what's going on in the world around it.

As America flexed its economic muscle in the 90s, so did hip hop. When the stock market and the tech boom crashed, the Wall Street casino capitalists moved on to the housing market. This allowed them to prolong the inevitable, the same "inevitable" disaster that we are now living through.

When 43 came to power he trumpeted an "ownership society" and flexed a type of military muscle that was in keeping with the best of the hardcore gangsta rap tradition. The only thing is Four Trey wasn't rapping. No, George Bush had an army, better yet a navy, and he wasn't afraid to use them either. I always found it interesting that 50 Cent took over the charts in early 2003, around the same time that 43 was staging a preemptive war against a sovereign nation based on false pretense. For me Bush's arrival on the aircraft carrier wearing the flight suit, with the "Mission Accomplished" banner was not that different in tone and sentiment to Curtis Jackson's album cover for Get Rich or Die Tryin', where a bloated, steroid-induced sense of self seemed to define both figures. Thankfully neither 43 nor Curtis are relevant any more.

What I'm saying is that hip hop is no better or worst than the times. Songs and videos about excess, wealth and a general indifference to any and all is about as outdated as Cheney and Rumsfeld now. Obama promises a new day and if this new day does come to pass then rappers will in turn be forced to change with the times. Those who don't get the memo will be ass out, just like 43 in a little over a month from now.

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