Friday, 29 June 2012

The Hip Hop Debate

A recent internet and audience based hip hop “on trial” debate can be replayed here.

The motion debated - Hip Hop doesn’t enhance society, it degrades it.

I haven’t watched it yet. I may, I may not. I know of some peeps who went, or watched online and commented.

The reason I haven’t watched this, is so much really depends on what your basic definition of Hip Hop is. Anyone who saw hip hop grow from the start, is going to have a very different view, and some might say ownership, of hip hop. I can only give a perception of what it has meant to me as I grew up with it.

What hip hop means to me…
I first heard hip hop in 1981. I was at that time, extending parts of tunes I liked from old disco tunes, by recording instrumental breaks on cassette, and then keeping on the beat and re-recording them… so the instrumental break was longer. I loved the percussion or rhythm guitar and just wanted to hear more of them. I did it for myself. I didn’t know this was being done anywhere else.
Then I heard the Adventures of Grandmaster Flash on The Wheels of Steel, and parts of different tunes were being “extracted”, repeated, scratched, and rapped over. I didn’t know it was sampling then. I didn’t know it was break beats then. I knew it was like nothing I’d ever heard. I knew I fell in love with it straight away.

More hip hop came, and samples and break beats used from tunes that I had loved, gave honour to the original tune, but also the creation of an art form using essentially a live remix and yet more overlaid… the artistry, skill and ingenuity frankly just blew me away. So part one, hip hop to me was and is about the DJ.

Part 2 came from lyrics like in The Message, and later Public Enemy. Hip Hop actually stood for something to me. Revolution, change. Even if not for me, it was opening my eyes to something wrong in the world. So hip hop fundamentally by definition to me was a “constructive” art. It was positively about change. To me, my perception… it was a fight for equality.

So I’ll reiterate, this is my perception of hip hop from time. So when Biggie and 2Pac hit the scene. Me, personally, I didn’t feel them. I still don’t. I respect their legacy for the scene and what they mean for others, so I will never dis them. I can only say the first 2Pac track I bought was California Love… when I listened to the other tracks on the EP, I was shocked at 2Pac going off with some violent chat. It’s a shame, because it stopped me listening to much of his work… music and words that I know many people revere. Maybe if I’d heard more of his work first, then I would have a more rounded view of him. With Biggie, the talk of B’s as women, again, I couldn’t really get inspired to check much else out. Do I like some tunes by both 2Pac and Biggie. Of course. Am I a hater?… of course not. I simply never have got into hip hop that went down this route.

Hip hop, if it is hip hop, and that’s my point, left me for many years.
Only really Guru (Rest In Peace) and DJ Premier as Gangstarr kept my interest… trusted lyrics, DJ based. It was my kind of hip hop. But I’d really left “the scene”.
And it’s for this reason I wonder if I’m the hip hop lover that I’ve always claimed to be. I have a huge gap in hip hop knowledge because I left a scene I didn’t personally buy into. Either way, I look back at it now, and I think I love the ethos of what I thought hip hop was… this fight for truth, justice, equality, change and revolution. True hip hop was not sexist nor homophobic (and it should still be neither now).  Maybe I love that ethos more than I love hip hop, and my claim that hip hop has to have that ethos could be flawed. But that’s what it means to me.

What brought me back to Hip Hop, and discovering a lot of tunes that I had kept away from, was female MC’s. I got into Missy telling it from a woman’s angle. I just found it refreshing. I don’t really like male dominance in the world.

When I first got into the spoken word scene, about 2006, I saw this as an extension of hip hop. Not because it was like rapping…. Def not!!, but because the messages I heard from the likes of Mosaique, David J, Kat Francois, Zena Edwards etc., were talking to me in the same way hip hop did. But it’s now I’m starting to realise that maybe I love the “Constructive Arts” more than I love hip hop. I thought I loved hip hop, but I loved an ethos, which extends to constructive art from many forms, some hip hop, poetry, reggae, even calypso. And more recently for me Afrobeat.

Afrobeat has totally immersed me the last year, and I simply can’t get enough of it. It’s drawing me to explore much more music from other nations in Africa. You see like Hip Hop, I love a constructive message firing over a contagious beat. And as with a good DJ, I love a beat to be relentless (ps. and I love funk rhythm guitar).

One issue with hip hop… I have a radio show with a clean language policy on the station. How much hip hop do you think I can play (no I’m not re-buying my whole collection in “clean version”). The answer, too little. Does that say something? Does it say something about how we define hip hop? Does it confirm the premise, that we have to define what hip hop truly is and stands for, before we start debating its value to society. Because the version I thought I loved, (and still do), is life changing… and would kick every corrupt politician and banker off their asses… all over a beat to die for.

I’m just not sure if that’s the version of hip hop (real hip hop) that we’re debating.

Sunday, 24 June 2012

Ethnic Minority

You see I am the minority.
I’m one of the 1 billion
That make up the ethnic minority
Of whiteness.
I confess,
My Eurocentric world brought me up
With expectations that we run this shit,
Correction, that we are the shit.
And yet a further 6 billion
Know truths about my kind
That schools and media keep Caucasians blind.

We used God as a way to remind
Ourselves of our self imposed superiority,
When His words of humbleness
Were spread by those first to the arms race,
You see sail and musket defined our morality
And our ability to impose our version of “civility”.
That invention of a white Son of God
Yet the reality, Jesus was not one of my 1 billion peoples.
He was darker, preaching all are equal.

This same love for all things white
Being right,
Creating creams
To make queens
Think their skin tones
Need to be light years from their actual beauty.
But this shit is only about vitamin D.
Out of Africa we all came, it’s just
The 1 billion of us had to turn white in cold climates
To absorb more of the sun.
Inside, look back, we’re all African.

These same queens being made to skin out
For dance floor hits,
Cloning a@@, pu@@y and t@ts,
All on show and calling it hip hop,
Forgetting where the truth of that music came from,
Before gangsta’d, bastardised and rapped wrong,
Into a format that saw Caucasians buy more than any other race,
Then called it “urban” to keep the sterotypes in place.
Dumbed down enough great voices of colour,
Then the media proclaims another Great White soul singer.
Don’t get me wrong, I can recognise talent when I see it.
But that doesn’t mean I have to like this shit,
When I know for every white MOBO act that wins
- I can’t be party to the sins
That keep the hundreds of voices that sweeten me
Daily on this art scene,
Pushed out by the contagion of Simons dream.
Black X’ess.
It’s more than a scent, it something to be kept down.
Just like the Holocaust that started in 1562.
John Hawkins beginning a trade of an ethnic majority
That roots every part of today’s inequalities.

Let me breath in its righteousness.
So f@cked up that people want to be it.
Even Israel wants to be seen as European
And force Africans on trains to camps.
Damn, did they really forget what happened to them?
And the joke is, us of the 1 billion
Buy products to turn us brown
(well orange)
And photocrop swimsuit models to such dark tans
That in reality…
Shoulda just photographed a black girl in a bikini.

White laws govern the capitalist fantasy,
AKA “Free Trade”
That keeps raw materials in light ownership,
From the dark earth of a continent
That was scrambled into euro zones.
Let my cell phone pick at its bones
Of the dead, the raped and the limbless.
Congo dies while today’s big European news topic
Is 5p being charged on plastic bags for your shopping.
A nation that should be the richest on the planet
For the wealth that lies beneath the soil.
Instead ravaged by fear and turmoil.
Told we can’t do anything to stop it.
So reporting ceases.
The abuse increases.
Princesses who should grow to queens,
And choose who plants their future seed…
But the Coltan need decreed
That they, from violent intrusion, bleed,
As gun barrels, knifes and forced d@cks enter,
All to secure white riches and a euro future.

The only reason why the liberals among my 1 billion now shout,
That capitalism, after all, may not be what it’s all about…
Is because austerity came to bite their own asses.
In the past, they been raising glasses
To the toast of wealth.
You see, shits alright,…when shit happens to someone else.

Saturday, 2 June 2012

Jubilee Spoyals

Lazy Saturday, in the quilt I hide.
It sounds like rain outside,
But it’s the sound of wind on bunting,
The Union Jacks flap patriotism of a nation fronting.
Kidding itself that all is grand
In Britain where “Great” names the land.
A weekend for celebrating the Royals
Yet under the praise, what of the spoils.

You want me to wave a flag,
Sing joyfully and forget the bad?
Perhaps you think I should look forward
Instead of back. For me, I look towards
The damage in legacies sowed.
The ones that deny people to grow.
See it’s hypocrisy
That spoils the day for me.

Don’t think so?
Ask the people of the Chagos Archipelago.
Stand under your red, white and blue and cheer
As justice is denied to Kenyan women who feared
Rape from British soldiers represented on parade,
The same uniforms that were displayed
In a Royal wedding in Westminster Abbey.
Check Anglican military memorabilia and ask me,
No, ask Jesus, if His words of peace
Would integrate armies in Faith and belief.
This same church in God’s name, in waves
Took Africans and forced them to be slaves.
The Codrington plantation owned by the C of E
Branded black chests with the word “Society”.
The smell of burning flesh and skin.
A church not questioned for its evil sins.
And who atop it’s head… the Queen
With the money to reparate for crimes seen.

This poem is the tip of the bunting triangle.
It’s base spreads wide and is tangled
In the structures that define our world today.
The suffering and inequalities of wealth play
Out as resources are stolen still from lands…
Think of that when you listen to army bands
Pomping and pimping to the National Anthem.
A nation that lives for us, and kills “them”.