I’ve been listening to Dr. Dre’s album. Yeah, Compton. It is something. A head bumper. It’s sound is a good blend of old school hip hop and the like I hear from Young Money. [Haha! I hope that doesn’t get me shot by folk or fan of either base.]
Back in the day, Dr. Dre was of course the number one music producer and a population of approximately two gazillion still believe he is. But back in the 90s there was no hint of dispute. Maybe mildly during the ‘Bad Boy-Death Row’ rivalry. He introduced many of us to gangster rap and hip hop — if the two are separable. I would listen to Snoop Dogg’s and Tupac’s and the whole West Coast shebang tracks and I could swear I would pull the trigger on somebody if I got my hand on a 8mm. [Still not sure what that is. I know it’s a gun. But that’s it. Is 8mm the size of the barrel?]
Back then, I’d listen to a track about ‘riding‘ and I would picture myself in a pimped drop-top Cadillac right next to Dre or whoever was the rapper/singer, and I could see the passenger on the co-driver seat resting his arm loosely on the car door so that a pedestrian or a by-stander could catch a glimmer of his firearm. And from there, a girl would walk with a stride that would hint that she probably had male genitals of steel. Lol! Too many movies/music videos or too much admiration for my big brothers.
But maybe I misinterpreted hip hop. I did not have any historical background on what was going in Compton or West/East Coast. Just that folk were cool in their angry expression.
So I grew up, and Tupac died, and then my brother died, and then the nineties came to an end because bro died just at the turn of the millennium in ’99. So the nineties are … special. Anyway, now I am a bit more informed of the going-ons in the world and so I appreciate hip hop more; and differently.
As I grew up I was taught that hip hop was the work of the devil, and that all hip hop artists were agents of the devil. Period. And then there came a time when Christians dropped rap albums in hip hop fashion [I don’t honestly know if I could call them hip hop] and they became the recommended substitutes for entertainment for hip hop heads like me by church youth workers. These particular sorts of music didn’t quite do it for me but I figured they were good attempts. And slowly by slowly I got introduced to other more conventional genres of music of more tempered tones.
But what if a mean stranger deliberately stumps on your pinky toe with a mallet and squashed it into pulp, a smirk on his face? How polite or well mannered or conventional would you be expressing that grievance at the exact instance? If there was a dagger to your child’s neck while your back was turned, how would you want her to alert you? Or what if your son was continually sexually abused and either lacked proper channels of communication, or by the act itself felt paralyzed. What would you have him do? Scream. Yell madly. Better yet, throw me the damn coffee table.
That’s hip hop for me. A medium of truth. A channel of expression. The voice of urgency.
And yes, sure, some artists are vain, and end up being a liability to society. Yet some by being menaces to society make us ponder why. And by asking the right questions we get to the root cause that point a finger at us, or at the powers that be.
In my view, let a brother/sister tell their story the best way they can. And if that comes wrapped in an art form or a language different from mine it does not necessarily warrant me shooting them down. Could I at least pay attention to what they are trying to say?
There was a time newspapers were just as shunned, considered an aberrance and a malignancy. Imagine that.
So I no longer listen to the likes of Dr. Dre [if he can be likened] as much as I used to, but I reckon in times of desperation, and/or for the sake of truth, maybe we should not judge hip hop too harshly. Let’s get the message first. And beyond that, it is an exquisite and passionate form of art and entertainment that speaks for/to people the world over.