Hip Hop Nationalism

Hip hop is a form of art that has been popular for the past twenty years. Although people in recent years often mistake rap music as vulgar and ill-mannered, the hip hop community continues to provide a great way to channel emotion and soul into their music. In his article, “The State of Rap: Time and Place” Jeffrey Louis Decker illustrates the black nationalism within the hip hop community by exploring how Black Nationalism can be accounted for within the hip hop music. Before hip hop was introduced into the American culture, the black community felt as if their place of origin was Africa.

This was the time where the black community romanticized their own politics (Decker 2008, 54). Garveyism, introduced by Marcus Garvey, sparked the early Black Nationalist movements. During the Black Nationalist movement it promoted an array of black pride which later provided great inspiration for upcoming hip hop artists who “rapped” to their audience the struggles of the everyday black individual. The styles of artists later became more “Afrocentric” which meant that the music revolved around expressing self worth.

Artist such as Afrika Bambaataa introduced his style of music to the world having his music known as the earliest form of hip hop. As for women, they were interested in promoting the idea that they were from “Mother Africa”. Women hip hop artist were fascinated by the idea of black women liberation, so most of them started to incorporate those ideas in their verses. There are rap songs that promote the militant “Nation of Islam” which later became known as the Black Panther Party. As more injustices occur to the black community, hip hop music became a pedestal to voice their opinions.

For example, when Rodney King was brutally beat by the LAPD on March 3, 1991 (Decker 2008). The whole Rodney King incident consequently gave Ice Cube inspiration for his album Death Certificate. Hip hop artists are usually not involved in politics but are most strongly involved in the cultural politics which tie to the working and urban poor blacks. Eventually hip hop artists later regarded themselves by the name “hip hop nationalists”. In the sixties, self proclaimed hip hop nationalist rapper Paris debut his album, The Devil Made Me Do It, which sent a message on how he plans on building the black nation.

From his tracks “Panther Power” to “The Hate That Hate Made”, Paris made sure that his audience knew he associated with the Black Panther Party. During 1988, hip hop marked a landmark on rap music history ever since MTV promoted their hip hop program called “Yo, MTV Raps! ” and within the same year a hip hop group, Public Enemy, released their second album, It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back, which gave the black nationalist its first publicized expression for two decades. The multiple times the black community was socially mistreated, hip hop artists continued to voice their opinions.

I believe hip hop is great to voice an opinion and promote self worth. Ordeals such as the Rodney King case sparked a huge outrage within the black community. Decker mentions in the article that during the Rodney King trial, the white officers from LAPD have been acquitted by an all-white jury charged for the brutality of Rodney King (Decker 2008, 55). Ice Cube was called in for an interview, yet he declined because of the ties he has made with the black community. Situations such as the Rodney King trail provided a lot of social tension between whites and blacks.

Decker claims that many of nation-conscious rappers, like Ice Cube, try to sustain their

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ties to the black community which their music is a part of. Hip hop artists who rap about Black Nationalism are needed because it uncovers the truth about how whites often mistreat blacks. Rapping is a way to express one’s opinion and also give perspective. Rappers such as Paris capture their perspective in their lyrics they have in his album, The Devil Made Me Do It. The music that is promoted by the rappers offer the black population self worth.

At the time, the moral of the black population had been at an all time low considering that blacks were most of the time given the shorter end of the stick. Small aspects living became more tiresome to deal with. Being that many of the African descent were slaves, the white population often slandered blacks as if they were animals. However, as hip hop music was introduced, it allowed many black individuals become proud that they were from the “Nation of Islam”. Mainstream hip hop music often produces music that does not represent what the true intensions of rap music. The style of rap music has made it easy for one to voice their opinions.

The art of rap has been around ever since the Black Panther Party decided to utilize black nationalism in their verses. I believe that it was important for the black community to promote hip hop music because it allows one to fully deliver their opinion while at the same time promote self worth. Particularly for the black community, I find it as a great way to inform the youth about the real world injustices their ancestors once lived in. By speaking up, they promoted social equality simply by having the guts to say what is on their mind. By understanding other’s point of view, maybe we all can comprehend others in different ethnic groups.

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