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Rap in Hip Hop... Crisis and/or Choice?

Updated: Nov 18, 2023

I started off the day re-listening to the recent release by a long time favorite group from a while back @kidzinthehall -as I was invited by the good brother @naledgesince82 or Dr. Jabari Evans to be on his podcast to talk about my work and journey connecting Hip Hop and well being. It is a dope album exploring the transitions through young adulthood into not so young adulthood and maturing relationships.

I followed that up listening to Andre 3000's new (non-Hip Hop) album "New Blue Sun" which feels to me like a, dope classic jazz album anchored in the flute. Just like everyone else I was hoping for bars. But his record, his progression and his authenticity as an artist made me just as excited to see where he was going on this. As an avid jazz fan I loved it just as much as I did his explanation of where he was in life in relation to his creative expression. In the backdrop I read the piece by @mannyfacesofficial on the importance of paying attention to Hip Hop culture’s important contributions being the pop charts in education, science, technology and more.

Amongst all of this I couldn’t help revisit in my mind the dialogue initiated by @dee1music asking us and certain artists (e.g. Meek Mill and Rick Ross) to think about content a little more carefully - specifically about the potential toxic impacts on minds and communities. And then to see where it fell I turned on ironically a combo album from Ross and Meek. Was this a coincidence that a collabo album from Ross and Meek was going to drop literally weeks after this drama hit the headlines, or did Dee-1 already know this was dropping? Anyway, the subject matter was is in the same lane as prior projects - specifically all the areas of concern were front and center.

In my work I explore what people consider the most empowering aspects of the culture for them as well as what can be risky and harmful in hopes that people lean into knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors that can be most healthy and empowering not just for them but the communities they are a part of - for the short and long term (see "The Healing Power of Hip Hop" and related articles). Empowerment and risk co-exist. Things that are empowering can simultaneously be harmful. And while each person makes decisions for themselves, we all have an impact on each other in very direct and specific ways.

In some ways it feels like rap in Hip Hop is in the midst of an existential crisis, like we are at some sort of crossroads with the potential to demand mainstream rap content moves in a different direction.. But maybe it is no different than life I guess… just people making choices about how they move in life. I know what Hip Hop culture has done for me and for others, and I see the potential it has in so many pathways of learning and growth for people of all ages. But I also know the risks. I hope we can remember Ubuntu… I am because we are.

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