Supplemental Reading SF Freedom School August 12, 2006

About New York; The Boss Lets Freedom Ring, With Banjo
By DAN BARRY New York Times June 28, 2006

The Dramatic Form of the 'Living Newspaper'

Hip-hop doesn’t care about George Bush? Wednesday, May 17th, 2006 Posted In: Columnists, Northern Touch by Tara Henley

Hip-hop and Reggae: The Common Links of Politics and Music
(excerpts) Scott Carlis 4-25-02

Then Mrs. Hamer would lead us in a song, so we could lighten ourselves and give ourselves that extra boost of energy. We would sing about anything we felt. We would sing about why we sing. We would sing about the abuses we suffered, like not being allowed to vote. We would sing of sorrow and hope.
Dorothy Cotton, describing the purpose of singing in Freedom Schools About New York; The Boss Lets Freedom Ring, With Banjo By DAN BARRY New York Times June 28, 2006 THIS is what you would do. Close the bedroom door to the quiet indignities of childhood. Unclasp a small but hefty box to reveal a now forgotten device called a portable record player. Plug it in. Make a selection from the albums your parents bought when they used to listen to music. No, not Mitch Miller and his Gang. No, not Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass. Where's the skinny guy with the reedy voice, always singing about freedom? Here. Pete Seeger. Place the needle down on a disc now spinning in promise, catch the groove, and allow old words and ancient melodies to seep in until they could never be removed. The skips and hisses on the scratched records are as ingrained as the choruses in memory. You did not listen to be cool; in this age of the Rolling Stones and the Beatles, you were unlikely to impress a girl by singing the opening lines to ''Erie Canal'' (''I've got a mule and her name is Sal ''). Not that you ever summoned the nerve to speak to girls, much less sing to them. No, you listened because you found something affirming in songs that honored hard work, struggle and standing up for what you believe. You felt connected to your immigrant roots, to your African-American neighbors and to your country, of which you sang with innocent pride. You felt connected to your father, to your mother. In the era of King and Kennedys shot, you would sit beside the record player and sing, ''Oh Mary don't you weep don't you moan, oh Mary don't you weep don't you moan. Pharaoh's army got drowneded, oh Mary don't you weep.'' And feel the consolation. In the era of Vietnam and civil rights battles, you would sing, ''We shall overcome, we shall overcome, we shall overcome someday.'' And believe it. Then you grew up. Vietnam ended like an unfinished sentence, and King and the Kennedys settled into the abstraction of history. Your mother died and your father stopped singing. The albums went to storage. 2

Nearly 2,800 people died a couple of miles from where you worked; for weeks the smell of the pyre wafted through your Midtown office window. Your country went to war. Hurricane Katrina crushed one part of the South, and Hurricane Rita crushed another. You sensed the unimpeded march of Pharaoh's army. The other night you went to a Bruce Springsteen concert at Madison Square Garden. Some celebrities sat a few rows behind you, and a group of older women, including the singer's mother, sat beside you. You feared your own presence constituted a security breach, but the lights dimmed, no one tapped you on the shoulder, and so you stayed. In the stage shadows you could see the silhouette of Mr. Springsteen shaking hands and slapping the backs of musicians, 17 or so, as they stepped up and took their places in what is being called the Seeger Sessions. One held a banjo, another an accordion, another a tuba. This was not the E Street Band. Then music exploded from the stage: rock and bluegrass, jig and reel, spiritual and swing, honky-tonk and acoustic blues, working separately and in concert to coax from dormancy all those old songs that once meant something to you. Think of it. In this era of post-post-post irony, there sounded in Midtown Manhattan the lyrics to ''Erie Canal,'' with that mule named Sal. In this era of Operation What-Was-It-Again, there rang out a song nearly 200 years old, ''Mrs. McGrath,'' whose soldier son's legs were swept away by a cannonball on the fifth of May. In this era of Paris Hilton idealization, of pleasure found in a tycoon snarling ''You're fired,'' tens of thousands of people sang of climbing Jacob's ladder; of keeping your eyes on the prize; of overcoming. Mr. Springsteen occasionally slowed the celebration to a contemplative pace. His ''My City of Ruins,'' written for Asbury Park, then applied to post-9/11 New York, now ached for New Orleans. His version of ''When the Saints Go Marching In'' became a prayer. More often, though, he raised his audience up with old songs and spirituals that he had infused with rocking urgency, then toyed with so that brass and guitar could harmonize, an accordionist could jam with the Boss, and a tuba player could know rock-concert adulation. People danced, those celebrities swayed, the mother beside you raised her hands in joy. And you sang again: Brothers and sisters don't you cry There'll be good times by and by Pharaoh's army got drowneded Oh Mary don't you weep.


The Dramatic Form of the 'Living Newspaper' McComb, USA follows the theatrical form of the living newspaper: You can download a copy of the play from lyrics to the music used in the play can be found at songs: * Dixie * Freedom Is a Constant Struggle * I'm On My Way * Oh, Freedom * This Little Light of Mine * Keep Your Eyes On The Prize * I'm Gonna Sit at the Welcome Table * Man of Constant Sorrow * I Couldn't Hear Nobody Pray * We Shall Overcome * Ain't Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me 'Round Living Newspaper, theatrical production consisting of dramatizations of current event social problems, and controversial issues, with appropriate suggestions for improvement. The technique was used for propaganda in the USSR from the time of the Revolution in 1917. It became part of the Epic theatre tradition initiated by Erwin Piscator and Bertolt Brecht in Germany in the 1920s. The Living Newspaper was initiated in the United States in 1935 as part of the Federal Theatre Project. One of its major supporters was Elmer Rice, a dramatist and producer who believed in the value of drama as an instrument of social change. It became the most effective new theatre form developed by the Project, vividly dealing, in flashing cinematic techniques, with the realities of agriculture, housing, and economics. Outstanding productions were Triple-A Plowed Under, dealing with the Supreme Court's invalidation of the Agricultural Adjustment Administration (AAA), and One-Third of a Nation, dramatizing the plight of that part of the nation who, in President Roosevelt's words, were "ill-housed, illclad, and ill-nourished." Criticism of the Living Newspaper for alleged communist leanings contributed to the cancellation of the Federal Theatre Project in 1939.1 Writing in a volume of scripts of Living newspaper from the Federal Theater Project (P. de Rohan (ed.), Federal Theatre Plays [New York: Random House, 1938]) ,Hallie Flanagan, the Director of the Federal Theater Project quotes Elmer Rice, the director of the Federal Theater Project in New York and initiator the first Living Newspaper, as saying "We could dramatize the news with living actors, light, music, movement" (p. vii). Flanagan goes on to say that "the Living Newspaper from the first was concerned not with surface news, scandal, human interest stories, but rather with the conditions back of conditions" (p. viii). 4

The Living Newspapers were: Melodrama? Of course. Like all so-called new forms the Living Newspaper borrows with fine impartiality from many sources: from Aristophanes, from Commedia dell' Arte, from Shakespearean soliloquy, from the pantomime of Mei Lan Fang. Being a flexible technique and only in its beginning, it still has much to learn from the chorus, the camera, the cartoon. Although it has occasional reference to the Volksbühne and the Blue Blouses, to Bragaglia and Meierhold and Eisenstein, it is as American as Walt Disney, the March of Time and the Congressional Record, to all of which American institutions it is indebted. (p. ix). McComb, USA contains 23 short scenes with the singing of civil rights songs between the scenes. The events in the play were, as the front page of one of the manuscript versions of the play puts it, . . . selected from the actual happenings of the summer; the dialog is taken from the actual words spoken at the time. If any license has been exercised in compiling this production it has only made slight changes to the strict chronology of events. 1. The New Encyclopædia Britannica,, Vol. 7: Micropædia (Chicago: Encycopedia, 1989), 413-414 THE FREE SOUTHERN THEATER As the second Freedom School session (August 3-21) begins, a tour of the Freedom Schools throughout the state is scheduled for the Free Southern theater production of In White America. The Free Southern Theater was organized early this year by SNCC with the assistance of COFO and Tougaloo College as an attempt to "stimulate thought and a new awareness among Negroes in the deep South," and "will work toward the establishment of permanent stock and repertory companies, with mobile touring units, in major population centers throughout the South, staging plays that reflect the struggles of the American Negro . . . before Negro and, in time, integrated audiences," according to a Free Southern 'neater prospectus. An apprenticeship program is planned which will send a number of promising participants to New York for more intensive study. The company will include both professional and amateur participants. The development of the Free Southern Theater was sparked by the "cultural desert" resulting from the closed society's restriction of the patterns of reflective and creative thought. Each performance of In White America will be accompanied by theater workshops in the Freedom Schools designed to introduce students to the experience of theater through participation. As the classroom methods of the Freedom School are revolutionary in the context of traditional American patterns of education, so the Free Southern theater brings a new concept of drama to these Mississippi students. Dr. Staughton Lynd comments that the aim of the Theater "is the creation of a fresh theatrical style which will combine the highest standards of craftsmanship with a more intimate audience rapport than modern theater usually achieves." 5

Segregated schools, controlled textbooks, lack of discussion of controversial topics, the nature of the mass media in Mississippi demand the development of a cultural program, to be viewed in the context of education, among an entire people. Among the objectives listed for the Free Southern Theater by its originators are "to acquaint Southern peoples with a breadth of experience with the theater and related art forms; to liberate and explore the creative talent and potential that is here as well as to promote the production of art; to bring in artists from outside the state as well as to provide the opportunity for local people with creative ability to have experience with the theater; to emphasize the universality of the problems of the Negro people; to strengthen communication between Southern Negroes; to assert that self-knowledge and creativity are the foundations of human dignity." Among the sponsors of the Free Southern Theater are singer Harry Belafonte, authors James Baldwin and Langston Hughes, performers Ossie Davis, Ruby Dee, and Theodore Bikel, and Lincoln Kirstein, general director of the New York City Ballet. From: Len Holt (1965) The Summer That Didn't End (New York: William Morrow), Appendix VII: Freedom Schools Data (COFO). Wednesday, May 17th, 2006

Hip-hop doesn’t care about George Bush?
Posted In: Columnists, Northern Touch by Tara Henley The hip-hop-has-lost-its-heart-and-soul routine is old news, to be sure, but that doesn’t make it any less annoying. It remains the preferred stance of the psuedo-liberals and radicals—also known as The Positivity Police—who get a kick out of scolding rappers for rhyming about frivolous things like grills and strippers when there’s more important things going on, gotdammit. All this self-righteous hoopla is rehashed in the press time and time again, and manages to filter down to everyone from university professors (who fancy themselves experts on hip-hop), to aging hippie music critics, to everyman cab drivers. (a) It gets on my last nerve. This premise popped up yet again in an MTV news article on protest music today, from the mouth of seasoned activist/Audioslave guitarist Tom Morello no less.(b) Morello argues that hip-hip has been an “enormous letdown” when it comes to protest music. “It’s like Public Enemy and N.W.A were warring for the heart of the hip-hop nation, and a gentrified, blingy version of N.W.A. won out,” he said. “You listen to [Public Enemy’s] ‘Fight the Power’ and It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back, and you can hear America changing. Now it’s just the relentless booty shake of hollow bling.” In my view, this is a tad extreme. Morello misses the fact that hip-hop has pretty consistently spoken out against the war and the Bush administration. Granted, there’s nothing like a coherent movement. There have been many different approaches and many different agendas 6

—from Diddy, to Russell Simmons, to dead prez, to Kanye, to the National Hip-Hop Political Convention. But as a whole, hip-hop has been almost unanimous in its distain for the president and his policies. (c) Hip-hop hasn’t managed to kick Bush out of office, it’s true, but then neither has anyone else. Here are some of top hip-hop protest tracks from the last few years: K-Otix “George Bush Doesn’t Care About Black People” “Makin’ a killin’ off the price of gas/ He would have been up in Connecticut twice as fast” Nas “Rule” “Cause everybody wants a shot in this land of opportunity/Look at what this country’s got/There shouldn’t be nobody homeless/How can the president fix other problems when he ain’t fixed home yet?” J-Live “Satisfied” “It ain’t right them cops and them firemen died/That shit is real tragic, but it damn sure ain’t magic/It won’t make the brutality disappear/It won’t pull equality from behind your ear/It won’t make a difference in a two-party country/If the president cheats to win another four years” dead prez “Know Your Enemy” “You wanna stop terrorists?/Start with the U.S. imperialists/Ain’t no track record like America’s/See Bin Laden was trained by the CIA/But I guess if you a terrorist for the U.S. then it’s okay” Eminem “Mosh” “Someone’s trying to tell us something/Maybe this is God just sayin’ we’re responsible/ For this monster, this coward/That we have empowered” Talib Kweli “The Proud” “The President is Bush, the Vice President’s a Dick/So a whole lot of fuckin’ is what we gon’ get” Mr. Lif “Home of the Brave” “But when he realized we don’t support their attacks/They needed something to distract, hmm, anthrax/This further demonizes Afghanis/So Americans cheer while we kill their innocent families/And what better place to start a war/To build a pipeline to get the oil that they had wanted before” Mos Def “The Katrina Klap” “You better off on crack, dead or in jail, or with a gun in Iraq/And it’s as simple as that” -------(a) The new variation on this theme is that international hip-hop captures the spirit of ‘true hip-hop,’ whereas American hip-hop is all about ‘bling.’ As I’ve said before, reducing global hip-hop to one catch-all tag line is both ridiculous and insulting to the individuality of 7

everyone involved in the thousands of scenes around the world. Also, as an aside, it would be a giant relief if people actually stopped using the word bling. For real. (b) Not trying to suggest that Morello, who I respect, gets a kick out of scolding rappers. Just that his comments will surely be used as ammo by those who do. (c) The exception being 50 Cent. { 25 Responses to “Hip-hop doesn’t care about George Bush?” They can only respond to what they hear. True we need diverse types of hip hop but when all BET and the radio gives the kids is sex and bling that’s all they know. I’m an vet in the hip hop world and I can remember a time when we had NWA, Public Enemy,Poor Righteous Teachers and Humpty Hump. Now all we have is the same nigga with a different name making the same songs over and over. Like Dead Prez, I’m revolutionary AND gansta, I also enjoy a nice party jam or just a silly song, but mix it up 4. lone Nigerian Says: May 17th, 2006 at 9:09 pm I can’t stand the revisionist positivity police either, but isn’t it a problem that all of these songs suck? 6. Paul Says: May 17th, 2006 at 9:26 pm hip hop is over. it’s corny to admit you listen to it. We should all learn how to read books. 7. Incilin Says: May 17th, 2006 at 9:37 pm Although I appericate the way you defend hip hop (Unlike Bryon Cawford who always has a problem with … everything) I can’t agree with you. You point out little lines from a few songs. Unlike the way Public Enemy, NWA, and Tom Morello’s former band Rage Against The Machine who used to put out whole albums on politics. But if anything, I gota admit that hip hop has lost the rebellious mood and replaced it with corporate sentiment. By the way, my college professor swears he a hip hop expert too. 8. daesonesb Says: May 17th, 2006 at 10:15 pm >>Granted, there’s nothing like a coherent movement. Damn right. If you are comparing hip hop to the protest movement in pop culture during the vietnam war … the protest song is non-existent. We are talking about popular rap. Not mr. fucking Lif. Granted, Dead Prez, the Coup, 8

Immortal Technique all take shots at Bush … Name me one Hip Hop single that did near as well as Edwin Starr’s “War,” or Marvin Gaye’s “What’s goin on?” Fuck, even that redneck anthem “Born in the USA” is politically concious if you look closer. The closest thing is mosh, and that song got spins for hmmmmmmmmmmmm about three weeks. The ratio of “I love my Jewelry made of conflict diamonds” songs vs. real protest songs in hip hop is about 1,000,000 to one. The stark fact is that no art form has been so intrinsically linked to materialism and wealth as modern rap. Not even Disco. Prove me wrong Tara. 9. daesonesb Says: May 17th, 2006 at 10:18 pm I’d say hip hop has been much more unified in its political apathy than it has in its disdain of Bush. 10. daesonesb Says: May 17th, 2006 at 10:23 pm >>They can only respond to what they hear. True we need diverse types of hip hop but when all BET and the radio gives the kids is sex and bling that’s all they know. I call Bullshit there too. The first wave of bling bling rappers all grew up in rap’s so called golden age. Diddy, Nelly, fuck even nas and jay z alot of the time… these cats all are infatuated with wealth and crystal champagne. They grew up with public enemy and rakim. Your generation had the proper grounding, and you STILL fucked up! 11. THA YOUNG NIGGA WIT GAME Says: May 17th, 2006 at 11:57 pm WHEN NWA MADE FUCK THA POLICE IT WAS A CRY OUT THAT THE PEOPLE OF THE CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMNET WERE AFRAID TO SAY.WE HAVE BEEN BEGGING FOR YEARS AND NIGGAS HAD TO SAY FUCK IT WE STANDING UP AND IT WAS HOW PEOPLE REALY FELT.YOU HAVE TO REALIZE THAT THE WHITE MAN HAS PLANNED OUT EVIL SHIT FOR THOUSANDS OF YEARS.THINK ABOUT IT IF HE DID NOT WANT US TO READ WHAT MAKES YOU THINK HE IS GOING TO TELL YOU ABOUT WHY ITS A WAR AND THERS A SPACE SHUTTLE THE MUTHA FUCKAS PLANNING ON BIGGER SHIT THAN YOU CAN IMAGINE. 12. THA PIMP Says: May 17th, 2006 at 11:58 pm @daesonesb — you keep going on about mainstream hip-hop, but I don’t think Morello was getting at that side. And to be honest, his mainstream group, Audioslave, isn’t doing the 9

same shit RATM was doing, so who is he to talk? Truth be told, though, protest music doesn’t turn into billboard status, which is what most of these niggas are looking for. I also feel weird when Cam calls himself Bush and shit… just sounds odd. Do I wish there was more protest music in the mainstream? Not really… I’m good with where things are right now. It’s not like the right people would listen to it anyways. 15. Mrs Damian Marley Says: May 18th, 2006 at 9:42 am daesonesb- apparently you only read a part of my response. I never said there was anything wrong with wealth. What I said was, mix it up, show all aspects from bling, to revolution, to gangsta, to party. Not every song, every video having the same thing 16. suzan Says: May 18th, 2006 at 11:35 am yes, all you’re right…hiphop in the USA is… lucky there’s the rest of the planet, where hiphop was understood… ah, yes, i forgot, americans dont understand foreign languages, most of them dont even know where other countries are… uff, lucky me, me says… at on top of that, us non-americans listen to loads of hiphop from the states, but those groups/artist will NEVER be mentioned in XXL or similar… genuine RAP does still exist (even in USA), it just hasnt got anything to do with 50,etc etc….THIS is only business, with or without bling. 19. NsaniT Says: May 18th, 2006 at 4:16 pm Excellent Post, Excellent songs but you forgot the Just Blaze/Green Lantern produced “Impeach The President” which features dead prez, immortal technique and saigon. Who by the way all hate bush more then road rage drivers at a exxon :) 20. allnice Says: May 18th, 2006 at 9:40 pm Good post, good choice of songs too. You need to stick to topics like this and stay away from getting into gender stuff. You will definitely get more props. Other than that, I feel like rap is always going to be political and anarchistic because most rap acts are coming from the straight gutter. The only cat you left out was Immortal Technique and he is the most political rapper out now besides dead prez and a few more obscure underground cats. But over all, good blog post. 21. TARA Says: May 23rd, 2006 at 2:55 pm I’m all for conscious rap but there’s one small problem–It won’t consistently sell. There are only a handfull of artist able to make conscious rap that appealed to the masses. X Clan, Public Enemy, KRS 1, and Paris. Out of those four only P.E. went platinum on a regular basis. White’s own the vehicle to drive rap on a national level and we are being brainwashed daily to think that being in jail, sexing everything that moves, and using drugs and alcohol is cool. White kids listen to rap too but most view it as party music, most don’t pattern their 10

lives after it as a lot of blacks do. 24. aryana Says: June 24th, 2006 at 10:20 am These rappers in main stream are all talkin bout the same shyt. Drugs, sex, hustlin, jail, rims, and diamonds and tellin you how much they shyt cost. Man a nygga outta katrina aint tryin to hear how much yo shyt cost. It’s a million rappers sayin the same shyt and bout 10 sayin real shyt. Just cuz u talkin bout killing someone doesn’t make you real, it makes you stupid. They are in a position to change the way our teens think and percieve things, and yet they feed them with this BS, that I’m sure half of them haven’t even seen. Second BET is the worst shyt that could have happened to black people, cuz all they do is show Azz, azz and more azz, but will bleep out the word gunz, fart, shit, etc… IT’S A BIG JOKE AND TO DEFEND THESE NIGGAZ WHEN ITZ CLEAR HALF OF THEM ARE SELFISH AND AREN’T HALF OF THE PEOPLE THAT THEY CLAIM TO BE, IS FUCCING RETARTED.

Hip-hop and Reggae: The Common Links of Politics and Music (excerpts) Scott Carlis 4-25-02 Introduction Music is an art form and source of power. Many forms of music reflect culture and society, as well as, containing political content and social message. Music as social change has been highlighted throughout the 20th century. In the 1960s the United States saw political and socially oriented folk music discussing the Vietnam War and other social issues. In Jamaica during the 1970s and 1980s reggae developed out of the Ghetto’s of Trench town and expressed the social unrest of the poor and the need to over-through the oppressors. The 1980’s brought the newest development in social and political music, the emergence of hiphop and rap. This urban musical art form that was developed in New York City has now taken over the mainstream, but originated as an empowering art form for urban youth and emerging working class. Musically hip-hop spawned the age of DJ’s. With strong influences from Reggae, hip-hop has developed into an empowering form for the expression of ideas, power, revolution and change. Power and empowerment have emerged from these musical styles that now have many commonalities. Hip-hop and Reggae are both forms of protest music. “Protest music is characterized by objections to injustices and oppressions inflicted on certain individual groups…. typically, the intent of protest musicians is to oppose the exploitation and oppression exercised by dominant elites and member of dominant groups”(Stapleton, 221). Hip-hop has developed as a new form of protest music void of the common acoustic guitar. The goal of protest music is to promote freedom through music. Bob Marley expresses his belief that music is a message and route to freedom in the song 11

“Trench town.” Most of them come from Trench Town/We free the people with music, sweet music/Can we free the people with music (Marley: 1983) Hip-hop and reggae share many common themes in their music and in the lyrics that discuss the issues of drugs and crime, expose political problems facing minorities, and express social discontent. This paper is an analysis of the political and social aspects of hip-hop and reggae, as well as, addressing the commonalities of the music itself as they have developed and changed over time. This analysis produces the holistic view reflecting the interconnectedness of these two genres of music. Reggae’s Influence on hip-hop
Reggae music had a direct impact on the development of hip-hop music. …………As Kool Herc was developing his hip-hop style he was still relying on his Jamaican roots. With the influence of early talk over DJs like U Roy, Kool Herc “began talking over the Latin-tinged funk that he knew would appeal”(Hebdige, 137). The talk over became know for “toasting,” when DJ’s gave praise the music and crowd. Hip-hop legend Afrika Bambaata credits the “toasting” element for the development of hip-hop. “People will say hip hop just comes from soul or rock. It comes from all types of music, but it's based mainly around the toasting element of reggae. That's how rap came about.”(Bambaata, )

As the rapping element of hip-hop was developing, the skills of DJ’s were progressing rapidly as well. DJ’s were using turntables to cut and mix over the main piece of music. Kool Herc began mixing lead guitar riffs and drum beats at the breaks, through cutting and mixing. This idea of cutting and mixing during the breaks lead to Kool Herc’s first invention in hip hop that he is credited with, the “break beat.” Kool Herc first developed “break beats” when he began mixing in the song Apache, by the Jamaican disco group, the Incredible Bongo Band. To set the timing for the ‘break beats,’ Kool Herc used headphones to cue up the drums to mix over. As he became more skilled at this technique, it became too difficult to “rap” and dj. In order to keep both occurring simultaneously, Kool Herc hired MC’s, Coke-la-Rock and Clark Kent, to do the rapping. “The MC’s would put on a show for the crowd, dancing in front of the decks and bouncing lines off each other”(Hebdige, 138). This addition brought the emergence of the MC and the first dance teams, another first credited to Kool Herc. Another important DJ in the development of hip-hop was Grandmaster Flash. …….. To combat the problems facing urban youth, community organizations and rappers began emphasizing the importance of education and staying in school. Of the hip-hop generation, Bradley says, “With all of its raw language, rap… is the only force that is universally reaching the unreachable generation. This is a generation that is expressing its dissent through music rather than speeches. A generation that has rejected the sanctity of the media’s re-creations of American life.”(Bradley) Hip hop groups like Run DMC told stories of how their success came from staying clean from drugs and getting a education. The lyrics Run DMC’s song, 12

“Its like that” reflects the images what life is like in the urban areas, as wells as expresses the need for youth to change their ways. Unemployment at a record highs/ People coming people going people born to die /don’t ask me because I don't know why/ But it's like that and that's the way it is…. One thing I know is that life is short /so listen up homeboy, give this a thought/ the next time someone's teaching why don't you get taught? It's like that (what?) and that's the way it is. (Run DMC: 1983) As hip-hop continues to develop, it has kept true to telling of how life is, and keeping the imagery real. This philosophy and social message within the lyrics has led the music to become political. Because hip-hop and reggae are forms of music with lyrics discussing social issues, the content over time has become political. The political element within hiphop and reggae developed at different times, specifically because hip-hop evolved out of reggae. …………… Politics in Hip Hop Music In the late 1980s and early 1990s the rap group Public Enemy, lead by hip-hop icon Chuck D, was working hard to raise public awareness of the troubles facing African Americans. Public Enemy was following in the footsteps of their predecessors who have made social awareness one of the defining elements of hip-hop music. The mission of social awareness in hip hop is noted by Katina Stapleton who sees that “from its rough and tumble forms to the most commercial jams, hip-hop has been able to raise awareness among African Americans and the general public about the issues that face black youth on a day-to-day basis”(Stapleton, 221). Public Enemy’s album Fear of a Black Planet makes clear and direct statements about the struggle of African Americans. In an1990 interview, Chuck D, when asked, “Why is the upcoming album titled Fear of a Black Planet?” responded, Fear of a Black Planet is the refusal to accept the Afro centric point of view and the continuing indoctrination of the Euro centric point of view. Which I don't think is beneficial to the majority of those on the planet. Fear of a Black Planet, in a nutshell, is a counterattack on the system of cultural white supremacy, which is conspiracy to destroy the black race. ( Chuck D, The theme of this album focuses on elevating the black race in America, raising awareness and challenging the social problems, faced by the modern African American. This message is consistent throughout many of the songs on the album. Chuck D, gave insight into the meaning of two of the more powerful and political songs on the album. “'Brother's Gonna Work It Out” is about “the rise of black intellectualism where the black male is going to have to step up mentally and unify together in order to do a little bit of something. It will have to be a collective effort. Individually, the Black man is a pawn in a game.” “911 Is A Joke', which is the next single, is also self-explanatory, as it deals with the lack of emergency [assistance]. In our neighborhoods, when there's an emergency and we 13

need help right away, we don't get action as quick as in more posh areas. Especially in urban settings.” ( Chuck D, This album was written in true hip-hop style, to tell how life really is. The political and social messages, in the lyrics of Public Enemy’s songs, are emphatic and direct. Although Public Enemy and this album are an important part in the development of hip-hop music, they only represent one era of hip-hop music. Politics and Social Change in Hip-hop and Reggae Music As hip hop and reggae music have developed, they have followed the path of most forms of music by going through stages, with certain groups, albums and styles define an era within their genre. By the late sixties, politics and social unrest mixed in reggae music creating a new fierce music of Rock Steady filled with images of the gangster ‘rude boy’. “’Rock Steady’ music rather than rejecting the depravity of the political mercenary exalted and glorified the pugnaciousness of the ‘rude boy’”(Wilson). Musical artist such as Desmond Decker and Peter Tosh wrote and sang images of the ‘rude boy.’ In ‘007 Decker sings ’007, ‘007 at ocean’s eleven rude boy ago wail cause them out of jail/ rude boy cannot fail cause the must get bail/them a loot, them a shoot / them a wail, a shanty town/ rude boy de pon probation, shanty town/ rude boy a bomb up de town.’(Wilson) Peter Tosh with his bold militant philosophy even went as far as to call himself the “Toughest” in a self-declarative song. Anything you can do I can do better / I’m the toughest, I can do what you can do, never try to do what I do, I’m the toughest (Wilson) The lyrics of the Rock Steady era were harsh images of gang life and social unrest. This was a period of political and lyrical anarchy. Politicians from both political parties, the Peoples National Party (PNP) and the Jamaican Labour Party (JLP), were using urban gang leaders to clear turf, and control neighborhoods in order to gain political power. Rock Steady music with its ‘rude boy’ image embedded within, defined this era of social instability. This period of political and lyrical anarchy needed to end in order to help breed peace amongst the youth in Kingston and bring higher consciousness back to reggae music. Similar to the Rock Steady period of Reggae, hip-hop in the early 1990’s found itself in the ‘rude boy’ era. The music and image of hip-hop traversed into the mainstream changing the imagery portrayed in the lyrics. The voice and picture of hip-hop changed from life in the developing underground urban hip-hop culture, with a message of social change, to images of the hard gang life in Los Angeles and New York City. Hip-hop culture took another fierce turn in the wake of incidents like Rodney King. Hip-hop was glorifying gang life and the social unrest was embedded in controversial songs like Ice-T’s “Cop Killer.” The social elements in hip-hop lyrics were strong and explicit. The glorification of gang life in hip-hop 14

music found a culmination in an east coast/ west coast feud that took the lives of two of hip hop’s biggest stars, Tupak Shakur and Notorious BIG were dead. Although the commercialized hip-hop was glorifying gang culture in the 1990s, the underground scene still kept to its roots holding to a strong social message and push for empowerment. Hip-hop, in the year 2001, emerged with a mission of peace. Although, politically hip-hop has rarely been on the positive side of politics, the hip-hop community decided it needed to make a strong political statement. Hip hop took politics to the highest level in the year 2001 when, “Along with leading hip-hop pioneers such as Grandmaster Flash, Afrika Bambaata, Chuck D of Public Enemy and the Ruff Ryders, KRS will present a Hip-Hop Declaration of Peace to UN leaders. The Declaration is the first of its kind. The document will contain 25 paragraphs of thought and opinion from leading rappers about the socially conscious direction they believe rap needs to take.”(Gordon) Hip-hop and rap is the new political music in the United States. The backbone of the hip-hop community lies with its originators, who have maintained the vision of music as a form of social change and empowerment.


Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful