Sunday, May 11, 2008

History, Hip-Hop, The Black Athlete: Old School Versus New School

HISTORY, HIP-HOP, THE BLACK ATHLETE: OLD SCHOOL VERSUS NEW SCHOOL”

By Fahim A. Knight

This article has been in the making since the Grand Jury indictment of Michael Vick, the former quarterback of the Atlanta Falcons and his ultimate conviction for being involved in an illegal interstate dog fighting conspiracy. This writer desired to weigh-in on the Vick’s issue when the controversy first ensued back in July 2007, but could never quite figure out which approach or direction would be appropriate in evaluating and assessing the entire Vick scenario. Thus, was Vick’s conviction a matter of racism and/or was his offense that aloof from the law and his conviction was a matter of justice and nothing else. Mike Vick was one of the premier football players and quarterbacks in the National Football League having a net worth perhaps over 200 million dollars, but his high profile athletic career came to an abrupt end upon receiving an active Federal Prison Sentence for illegal dog fighting and obstruction of justice. Vick and I do have something in common, we share an attorney. I consider one of Vick’s lead attorneys a friend, Attorney James D. “Butch” Williams who practices law in Durham, NC and at some point, I know he and I will perhaps have an in depth discussion relative to Vick.

But on January 27, 2008, this writer received a quite interesting email from a comrade and friend named Kenny the moderator of KENNY’S SIDESHOW http://kennysideshow.blogspot.com/2008/05/so ; Kenny is doing big time work on his site and this writer am encouraging my KEEPING IT REAL think tank audience to visit Kenny’s site and share in his informative and provocative blog postings. Kenny who is Caucasian posed these set of questions to me relative to African-Americans and at the time this writer had no response to Kenny’s set of questions. This article is only a partial response to Kenny’s questions and is far from being a complete response. Kenny stated, “Here's another suggestion for an article. I often stumble in my words on this subject and need more definitive dialog.”

Kenny goes on to state, “I think the elite forces that try to control our world had and still have an agenda to repress the African American community regarding the creation of the welfare state. Round them up in public housing (concentration camps), give them a little money, destroy the family structure through the planned infiltration of drugs (CIA involved?) abortions, sterilizations etc. , put a liquor/beer store on the corner but no decent food store, put as many as possible in prison, destroy self esteem, create a subculture through music and movies that promotes all of this and even export it to the white community to speed up the decline throughout the entire culture, use agent provocateurs (paid by the FBI, etc. ) to perpetuate the black-white conflict. One could go on and on. I hope you understand what I'm getting at. There's a deeper history to this than what our kids are taught in school and what the media says and it needs to be told in detail.”

Michael Vick, the former Virginia Tech standout and the former Atlanta Falcons standout of the National Football League. He is the beneficiary of those African American quarterbacks that had gone before him such as: James Harris, Warren Moon, Doug Williams, Joe Gilliam, Vince Evans, Rodney Peete, Marlin Briscoe, Charlie “Choo ChooBrackins, Andre Ware, John Walton, Willie Thrower, George Taliaferro, etc., thus, most of these black signal callers were ridiculed and malign by the white mass mediums and by racist fans. The Quarterback position was designated for white players and historically black quarterbacks supposedly did not have the intellectual quality or the leadership skills to guide a football team. These racist views dominated professional football perhaps until James Harris, a pocket passer that was drafted out of Grambling State University, a historical black college in 1969 by the Buffalo Bills and later would make his mark with the Los Angles Rams from 1973-1976.

Harris performances with the Rams proved that black quarterbacks had the intellectual I.Q. to lead and manage a team. The National Football League teams that did draft black quarterbacks were quick to transform them into tailbacks, wide receivers or defensive backs, as opposed to allowing them to play and compete for the coveted quarterback position, which oftentimes was giving to a less intelligent and less athletic white player. National Football League like all professional sports was shaped by racism and discrimination (why do not behind the lines ESPN do an investigative story on racism and black quarterback from an historical perspective?).

This writer sought of grew-up watching and admiring Joe “Jefferson Street” Gilliam a flashy black quarterback out of Tennessee State University (TSU) and I think at that time TSU was playing in the African American-- South Western Athletic Conference (SWAC). Gilliam was drafted in 1972 by the Pittsburgh Steelers and I was in my teens, but I can vividly recall his flair and his on field charisma (he wore white cleats, white towel, risk bands, etc.) and I use to try to imitate his athletic skills and personality. Thus, looking back on my admiration for “Jefferson Street” perhaps my adoration for him stemmed from the fact that I was black and had I experienced the death of Civil Rights Leader Martin Luther King, Jr., and the 1968 rebellions in the city of Newark, New Jersey and I can recalled the United States National Guards patrolling, as well as, witnessing the social, political and economic infrastructure collapse in Newark. The death of Martin Luther King, Jr., left a void and we were looking for another positive black image to fulfill this sense of emptiness created by King’s assassination.

Thus, in the early 1970’s it was refreshing for me to see and identify with a black quarterback image like “Jefferson Street” Gilliam and for a brief while in 1972 he became the starting quarterback of the Pittsburgh Steelers due the NFL players strike and Terry Bradshaw being injured. Also my high school back then was named South Side School, but when I attended black people had fought to rename it Malcolm X Shabazz High School, it was coincidental and ironic that my high schools colors were black and gold, the same as the Pittsburgh Steelers. My childhood hero “Jefferson Street” would eventually succumb to drugs and alcohol and prior to his death in 2000 had many brushes with the law. He never recuperated from being benched after leading the Steelers to a 4-1-1 record and that same year Terry Bradshaw led the Steelers to a Super Bowl victory. This writer thinks Jefferson believed he had earned the right to lead the Steelers and that the politics of race had entered into him being benched.

This writer also during the early to mid 70’s was following the career of a great athletic alumnus of my high school named Willie Morris who was a wide receiver and was recruited by the University of Pittsburgh Panthers and played with Tony Dorsett during that National Champion season. This writer’s political perspective was not well defined during this time period although; he had heard the teachings of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, at Muhammad’s Temple of Islam number 25 in Newark, New Jersey. This writer has always admired Jim Brown the NFL football Hall of Fame running back who has always stood out as being much more than an athlete, he was intelligent, defiant, strong willed, opinionated and yes tremendously talented as a running back with Cleveland Browns. I was too young to have followed Jim Brown’s football career on the field, but his political disposition resonated with me. I have always viewed him as a no nonsense black man that stood on high principles.

Then of course, there was the west coast sociologist Harry Edwards a black intellectual and academician that challenged white supremacy on all levels. This writer read about the 1968 Olympic Games held in Mexico City, where Tommy Smith and John Carlos stood at the medal ceremony and raised their fist covered by a black glove in support and solidarity of the Black Power Movement of the 1960’s as a symbol of protest. I also read about at this same Olympic Games gold medalist boxer George Foremen (former heavy weight champion of the world) grab the American flag to demonstrate his patriotism.

This writer read about in 1969, how Curt Flood challenged Major League Baseball free agency and reserve clause and took his case to the United States Supreme Court (although he lost in this decision) which today’s baseball players and all professional athletes are the beneficiaries and recipients of Flood’s activism as it pertains to players right to free agency. This writer also grew up watching and loving Muhammad Ali, a boxer by profession and a social activist by conviction. He went into the boxing ring as Cassius Clay out of Louisville, Kentucky and in the early 1960’s was introduced to the teachings of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad where he evolved into Muhammad Ali and the Islamic religion forever altered Ali’s life. He became a social icon and 1967 took a revolutionary stance against U.S aggression and the fighting in the Vietnam War and because of his conscientious objector stance he was ridiculed and condemn by a large segment of white America as being unpatriotic and un-American. (Reference: Edna and Art Rust, Jr.: Art Rust Illustrated History of the Black Athlete).

Athletes have always been viewed by the white elite as tools of entertainment and not as independent thinkers capable of making off the playing field decisions contrary to their dictates. Muhammad Ali was articulate and politically inspired who used his high profile athletic image as a former gold medalist and heavy weight champion of the world to challenge the United States Foreign Policy in Southeast Asia during the 1960’s. Ali was truly a different type of athlete. Ali was convicted in 1967 of refusing draft induction into the United States Arm Forces and sentenced to five years imprisonment, but the United Supreme Court eventually overturned this conviction. Ali’s dissent and defiance became somewhat of a symbol of what the black athlete could be, if they were armed with the proper information and knowledge.

Perhaps the culture and the social, economic and political environment dictates human behavior to a greater extent and influence the circumference and diameter of our thinking. The Hip Hop Culture has been a culture inspired by an art form---mainly Rap Music and the question always arise, does the art formulate independently of the dominant culture or does art becomes a voice of expression relative to conciliatory or contradictory interpretation. Frantz Fanon authored of two monumental books titled, “Black Skin, White Mask” and “The Wretched of the Earth” he stated that essentially each generation has the choice to honor and continue our history and struggle or betray it. Some years ago I was in a debate with Jamil Abdullah AL-Amin (formerly H. Rapp Brown), the former Black Panther Party member and Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee, chairman. Al-Amin said to me brother “Culture is necessary, but it is not sufficient” it took me over twenty years to truly understand what AL-Amin meant; that was perhaps in 1989. (Reference: Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin: Revolution by the Book).

Damien Ty Jackson in his book titled, “The Hip Hop Tree: Seeds, Essays and Thoughts” stated, “No forms of culture expression unfold in a vacuum. Instead, they are informed and shape by a combination of interacting social forces that surround and precede them. Clearly, this is the case with Hip-Hop whose seeds were sown long ago in a faraway land most African-Americans still acknowledge as ‘home’. As with blues, jazz, gospel and R&B, the influences of our African origins are still with us in the form of beats, rhythms, chants, dance, oral traditions, and other musical innovations and tendencies.” (Reference: Damien Ty Jackson: The Hip Hop Tree: Seeds, Essays and Thoughts).

The study of history develops the springs and motives of human actions. History serves as much more than the studying of dates and events, but as a bridging of one generational experience to another, which is physically and psychological passed on historically and in a peoples DNA. History instills inspiration, motivation, and self-esteem into a people; moreover, it connects a people to their contributions made toward civilization and human advancement. This is the discipline that builds the will of a people and encourages them to go forward. African people living in America had a brilliant and glorious history before and after Chattel Slavery (1555-1865). (Reference: John G. Jackson: The Study of African Civilization).

Those that control institutions recognize that they must forever hide the true past of African people in order to keep them sleep to the knowledge of self. History is like a trumpet, when it is sound, the asleep must rise. African Americans were put to sleep during the period of Chattel Slavery; denied the right to read and write which to pursue an intellectual exchange of ideas and denied the God given right to acquire the knowledge of self. The slave masters deprived African people of the opportunity to develop a true value system—folkway, mores, cultural system, etc. The study of our history is one way to correct this deplorable mental state of amnesia that African Americans are presently experiencing. We not only lost our historical memory but was disposed of our intellectual faculties, to even find our home which is Africa. We are silently crying out for Zion---this lost home that has been forsaking by 30—million black people in America and hundreds of millions located throughout the diaspora. (Reference: Del Jones: The Black Holocaust: Global Genocide).

The Holy Bible in Psalms 137 gives us the true meaning of a people being disconnected from their homeland and there are none more fitting this scripture than the black man and woman of America, it stated: “By the rivers in Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion. We hanged our harps upon the willows in the midst thereof. For there they that carried us away captive required of us a song; and they that wasted us required of us mirth, saying, Sing us one of the songs of Zion. How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land? If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning. If I do not remember thee, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth; if I prefer not Jerusalem above my chief joy. Remember, O Lord, the children of Edom in the day of Jerusalem; who said, Rase it, rase it even to the foundation thereof. O daughter of Babylon, who art to be destroyed; happy shall be that rewardeth thee as thou hast served us. Happy shall he be, that taketh and dasheth thy little ones against the stones.”

A crime took place, which was one of the greatest criminal acts ever committed against a people and it does not matter how the descendents of the perpetrators (Spain, Portugal, Great Britain, United States, Belgium, Germany, France, etc.) seeks to disguise their denial, we the descendents are the living testimony and the victims of this heinous criminal act. We were robbed of the knowledge of self and to continue to identify with the perpetrators history and culture is insanity. This is evident by the surnames (slave master’s names we continue to carry) McCrae, Smith, Johnson, Jones, Brown, Baldwin, Richards, etc., are not indigenous African names, but they belong to another man’s culture. How can we, African Americans claim to be free and have never divorced themselves from the slave master’s names? (Reference: Hugh Thomas: The Slave Trade: The Story of the Atlantic Slave Trade; 1440-1870).

It is not the norm to find a Korean or Chinese wearing the names "Greg Fatback", "Larry Hamhock", "Darius Shorten bread", etc., because these alien names do not reflect their East Asian culture and heritage. History asked the six basic questions of who, what, where, when, how and why; moreover we have traditionally responded to the above questions with Eurocentric answers. Non-traditional scholars such as Dr. Josef Ben A. A. Johannon, Drusilla Dunjee Houston, Cheik Anta Diop, John G. Jackson, Asa Hilliard, George G. M. James, etc., have worked to redefine history, by rescuing African history from misconceptions, half-truths and outright lies.

History builds patriotism and nationalism by instilling pride and self-worth in a people that is reflected of past accomplishments which should be past down culturally, in which to always remind a people of their obligation to make every generation aware of their glorious past and use it to inspire the born and unborn generations to aspire to create new history. We as African Americans should work to retain the best national and international attorneys in the world and plead our slavery case within the international courts. The African Holocaust involved numerous criminal acts ranging from kidnap, rape, murder, assault, conspiracy. (Reference: John Henrik Clarke: Christopher Columbus and the African Holocaust).

LL Cool J in his book titled, “I Make My Own Rules” stated, “. . . Being African American in the United States, which is a strange paradox. We’re of African descent but don’t learn enough about what African is. And, because of certain racist sectors, we’re not always 100 percent accepted as Americans. Our people have been forced-fed an American culture and taught to hate themselves. But inside them African culture is brewing, because it’s never been fully realized. . . . Other groups in America—the Italians, the Jews, the Asians, the Irish—know where they came from and what their culture is about. And it makes it easier for them to embrace America on their own terms. It’s not an either/or situation. Too many black people are struggling to fit an African key into an American lock. I just doesn’t fit sometimes. We’ve got to learn to embrace our culture before we can be confident—and accepted—as Americans and make that key fit. Not all African history is great—Africans participated in the slave trade. But a lot of it is great. And we have to be real about that too.” (Reference: LL Cool J: I Make My Own Rules).

This present day generation had to rely on Pop Culture images from the Hip-Hop Culture as their leaders who were more commercialized and manufactured—products of studio images and who were for the most part actors and many of them lacked the social conviction that my Old School generation came to admire in their leaders. These new voices appeared to be more of the problem than the solution. However this writer can recall the Hip-Hop group Public Enemy (PE), in which some of its members were inspired by the Nation of Islam's leaders Minister Louis Farrakhan and Minister Khallid Abdul Muhammad and it was reflected in their lyrics, a social militancy, possessing a combination of Black Islamic nationalism and Black Power themes, consistent with the ideology of the Black Panther Party model type-----stage image (with the paramilitary uniforms reflective of both the Fruit of Islam and the Black Panther Party of Self-Defense) of the 1960s and 1970s that were worn by its charismatic leaders Huey P. Newton, Bobby Seale and, Eldridge Cleaver.

Public Enemy was actually a throwback type group that had borrowed the social rhythms of the Last Poets and the likes of Gill Scott Heron. Public Enemy had captivated young African -Americans imagination with meaningful lyrics possessing messages of personal and community empowerment. They introduced Minister Malcolm X (1925-1965) to a generation of Hip-Hoppers who knew, little too nothing about the slain martyr Civil Rights leader that taught a militant and radical political message that perhaps resonated with these young Hip-Hopper’s fathers and mothers two to three decades ago. PE was using their large stage to educate young African-Americans beyond the message and lyrics of selling dope, killing, sex and raunchy language that denigrated women and glamorized criminal behavior.

These young poets were actually wearing two hats—Entertainers and Social Activist simultaneously. They were more of the latter than the former—they were in harmony with the social, political and economic plight of the African-American community. Michael Eric Dyson in his book titled, “Between God and Gangsta Rap” Stated, “Public Enemy is hands down, the most influential and important group in the history of hip-hop. By roughly stitching together contrapuntal noise and prophetic rabble-rousing, the avant-garde group quickly became rap’s conscience. The contrast personalities of PE’s duo—straight-man and heavy-duty lyricist Chuck D and trickster sidekick Flavor Flav—play off of one another to great effect. PE’s work. Into toto has confronted, and times embodied, most of the conflicts faced by young blacks over the last decade. Racist white media and sellout bourgeoisie. Black-Jewish relations and the woes of interracial relations. The narrowness of black radio and the betrayal of blacks by dope dealers.” (Reference: Michael Eric Dyson: Between God and Gangsta Rap).

Lerone Bennett once stated, "He who controls images, controls minds, he who control minds has no fear bodies." PE was positively altering minds and used their music as a moral, ethical, political, and spiritual tool, etc., that focused on liberation; not senseless violence and glamorized “gansterism;” where middle class Hip-Hop artists are rapping and singing about living in public housing and being involved in drive-by shootings and rapping about gang affiliation and gangbanging. But a deeper look into some of these "wanna-be" Hip-Hop artists backgrounds, you will find that many of them were raised in suburban upscale communities, attended private schools, raised in two parents homes and lived an incubated bourgeoisie life style.

Russell Simmons, better known as the CEO of Hip-Hop (Def Jam Records, Phat Farm, and Def Comedy Jam), is perhaps one of the most brilliant minds that helped to bring Rap and Hip-Hop to the era of transcending the mom and pop enterprise; moreover, to a billion dollar entertainment industry. Thus, in his book titled, “Do You: 12 Laws to Access The Power in You to Achieve Happiness and Success stated, “That’s how Hip-Hop started—poor kids with nothing, rhyming about having everything. But over the years it’s evolved to the point where that artistic attitude has transformed into a very successful business model. No one can argue that Hip-Hop hasn’t created a new way of doing business in the country. It’s proven that a bunch of kids who didn’t go to business school, who don’t have MBAs, and who don’t speak ‘proper’ English can still make a lot of money. Despite their apparent lack of sophistication and training, they can still create thriving businesses, companies that leave the rest of corporate America playing catch-up.” (Reference: Russell Simmons: Do You: 12 Laws to Access The Power in You to Achieve Happiness and Success).

Some would argue that these young music entrepreneurs are only capitalizing off the market trend----they are saying and singing what sells----sadly our culture has digressed to sex and violence, which has become extremely marketable and profitable in the United States and around the world. Moreover, those that control the music industry, the POWERS THAT-BE had decided that there wouldn’t be a long standing platform for the social lyrics like the type PE sang and advocated because to much of a positive agenda was negatively impacting big business—drug culture, tobacco sells, alcohol, etc. The dealers of death in the black community could not allow this type message to take root amongst the poor and oppressed because it was bad for legal and illegal business.

PE and one of its lead artist Professor Griff who was probably a registered Muslim in the Nation of Islam and if not, was definitely a committed sympathizer to the politico-theological teachings of its controversial leader Minister Louis Farrakhan. Professor Griff probably was the information guru of PE, the real mindset behind the on stage intellect and social presences. Minister Farrakhan in 1985 spoke to over 35, 000 black people at Madison Square in New York City amidst heavy opposition from the Zionist Jews and Mayor Edward Koch. Thus, after the Jesse Jackson 1984 run for the office of president of the United States, which Jackson was forced to repudiate Farrakhan for making allege anti-Semitic remarks, in the same manner presidential candidate Senator Barack Obama is being forced to repudiate his minister, Jeremiah Wright for making allege anti-American remarks. History is cyclical. Minister Farrakhan in the mid-1980s became the preeminent black leader and voice of black America and furthered solidified that rank with his garnishing over 1.5 million black men to Washington D.C at the Million Man March. (Reference: Cornel West and Michael Lerner: Jews and Blacks: Let the Healing Begin).

Chuck D in his book titled, “Fight the Power: Rap, Race and Reality stated, “By that time we had already done, ‘Bring the Noise’, and ‘Don’t Believe the Hype.’ My initial goal of working with the SW1, especially those heavily oriented in the Nation{of Islam}, was to use my lyrics to help clean up the bullshit hype that had come out about Minister Louis Farrakhan that started after the New York Post article. I felt through popular music and entertainment I could help bring his name into a positive light and have white kids singing a song with Farrakhan’s name in it, and we could change the whole complexion of how he was being looked at. Minister Farrakhan was gaining so much momentum in 1984 that when the Post came out with that bullshit story about ‘Farrakhan Says Hitler Was a Great Man’—when, as suggested buried in the text of the article, he actually described how Hitler’s greatness was used for wicked purpose—their wicked reporting turned the whole Nation movement back. When ‘Bring the Noise’ came out and said, ‘Farrakhan’s a prophet I think you ought to listen to,’ and ‘Don’t Believe the Hype’, said, ‘A follower of Farrakhan, don’t tell that you understand, until you hear the man,’ we actually had white listeners wanting to get into the mind-set of Minister Farrakhan and look at his words for themselves and discover that he wasn’t what they heard he was.” (Reference: Chuck D: Fight the Power: Rap, Race and Reality).

The Anti Defamation League (ADL) and the Jewish Defense League (JDL) had labeled the Nation of Islam and Minister Farrakhan as being anti-Semitic. Moreover, Public Enemy was viewed by the Jews (not all Jews, but those of the Zionist persuasion) as representing the voice and public image of the Nation of Islam whom they had falsely labeled as being anti-Semitic. They worked to separate PE from the Nation of Islam by using some words Professor Griff had spoken, which they played sound bites accusing the embattled Rap artist of anti-Semitism. PE never recovered to their former glory after the anti-Semitism allegations and eventually Chuck-D was forced to repudiate his friend and comrade Professor Griff. (Reference: Chuck D: Fight the Power: Rap, Race and Reality).

This writer must admit on the subject of Rap music and hip-hop I am way over my head, but I knew PE was special and we probably have not had a hip-hop group with the kind of social lyrical implications since PE. It is difficult today to see former PE star Flavor Flav “buffoning” and clowning and being reactionary to what he represented in the 1980s. Black men between the ages of 16-25 are being murdered (black on black homicides) at an alarming rate. The music continues to glamorize guns and drugs. Where are the positive images? Marcus Garvey, Fannie Lou Hamer, Noble Drew Ali, Elijah Muhammad, Bishop Mc Neil Turner, Martin Luther King, Jr. Queen Mother Moore, Malcolm X, Muhammad Ali, Huey P. Newton, Harriet Tubman, WEB Dubois, Booker T. Washington, Martin Delaney, Kwame Ture, etc. (Reference: William P. Benjamin: African Americans in the Criminal Justice System).

No positive images creates disillusionment and this is why a black high profile celebrity athlete like a Mike Vick that had just signed over 130 million dollar contract with the Atlanta Falcons and by way of some poor decisions suffered the same fate of most black men that have gotten entangled in the criminal justice and judicial system—prison; perhaps Vick believed the hype being sang and the thug life ethos that is over dramatized in the Rap Music and the Hip-Hop Culture. The blame can not be totally placed on these young African-Americans, if the truth be told, we failed them, and they were our responsibility to be intellectually nurtured and guided on the right path. The National Urban League gives an annual report each year of the state of black America and Tavis Smiley host The State of the Black Union with all his corporate funding holds a symposium every year where he galvanized some of the best and brilliant black intellectuals in America—to do what? Talk about the problem. The problem has been well defined since 1865, but we are short on solutions.

Black youth are left to choose between a concept of East Coast Rap (personified in the late Biggie Smalls—The Notorious B.I.G) and West Coast (personified by the late Tupac Shakur) as ideological metaphors for internal destruction. While the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and Tavis Smiley continues to have huge conferences in big convention hotels and black America continues to suffer. Know wonder our Hip-Hop artists have to reinvent images because of our negligence to do so. Mariam Jones, a five time gold medalist winner and Michael Vick an NFL All Star Quarterback are both in custody under the United States Bureau of Prisons. They both were let down by a society that failed them and this is not to overlook personal responsibility. (Reference: Michael Eric Dyson: Holler If You Hear Me: Searching for Tupac Shakur).

Maybe is mere nostalgic on my part, but, I truly missed PE----the revolutionary lyrics and those images of defiance----the message was clear and meaningful. This writer knows and understands that art can not be defined by the lens and vision of one person and/or a group of persons; it has no definition boundaries, art means different things to different people. I first heard the Sugar Hill Gang and Grand Master Flash, Afrika Bambaataa, Kurtis Blow, Run DMC in the late 1970s early 80s. I can vividly recall people calling WBLS radio station in New York City requesting that they play Sugar Hill Gang single “Rapper’s Delight” over and over again. The legendary Frankie Crocker was behind the mic, doing his thing. This "new" music was refreshing and the beat and rhythm did something for the soul.

Jay-Z is a Hip-Hop mogul that has made huge sums of money and is revered as a Hip-Hop icon, but he (Snoop Dogg, P. Diddy, 50 Cent, Reverend Run, etc.) is far from being the social presences of KRS-ONE and PE, but that is not to say the likes of Most Def, Common, Talib Kweli, etc, hasn’t embraced that social and political calling. There was something happening internally in the late 1980s and early 1990s when these young artists were sampling Minister Malcolm X and Huey P. Newton speeches, this type of political education heighten the social awareness and it took Hip-Hop to another level, a level we have yet to duplicate. There have been other artists such as Wu Tang Clan, OutKast, Nas, Erykah Badu, etc., that may have come under the influence of the teachings of the Original Five Percent Nation----called the Gods and Earth's.

This group evolved from the Nation of Islam, which its founder in 1964 Clarence 13 X Smith was member of Temple Number 7 in New York City under Minister Malcolm X. The Gods and Earth's teaching has resonated amongst some Hip-Hop artists-----they pull from the "Supreme Mathematics" Lessons and “Student Enrollment” lessons that were taught by the Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad. They understand divine numerology, Islam, mystic philosophy, high science-----they teach on the 120 degrees multiplied times 3, you then have the 360 degrees; thus, complete knowledge is liken to a circle. Many Hip-Hop artists have embraced the Five Percent Philosophy and for those who know what they are listen to can easily detect its message coded in Rap lyrics. (Reference: Malachi Z. York: The Problem Book: In the Name of Allah).

Hip-Hop and Rap have truly transcended cultures, race, ethnicity, nationality, etc., it is a universal language spoken across the globe. Moreover, after the Don Imus debacle; where he verbally insulted, the predominantly African-Americans Rutgers University women's basketball team by referring to them as "nappy headed whores”. Thereafter, a debate pursued about the language the Hip-Hop artists themselves were using that was equally degrading to African-American women. I believe the NAACP went on a silly crusade to bury the "N" word and has not offered any real solutions to black suffering and misery. Russell Simmons of the Hip-Hop Summit Action Network has also been doing yeoman's work with Hip-Hop artists as far as encouraging them to work toward cleaning Hip-Hop music up. He has teamed up with Minister Benjamin F. Muhammad (formerly known as Reverend Benjamin Chavis) and has been engaged in positive dialog with Hip-Hop artists around the country.

My comrade brother Paul Scott, the moderator of NO WARNING SHOTS FIRED blog site http://nowarningshotsfired.blogspot.com/ is without doubt, a much more verse Hip-Hop historian and Rap musicologist than I. This writer encourages his audience to view Brother Scott's blog because he has been analyzing Hip-Hop music for over a decade and has a serious inside perspective.

Fahim A. Knight Chief Researcher for KEEPING IT REAL THINK TANK located in Durham, NC; our mission is to inform African Americans and all people of good will of the pending dangers that lie ahead; as well as decode the symbolisms and reinterpret the hidden meanings behind those who operate as invisible forces, but covertly rules the world. We are of the belief that an enlighten world will be better prepared to throw off the shackles of ignorance and not be willing participants for the slaughter. Our MOTTO is speaking truth to power. Fahim A. Knight can be reached at fahimknight@yahoo.com.

Stay Awake Until We Meet Again,
Fahim A. Knight

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