by G. Brown
Kendrick Lamar has proven Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s posit that “music is the universal language of mankind.” The California rapper became the first hip hop artist to win the Pulitzer Prize–cementing the irrefutable reach that hip hop is having on the world.
But before Lamar’s notable Pulitzer, hip hop was already making history. The genre rose to the rank of the biggest music genre in the country last year. Rap took the honor of the most listened to type of music in 2017. For a long time the top spot was dominated by rock, but artists like Lamar, Beyonce, Drake, Cardi B. have helped drive record/streaming music sales and hip-hop/R&B into the limelight. Current hip hop artists are all beneficiaries of the pioneering work of people like Kurtis Blow, MC Lyte, Public Enemy, The Sugar Hill Gang Wu Tang Clan, Grandmaster Flash and Run-D.M.C. The first rhymes they dropped laid the foundation upon which the hip hop empire now stands. In its infancy rap mesmerized listeners with MC’s spitting rapid fire rhymes, turntables and beat sampling. In the genre’s teen years the sound matured into hard hitting hooks and Gangstar rap. Now in its adulthood, rap is a global force generating hundreds of billions of dollars. The freestyle flows once relegated to backyard barbecues and street corner jam sessions have flourished into a monopoly transforming rappers and singers into moguls shaping every facet of life from make up to fashion to health and fitness.
Still, much of the genre remains focused on the message that serves commentary on crime, poverty, police, drugs, economics, sex, LGBT issues and racism. Most recently, the issue of politics was thrust into world of hip via Kanye West. The “Heartless” singer told a radio show host “I love Trump” and was skewered on social media mainly by the Black community. Even talk show Wendy Williams commented ““Kanye West has really lost his mind, and I don’t mean that in a humorous way. We’ve seen him on a slippery slope for a long time. This is really sad, you all.”
But White conservatives over at FOX News are praising Kanye calling him a “free thinker” and a “philosopher“. Fox News’ Greg Gutfeld said West “… challenged the mob. Their goal is to stigmatize. Smears always shut down debate. … There’s nothing scarier to a leftist than a free thinker.” But the rapper FOX praises as a free thinker, kind of looks like a sell out to much of the Black community. Candace Owens, Omarosa, Pastor Darrell Scott, Stacy Dash, Sheriff David Clarke, Pastor Mark Burns are all Black Trump supporters who continue trying to convince the Black community Trump is for them. Even if each one of then were on TV and radio 7 days a week, combined, none of them command the audience or attention that Kanye alone can garner through the hip hop platform. FOX News only speaks to Trump’s already committed base, but hip hop reaches millions more. That is what makes Kanye the perfect gullible, Uncle Tom-ish tool for Trump supporters and in some sense, a danger. Most of Kanye’s fans are millennials who overwhelmingly disapprove of Trump, but as a tool Kanye can be the next token Black use to try and divide the Black community.
Some argue that Kanye isn’t getting played, but playing the long game heading towards the 2020 election where he said he would run for President. I don’t see some master plan here,..just a man who once set the world on fire getting burned by the oldest politicians trick in the book.
Hip hop is still giving us messages… a Black man like Kendrick can use hip hop music to give the world hope, strength, conviction and win the coveted Pulitzer Prize. And a man like Kanye can use hip hop to earn enough money and fame to be too rich to be Black anymore.