If you say it loud enough and often enough, it becomes popular consensus. Eventually it can become so engrained into the collective psyche that it’ll be conceived as “truth.” That’s how rumors and stereotypes get perpetuated and facts gets altered or obliterated.
It’s been that, and despite some gallant efforts it’s gonna be that. Let’s take the Cliffs Notes version of hip-hop for instance. From what I’ve heard and read by historians/documentarians, hip-hop is a subculture originated in the Bronx, with roots in Jamaica. They’ll even name-drop a couple of pioneers for added measure. To close it out, they’ll highlight the elements: rapping, DJing, b-boying and graffiti art. If you can report these “facts,” know the playlist on the local Hot/Power station that plays rap music, have the classic album titles and have the requisite hip-hop uniform, you’re official. Right? Umm, that’s an unequivocal “no.”
We should’ve learned long ago the dangers of letting someone else tell our stories, especially when we can add layers to what’s being claimed as true. The simplicity in which the burgeoning movement is described can give the impression that the ’70s in the Bronx were a somewhat utopian time. Far from it. That’s what made/makes the movement special. The yang is provided with that other oft overlooked element: struggle/despair. Financial gloom besieged the nation as a whole, and New York City seemed to catch the brunt. In fact, during the mid-’70s, a U.S. president’s indifference to the plight of the city led to a headline that read “Ford to City: Drop Dead.” Now imagine what the hood was like! We talking worst of the worst. To quote Melle Mel, we’re talking, “Rats in the front room, roaches in the back/Junkies in the alley with a baseball bat.”
Those types of problems were compounded with situations that had plagued Black America for generations.
For the past few weeks a stark reminder of what that life was like has found its way to the forefront. Sexual abuse is a real situation. Sexual abuse against children is even realer. And truth be told, practitioners of that predatory behavior exist in all walks of life. Doctors, lawyers, police officers, teachers, family members (immediate and extended) have all donned the wolf as a sheep costume. Should we really think that O.G. hip-hop participants would be exempt? In fact, looking back in retrospect, it could be deemed worse coming from within hip-hop. Think for a second. Being a little older, they’d know and understand the mentality of kids congregating in the parks for hours on end, looking to be a part of something. They’d know and understand that the uncertainty of the streets provided more solace than the definite hell some kids faced at their cribs. They’d know and understand that the victims had nowhere to turn for help. Imagine if you wanted to tell someone but couldn’t. Unfortunately, those situations aren’t things we need to imagine. We’re living among them. Those kids then, are parents and in some cases grandparents now. Look how we living now. We gonna see and hear more. Wait until the facts unfold and talk about the case in particular that’s in the news, though.
Before we go, RIP Sister Afeni Shakur.
Over and out. Holla next week. Til then, enjoy the nightlife.