Just Another Mickey Boston Piece…
While the summer edition of the 2011 Park Jams finally debut in NYC, many hip-hop heads true to the art and elements of the culture may sometimes become weary of where hip-hop is headed in context of mainstream and commercial shifts. Indeed, one may find solace in the new efforts of KRS ONE, the academic contributions of GURU’s older brother as well as the compelling socio-political commentaries by Chuck-D. Popmaster Fabel has been lecturing while Christie Z. Pabon has been holding down the DMC. Socio-political ideals within hip-hop are still present however, much lesser than the older days. As a hip-hop artist myself, speaking of the socio-political is a quintessential aspect, especially when it comes to being a Brown Muslim man living in the West and having studied in the Middle-East.
Redefining socio-economics and politics in a hyper-sexualized nexus/era of enhanced social medias may be a possibility. There was a time that Muslim hip-hop itself was something new and not widely accepted amongst Muslims, the swing of politics and occupation as well as colonialism has opened doors to new modes of youthful expression as was seen in the Arab Spring. Strident radicalism is not necessary when it comes to being a hip-hop artist, one must remember that indeed, these are activists and recording artists at the same time. And despite such givens, the consumer should be wise enough to distinguish between the real Revolutionary MCs and the other ones who reserve alterior motives beneath their bosoms.
There is denying that Public Enemy epitomized the essence of socio-political and socio-economic grassroots hip-hop. Having said this, the Black struggle was present in musical genres and eras prior, it was just that African Americans were now finding a new rhythmic melody to channel those trials and tribulations in the manifestation of hip-hop. Marvin Gaye’s response to rioting was expressed in the beautiful words of “What’s Going On” while James Brown had responded with a new-found rhythm embracing Blackness by means of “I’m Black and Proud.”
What I can personally recall growing up is James Brown in concert in Boston 1968, a day after the untimely death of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. It was a volatile and unpredictable moment in African American history. Where was this minority to be headed? Was there any sense of direction? Was music to be the sole therapeutic light out of the tunnel of trials and tribulations? By the late 70s and early 80s hip-hop was a germ taking formation to spread across the globe from a forgotten and neglected vacant lot now famously known as the Bronx. Truth be told, hip-hop was a continuation to the struggle that was happening hundred of years prior. The rhythmic score to the African American struggle manifested in hip-hop after shifting from melodies of the likes of the early Negro Spirituals, to Funk, Blues and Soul just to name a few. In essence, the lyrics to many of Public Enemy’s songs brought the quotidian struggles of those in the Black community to the fore while also unveiling the frustration that it produced.
There is no hiding the fact that hip-hop can assume both the role of both sickness and cure. In all truth, hip-hop is a two-way boulevard — hyper-sexualized images of misogyny and chauvinism in presence of illusory conceits is one direction while conscious lyricism and intellectual discourse may be the other. Productive and counter-productive, constructive and destructive it seems that hip-hop has shifted into a Jekyll and Hyde character with a noble-self and a carnal-self. Without doubt, some may argue that hip-hop was hijacked by wealthy multi-nationals and hefty hedge record labels. Truth be told, there are is a plethora of reasons as to why hip-hop devolved to what it devolved to in context of mainstream and commercial media.
Verily, hip-hop devolved more than other musical genres and only True School heads can keep its flame alive. Personally, I do not do hip-hop to keep it alive, I do it to express the socio-economic struggle as well as the global political one. While doing so, it does happen to be one matchstick amongst many that do tend to keep the flame of hip-hop going and maybe “Mickey Boston Photography/Philosophy” is one facet of keeping grassroots hip-hop alive with the numerous photographs of b-boys and b-girls who grew up loving that old school funk and hip-hop. “Actions are but by Intent,” a saying that I learned as a Muslim derived from the sayings of Prophet Muhammad (to whom be peace and blessings). Individuals do need to bring themselves to account before they are brought to account and so liability is something neglected within the greater nexus of the music industry which is solely intent on manufacturing more sales rather than seeking enlightenment for the listener on the other end of the download, headphones or purchase.
The question arises, why are some cats out there making hip-hop and even performing it with so many counter-productive rhymes and punch-lines? Hip-hop like any form of poetry has the Power to enlighten and enrich and so it was no surprise nor coincidence that after its new-found popularity, White bands of the likes of the Beastie Boys, a former NYC hardcore punk and from 1979, took to the recording studio by 1984 to record hip-hop and by 1986 dropped their first hip-hop album, “Licensed to Ill.” The Beastie Boys, despite their 80s swagger, amusing antics, innovative rhyme delivery and comedic interludes over the span of their longevity did bring a serious message when it needed to be addressed — this in itself is what I refer to when they brought attention to the political predicament of the Middle-East as well as the notion of tolerance of Arab and Muslim peoples living in America while accepting an award at the Vanguard Music Awards. Do please take the 8 minutes to view the below snippet narrated by Chuck-D.
The notion of hip-hop as a mode of expression on the part of Arab youth is only one facet amongst many. Not all Arab (and Muslim youth for this matter) listen to hip-hop. Of course, Arab punk rock has not lifted off the tarmacadam while Arab electronic music has yet to make a socio-political statement with the exception of a few bands/groups. Music as mode of expression aside, Arab (and Muslim, Coptic and Maronite) youth desire opportunities, desire a shift from oppression and a move towards Real Democracy and not the “real” democracy Hillary Clinton and her Israeli counterparts talk about. These youths are collectively fatigued with the double-standards and like myself, grew up in households to parents who were either subject to colonialism, imperialism and displacement in which the general rhetoric and discourse was one of being born to a social hierarchy of oppression. Of course, not all families were subject to this however, there are many that were and still are and hence, looking and wanting nothing more than amelioration to the plight and predicament of their peoples.
Such a note brings one to the presence of Arab hip-hop artists who are now finding a space at the forefront of a movement…To be Continued…