Tag Archives: huffington post

Yo, Michael Steele, Whut Up Homie!

1 Mar

michael-steele
From Huffington Post.

Dear Michael Steel –

From one Hip Hop Head to, well, I guess another, do you mind if I address your latest call on the GOP to engage broader, more diverse groups like the Hip Hop community?

This will only take a sec.

While I don’t think the idea of reaching out to broader or more diverse communities is counterproductive for the GOP, I do think that as their leader, you ought to focus more on encouraging the GOP to deeply reflect on their public policies, image, and messaging. Then, after some necessary introspection, perhaps the GOP might be ready to reach out to the Hip Hop community. You can’t expect other communities to accept your olive branch when your own tree house isn’t in order.

And then there’s that whole 2006 campaign thing, you know where you kinda misled poor, low-income folks of color to distribute campaign fliers in Philadelphia under false pretense. That was pretty gangsta, but it’s really not the kind of change we’ve been looking for. By reaching out to Hip Hop folks now, are you just using another community to satisfy your own personal interests? It’s a fair question, no? One that also asks you and your folks to engage in some serious reflecting before going forward with this whole reaching-out-to-the-Hip-Hop-community bit.

Baby steps, GOP, baby steps.

Don’t suggest that the Hip Hop community will help, or even save, the GOP. And please don’t use the “first-African-American-to-chair-the-RNC” shtick to seemingly assume black, brown, yellow, and white folks within the Hip Hop community will follow the GOP lead. Like Obama, you and your party need to earn our short attention spans by first checking your own party members. This includes voting records that hardly reflect issues of those within our communities and neighborhoods – oops, I mean, ‘hoods.

Quick! What was Mos Def’s position on the Jena Six situation, and why was it important to social and criminal justice? And no, it wasn’t that he thought Bush didn’t care about Black people – that was the other Black rapper guy talking about that other Louisiana city.

(My bad, “gotcha” questioning is so 2008.)

But nothing says ‘I’m seriously engaged in your community’ like uttering phrases such as “bling-bling” and “off the hook” while speaking to members of Congress and national press. That’s right, Michael, using patronizing slang as code words for being disingenuous is exactly what gets you an “in” with all the hipsters.

On the real though, you should encourage the GOP to be more concerned about its dangerously divisive domestic and foreign policies. Polices that, by in large, aren’t grounded in reality but instead centered on a combination of illusion and some really neat 1950’s sitcom I saw on TV Land last weekend.

Reconsider GOP messaging, which largely impacts the GOP’s perceived image and brand. Stop using folksy, out of touch women to be the “face” of the party, when it’s obvious that the party needs much more than a faux feminist face lift. Try reconstructing the entire GOP political body by supporting women and their issues all of the time, not just when it’s convenient. Stop allowing your party to use self-absorbed, self-serving, and unapologetic Black men as puppets to passive-aggressively talk smack to the opposition.

Aim low, GOP.

Consider recruiting humble, thoughtfully spoken, and open-minded individuals who have a complex understanding of the worlds we inhabit. Having a complex world view doesn’t mean adopting a post-9/11 mentality that believes “most” of Islam wants to kill “all” Americans.

Stop giving right-wing conservative warriors (?) like Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh woodies by either appearing on their shows or acknowledging their existence.

There’s always room for opposing views, but for any conservative leader to encourage such narrow-minded opinions should be held accountable – this especially includes you, Michael. (You might want to peep out fellow GOPer Arlen Specter’s radio interview with Laura Ingraham, a.k.a Ann Coulter Jr.)

When you can approach your party behind closed doors without cameras and microphones and ask them to candidly reevaluate their regressive policies and ideology, then you certainly have my permission to step up on that podium and ask to engage broader, eclectic, and creative communities of influence. Then maybe, just maybe, we’ll consider your request.

I’m outty five thizzie, home skillet!

Tara

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An Open Letter to Russell Simmons

11 Nov

This letter came about after reading Russell Simmons’ latest post on Huffington Post.  Actually, it was a comment that I wanted to post but I exceeded the commenting word limit by 397 words.  So I decided to make my own post about the topic of the new hip hop community’s role in an Obama era.  While I appreciate Russell’s intentions, I think he’s dodging the overall point, and I think it’s done intentionally because he wants to preserve hip hop’s legacy in our culture.  Fair enough.  But what he fails to realize is that hip hop can last if it can admit to itself its own failures and shortcomings.  Once in a while, we have to admit to ourselves that we got it wrong.  Only then can change and transformation actually happen.

Russell,

With all due respect, I understand that hip hop is an angle that you claim uniquely, but I don’t quite understand the connection you’re trying to make by inserting lines like “Hip Hop is about perseverance” and “Hip-hop is the culture of transformation” into this post about a progressive movement. Besides these lines being completely obscure, I also question how “hip hop” in the 21st century can contribute to an entire progressive movement on the brink of transformation. As one who is willing to be apart of this movement, I find it very difficult to see how SOME within the hip hop community can shout progress while purporting some of the most non-progressive ideals (i.e. stereotyping and exploiting African-Americans, Latina/os, women, and urban youth). If the new hip hop generation wants to march with me in this progressive movement, I think some serious reconciliation has to happen first.

I grew up in the 80’s and 90’s listening to A Tribe Called Quest, Public Enemy, Run DMC (your brother), Nas, etc., and I can say without hesitation that hip hop then is not the same as it is now (which can be a good and bad thing). Yeah, the message might be just as politically incorrect, but at least it was political – at least we heard our fair share of social justice messages and weren’t inundated with messages aligned with poppin’ bottles in the club. Sure, some can argue that hip hop back then was just as misogynistic as it is now, but at least we had voices like Queen Latifah, Monie Love, and MC Lyte to counteract these stereotypes. What do we have now? A bunch of one-hit wonders for people to bang out to in the club. Club-bangers are cool, but if that’s all a genre of music can produce then it’s very difficult to swallow the “Hip-hop is the culture of transformation” pill. What type of transformation, exactly, are you talking about?

For those of us who grew up during a generation when hip hop was more about cultural expression than cultural exploitation, we’re going to need clarification on what you mean by “hip hop” now and how your vision of hip hop relates to the ideals of an Obama administration. Race aside, how can a 50 Cent, Jay-Z, or Young Jeezy help with securing Universal Health Care and reforming labor rights? Are these issues that “hip hop” in the 21st century really want to confront? If not, cool. Then let the role of the hip hop community be for entertainment purposes only and escapism.

Though I’m hopeful that the hip hop community will confront these issues head-on, I’m realistic that it won’t. I hope that the hip hop community can band together to work in efforts to pass progressive legislation and help inspire a generation of people toward a progressive movement (online AND offline). However, I’m a bit worried that the hip hop community will in fact largely turn apathetic toward these efforts and instead do what’s in the best interest to preserve itself.

I believe hip hop in the 21st century is experiencing it’s own shift and identity crisis. So before the new hip hop generation (artists, Executives, consumers, critics, etc.) decide to lend itself to a progressive movement perhaps it should take a serious look at itself and ask if/how it is helping the movement. The way I see hip hop now is just like any other ‘radical’ practice that falls victim to the american (hyper) capitalist system; it’s becomes that which it proclaims to critique. The only message I hear coming from the new hip hop era – an era of excess – is “Get Rich or Die Trying.” And honestly, I don’t care too much for that message in this progressive movement that we’re trying so desperately to build.