BY LEANNA SARTIN
Hip-hop has its roots in the South Bronx of NYC. Its message has evolved over time. Once offshoring started, it left its whimsy. Sugar Hill Gang was one of the first rap albums that was happy and cheery. Slowly, the manufacturing, canneries, textiles and auto-making industries left. Without an economy that functioned, the great urban centers were abandoned by corporations. Union membership, once at 67 percent dropped to 7 percent.
A moral vacuum was created as well. The churches were excluding queers, and many generations could not earn a living. Hip-hop was a way out of the newly growing urban centers. Hip-hop was an income-generating industry, and the lyrics began to reflect the horror of the living conditions.
Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five came out with “The Message.” The lyrics were innocent and showed that some stability still existed in the families. The song was performed in 1982. Slowly, the Supremes, The Temptations, Ben E. King and Smokey Robinson and the Miracles became old folks music. The youth had a terrifying reality and the lyrics gave them a voice.
As millhouses and warehouses were abandoned and the economy was collapsing all around, youth gathered outside and schooled each other. Elders were aghast. They could not realize how to keep their children safe and at home. Neighborhoods became unsafe. Addictions were soaring. Despondent fathers left their homes because they were unable to provide for their families. A new terrifying reality took hold.
Hip-hop lyrics reflected the murderous culture of gang- banging and rage against police interference. The “war on drugs” became a political scapegoat for failed economic policy. Offshoring is the greatest tragedy to ever happen. Detroit stopped being Motor City. Chicago became a literal war zone. Hip-hop is often misunderstood by outsiders. They cannot understand the lyrics nor their meaning. Many rappers were targeted by the Congressional Black Caucus as appalling and immoral. The truth is that the First Amendment prevailed.
Hip-hop addresses gang-banging, fatherless children, the welfare state and the destruction of the African-American community. Elder statesmen and women had to accept that the lyrics reflected their actual lives and would not be packaged up and proper like.
Cutting edge artists are no longer the subject of political discourse. It has been proven that the truth has to be told and the communities are facing a new reconstruction.