Why We Need Hip-Hop (Pt. 1)

Meade Adams is a pastor, author, poet, and
music lover who hails from our nations capitol.
We're glad to introduce a new series entitled "Why We need Hip-Hop." In this First installment we are blessed to sit at the feet of a gifted young author, Pastor Meade Adams. Meade is the Youth and Young Adult Pastor at Dupont Park SDA Church, in Washington, D.C. He is also a spoken word artist and poet and has published a book containing his poetry entitled, So Let it Be Written. A long time Hip-Hop lover, Pastor Meade has written and blogged about current trends in Hip-Hop culture. Check out his blog at meadesmind.blogspot.com

There are few musical styles that have dominated and influenced popular culture in the last 30 years more than Hip-Hop. It can be found blasting in stereos from New York to California. Its rhythms and bass lines can be heard from urban clubs in Japan to the bush in Africa. It’s everywhere; and it’s not going anywhere anytime soon.

However, Hip-Hop is not primarily meant for Japan, Africa or Europe. Hip-Hop is American music. It is black music. As Yasiin Bey (formerly Mos Def) pointed out on Ice-T’s documentary Something From Nothing: The Art of Rap, Hip-Hop was not meant to be “pop” music…it was folk music. Something original that came from the people for the people. It is urban poetry. Just as the Blues represented the oppression of the Mississippi delta and voiced its pain and bellows through the medium of “field poetry”, Hip-Hop represents the plight of inner-city African-Americans post-Civil Rights. It is street poetry. It was the angry voice of a group left to rot in the slums of New York after the lofty promises of the Civil Rights Movement.

            Melle Mel’s iconic track “The Message” best encapsulates this idea. He raps “Don’t push me cause I’m close to the edge/ I’m trying not to lose my head/ It’s like a jungle/ sometimes it makes me wonder/ how I keep from going under…”. This “concrete jungle” was the birthplace of Hip-Hop. Some ask, “Why is Hip-Hop so gritty? Why is it so angry?” Those who ask this question should be told to go visit the Bronx, and the housing projects of Brooklyn and Queens and they will have their answer. It is amazing to me that in the midst of such drastic conditions that these young black men expressed their ideas and rage through the medium of art and music. This music gave a voice to the voiceless. It was the artistic outlet of a community.

Hip-Hop is the world's original music
because it is the voice of the oppressed. 
            In my opinion, Hip-Hop is the world’s original music. At its innermost core it is comprised of the spoken word over the drum. This is the language of ancient African griots that recited hundreds of years of history with only the drum for accompaniment. It is the language of the Native American tribes that gathered together around the sacred drum to pass the stories of their people down to their children and grandchildren. Hip-Hop carries on this ancient tradition because at its best, it is storytelling. It tells the stories of the people (where they are) and captures the dreams of where they want to go.

            We should not forget, however, that Hip-Hop is not just music, but it encompasses other cultural elements. It has its own language, clothing style, dance and art. It is graffiti, beat-boxing, break-dancing, DJ-ing and emceeing. It is a culture. Some criticize it for its glorification of “broken English” or “Ebonics”. What these critics fail to realize is that Ebonics does in fact have links to authentic African languages. It is the “code” that slaves spoke when they wanted to speak openly in front of the master. It is our Swahili. It is our patwa.

 It has provided identity to countless black and brown boys and girls trying to find their niche in the world. For those brave enough to take up the mic or the pen and the pad, they have found it to be their closest friend. It has been a companion that understands exactly what they’re going through. It’s been there for them, and it allows them to express themselves through this powerful medium.

            Where would the black community or even the world be without Hip-Hop? Some may say it would be better off. In truth, there is a sense in which Hip-Hop has lost its way. But it will be back. In order for a tree to grow, a seed has to first fall to the ground and die. Nas told us years back that “Hip-Hop is Dead.” If this is true, then it is only temporary. Sometimes death is necessary in order to achieve new life. This new life manifests itself in the promise of new and old artists that understand the history and the power of the art like Lupe Fiasco, Kendrick Lamar, Common, Nas, Kanye West, and countless others that have not gained mainstream recognition.

            So where would the community or world be without Hip-Hop? It is an empty question, for Hip-Hop is here, and is here to stay.