ChickenBones: A Journal
for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes
My Dear Brother, Hip Hop may indeed be dead. But it’s the Walking Dead. Like Zombies, it lives even in
its death and there are none strong enough to end its misery and give it the final death blow. For it has been
discovered that Hip Hop like drugs can be used for social control, especially to manipulate the poor . . .
Hip Hop CDs
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Books on Rap & Hip Hop
Tricia Rose, Black Noise: Rap Music and Black Culture in Contemporary America (1994)
Russell A. Porter, Spectacular Vernaculars: Hip-Hop and the Politics of Postmodernism (1995)
Bakari Kitwana, The Hip Hop Generation: Young Blacks and the Crisis in African American Culture (2003)
Imani Perry, Prophets of the Hood: Politics and Poetics in Hip Hop (2004)
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Is Hip Hop Really Dead?
Or Is It Just Wishful Thinking?
Sharif & Rahim Respond
A Premature Announcement
Peace. Brother X has constructed a penetrating analysis of the demise of the Hip Hop Nation. However, he is premature in ascribing death to the black arts movement. The brother’s confusing the death of one thing with another is a mistake often made. The nadir of a movement may or may not foreshadow the death of a thing. But the black arts movement will endure long after the Hip Hop Nation is gone. What Brother X sees is the end of an artistic movement that was based (originally) in the screams and wailing of a generation of children that had been rejected and who themselves rejected the dominant society.
In the past, such movements were connected to some kind of political struggle to change society. Hip Hop degenerated into a hedonistic pursuit of values that were the exact opposite of what was political. By political, I mean a movement that has as its goal the betterment of the masses-black and the working poor of America. The Hip Hop Nation started out political enough with X-clan and other groups. But after big corps like Time Warner got through shaping the movement — it dropped even the trappings of anything political and became the ranting of psuedo-gangsta millionaries.
My own belief is that movements like the Hip Hop Nation arise when a generation is divorced from its true history. Is it possible for a generation to turn to hedonism when they are rooted in the suffering of their people? If we compare hip hop to be bop — the Hip Hop Nation to the jazz generation — we find some compelling similarities and differences.
The jazz generation has, as urban as it was, its roots in the blues. And the blues has its roots in the South. What does the Hip Hop Nation call its predecessor? It can not say that it borrows from the blues, even through the blues is filled with violence. Seems Like Murder Here is a compelling argument by Adam Gussow that violence figured into the blues tradition. But the violence that figured into the blues never became its dominate characteristic.
Jazz the child of the blues is also associated with violence — the zoot suit riots on the west coast and the hijacking of jazz figures by police and white men in the cities led to all kinds of confrontation. And just as the Hip Hop Nation constructed the word “yo” to designate who was a part of their nation, Lester Young constructed the word “man” to designate who was a part of the jazz generation. Both hip hop “yo” and jazz “man” are anti-heroes in the American tradition. But the figure of the jazz man overshadows the yo as a cultural hero. There is no comparison between the movement of Coltrane, Prez, Holiday, (your hero Armstrong), Miles, and the other cultural geniuses of jazz.
Perhaps, the difference lies in orientation and the times in which they emerged. Jazz began its ascendancy between World Wars, the first and the second. Also it was highly influenced by the intellectual movements within and without America — the New Negro movement, the Harlem Arts Movement, civil rights and black power — all had an influence on jazz artist from (my hero) Ellington’s symphonies to Max Roaches’ Freedom Suite. Hip hop should have inherited much of its intellectual power from Bob Marley. He was an urban prophet — a wailer for justice at home and abroad. But again, Marley was a semi-political figure who towers over any figure of hip hop. As for Coltrane, he makes the heroes of hip hop appear to be restless children without a sense of the black man’s spiritual, ascending nature.
But as faithless as the Hip Hop Nation is to its black legacy, I despite my misgivings must love what is best in them. It is what they can become after their hip hop experience that I love them. They will surely come to question whether hedonism can be a path for human-humane-development. Out of their despair, they still might find the truth. I liken them to the Hebrew under Moses (May God be pleased with him). For nearly forty years, he struggled to reform his people until finally they were delivered to the Promise Land. When the Hip Hop Generation finds it own Moses. And ceases to worship the Golden Calf of hedonism. Then perhaps Brother X’s faith will be rekindled.
I wanted to say many other things but time prevents it.
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Zombies Live a Life After Death
Sharif, peace and blessings,
I think your analysis is strikingly clear. And like you, I am quite uncertain about Hip Hops imminent demise. I will agree indeed that it has lost its cultural vitality. It has long ceased to be an underground moving current of black life and culture. It has become a stagnant pool for the worse kinds of social ills that tragically affect African-American communities — broken homes, drug distribution and addiction, murder and mayhem. That sort of culture is now far from underground, it is all over TV programming and like basketball and other money-making sports our youth are willing to sell their souls to prove who can do and let escape from their mouths the most outrageous inanities.
While I was catching the 44 bus yesterday on the way to St. Mary’s, last Wednesday, I overheard a conversation between two teenage girls in which they were publicly denouncing their parents in the most vulgar terms — calling them MFs and other names; and worst, evaluating their parents in monetary and the grossest materialist terms. There was no hint whatsoever of reverence or respect for their parents or any adult person. There were three adults standing or sitting nearby and it was as if we were invisible or non-existent. I had the urge to say something, but remained silent and said nothing.
I am certain such behavior would not have been possible a generation ago. You are absolutely right about the generations of the 40s and the 60s — that even in their rebellions against the previous generation they retained a measure of respect and deference and understanding that they needed something of the past, of family life on which to build something new and better and more wonderful. But for the so-called Hip Hop Nation or Hip Hop Generation — there is a cultivation, it seems, of disconnectedness, of relativism (all is valueless) if Benjamins are not there to determine the value. Thus, the lack of respect for parents. Most of our parents are poor and poorly educated by modern standards and thus are out of the loop of having any Benjamins or, for that matter, Lincolns.
My Dear Brother, Hip Hop may indeed be dead. But it’s the Walking Dead. Like Zombies, it lives even in its death and there are none strong enough to end its misery and give it the final death blow. For it has been discovered that Hip Hop like drugs can be used for social control, especially to manipulate the poor and the powerless. And Big Money and Big Power will make sure that it continues to molest and make havoc in our communities.
But we have to do more than criticize. We have to come up with cultural alternatives, that which will win the hearts and minds and loyalties of our youth and our communities. We need a music and cultural elements of hope and struggle. The enemies of our communities must be pointed out and at this point they tend to be ourselves. We cannot struggle with the crotches of our pants around our knees; nor can we struggle when our most educated and talented have the basic sentiments of thugs and drug dealers, namely, “What’s in it for me?”
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Styling Profiling and DyingBusinesspeopleBlack, Hispanic and whitecontinue to shout down the potential of many of our youth with the voice of you need THIS product to be cool. I recently stopped by one of my local, storefront hip hop clothing stores, just to keep up on the latest fashions. Never did I realize that so much money was being made by The Tribe of Dollars. Hats going for $25 to $50complete with appropriate gang colors and logosmany of them sports oriented. Oversized T shirts being snapped up for $10 a throw. Plus, what thugg (my personal spelling choice) of the future would not be complete with the various belt buckles, cash wads (yes, they DO sell themLOL), plus jeans, jackets and jerseysright down to Lil G sizes. It costs a lot to slouch into the criminal look, these days. Heres another one: local gas stations have become a boutique of sorts for gang wear. Some of them sell the oversized T-shirts, bandanas, and other assorted gang wear at lower prices but cheaper quality. Gas stations have to be diverse to make a buck from the gang crowd in more ways that one. A few years back, blunting became the rage. A blunt is a cigar that is center filled with marijuana by an individual in order to mask the smell of weed. (Unfortunately, because of the make-up of the cigar in the first place, the weed tends to stay in the system longer, thus ensuring positive drug test results.) Many gas stations were reluctant to sell cigarsbut more and more local customers demanded them. With a shrug of the shoulders, large and small cigars became a part of the inventory at many stations. . . .
While the Rap/Hip Hop industry has been experiencing plummeting sales for the last five years, sales of jerseys, caps, and T-shirts have been climbing upwards. The dream machine of cable, HD, Hollywood, and various and sundry television and movie shows have been developing and releasing a constant stream of youth clad in gang colors pass many pairs of anxious eyeballs. Though the public has put up some small amount of protest, the media kabal continues to pushin 24 news cycle fashionthose items that make one hip and happening. Even the latest video games have the inclusion of character bad guysmainly Blacks or Hispanicsclad in what the entertainment industry believes to be gang attire based upon their focus groups and field research. Pro sports has been putting up a mild protest about how some gangs have been using their merchandise as a means of flagging loyalty to their local gang or crew. (30 June 2008)Mike Ramey, a Street Gang Specialist, consultant, trainer and Lead Instructor of THE GANG LINE, based in Indianapolis, Indiana. RameysGangLine@yahoo.com
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Mockingbirds at Jerusalem (poetry Manuscript)
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#1 – Justify My Thug by Wahida Clark #2 – Flyy Girl by Omar Tyree #3 – Head Bangers: An APF Sexcapade by Zane #4 – Life Is Short But Wide by J. California Cooper #5 – Stackin’ Paper 2 Genesis’ Payback by Joy King #6 – Thug Lovin’ (Thug 4) by Wahida Clark #7 – When I Get Where I’m Going by Cheryl Robinson #8 – Casting the First Stone by Kimberla Lawson Roby #9 – The Sex Chronicles: Shattering the Myth by Zane
#10 – Covenant: A Thriller by Brandon Massey
#11 – Diary Of A Street Diva by Ashley and JaQuavis
#12 – Don’t Ever Tell by Brandon Massey
#13 – For colored girls who have considered suicide by Ntozake Shange
#14 – For the Love of Money : A Novel by Omar Tyree
#15 – Homemade Loves by J. California Cooper
#16 – The Future Has a Past: Stories by J. California Cooper
#17 – Player Haters by Carl Weber
#18 – Purple Panties: An Eroticanoir.com Anthology by Sidney Molare
#19 – Stackin’ Paper by Joy King
#20 – Children of the Street: An Inspector Darko Dawson Mystery by Kwei Quartey
#21 – The Upper Room by Mary Monroe
#22 Thug Matrimony by Wahida Clark
#23 – Thugs And The Women Who Love Them by Wahida Clark
#24 – Married Men by Carl Weber
#25 – I Dreamt I Was in Heaven – The Rampage of the Rufus Buck Gang by Leonce Gaiter
#1 – Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable #2 – Confessions of a Video Vixen by Karrine Steffans #3 – Dear G-Spot: Straight Talk About Sex and Love by Zane #4 – Letters to a Young Brother: MANifest Your Destiny by Hill Harper #5 – Peace from Broken Pieces: How to Get Through What You’re Going Through by Iyanla Vanzant #6 – Selected Writings and Speeches of Marcus Garvey by Marcus Garvey #7 – The Ebony Cookbook: A Date with a Dish by Freda DeKnight #8 – The Isis Papers: The Keys to the Colors by Frances Cress Welsing #9 – The Mis-Education of the Negro by Carter Godwin Woodson
#10 – John Henrik Clarke and the Power of Africana History by Ahati N. N. Toure
#11 – Fail Up: 20 Lessons on Building Success from Failure by Tavis Smiley
#12 –The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander
#13 – The Black Male Handbook: A Blueprint for Life by Kevin Powell
#14 – The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates by Wes Moore
#15 – Why Men Fear Marriage: The Surprising Truth Behind Why So Many Men Can’t Commit by RM Johnson
#16 – Black Titan: A.G. Gaston and the Making of a Black American Millionaire by Carol Jenkins
#17 – Brainwashed: Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority by Tom Burrell
#18 – A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose by Eckhart Tolle
#19 – John Oliver Killens: A Life of Black Literary Activism by Keith Gilyard
#20 – Alain L. Locke: The Biography of a Philosopher by Leonard Harris
#21 – Age Ain’t Nothing but a Number: Black Women Explore Midlife by Carleen Brice
#22 – 2012 Guide to Literary Agents by Chuck Sambuchino #23 – Chicken Soup for the Prisoner’s Soul by Tom Lagana #24 – 101 Things Every Boy/Young Man of Color Should Know by LaMarr Darnell Shields
#25 – Beyond the Black Lady: Sexuality and the New African American Middle Class by Lisa B. Thompson
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Edited by Miriam DeCosta-Willis
Blacks in Hispanic Literature is a collection of fourteen essays by scholars and creative writers from Africa and the Americas. Called one of two significant critical works on Afro-Hispanic literature to appear in the late 1970s, it includes the pioneering studies of Carter G. Woodson and Valaurez B. Spratlin, published in the 1930s, as well as the essays of scholars whose interpretations were shaped by the Black aesthetic. The early essays, primarily of the Black-as-subject in Spanish medieval and Golden Age literature, provide an historical context for understanding 20th-century creative works by African-descended, Hispanophone writers, such as Cuban Nicolás Guillén and Ecuadorean poet, novelist, and scholar Adalberto Ortiz, whose essay analyzes the significance of Negritude in Latin America. This collaborative text set the tone for later conferences in which writers and scholars worked together to promote, disseminate, and critique the literature of Spanish-speaking people of African descent. . . . Cited by a literary critic in 2004 as “the seminal study in the field of Afro-Hispanic Literature . . . on which most scholars in the field ‘cut their teeth’.”
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By H. W. Brands
In Greenback Planet, acclaimed historian H. W. Brands charts the dollar’s astonishing rise to become the world’s principal currency. Telling the story with the verve of a novelist, he recounts key episodes in U.S. monetary history, from the Civil War debate over fiat money (greenbacks) to the recent worldwide financial crisis. Brands explores the dollar’s changing relations to gold and silver and to other currencies and cogently explains how America’s economic might made the dollar the fundamental standard of value in world finance. He vividly describes the 1869 Black Friday attempt to corner the gold market, banker J. P. Morgan’s bailout of the U.S. treasury, the creation of the Federal Reserve, and President Franklin Roosevelt’s handling of the bank panic of 1933. Brands shows how lessons learned (and not learned) in the Great Depression have influenced subsequent U.S. monetary policy, and how the dollar’s dominance helped transform economies in countries ranging from Germany and Japan after World War II to Russia and China today. He concludes with a sobering dissection of the 2008 world financial debacle, which exposed the power–and the enormous risks–of the dollar’s worldwide reign. The Economy
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From The World and Africa, 1965
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posted 20 October 2007 / update 15 December 2011