Hip-hop, what does it mean to you? To me it represents struggle and progress, as well as self expression and rhythm; rhythm which can ease or concentrate suffering. ‘The right music either makes you forget everything, or remember everything’ summarises music’s volatile nature.
Hip-hop largely involves the hustle aspect: inspiration and motivation to smile in the face of adversity. In my opinion, everyone working has a hustle – it’s not just for rappers or black market workers (who work hard enough as it is, to make the best of a bad situation; law enforcement should really think more about context and what causes, I mean root causes, the ‘criminal’/individual to do crime). Sure hustling can be the fun side (sex, weed, alcohol, travel, and other rewards of what the multi-layered formulae for success/attainment) but it also incorporates a relatively stubborn rebellion: hustlers,for the most part, ignore external constraints/comments/compliments/ego/opinion/media or whatever other ‘noise’ is encouraging people to change for the worse or give up on their dreams. You also should try to avoid settling, my personal checklist for success involves coming as near as possible to my initial goal; not discarding it in favour of an easy option when things get tough. Joey badass said “if it don’t touch my spirit//Then I don’t get near it” therefore one can realise that if your gut says its wrong it probably is.
Do what you like and follow your instinct because you will naturally gravitate to what’s yours and what you like, and the people that don’t see the vision don’t matter or are complacent for their own reasons which need evaluation. Don’t stop people dancin just coz u can’t hear the show: optimists tend to have a relatively cheesy union in that they are aware of the suffering but look on the bright side anyway. People fail, then they can bounce back, learn, adapt, grow n evolve. Hip hop nicely shows this entrepreneurial spirit through the artists & content (increasingly holisitic; for instance the rise in popularity of interviews/behind the scenes aspects of artists’ lifestyles). One can consider one’s contribution to society, hours worked, discipline, routine and early rises despite difficulty and resistance from your own mind and body (all been there ay), and money earned or responsibility taken on. The hustle highlights that we all have choices, if your cumulative choices happen to have landed you in hot water and employment prospects are knocked by crime or what-not then it’s still respectable: you can be a dustbin man with dignity and support yourself and family because atleast you’re making ends meet in your own way.
The music which can make you remember everything is, obviously subjective, likely to be a tougher more personal time. It can also broaden the genre and explore different themes. For me it just reminds me I’ve come a long way from smoking in the playground and doing other stupid shit. There are a whole array of negative experiences or events/fights/verbal insults/shit teachers n schools/injuries/accidents/break ups/losses of loved ones and friends that music reminds me of, but I prefer not to dwell on them too long. Instead I acknowledge the emotions, but don’t often act on them, let them pass and then crack on with other responsibilities. But I also feel glad, in a weird way, that some of the bs has happened because cliche as it is I’m stronger because of it and I now know to scrutinise the company I keep or role models I look up to/idolise.
It can assure you that you are not the only one experiencing the turmoil you’re going through temporarily; the artist’s gradual progression through emotions and experiences within an album, for instance, can parallel that as humans we cannot feel one emotion forever and that whatever plagues you currently will also pass. This seemingly passive mindframe takes self-control and patience to handle your business (to stop shit getting worse) and maintain (to ensure you’re prepared for when life shifts for the better again). Moreover, it can put things in perspective: sure there are plenty of people doing better than you, well for me there currently are but it of course depends on your inherited socio-economic circumstances, there are also plenty of people doing much worse. So music, and the people pushing it, encourages a ‘keep your chin up’ sorta worldview.
We may look in the same direction but you’ll never see what I see. If you’ve been a lifelong fan of hip-hop it’s likely it’s because you grew up in a neighborhood which prompted you to like hip-hop because of what you’ve seen, where you’ve been, what you didn’t have, the hunger the struggle, and the conditions that seem to be worse due to elitist manifestations of Capitalism. Sure, school & healthcare’s shiter than our more affluent counterparts but 1) you can fight for better opportunities such as educational meritocracy, arguably the most rewarding and insightful route , n’ skill-acquistion can take place in any educational establishment such as training/vocational experience at college/sixthform/work experience or placements/internships/apprenticeships where you learn on the job all are good hustles, respectable positions and a way of bettering yourself not being swallowed by self pity or doubt. Yes it’s a fight but if it was easy everyone would do it, and the road to progress is not without pain: you will be hurt/fucked over many times in this crazy journey that is life but the key is bouncing back, I really emphasise that yes reality can seem tragic but your perception of reality is pivotal: I’d rather acknowledge rain and use it to appreciate the sun more and have the composure to willfully remain optimistic (a choice; like i mentioned before despite the difficulty we all relentlessly have & make choices) than be pessimistic because of what has been and gone; if you change nothing nothing changes so I guess the world needs more dreamers to imagine new possibilities; imagination is a key word for vision and subjective enforcement of what you want for your better self and the betterment of society in an absolute gain sort of sense (Google it). Whilt one does not need external validation, it is also very understandable, and difficult to empathise with if you have not first-hand experienced it, 2) It shapes who you are and how you think: this, for me, has meant I remember my roots, stay humble, be relatively modest and predominantly deter from ostentatious purchases out of respect for other and to seek to purchase goods with function and value to justify their price (but, we are all socialised to like nice things and sometimes a reward for hard work is a good incentive for productivity so moderation is the point here),stay very vividly aware of the different components and classes in society, seek to give back and share what I’ve learnt with my community and promote education’s key role in enlightenment (if you know better you do better, and have more human capital to enact change within an elitist system), struggle, hustle, seek and get legislative improvements on access to opportunity, and anyway which can erode class divisions or promote self-improvement and gratitude.
We’re all equal, yet diverse. Diversity can manifest as some maybe having a little more than others (in a sort of anarcho-capitalist society) yet atleast adjust the scarcity/availability of resources, poor consumer choices, greedy/exploitative/immoral TNCs n their conduct, social norms and belief systems can alter to have a fairer sense of competition, and in a healthy way whereby I seek to be better than the me of yesterday not better than my neighbour.
Hip hop helped teach me that if you can’t change something you can change your attitude to it. And, you can re-distribute wealth as the pilot of your own journey: instead of buying costly clothes to show off and pretend to other working-class people that we are not working class we can buy our mothers groceries or help with bills: regardless of class priorites can be re-established and adhered to. There should also be less media stigma or enforcement of irritating stereotypes like working class people being lazy or defective in some other form: streetsmarts account for a lot and there is the possible to nurture education which was not ‘naturally’ (or inherited) there.
To advance on the ramblings of hip hop and place class at the forefront once more: it also works both ways: I have learnt over time that just as my conditions/lack of a ‘silver spoon’ are not up to me, middle class members of society are not to be faulted for their parents traits either (they too should educate themselves and form opinions for themselves, they should not have a falsely conceived image of superiority though and it’s a God-damn shame some socialites treat their dogs better than the working class whom wait and cater for them. Being obnoxious is both unnecessary and misplaced because one should acknowledge everyone’s role in society: just because someone is on a lower wage does not mean they are not just as integral to the collective functioning (of society and humanity). I believe it links back to gratitude really and understanding things at deeper than face value. So take it easy, be inclusive & work toward a future you’d like to see instead of solely complaining about the present conditions. As my mate nicely put it: “it’s up to each one of us individually to cast off the shackles of society to be free” which summarizes, despite a slight tension in my opinion because I do not whole-heartedly think we are merely individuals and my politics involves slightly more communal values and policies at a national/global level, nonetheless that the grass is not always greener on the other side and one can make the best out of whatever situation, progress and learn about others’ views, not have too much of a ‘chip’ on your shoulder due to your socio-economic circustances, and understand everyone’s equality through seeing past social constructs like money or inherited land.
Anyways, back to hip hop. Key figures show that careers are long and painful things but can be a learning curve and can be very fruitful if one is planned and prepared. Take jay-z: he went from peddling to being a very credible businessman with many years in the industry (the HIP HOP one not just the other one lol) on his CV which shows your environment can be a product of you; not just the other way round. & Jay has now paved the way, the blueprint in a new sense – hip hop heads’ll get that one, for young artists to follow in his footsteps; he also owns all his means of production as well as runs his own record label so he can ensure proportional pay for his artists. Then there’s Kendrick Lamar who has mainstream appeal but doesn’t do it for that nor care about it and continues to say what the f**k he likes. There’s also chief keef who has been rich, poor, then back again but remained himself and still kept his long-term friendships and mannerisms. As Nas said, “Long live your idols, may they never be your rivals”: learn from the past There’s also Mac Miller who highlights you can work hard and play hard and be creative and playful at work too; put your own spin on shit and don’t feel you need to conform to succeed.
Here’s a banger to give you insight into the genre, the talent within it, and its complexity: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hRK7PVJFbS8 & in fact u may as well stream the whole of ‘To Pimp A Butterfly’ on spotify coz that whole album is gold.