Hip Hop Commentary

Hip Hop
and the
New Age of Ignorance
by Adissa Banjoko

Today Hip Hop culture has by all measures reached in zenith. People on virtually all continents people are engaging in all the elements of Hip Hop culture, with rap being at the forefront. Hip Hop culture sells clothes, cars, fast food, kids toys and all kinds of things most people never thought would have any relationship to Hip Hop. The African oral tradition that were the roots of rap music have spawned arguably some of the most prolific, most original and most soul stirring albums of all times.

Yet under the surface of Hip Hops "success" runs a thread of ignorance that if continued upon could potentially fracture the entire framework of the life giving qualities of this art.

This thread is known as jahiliyyah (jah-hill-ee-yah), it's Arabic for ignorance. In Hip Hop a lot of us TALK about knowledge, and the importance of holding onto it. But the truth is, many people in Hip Hop embrace ignorance much more readily. When most people use the term jahiliyyah, they are talking about the " age of ignorance" as it realities to the Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him). The original jahiliyyah age took place in the land of Saudi Arabia and the surrounding lands prior to the coming of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).

During that time, the people of that land were very courageous. They were acknowledged by the Greeks to be some of the most trustworthy people of their time. If a jahili Arab took and oath, for better or worse one knew it would kept. In Hip Hop, one of the most common phrases is "word". It's used as an affirmation that one has spoken the truth. People always talk about their "word is my bond", "thats my word ya'll" etc. The power ones word in Hip Hop is unmatched.

On the other hand, there were many things about the jahiliyyah age that were not good. The men of that time were very territorial. All ones dealings were based on which area you were from, and your blood ties to various individuals.

Taking the most basic look at Hip Hop culture, one can see how much the territorialism and clan affiliation permeate the art. One of the earliest and most popular reflections of this mind set are seen in the Boogie Down Production song "South Bronx" and the track by MC Shan "The Bridge" (which championed the Queens area of NY. Other records that express jahili terriorialism include "Straight Outta Compton", "New York, New York", "LA, LA" and "Welcome to Atlanta"and almost any song by the Westside Connection. Many years later this poetic battle of territorialism would have deadly impact as the east/west rhyme "war" escalated. It would go on to claim the lives 2Pac and Biggie Smalls. Nevertheless, the jahiliyyah mind sent permeates the Black ghettoes of America. Today we see it in the on going battle between Jay-Z and Nas.

Ask any Black man you know about the stress of strolling into a neighborhood that they do not belong in. The first question they are asked is "N!##@ where are you from"? The wrong answer can have painful and many times deadly consequences. The only thing that can save a man in this situation is strong clan ties to someone of that territory. Answers like "Oh, me? Man, I'm from Frisco but do any of ya'll know T-Money? That my cousin"! Strong blood ties are generally the only thing that can save a young man from a serious beat down, robbery or murder.

Another facet of jahili culture was heavy disrespect of women. During the age prior to Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), couples preferred boys over girl. People were prone to bury their new born daughters alive, rather than carry the "burden" of having a daughter. In Hip Hop, women are not buried alive physically, but verbally and visually. Every time these rap songs with the words b!@# and h@# get rotation on the radio waves and TV screens they burn away the self esteem of women world wide. Some men believe that slapping a woman is "keeping it real", because of how a lot of rappers act. A lot of rap encourages women not to think, not educate themselves, not to put Gods word above mans, not love themselves and to not expect respect from their men. Much of Hip Hop music promotes that women prefer being a physical play toy. Unfortunately, more and more women are embracing these same philosophies, believing that being sexually loose is what makes women truly "powerful". Lil Kim, Foxy Brown and countless others reflect the females jahili mind.

Materialism was another big issue of those times. People were consumed with having gold trinkets, and showing off in public what their financial clout was. In Hip Hop we have the "bling bling" era. It's about the cars, the gold teeth the clothing brand- all jahili traditions. In truth, Hip Hop is so materialistic it borders idol worship. It reminds me of a passage in the Bible that says "Some boast of horses and of chariots, but we boast the name of the Lord". Materialism is another deadly trend many of us in Hip Hop celebrate, or silently champion through staying quiet about it's dangers. This is not to say that people should not seek to make money in Hip Hop. They certainly should. But showing off to degrade others is not needed, andit makes us look foolish to the outside world.

During the jahiliyyah era, some of the most powerful people were the poets. The poets of every clan would make songs of pleasure, love, war and hate at will. All the tribal leaders were hoped to be in good standing with the poets. If they ridiculed you, your integrity as a leader could be in jeopardy.

Our poets of today have power. However while in years back Public Enemy used their voice to encourage people to "Fight the Power", many of today's rappers use their mics to inspire the young to pursue frivolous paths of materialism, mindless violence and sexual conquest. Very few champion loving God and your neighbor. Once The Prophet (PBUH) said, "(Religious) knowledge will be taken away (by the death of religious scholars) ignorance (in religion) and afflictions will appear; and Harj will increase." It was asked, "What is Harj, O Allah's Apostle?" He replied by beckoning with his hand indicating "killing." Our religious scholars are not all dead litterally- but mentally. We don't think of them and look to them as we should. And still, others have been killed off by haters of the truth. There is a serious imbalance in the kind of Hip Hop that is not just played on the radios and TV's, but even a lot of the "underground" Hip Hop has lost it's consciousness and brought in some jahili elements. I believe that it's time for us to change, or possibly lose this beautiful art all together.

By the time the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) had finished his time on earth, he had unified all the Arabian peninsula. The age of ignorance was gone and the status of women had been redeemed. The peoples quest for materialism, tribalism and frivolous entertainment was erased. It was replaced with a new faith in God, and respect for humankind.

After reaching the ghettoes of American, Islam straightened up some of it's worst citizens and turned them into some of it's best. Malcolm X is a perfect example, but there are countless others. If people in Hip Hop truly want to grow, the might think about following his lead by emulating his actions, rather than just buying a t-shirt with his words or face on it.

Unless we rid Hip Hop of the jahiliyyah elements, we can only expect more of your sharp minded but misguided youth to perish over territorialism, materialism and pursuit of the sensual path. I pray that Allah guides us better. I think that many of the Hip Hop Summits led by Min. Farakhan, Min. Ben Muhammad and Russell Simmons are a great step in helping to stop much of the infighting and drama in Hip Hop. Also, please do not think that this is a harsh critique of the beautiful culture of Hip Hop. I love Hip Hop, if I didn't, I would not be sharing my concerns with you. Hip Hop is great. But it could be so much more of a life giving force than it is. The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said "Beware of suspicion, for suspicion is the worst of false tales; and do not look for the others' faults and do not spy, and do not be jealous of one another, and do not desert (cut your relation with) one another, and do not hate one another". I don't hate you, I love you. It is my prayer that we all shed this new age of ignorance, soon.

For more information on the jahiliyyah age and how it was turned around, you can visit alhambraproductions.com and get the tape set "The Life of the Prophet (PBUH)", by Hamza Yusef. You can also visit www.zaytuna.org.

This article is dedicated to anyone who has died in pursuit of spreading the truth, and helping to manifest peace.

By: Adisa Banjoko "The Bishop of Hip Hop"


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