The FNV Newsletter
In Today's Issue: JUNE 25 2002


Send comments, questions and concerns to

The FNV Newsletter
written by Davey D

c 2002 All Rights Reserved


I got a chance to catch up with author Bakari Kitwana the other day
when he swung through the Bay Area.  This former political editor
for the Source Magazine has been causing quite a stir as of late
with the release of his new book 'The Hip Hop Generation: Young
Blacks and the Crisis in African American Culture' which deals
with Hip Hop's emerging political movement.  Its a good read and
something I highly recommend.  I shot off a number of questions for
  Bakari.  Here are his responses for you to ponder over...

DAVEY D: What is the overall premis of your book?  What do you feel
are the most important chapters in this book that readers should
really pay attention to..?

BAKARI KITWANA: The Hip-Hop Generation: Young Blacks and the Crisis in
African American Culture is an exploration of the major social and
political forces that have shaped the generation of African Americans
born between 1965 and 1984.  Basically, I'm concerned with what I call
the new crises in African American Culture: racial disparites when it
comes to incarceration, education, employment in post-segregation

Also part of the crises is the negative impact of the globalization of
the economy on young Blacks in the 80s and 90s as well as the postive
and negative impacts of the civil rights and Black power movements on
the hip-hop generation in terms of the types of activism and politics
we are and aren't seeing amongst the younger generation of African
Americans.  Finally things like the economic success of hip-hop
alongside the anti-Black and anti-Women lyrics and images, the
generation gap, and the new war of the sexes are also explored.

If I had to choose which chapters I want readers to pay most attention
to, I'd say the second half of the book, which is more solution
oriented.  In the final three chapters, I discuss activism in the
hip-hop generation, the politics of the hip-hop generation and ways of
setting forth a political agenda that could begin to resolve some of
the crisis facing our generation.

My belief is that the economic
success of hip-hop as well as the infastructure created by hip-hop as
a cultural movement will provide this generation of African Americans
a formidible foundation upon which to build a political movement in
our lifetime as hip-hop makes a transition from a cultural force to a
political one in the days ahead.

DD:-How would you define the Hip Hop Generation?

BK: I define the hip-hop generation as young African Americans born
between 1965 and 1984, not to be confused with the hip-hop nation --
all those down with hip-hop whether industry insiders or average kid
on the block, regardless of age, race, sex.

DD: What do you feel is the most pressing issue facing the Hip Hop

BK: If I had to choose, I would say employment and unemployment
issues.  The civil rights and Black power movements were great gains
for African Americans -- Giants Steps.  But we haven't taken a giant
step in race relations in this country since mid 60s and early 1970s.
For our parents generation you could be working class and if you had a
job that job could afford you a living wage, benefits, a home,
vacation, etc.  For our generation if you are working class and have a
job that is not a reality.  We, the hip-hop generation came of age
with very limited options in terms of employment.  Those of us, the
majority, who were unable to go to college were left with the option
of securing employment in the military or in the low wage service
industry.  A handful of lucky few might find employment as
professional entertainers or athletes.  This situation alongside
substandard education provided to urban America, where most hip-hop
generationers reside, is at the root of the great racial disparities
of our time.  Until we as a nation are able to address the crisis of
education and employment these racial disparities will persist and we
can expect another urban upheaval of LA riots and Cincinnati riots
proportions at least every decade.

DD: Are the most pressing issues facing the Hip Hop generation
different from the issues facing Hip Hop artists?  ie Prison Industry
Complex vs East/West Coast beef.

BK Hip-hop artists who came of age in post-segregation America face
the same political and social issues as other hip-hop generationers.
Most certainly as a group of workers, rap artists have unique issues,
but when it comes to the pressing political issues of our time, most
rappers, even in their lyrics speak to the issues of incarceration,
education, employment, war of the sexes, generation gap -- even if
they don't do so directly.

DD: If there is a difference how to the two groups and issues come
together to collectively resolve things..

BK: The Hip-Hop Action Network is unique in that it is trying to do a
balancing act between rap artists interest as a special interest group
and hip-hop generationers interest as a voting bloc.  I think that at
some point if the group is going to be effective as a political
organization it will have to put the political issues first and the
special interest industry issues second.  I think that is happening
more and more, especially with things like the recent education
protest they were involved in in NYC.  But prior to that most of the
issues where they were most outspoken were around industry concerns of
free-speech and censorship -- issues that are far less priorities to
the hip-hop generation as a whole when you look at the field of issues
that scream for social change.

DD: Right now it looks like Russell Simmons may run for office. What
other prominent figures in Hip Hop do you see headed in that

BK: I think that as hip-hop's cultural movement gives way to an
emerging political movement, we'll see rap industry insiders giving
more support to activist politicians who came of age heavily influence
by hip-hop more so then actual artists spearheading this movement for
social change.  Folks like Ras Baraka, Conrad Muhammad and others who
have spent the last decade or so building activist groups and honing
their skills for political leadership as well as forging alliances
with the hip-hop community are those who will fare the best in terms
of running for office.  I don't see masses of rappers turning to
politicians.  That to me is the stuff of fantasy, though a few may
certainly turn that corner.

Rap artists and professional athletes under the influence of hip-hop
who came of age in this generation certainly have a roll to play in
terms of contributing funds to political campaigns and movements and
using their influence to get young folks to turn out to support
candidates that support our issues, but to expect rappers to be our
political leaders is a bit political naive I think and simultaneously
undermines the important expertise that hip-hop generationers who have
honed their activist and political skills over the last decade or so
perparing for political leadership.

DD: -How would you compare the activism and political direction of
groups like Public Enemey, KRS-One, X-Clan and others from the current
efforts put forth by today's Hip Hop activists?  How come we have not
seen the two movements effectively merge?

BK: Much of the political lyrics of rap groups like PE and X-Clan,
KRS-One, Poor Righteous Teachers and countless others was the stuff of
soundbites.  It doesn't take much insight to drop a political lyric,
to sample a Malcolm X or Farrakhan or Khallid Muhammad speech, to
parrot a Kwame Toure quote, but to fashion a political perspective
takes years.  I don't think that political artists today, such as the
Coup, the Goodie Mobb, Common, Lauryn Hill are any more political or
saying anything any more revolutionary than those of the earlier

I think what we see happening now is that for the first these
political artists are co-existing and hooking up with activist and
political thinkers of our generation who have come of age, who have
spent the last decade or more building organizations and developing
concrete political perspectives around issues that matter most to our
generation.  More and more, I think we will see these efforts

DD: In your book you speak about the generation gap?  What do you
think caused it?  How will it be bridged?  Is there another gap
emerging within Hip Hop ie KRS vs Nelly?

BK: The generation gap is real.  Part of what has caused it is a
failure of the older generation to nuture political leadership in the
hip-hop generation, to place young hip-hop generationers in old guard
Black groups and in mainstream politics in influential leadership,
decision making positions.  Part of the generation gap has to do with
the fact that the globalization of the economy has left older folk in
the work force longer, so rather than retire, even in political
positions, the older generation is in competition with the younger
generation for jobs and positions and this too creates animosity.
Part of the problem is that the younger generation feels that the
older generation failed us when it came to securing poltical power and
economic power for us as a race.

Finally, part of the problem is the
older generation doesn't accept that activism and politics and
movements for our generation will not take the exact same form as it
did for their generation, hence they dismiss us as an apolitical or
complacent generation -- which too breeds animosity.

In the Hip-Hop Generation I address how this gap can be bridge.  Most
importantly both generations need to understand more about the younger
generation and where we fit in the ages-long struggle for African
American empowerment in this country.  The hip-hop generation is very
influential and very critical to the future of Black America, but it
is a little understood and often misunderstood generation.  Finally,
we cannot really move forward in terms of solving some of these major
social problems of our time, until these generation gap issues are

As for Nelly and KRS-One, I think that is less a generation gap, more
usual hip-hop rivalry and battle rapping and the timeless hip-hop
debate of what is real hip-hop or commercial vs underground.

DD: At a recent conference in San Jose a white kid proudly stood up
and asserted that Hip Hop used to be Black Culture..  but now its ours
[whites].  He was obviously referring to the large number of white
kids who not only are fans but also who are active in various facets
of Hip Hop?  How do you see things?  Have Black people lost Hip Hop or
was it ever ours in the first place?

BK: No one can dispute that hip-hop culture is dominated by Black
cultural forms.  It is useful I think folks to think of hip-hop
culture as a sub culture of Black youth culture.  Part of the problem
here is that folks are getting caught up on the media advanced idea
that white kids are hip-hop's largest buying audience, an idea that
hasn't been proven with hard statistical data.  Soundscan doesn't
record demographic data, so any projections of white kids buying most
rap records is just conjecture.  Further with bootleg cds everywhere,
music being downloaded via the internet this stuff becomes even more
difficult to quantify.

What isn't difficult to grasp is the elements of hip-hop that come out
of Black cultural forms from language use to other Black cultural
music forms that predate and inform hip-hop.  What isn't difficult to
grasp is the impact that hip-hop has had on Black kids across the
country in terms of putting us all on the same page.  Because of
hip-hop as a cultural movement, Black kids in LA, San Francisco, NYC,
Denmark, SC, Champaign, IL, and every major and minor city in between
are on the same page, are using the same colloquial language are
getting together to party or bomb shit or breakdance or protest some
anti- youth issue in the name of hip-hop.  sure other racial ethnic
groups are doing the same, sometimes cross-culturally, but that
doesn't make hip-hop white American culture no matter how mainstream
it might get.  Given we live in an age where image is everything,
hip-hop has been so widely identified as a Black form, I think it will
be impossible for the image to ever be divorced from young African
Americans.  I don't think hip-hop will go the way of rock and roll or
jazz or blues.

DD:-Back in the early days Blacks and Latinos were together when Hip
Hop was birthed.  But now we have Latin Hip Hop as exemplified by
Cypress Hill, Kid Frost and many others..  with the exeception of
artists like Fat Joe, the Late Big Pun or the Beatnuts you rarely see
Latin Hip Hop artists and Black Hip Hop artist on the same bill..  why
the seperation?

BK: I think the separation has a lot to do with the fact that as
hip-hop has moved from NYC and LA strongholds, it enters many cities
where Blacks and Latinos don't have the strong connections to one
another as they do in New York in LA. Aside from that, I don't know
if the separation is so much a conscious decision as much as a
coincidence.  In this era, many artists seem to put more emphasis on
music than on politics, even cultural politics and coalition building
are not at the top of the agenda and are too often an afterthought if
thought of at all.

DD: What steps should true Hip Hop headz be taking to really change
the current direction of Hip Hop?

BK: I think that true hip-hop headz need to jump into this current
discussion and reality of hip-hop's transition from a cultural
movement to a political one.  Hip-Hop's transition to politics is
inevitable.  The question is one type of politics will it be?  Only
those at the table will be ableto answer that question.  We can change
our social reality and the foundations of the civil rights and Black
power movements, alongside the economic success of hip hop and the
infastructure created by hip-hop's cultural movement gives us all the
tools needed to do so.  The question is do we have the wherewithal and
the vision to do the right thing?  We can change our reality if we
really believe that we can.

When I worked at Third World Press in the early 1990s, Haki Madhubuti
had a handpainted sign hanging in his office that read "We can do what
we work to do."  That is what many folks in the Black power movement
believed and that is what helped them transform their reality.  We can
and must believe the same.  We now have a movement emerging around
many of crisis issues.  We have a student activist movement emerging
on college campuses around hip-hop and politics, which we see in
efforts like the University of Wisconsin- Madison conference and
hip-hop student organizations emerging on college campuses as well as
courses being taught on hip-hop -- all of which have a political
dimension to them.  We have a hip-hop political movement emerging
amongst hip-hop generation politician and grass roots activists at the
local level as well.  What's missing is a national organization, on
the level of an Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee or Black
Panthers that can begin to give these local movements legitimacy and
strengthen their resolve.  The Hip-Hop Action Network is the first
organization that's stepped out there at the national level.  It needs
more hip-hop generationers in it's leadership, which I think would
shift it's focus a bit, but it's a start and all we have at this
point.  I believe in the days ahead we will see hip-hop heads
supporting and build such national organizations.

DD: How should the Hip Hop generation be seeing the War on Terrorism?
One one hand you have guys like Boots, dead prez, Jahi, Nas, Paris and
numerous others who have spoken out against US Policies.  On the other
hand you have you have guys like Hammer, Suge Knight, Wu-Tang Mystikal
and others who have either wrapped themselves in the flag or have
expressed support for our stance?  Is there room for the Hip Hop
generation to embrace booth perspectives or is one of these
perspectives completely off base and the people embracing them need to
be educated?  If so how do we go about doing that?

BK: The war on terrorism is a very dangerous thing for Freedom Loving
people.  Any time a group of people are stereotyped as one thing,
terrorists for example, you open up the road for a replay of the same
stereotypes that African Americans still can't escape from.  Any
African American that would buy into that has lost sight on history
and is out of touch with reality.  However, we must make a distinction
between being patriotic and accepting undemocratic and unjust

As African Americans we must find a way to explain our patriotism and
understand policies that attack ourselves and all people at a human
rights level.  This struggle to be American and preserve our
Blackness, which is often underattack in racist America is something
WEB Dubois spoke to nearly a century ago in his The Souls of Black
folk in what he called "double consciousness."  Unfortunately in our
relationship to America, things haven't changed very much in that
area.  However when it comes to the hip-hop generation emerging as a
voting block and actualizing political power in our life time that
reality could change.  We can and must make America more accountable
to us and our issues.  If we are effective at doing this when it comes
not just to incarceration and employment and education, but when it
comes to issues like foreign policy, then the contradictions will no
longer seem so vast.


[home] [articles] [davey d boards] [what is hip hop? ]
[politics] [record reviews] [photos] [links] [media]

this site is produced by Davey D in association with eLine Productions

Please note.. This site looks and operates best in
Internet Explorer
i.e. You will not see scrolling text and other features in Netscape!