As we get ready to head on into the 21st century, it's important that we clarify any misconceptions one may have of the great American art form we affectionately call Hip Hop. First things first-Hip Hop does not cause violence. Let me do my George Bush imitation. Read my lips and repeat after me- 'Hip Hop does not cause violence! One more time folks-say it loud like you mean it- Hip Hop does not cause violence. There's some of you out there reading this who will have a hard time doing this after all for a long time we've had the misinformed and malcontent running around stating the exact opposite. 'Hip Hop causes violence'. That was rapidly becoming the American mantra. Hip Hop has been everyone's convenient scapegoat. Everyone from former Senator and Presidential candidate Bob Dole to former Education Secretary William Bennett has blamed Hip Hop for staining the moral fabric of our society and corrupting our youth.
Headlines blare 'Fifteen kids got shot at Columbine High School in Colorado!' 'How could this happen'?, people ask. 'I know let's blame it on Hip Hop! Yeah that's the ticket! The killers were listening to Hip Hop music'. Tell me people weren't publicly saying this? A state trooper gets shot in Texas a few years back. It's a tragedy. Again people ask, 'How could this happen? Once again we blamed it on Hip Hop. In fact the late 2Pac Shakur found himself being sued because the cop killer was supposedly listening to one of his songs. People started saying things like 'It was that damn rap music that drove the killer crazy'. Politicians started advocating that retailers start placing all that so called violent Hip Hop behind the counter at retail outlets.
Over the years there has been a whole cottage industry that has sprouted up with people making a career blaming Hip Hop for society's violence. Newspapers have sold extra copies for splashing huge sensationalistic headlines like 'Hip Hop Causes Violence'. Television news stations have garnered extra viewers by doing shows and reports that focused on violence and Hip Hop. There have been Congressional hearings with Tipper Gore, activist C Delores Tucker and William Bennett. Numerous seminars and conferences focusing on this crisis have occurred. Even well funded academic studies centering on Hip Hop and violence are underway as we speak. At the end of the day, one could walk away concluding that once we tone down this thing called Hip Hop, the world would be more peaceful and serene place to live.
Well, as we head on into the 21st century, let's clear the air. We're gonna have to do a lot more then get rid of Hip Hop to get rid of violence. Violence and criminal mischief are part of the American landscape. It's our calling card. It's our apple pie. It's the one major ingredient that makes this country what it is today-a highly evolved nation that loves to act ill. It's important to say this and point all this out because there's some upset mainstream Hip Hop hating journalist who is feverishly working to cover his ass. There's some upset journalist or media outlet that has pontificated the evils of Hip Hop who are now scratching their heads trying to understand how thousands of crazy Rock-N-Roll fans went berserk the other night and damn near tried to torch down Rome, NY, the site of Woodstock '99. How in the world did a landmark gathering that symbolized Peace and Love become the scene of a violent inferno on it's 30th Anniversary?
Now I know and you know that some of these journalist wanted desperately to be able to spew out the headlines 'Ice Cube and DMX Cause Violent Burning, Out of Control Riot At Woodstock '99!'. Such a headline would've made good copy. It would've fit nicely with that mantra that says 'Hip Hop Causes Violence'. But such was not the case. Let's be honest. When I first heard about the Woodstock '99 riots, I kept praying that it wasn't some Hip Hop act at the center of it. I don't want no self righteous musical pundits pointing fingers at me boldly asserting 'See that's why we must ban Hip Hop'. I didn't want fearful club owners to abandon their Hip Hop Nights. I didn't want concerned radio stations to drop their slogans 'This Is Where Hip Hop lives'. I didn't want advertisers to disassociate themselves from the Hip Hop generation and I didn't want some opportunistic politician to come along and center his re-election campaign on the promise to get rid of Hip Hop. More importantly I didn't want some half ass parent who never provided their kid with proper home training, care and attention to blame Hip Hop in an attempt to cover up their poor parenting skills.
When I heard it was the Redhot Chili Peppers who were on when all this madness went down, I jumped up and down and started giving out high fives. I popped some champaign bottles, passed out cigars and called up all my friends and started yelling 'Thank God It wasn't Hip Hop causing all this mess!' Now I'm looking for the Hip Hop haters to see how they'll react. I'm watching to see what sort of spin they'll put on things. Perhaps they'll blame the violence on the hot weather. Or perhaps they'll say the violence was nothing more then youthful exuberance. In other words 'boys will be boys'. Perhaps some journalist will stretch a bit and still blame Hip Hop because groups like The Redhot Chili Peppers, Kid Rock, Limp Biscuit and others rap as well as sing.
Whatever the case, my guess is we will not hear some of the media outlets take any sort of responsibility for the things they did that helped highlight and encourage people to act violent. For example, do you think an outlet like MTV sees themselves as being a part of the mayhem when all weekend long they extensively covered and highlighted the ill behavior from these Woodstock '99 concert goers. I watched them do a feature on the how the 'beer drinkers' were fighting the 'mud people' I also saw them interview drunk concert goers who sometimes expressed themselves violently. They did these interviews and features in such a way that they not only normalized the off color behavior but they also made it seem fun. Can you imagine if MTV did the same tactic with two rival factions at a rap concert? Can you imagine Kurt Lowder doing a fun, zany interview about the intense rivalry between Crips and Bloods? Or could you imagine him interviewing some kid from the hood who was drunk off his ass from downing a 40 ounce who expressed himself violently? People would be up in arms and yelling about how MTV was irresponsible. But in this case, MTV was merely capturing the fun yet 'wild' mood at Woodstock '99.
As we move into the 21st century Hip Hop should no longer be the scapegoat for the latest manifestation of violence. Woodstock '99 should hopefully lay all that to rest. After watching all those crazy Rock-n-Roll fans damn near burn down what should of been a peaceful concert, I can blame a lot of folks but not Hip Hop. I can blame the media for highlighting, placating and damn near encouraging antisocial drunken, rowdy behavior among concert goers. I can blame the big record companies and music industry corporations who co-opted this event and made it a big money making venture minus the 'Peace Love and Freedom themes that gave birth to Woodstock thirty years ago.
My overall point here is not so much to bash Woodstock as it is to clarify this stereotype about Hip Hop causing violence. Next time you come across some self righteous Hip Hop hater who wishes to claim that Hip Hop is enjoyed by and created by ruthless criminals, crazed gangsters and thugged out black guys who like to curse a lot while running around wearing their hats backwards and fat gold chains. Let them know that it's simply Not True. There are a lot of white kids who sport fat gold chains, curse a lot and wear their hats backwards. In fact, I venture to say these individuals may be at the very least a sizeable population within the Hip Hop audience. As for crazed gangsters and ruthless criminals, ask them if they think ruthless criminals like Noreaga, John Gotti and other cartel, Mafia or organized crime leaders were running around listening to the latest Puff Daddy or Mase tape while building their criminal empires? I don't think so. Ask them if they think the ruthless individuals who make up the secret Triad gangs from Hong Kong are peeping the newest DMX tape while extorting money and shipping large quantities of heroin in this country? I'm not an expert in this area, but I'm willing to bet the answer is NO!
While I will admit that there are some criminal types from around the way who do indeed listen to Hip Hop music, we must be careful not to malign the entire genre. Yes, it sure would be nice if the Crips and Bloods listened to Italian Operas or Swedish Accordion music so those respective industries could get all the negative media attention, but alas they don't. Nevertheless we have to put things into perspective. Hip Hop didn't cause all those thousands of rowdy kids to go torch the Woodstock '99 concert site and Hip Hop didn't cause John Gotti or any other Al Capone types to do the dirt they did. If anything I would venture to say its the exact opposite. A John Gotti, Al Capone and now Woodstock '99 may be the reasons that rap has any sort of violence. Who do you think has impacted the criminal mind more, John Gotti or Ice Cube? Who's encouraged more violence amongst our youth NWA, The Gambinos or the fictional Mafia crime family from The Godfather The Corleones?
Say what you will but while Woodstock was burning up in flames a few thousand folks gathered together in New York City for the Rocksteady Crew 22cd Anniversary. From what I was told, everything ran smoothly and there was no drama. The sad fact of the matter is while Rocksteady and all those dope Hip Hoppers who came together and kept Hip Hop culture alive, well and positive, many will have a difficult time booking themselves in Nite Clubs, Many will not be allowed top perform at large concerts and in certain venues for fear that they will bring out a 'criminal element'. Many will have to pay exorbitant insurance rates to display their craft and old ladies will clutch their purses tighter as these young Hip Hoppers walk down the street. In the meantime a Limp Biscuit, a Metallica or any number of those Rock-N-Roll acts who appeared at Woodstock '99 will still be allowed to do what they do. No one will penalize them and say 'No Your Not Welcome Here', even though one could justify such actions and say they bring out a criminal element that will burn things down. Let me break it down like this.. I bet The Red Hot Chili Peppers who were on stage allegidely encouraging folks to light fires will have an easier time being embraced by America then rap stars like Ice Cube and DMX who also performed at Woodstock '99. In other words Red Hot Chili Peppers will have an easier time getting booked at Madison Square Garden then DMX would. DMX just had a violent free tour which was the most successful in rap history. But he's still a criminal in many people's mind while Red Hot Chili Peppers are not. To quote KRS-One 'Why Is That? As we head into the 21st Century that has got to change.
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The FNV Newsletter
written by Davey D
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