Racial Injustice and Televised War Creates Counterculture Rock Zeitgeist, Again

If history repeats itself then the next big rock and roll movement will be here soon. It will be very short lived, powerful and strong, and its popularity will not be denied. It may have already started and we just haven’t realized it yet. No telling where it will come from or what it will sound like when it gets here. But it’s coming.

Fads move faster than ever in recent years. This includes movements in art, music, or pop culture. What is here today may literally be gone tomorrow. Certain things seem to stick around and become part of our cultural fabric while others quickly vanish into the oblivion and show up on VH1. It has been a while since rock music has seen an intense movement, but the ingredients are here, and the temperature is right, and we’ve had just the right amount of time; 25 years.

The first great movement in Rock and Roll was in the early 1960’s.  Although the first rock and roll song was credited to 1951’s “Rocket 88”, Rock and Roll wouldn’t take on the form that we know it to be today; free, strong, moving, powerful, until the middle 1960’s brought to us via the British invasion. The second great movement came through underground bands in the 1980’s but exploded on MTV in the early 1990’s as Seattle grunge sound.  It is unclear whether the ingredients brought together the perfect meal or whether the public was so hungry they would have eaten anything.  But regardless, both major, important, and popular rock movement has been preceded by two awful things that seep into the public conscious, poisoning our collective well, and splitting the public; racial injustice and televised war.

The accounts of racial injustice to people of color throughout early American history have been many. But a few incidents around the mid 1950’s seem to stick out as a throbbing beacon of inequality.  Around this same time the Vietnam War was officially started and America’s involvement would increase in Vietnam and similarly here in the states the war on racial justice was slowly reaching its acme.  Resentment towards the government grew for being involved with the war, towards conscription, and with inaction towards the ethical treatment of all people.

In recent news the sign that commemorated the life of Emmet Till was shown to have been punctured several times with bullet holes.  The story of 14 year old Emmet Till is a brutally sad and sadistic one. Till was murdered in Mississippi for talking “familiar” with a shop keeper while visiting cousins from his home town of Chicago.  The two men charged with the crime were acquitted by an all-white jury after only 1 hour of deliberation.  An investigation 7 years later found that most jurors believed that the 2 men who faced the charges were guilty, but didn’t want to convict them because life imprisonment for killing a black boy seemed unjust and only months later the killers would confess their crime in a story run in LOOK magazine. The killers were paid $4000 each for the story.

The year Emmet Till died was 1955, just one year after the Vietnam War was officially started.  Stories of injustice were often worded strongly in favor of white supremacy.  War and death, domestic injustice and perceived international justice were plastered across the newspapers and televisions and radios around the country.  People started to become divided; those who supported the war and those who didn’t and those who supported desegregation and those who didn’t. The public was inundated with horrifying stories of young men dying for their cause, whether in a fight overseas for war or a fight here on our own soil for segregation, and sides continued to mount. The racial divides would come to their acme with the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1968.

The British invasion and rock music exploded at nearly the same time the civil rights act was passed in 1965.  The timing may have been coincidence, but it could have just as well have been alchemy.  The people had spoken and the war was beginning to end, segregation was beginning to end, and a feeling of freedom left the public feeling liberated.  1969 was the summer of love and what was started in the 1950’s with the Beat Generation had culminated into liberation at a high (no pun intended) and deep level. Woodstock was anti war, pro unity and all about the music and love.  The consciousness had changed and the nation was ready to accept the proliferation of rock, social awareness, and a peaceful, incorporated ideology. What was once counterculture was now accepted American culture.

jimi-hendrix
The Jimi Hendrix Experience

Unfortunately that feeling wouldn’t last long. The 70’s ushered out a feeling of freedom and love as the 80’s brought in a “normalcy” and “prosperity” period. Although this piece is directed towards rock and roll and its two major movements in particular, failure to mention Punk Rock and Hip Hop here would be an epic failure. Both sounds were invented in the underground, paralleling general American sentiment at the time with a counter culture from the packaged 80’s pop music that dominated the airwaves. Punk and Hip Hop were sown from deep emotions from real people without the white wash (pun intended) of corporate America. The movement was strong yet largely ignored by the mainstream for years. Turns out punk and rap did more than just invent music; they both respectively spawned variations of their sound and generated billions of dollars in revenue and actually helped to shape the landscape of American vernacular. Although this music wasn’t considered rock music, rock had its deep roots in both form and cultural aesthetic.

As these genres gained popularity and current pop music was starting to meet its demise in the late 1980’s, a new sound started to emerge. Again, this new sound seemed to be enveloped in racial injustice and a televised war overseas. The sound was raw and powerful and had integrated lyrics to match the noise. It brought on a different type of social awareness, one that seemed more forceful and boisterous than the last one in the late 1960’s. This one was more morose, slightly more deafening, and its messages of peace, love, and understanding were backed by anger first before acceptance.

The Grunge movement in rock and roll could have started with The Replacements and Husker Du in the 80’s or just as easily with the Pixies or arguably REM depending on the critic. But its sound was made most famous by the explosion that was known as the Seattle sound; Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Alice in Chains, and Stone Temple Pilots just to name a few were the bands that made the sound the most famous and took over the airwaves.  Grunge’s peak of popularity happened to again coincide with racial tensions here in America and a war overseas.  Oddly, the culmination was eerily similar and exactly 25 years apart.

layne-staley
Layne Staley of Alice in Chains

Again racial injustice started to build years before any major event would capture the nations attention. On December 20th, 1986 23 year old Michael Griffith and two of his friends were chased down by a group of white teens in Howard Beach, New York and brutally beaten. Griffith, while trying to flee, ran into oncoming traffic and was struck and killed. Griffith’s friend, Cedric Sandiford, continued to withstand the onslaught even as his friend lay dying near him. He survived. Although the case would eventually receive interference by Governor Cuomo, the initial charge for the teens was reckless endangerment. The teens eventually faced stiffer sentences.

On August 23rd, 1989 a similar occurrence deepened the ruts of racial injustice when 16 year old Yusef Hawkins and some friends were walking through Brooklyn when a group of 30 white kids of similar age gathered around them with bats and clenched fists. One of the boys was apparently upset as his love interest would not date him because she had a current boyfriend who happened to be black. These particular teens had no connection but the mob set upon them anyway. One of the kids in the mob had a gun and Hawkins was shot twice. He passed away at a nearby hospital. Justice did not come swift for the man with the gun, and over a year later he received his sentence.

These two mob mentality stories are cleverly forgotten as 1991 brought us one of the most memorable scenes of our lifetime. March 3rd of that year, Rodney King did not pull over for Los Angeles Police and led them on a short high speed chase. After the officers got King out of the car and subdued him, they beat him relentlessly. The entire thing was captured on camera and released upon the world. Racial tensions flared across the country, people gathered over a line in the sand and again took sides. The Gulf War was brief but officially had ended only days before on February 28th. The images of US Military intervening and winning plastered heavily over the news. Sometimes the stories ran back to back on the evening news expertly intertwining perceived moral obligations while clashing with human rights. A year later the cops involved were found not guilty and Los Angeles was enveloped in riots.

August 27th of the same year the icon Grunge band Nirvana released their most popular single and one that would become synonymous with the Seattle Grunge sound forever “Smells Like Teen Spirit”. It is to this day a dystopian anthem that blends a dark and foreboding sound with the perfect blend of pop. It’s opening line a requiem for the country and the world at that time “Load up on guns / Bring your friends”. It sang to both sides of the spectrum. As the “Alternative Sound” grew so did its popularity and it could be argued that Woodstock was brought back to capitalize on the moment and line pockets or that 25 years later that feeling of freedom had returned, ushered in by war and racial divides and then played out through guitars, melodies, and emotion.

Now to our present date; the cusp of 2017, 23 years later from that 1994 Woodstock and a movement that shaped and changed our mainstream pop culture, fashion, and vernacular. Our conflicts in the Middle East have now been present on our television screen and personal devices steady since 2001. The war has been alive for 15 years and counting and not a moment has gone by that we aren’t reminded of it. Racial tensions have again flared, this time over countless senseless acts of violence from police from around the world. Again the line has been drawn and the public stands on one side or the other. From kneeling for the national anthem to Donald Trump the lines have been drawn and there isn’t much middle ground. Nobody wants to be a little bit right or a little bit wrong. It is all or nothing. It looks as if the perceived moral obligations abroad have nestled into our everyday thinking. You are either with us or against us and there isn’t much else in between.

Art imitates life. That feeling of drawing a line and taking a stand is a very raw emotion and one that brings courage and deserves valor. We are again approaching the 25 year mark and the ingredients are again available. Will 2019 provide us again with ground breaking music? 1994 was the epitome of the alternative and grunge movement. 1969 was the epitome of the Rock and Roll movement (now considered “Classic Rock”). 25 years before 1969 we had 1944 with the beginning of the end of WWII and Miles Davis moving to New York City to find Charlie Parker and the beginning of the wild “Bop” era in Jazz music. All the ingredients are here and the timing is almost right.

25 years, war, and racial divide are here again and who can know where it will lead.

 

Anthony N. White is a writer currently living in Rochester, NY.

He can be heckled on Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat @Ruthieshusband

Or on Facebook, of course.

The Shape of Perspective: An Interview with Eric Flemings

The cultivation of one’s mind is the most powerful form of aesthetic. It leads to a greater perspective and knowledge of the world around us, shaping our perspective.  Perspective is the weapon of choice for change, a weapon that is not tangible, but it can motivate us in the way we feel about each other, change the way society operates, infiltrate the systemic issues of people and culture.  Perspective can offer resolve.  It’s a weapon that can be more damning than a scream and more brutal than a gun.

But it’s the same weapon that leaves the beholder open to self-doubt, self-intimation, and even tragic silence.  Eric Flemings possesses this weapon.  It is his super power; it is akin to a lightning bolt thrown by the mighty Zeus or the super human strength and flight of Clark Kent.  But his Achilles heel is no longer self-doubt.  He found a way to use that, too.  He found a way to get better at his strengths and work on his weaknesses.

Eric Flemings didn’t mean to become a rapper. He didn’t even know he could rap until his junior year at The University of Bridgeport in Connecticut while he was freestyling with some friends. They were stunned that he could rap. Turns out so was Eric. He was there to get his Biology degree, which he did, but he uncovered something else in the process; his unbelievable aesthetic for words. An aesthetic that he has turned into a genuine perspective and one that is intensely deep with understanding.  Much more than his 23 years would indicate.

Once Eric realized his passion for writing bars he did what he always does; studies.  He studied rap hard, hitting the books on style, history, scheme, approach, cadence, and hooks.  He consumed, memorized, theorized, and over thought every line from Talib Kweli, Kendrick Lamar, and so many other greats.  “I’m good at memorization and critical thinking”, he says speaking of his love of science.  “It’s critical thinking and rap will always be a part of me.”

His days of sounding like Kendrick Lamar were numbered. As emulation turned to influence he quickly started developing his own style.  He practiced his craft and melded it to his life in science, cross referencing his true love of rap with his cognitive intelligence to become a doctor. “I’ve written a song about the cardiovascular system. I can write an album about all the body systems”, he jokes.

The current rap on the radio wasn’t enough for him.  It was catchy and fun but it didn’t hold the weight of words in which Eric thought true rap was supposed to.  He knew that hip hop culture was much more than selling sneakers and albums.  His genuine thirst and curiosity brought him to other rappers and artists that came before his time.  His head bobbed, his mind exploded.  These guys had it all; rhythm, intelligence, and perspective.  Before he knew it he was waking up early, like back in his high school days, just to write a few bars.

Eric grew up in Stockton California.  He got himself out of bed every morning at 4:30am to catch the bus, get to school, and make it to his sports practices after school.  “I have always been independent, even at a young age”.  At 16 he moved to the east coast, in with his Aunt in New Jersey where he would finish school taking mostly AP courses.  He was ready for the next step, ready for college, ready for more learning, ready to be part of something bigger than himself. Eric saw the value, opportunity and future in medicine.  “My philosophy is to go where the opportunity is”, he quips.

Eric felt moved to rhyme about the nation’s current status and about the unequal undertones surrounding the election and urban culture.  The clip was reposted by Save Hip Hop Culture on Instagram and Eric was suddenly thrust onto the scene.  He speaks about inequality with fearsome passion, yet calmly and quietly highlights his points with a scholarly wit and the professional collection of a skilled orator.  He supports Black Lives Matter but believes that the systemic undercurrent has been built into our culture. “You don’t just wake up tomorrow and decide to enslave this person.”  He says about our early ancestry.  “In order to sell the idea you have to have the population agree with it. You have to make this black person something less than us.”

Eric talks of changing the approach to something more long term.  In order to change perspective the systemic cultural undercurrent needs to be altered.  Protests during the Civil Rights Movement changed the laws, but protests now are not able to change the perspective.  Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcom X paved the way for equal access to resources, now it’s time to use aesthetic to change everyone’s perspective to engaging in equality.  ““Imagine if MLK had social media?” Eric says.

He does not feel the need to feed the negativity, but rather sees plenty of room for positive change in his community and communities elsewhere.  “It’s time to build up our own community, the police will be coming from our own community”, he says quietly.  Eric sees everything in a very positive light, commenting that he thinks most people are not inherently bad, most people are not racist, and most people are willing to help.  Conversations with him make you feel uplifted and empowered, determined to make positive change, to relinquish self-doubt and become energized.

A full length album is up coming.  He is still putting it together, practicing his craft and getting the word out.  His talent cannot be hidden any longer, and neither can his excitement.  But, “With talent comes doubt”, he says about his constant overthinking.  But he won’t let the attention get to his head.  “Your narcissistic bubble gets popped and you have to recalibrate and come back at it again. I go through those phases all the time.”

Mr. Flemings has only just started on a path that will never leave us doubting.

To hear some of Eric’s work follow him on Instagram @ericphlegm

 

Anthony N. White is a writer currently living in Rochester, NY.

He can be heckled on Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat @Ruthieshusband

Or on Facebook, of course.

Accepting Escape: An Interview with Anh Duc Nguyen

The cultural significance of hip hop is not bound to the streets of New York or Los Angeles.  It’s not bound to the output of MTV or New York’s Hot 97.  In fact it’s never been tethered to anything at all.  It seems to seek out those most willing to accept it, to embrace it, to make it something that is their own.  But it is not easily described and that’s what draws such special appreciation for it.  “It’s about doing something together and being creative”, says Hamburg, Germany based visual artist Anh Duc Nguyen of Hip Hop Culture.  “It’s a way of being together no matter where you are from and loving music and art among each other and expressing yourself.”  Duc speaks of inclusion, togetherness, and acceptance with great passion and careful grace.  He currently resides in Hamburg, Germany although his life was very close to be being much different.  “My parents fled the Vietnam War and settled in Bavaria.  I can speak with a Bavarian accent which I’m really proud of!”

Duc’s father was a soldier in the war and fled when things got unbearable.  His family was lucky and got picked up quickly on the sea.  Duc’s father still tells stories about the turmoil that brings tears to his eyes.  Duc grew up with no other Vietnamese children around him and his parents tried very hard to maintain their culture in a land that was not their own.  “Education was very important to them”, says Duc.  “They were strict at home.  Whenever they caught me drawing they would make me go do homework.”  Art beamed from him anyway.  He couldn’t stop even if he wanted to.  He grew up to love art and went on to study graphic design.  

Duc drew inspiration from meeting new people in a bigger city, with a more diverse crowd who carried different attitudes and embodied something bigger.  His humble beginnings in hip hop were not unlike most of ours, rap cassettes from somebody’s older brother. But it wasn’t until college that Duc really appreciated what the culture meant to him.  He gathered inspiration from the graffiti he saw near the train tunnels and buildings.  “It is such a visual part of CD covers and magazines.  I grew up in an area where you wouldn’t do things like that.  Friends of mine that have done graffiti in the past are much better artists now.  They have great understanding of form and composition.  I was so blown away by it.”  Duc still takes inspiration from graffiti artists today, although he himself has never done it.  He says of graffiti artists,“I have much respect for all the graffiti artist(s) who are going out at night and make great piece in such a short time and having the fear of getting caught.  It needs a lot of passion, willingness and crazyiness [sic] to do such things.  Sometimes I wished I would have done stuff like them when I was younger. Today I still look at graffiti as an inspiration.”

Duc’s art is a wonderful conglomeration of graffiti, pop culture, and music.  In short, his art could be best described as Hip Hop and it’s hard to look away.  He has managed to make intricate art look simple, with a clear message that differs by the individual, a brand of art that looks so much like Hip Hop, but looks so much like the intricate life that has been Duc’s.  He has sense of humor about it when asked about his Hamburger Head piece.  “I live in Hamburg and so many burger places opened up.  I turned a person into a burger head.”

hamburger head

Duc recently joined a contest where teams of 3 artists have 90 minutes to paint a plain white wall with nothing but black magic markers.  The teams are awarded points by judges, audience cheers, and the highest priced bid through an auction.  The money is then donated to Viva Con Agua, a company that is “committed to establishing access to clean drinking water and basic sanitation for all humans worldwide.”  Duc’s team won, a fact he’s humble about but equally as proud.

When asked why he is an artists he replied,  

Drawing and painting is a place for me to escape to my own world. In this world everything is allowed; making mistakes, exploration, being imperfect, playing like a kid.  To learn about what is really important to me and not what is said to be important by other people and put by them into my head.  It is like a therapy for me from the strict upbringing by my parents and society. It is a honest place.  Most Asian parents never tell you that they are proud or make compliments.  They always try to make you feel bad and keep you down. They are very scared that if they do you would not work hard enough.  They always compare you with other kids and always make them better than you. So in my head there was always a voice telling me that I wasn’t good enough.  My art is a place where I’m able to shut this voice down.

Duc’s parents may not have always been supportive of his choice to be an artist. But they are coming around to realize that it is not going away.  And that Duc is really good and gaining popularity.  His parents see his work and understand, maybe proudly gazing at their son as they try to comprehend what it is he is trying to accomplish.  “I think that the process of develop [sic] something out of nothing is my daily goal or the reason I’m doing it.  But I couldn’t stop doing art even if I couldn’t survive by it.”  

We are all certainly glad for that.  

 

Check out Duc’s work on Facebook and on Instagram.

Or go directly to Duc’s website: www.ismilealot.com

Or shop for some of his amazing work here: http://de.dawanda.com/shop/ismilealot

The photo for this article was taken by Phil Dy Na Mite.

 

Anthony N. White is a writer currently living in Rochester, NY.

He can be heckled on Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat @Ruthieshusband

Or on Facebook, of course.

 

 

 

Why Radio Sucks

We are often unaware of how many decisions each day are goaded out of us by advertisers.  It’s odd to think that our minds are not our own, shackled to commercials and billboards, invading our personal space in our kitchens and driveways.  When you reach for those Lucky Charms in the morning you’re really reaching for the fortune and good luck that some advertiser has sold you.  Technology companies and other innovative companies advertise regularly, proving that they are always on the precipice of ground breaking technologies, they are out there working hard for us, their sycophants, their fans and dedicated users.   We rationalize these advertisements as a way for us to find out about the latest in important technological advancement.  But a phone you can pour champagne on or a car that won’t let you play the radio without the seat belt fastened is hardly important technological advancement.

Our safe haven from the world is music.  Music playing softly in the background can whisk you away to another place.  Music playing so loud that it drowns out your life and puts you center stage at your own personal rock and roll concert can swap your sour mood for the better.  Most of us get our music fix from various streaming services over the internet.  There is a select group of us who buy, collect, and listen to vinyl.  But it is rare these days to listen to the FM radio.  Maybe the radio is on at work, or in your car, but it is rarer than not, especially for the younger generation to listen only to the radio for their music needs.  There are commercials on the radio that interrupt the music, but then again, there are commercials on Spotify and Pandora too.  These advertisements don’t necessarily hurt the radio listener’s experience, but playlists specifically geared towards selling products can and do.

The stations that play “classic rock” in your city or town have, for the most, dedicated set lists that help advertisers understand who their core audience is.  This allows them to sell advertising space appropriate to the age group and social class.  Often local radio stations purchase a “feed” of music that is not unlike the way you would stream.  These “feeds” are being played by hundreds if not thousands of stations simultaneously across the country.  These “feeds” are just another way to help advertisers promote products directly to a group of individuals that they know will be listening to this specific “feed”.  This is not new and in fact radio started to decline as the artistry of the playlist declined for the almighty dollar, and station programmers slowly became less of innovators and more managers.

This commercial radio style was set up in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s as a way to “Superserve” a specific group of white men from the ages of 12 to 36.  This specific group was being targeted by advertisers around the country.  These white men from this specific age group during this time were said to have the most disposable income.  Large corporations started purchasing radio stations across the country, especially ones that already had a good following, as a way to promote products and become a middle man for all the cash flow.  Station managers were handed playlists instead of developing playlists themselves. These playlists were designed like sleek packages to entice the listener and to buy products.  Led Zepplin, Bad Company, Aerosmith, AC/DC were considered music that white men between those specific ages listened to the most. Most of the artists themselves on those playlists were white as well.   Artist like Parliament Funkadelic, Stevie Wonder, and other black artists were labeled as disco or R and B and chased from the pop station airwaves, usually relegated to “Urban” stations that had mostly black listeners.

During the “Disco Sucks” campaign of the late 70’s the classic “white” rock consortium was solidified and  what we consider classic rock, then, and to this day, was controlled by playlists put together by huge corporations conspiring to gain greater revenues by further separating and segregating the listening audience in order to sell specific products.  Advertisers were apprehensive to spend too much money targeting a group of people that they considered “too poor” and the music that “urban” stations played were defined as “too Black”.  The Bee Gees were listed as a pop rock group during this time period, not as disco, and are still played to this day on “classic rock” stations, while Parliament Funkadelic is sonically more of a rock group than the Bee Gees and less of a disco group, but they are hardly, if ever, played on any classic rock stations. After years of segregation from advertising executives they are still listed outside of classic rock.  The Parliament Funkadelic are rarely played on any radio station that caters specifically to a white audience, The Bee Gees are still being played regularly.  It was more difficult for white audiences at that time to hear Parliament because they were considered and labeled by the advertising corporations as a “Black” group and thus were glued to Disco stations or “Urban” stations with smaller audiences.  This is just one of many examples of groups that didn’t make white radio, but had huge hits elsewhere in the nation with incredible songs.  We like to think of a DJ sitting in a booth, spinning what’s considered the best music of its time, but that format died with nationwide programming as more and more advertising dollars changed the way radio was being run and listened to.

Where did this odd racial segregation in music and radio come from?  Lee Abrams has a lot to do with it.  He was one of the first radio executives to come up with this audience specific format, using music to separate groups of individuals to uniquely format advertising for large corporations. Not surprisingly, the playlists of these mega radio stations across the country in the late 70’s that promoted classic rock and disco sucks don’t look much different than the same ones we have now.  They maintained the format because those same individuals still unknowingly tune in to the same stations, although the advertisements may have changed to reflect their current ages.  Bill Stephney, who was instrumental in getting the seminal rap group Public Enemy off the ground, one time called Lee Abrams the “greatest cultural criminal of the 20th century”. Lee Abrams doesn’t deserve that moniker exactly but may be due some credit, as he was only 18 years old when he came up with this format that is still used today.  He became famous in the industry at a very young age.  His format was used in white and black radio.

As radio’s popularity reached its apex in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, hip hop started to become more prevalent across the country.  Programmer after programmer refused to add hip hop songs to their playlists calling it “too black”.  Again, another genre of music was being segregated due to the color of the performer’s skin.  N.W.A was starting to sell hundreds of thousands of records on the west coast but couldn’t get much air play.  To the surprise of most advertising executives and radio programmers one of the biggest consumers were white suburban teenage boys and girls.  The “urban” music had finally reached the suburbs.  Many records executives used these facts to try and gain more airplay for their hip hop acts.  Most were fervently refused, even though the facts stated that the core and target audience was listening to hip hop.  The acts that did make radio were not necessarily seen by the hip hop community as legitimate, but the nation was so hungry for hip hop that Vanilla Ice and MC Hammer became household names.  Meanwhile, seminal groups like A Tribe Called Quest were still relegated to “urban” stations.  In ATCQ’s second album, “The Low End Theory”, Q-Tip croons, “Rap is not pop if you call it that than stop.”

If radio playlists were based on what was most popular during the 1980s we would have had more hip hop control the airwaves.  There were very few radio stations that were considered mainstream that played a heavy rotation of hip hop.  Most of the mainstream stations considered rap too black.  Commercial radio and MTV success has relied so heavy on pop music in the last 20 years that these outlets have completely given up on all artistry and innovation.  Radio had once been all artistry and innovation, but its own popularity ruined it.  Maybe we should thank Lee Abrams for saving hip hop in a way.  If radio stations truly played what is most popular in the 80’s and 90’s hip hop would have been blasting from almost every station.  Maybe hip hop could have become so popular that it became pop music.  And maybe that would have ruined it.  Pop radio had a chance to stay relevant, but executives chose to listen to what history said instead of what the future was screaming.

 

Anthony N. White is a writer currently living in Rochester, NY.

He can be heckled on Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat @Ruthieshusband

Or on Facebook, of course.

The Power of Black Thought

Harvard University has always been in the forefront on the cultural force of hip hop.  From Its humble beginnings on the streets of New York City it traveled north to Harvard campus in the 80’s where people like Johnathan Shecter got a hold of it with some of his best friends and hip hop advocates to create magazines like The Source.  Even President Obama while at Harvard was well known to hang in the tight circles of hip hop fiends and intellectuals around the halls at one of Americas most prestigious schools.   There have been various papers, speakers, and studies that have come from Harvard over the span of 3 decades that have been devoted to hip hop.  I have read, watched, and studied as many as I could.  But this video was brought to my attention by one of the great hip hop advocates this world has seen and it actually got me emotional.  I’m not sure what exactly it is about it, and I don’t have a great rationalization as to why, but there is something about this that made me feel proud; proud to be a fan of The Roots, proud to be a fan of Black Thought, proud to be a hip hop fan, and damn proud to be a writer.

The English language is amazing.  I have studied it for as long as I can remember.  But I’ll be damned if there is anybody out there that seems to understand this language as much as Tariq Trotter.  I am astounded, humbled, and even frightened by how easily he sways from phrase to phrase, how tranquil he seems to be while doing it, and how powerful his mind is.

This may be poetry at its best, the best we have seen in a long, long time.

 

Not familiar with The Roots?

What’s wrong with you, man?

The image of Tariq Trotter was borrowed from here.  

 

Anthony N. White is a writer currently living in Rochester, NY.

He can be heckled on Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat @Ruthieshusband

Or on Facebook, of course.