After skimming a few opening paragraphs attached to an essay my advisor sent me, I was certain I would agree 100% with whatever the Hip-Hop pioneer Questlove had to say about the current state of the art form.. After all, he is an originator, and a highly respected artist within the hip-hop community.
However, I found myself to be a little confused at what exactly Quest was trying to present during his essay on Hip-Hop.. So here’s me trying my best to decipher the language of Questlove.
Quest begins his article by drawing a philosophical triangular connection between John Bradford, Einstein, and Ice Cube.. Noting along the way that we are all connected as one, noting:
“your life is entangled in theirs whether or not there’s a clear line of connection. Just because something is happening to a street kid in Seattle or a small-time outlaw in Pittsburgh doesn’t mean that it’s not also happening, in some sense, to you. Human civilization is founded on a social contract, but all too often that gets reduced to a kind of charity: Help those who are less fortunate, think of those who are different. But there’s a subtler form of contract, which is the connection between us all”
So far, I agree with Quest’s logic. Following his ideals on unity, Quest states “Hip-hop has taken over black music,” pointing to current popular music charts as proof.
Really though, take a second and see how many black musicians you can name, who are not associated with hip-hop in mainstream music. Point well proven Quest.
Following this, Quest reminds his readers that this was not always the case, as many black folk, soul, and rock performers flourished throughout the past.
However, what has happened now, according to Questlove, is that Hip-Hop has come “to dominate the modern world.” He shares, “Maybe domination isn’t quite a victory. Maybe everpresence isn’t quite a virtue.”
“What once offered resistance to mainstream culture (it was part of the larger tapestry, spooky-action style, but it pulled at the fabric) is now an integral part of the sullen dominant. Not to mention the obvious backlash conspiracy paranoia: Once all of black music is associated with hip-hop, then Those Who Wish to Squelch need only squelch one genre to effectively silence an entire cultural movement.”
Basically meaning, after Anglo America has had it’s fun commercializing and exploiting hip-hop, Quest believe’s she will become nothing more than a distant and forgotten memory of the past.
While I agree with the overwhelming majority of the points proven by Quest, I don’t think there is an expiration date on hip-hop as a music or as a culture.
Each genre survives the passing of each year, through the ears of the fans. While there will certainly be a time where hip-hop is not celebrated on popular top 40 charts, there will always be creative voices who wish to be heard, and receptive ears who are willing to listen.
For example, rock music has endured what seems like an never-ending eternity. While it is not the same art form that was introduced to the masses in the 50’s, it remains a respected and progressive genre in modern America. Rock music has not been silenced, and I believe hip-hop will mirror this same longevity.
What Quest seems to have forgotten in his essay is the true essence of hip-hop, which is gives a voice to the silenced, and creates a momentary escape from the chaos of our world. Humanity will always need to escape, voice our perceptions, and there will always be a need for self-expression.
What I have misunderstood from his essay is how exactly Hip-Hop has failed black America. Quest gives his readers a great start into his ideals, but stops short of proving his thesis..
Has hip-hop failed black America because it has wrongly become synonymous with black culture? This is what I am drawn to conclude, but Quest fails to draw these imperative connections through his writing. The title of the essay is “How Hip-Hop failed Black America,” but is sadly missing the how portion.
Yes, we are all connected, yes, hip-hop has become the main-stream, and maybe, just maybe, hip-hop could be used to manipulatively “silence an entire cultural movement.”
But when hip-hop gives a voice to the silenced, are we really mute?
Prove me wrong Quest.