On the subway to one of our basketball games, I was able to have a discussion with some of my boys about old school hip-hop. I harangued them over whether they knew the artists of the late 1980s into the 1990s, the hip-hop on which I had been raised.
They knew practically no artists from my era outside of the obvious names like Tupac and Notorious B.I.G. I got more and more incredulous with every artist they had never heard of. After all, this was the Golden Age of hip-hop music where teens like me could nod their heads to the beat and learn something from the lyrics at the same time.
As the subway rap conversation with my boys carried into the Harlem stations, more and more passengers started to take an interest in the spectacle. Here was this white man schooling mostly minority boys on what hip-hop was. Many people looked at me and gave me nods of encouragement. They probably knew as well as I did that today’s urban youth are hooked on the canned, corporate and computerized genre of music they call “rap” today.
It is shame that kids today are so out of touch with hip-hop’s Golden Era. Rap now is vacuous, repetitive and sing-songy. It is designed for dancing at the club. This means that lyrical skill and flow on the mic takes a backseat to a good beat. It has become junk music, auditory fast food.
On the other hand, the songs of hip-hop’s Golden Era were savory. Lyrical content was the focus with the beats being more gritty and basic. It was the complete opposite of today’s rap music.
One day, I will find a way to bring good hip-hop into my classroom. Not only is is it quality music, it is educational. Compare the following pairs of songs to see the differences between the rap of today and the rap of yesterday. For those who do not like rap, you might develop a bit of a discriminating ear for the genre.
TODAY (I DON’T EVEN KNOW WHAT THIS SONG IS ABOUT)
GOLDEN AGE (THE MESSAGE IS CLEAR)
TODAY (MINDLESS CHANTING)
GOLDEN AGE (RESISTANCE TO OPPRESSION)
TODAY (REPETITION WITH NO POINT)
GOLDEN AGE (THE ANGST OF POVERTY)
TODAY (MADE FOR GRINDING AT THE CLUB)
GOLDEN AGE (GHETTO OBSERVATIONS)
Corporations want to do to schools what they have already done to rap music. They want to take out anything that may cause children of the inner cities to think and replace it with pointless repetition. Drake does junk rap music. KIPP does junk education.