I hadn’t watched the Rah Digga interview on Thisis50.com (http://www.vibe.com/article/rah-digga-iggy-azalea-shade). So I ignored the comments about her talking about Iggy. Mainly because I wanted to sit back and see what was being said (I saw lots of good points on both sides). I also wanted to take a moment with the interview. I finally watched the interview. I have no comment here about Iggy. I will save that for the barbershop, my classroom, a Hip Hop show, or my favorite bar. You know, places where the conversation would be fun, unlike on Facebook. LOL. But there are some interesting things that came up that I see come up often in other debates about Hip Hop and rap music.
First, the term “real” gets bastardized by folks who argue on both sides of it. Neither want to admit that. Generally I see folks having a debate over the term and when I go back to the source and look at the context of how it was used, it often is about foundation and standards. Hip Hop is a culture. Cultures have foundations, traditions, standards, and idealogies. As a product or representative of that culture you can build on those things or adapt them to new environments, but you must always honor them. There is a responsibility to the culture. Without that responsibility you can’t claim the culture. Or folks can say they don’t see you as a representation of the culture. Doesn’t mean anything about that person, but it does say something about the way culture should be considered. With care and understanding. It’s why I hate when people have conversations that should be about rap (which widens the scope and better fits some of the arguments) and use the term Hip Hop. Because it clouds and muddies the conversation.
Those folks who say that Hip Hop music can be a number of things are right. It can be. Because the tag Hip Hop is through the representative and not the musical output. So folks making music (rap included) who have no care or concern for the responsibility to the culture can be said to not be Hip Hop. Folks making rap music or Hip Hop influenced music don’t have to run around waving the Hip Hop flag. That’s not a requirement. They are artists and should have the ability to make what they want. I don’t rock with people who want to make artists carry the torch because they make a certain type of music. I teach kids who look Hip Hop all the time. Not all of them claim the culture. But anyone who is said to claim the culture (whether out their own mouth or by the powers behind them) has a responsibility. That also means they can checked on how they represent the culture they claim.
Lastly, I haven’t seen much talk about the powers that be. That was one of the key things in Rah’s statement. The comment she made about R&B and categories in general was real insightful. There is power in the words that are used. I don’t necessarily agree with the term “real” being used. But I understand it’s not always (as some would like for you to believe) used to contrast something that is “fake.” It is often used by culture bearers (not your homie you went to school with) to mean authentic and true to the foundation and traditions of the culture. Someone has to continue to put that concept forward because the media manipulates categories like society has manipulated the meaning of words throughout history (see etymology).
I could care less about arguing over what the artist are putting out or who they are in real life or how they refer to their friends, etc. I do care about arguments about the way the artform is presented and the balance in the media. I care about how the culture is preserved. Not as some archaic thing because there are communities across the globe who see the pillars of the culture and very necessary and relevant. Not as some out of date dinosaur. Not as some rabid and possessed demon astray in material wealth and indulgence. Not as some wide open free for all landscape with no rules. I care about their being a baseline that roots your conversations, debates, and discoveries.
Sometimes we want to reach and grab free reign so much we badly we would destroy the foundation we are standing on to get us there. Thing is, once we’ve done that there isn’t one for anyone else to stand on to reach. Then what?