Orientation

Socially Conscious Hip-Hop and Rap

Adam Selon
Version: 
1
Problem: 

Too many young black Americans are pushed, in the face of bleak opportunities for employment and higher education, to resort to crime. While hip-hop has served as a crucial creative outlet and community-builder for black youths since the 1980s, much of hip-hop culture contains undeniable streaks of proud violence, misogyny, drug-use and general disdain for life that are civically unintelligent, to say the least.

Context: 

The so-called Hip-Hop Generation was the first to grow up post-segregation, and its members have blazed new trails with few resources. Black american males have endured decades of institutional failure and systemic oppression that has created lasting damage to the black community and society as a whole. Currently young black males are given fewer opportunities than most and are at disproportionately greater risk for incarceration.(1) The narratives in hip-hop and rap music seem to either reflect this survival and then encourage personal reflection, social awareness, learning and growth for the black community or reflect this survival and then instead endorse unhealthy and unrealistic lifestyles, drug use, gang violence, and misogynistic behavior.

Discussion: 

Socially conscious or political hip hop narratives are not new to the industry, on the contrary they were more prevalent in the early years of hip hop in the 80s. Inspired by poets and preachers of the late seventies, such as The Last Poets and Gil Scott-Heron, young black musicians rapped about what they saw in their communities and started a trend. in 1982, Grandmaster Flash and Furious Five featured one such song--”The Message”, widely regarded as the first socio-political hip hop song--on their first studio album. This song would inspire many more like it for generations to come and effectively dislodge hip hop from the house party environment and into the realm of social commentary. Paving the way for artists like NWA, Public Enemy, and Rage Against the Machine that took this a step further and made all their music socially and politically relevant. Doubtless, much of hip-hop’s dark imagery is autobiographical expression, a cathartic act that all people—and especially those from underprivileged backgrounds—have the right to. But this message has become confused or manipulated, turning a criminal lifestyle from the starting point into the goal. Rap Stars affiliation to very-real city gangs adds to the pressure for inner city youth to join gangs. that is not to say that one would join a gang simply due a rappers allegiance. Indeed most are pushed into gang membership by regional survival necessity and a lack of healthy alternatives. Kitwana, Bakari writes, “For many both in and outside of street gangs and cliques, selling drugs is one of the most viable “job” options in the face of limited meaningful employment...high imprisonment rates due to increased policing focused on drug crimes have landed nearly 1 million Black men, many of them hip-hop generation's, behind bars” (39-40). 2

Largely the public education system has failed young black americans. Today there are more young black high school dropouts in prison or jail than those with paying jobs. Black men are more likely to go to prison than to graduate with a four-year college degree or complete military service and the population of incarcerated peoples in America is in a significant majority black men. These statistics indicate a community under attack and in need of hope. Across Americas notorious history of oppression against the black community--from Slavery to the assassination of MLK and Malcolm X -- to the current overpopulation in prisons. Music and rhythm has been a community strength and vessel to carry messages of hope, solidarity, and culture. Like the spirituals that provided hope amid the ultimate despair of slavery, socially conscious hip hop and rap music that reflect current struggles within the black community can provide messages of healing and do so in a form popular among young black people. with tremendous detail and articulation.

Today socially conscious rap artists dominate mainstream hip hop charts--Kanye West, Kendrick Lamar, CNas, common, Jay-Z,-but whether the same holds true in underground circles remains to be determined. But by comparison the artists that choose to speak about the institutional failings that have and continue to negatively impact the black community seem to garner a much less attention than those that choose (or are instructed) to rap about money, “hoes” and [insert product placement]. More and more new artists are embracing these same conscious perspectives and transforming hip hop simply by being different and gaining popularity for it. Macklemore is an interesting example of new avenues being paved in hip hop music--he is white, dresses extravagantly, created a hit song about gay love and together with Ryan Lewis recorded, produced and released their album, The Heist, which debuted at #1 on itunes. But hip hop is not only becoming more racially diverse it is also having to confront deeply held prejudices such as homophobia--Frank Ocean was one of the first major artists to announce he had fallen in love with someone of the same sex, prompting many in the hip hop community to speak out in support of Ocean and the many silent fans whom his actions might inspire. following his open letter Russell Simons was widely quoted saying “Today is a big day for hip-hop. It is a day that will define who we really are. How compassionate will we be? How loving can we be? How inclusive are we?”

The following are lyrics from Canadian producer and rapper“had..In the song Brother (Watching) he raps “(Saturated with negative images and a limited range of Possibilities is strange...)And it's sad cause that naturally do/ Sort of condition your mind and over time/ That's what's attractive to you/ So young blacks don’t see themselves in/ Scholastic pursuits/ Or the more practical routes/ It's makin tracks or it's hoops/ Or God-forbid movin packs for the loot/Even with this music we so limited - it's rap or produce/ And that narrow conception of what's black isn't true/ Of course, still we feel forced to adapt to this view/ Like there's something that you're havin to prove/ Now add that to the slew/ Of justification the capitalists use/ For the new blaxploitation/...”

Solution: 

Since socially conscious narratives have been observable in hip hop since its inception, the question becomes; what can be done to reinvigorate this and bolster the hip hop’s standing in political and social territory? “The cloud of capitalism prevents the Hip Hop audience from seeing that, for the conscious artist, it is the record company, itself that is "ground zero" for the battle for the minds of African people. But they rap about an external enemy when the internal, major enemy of Black Liberation is sitting in the boardroom two doors down from their recording studio. In order for conscious Hip Hop and Hip Hop in general to survive, it must become what the system never really allowed it to be; a way to educate, inform and inspire Afrikan people to become involved in the betterment of their global communities.”3

Youth organizations such as, Project Hip-Hop, are a great example of what it means to bringing socially conscious hip hop into proper frame. They seek to:

– Develop artistic leadership in youth – Challenge and shift societal narratives – Unite people through common culture – Use art as a tool for campaign organizing

An example of this is their Girlz and Guyz Cyphers program in which they “bring young MCs and poets together to strengthen their skills as performers, develop their content as socially conscious artists, and engage in conversations about their lives—all within a Hip-Hop-based social justice curriculum.”4

Kitwana, Bakari, The Hip Hop Generation: Young Blacks and the Crisis in African-American Culture (2002)

2 Kitwana, Bakari, The Hip Hop Generation: Young Blacks and the Crisis in African-American Culture (2002)3

3 Anon. n.d. “How Conscious Hip Hop Failed Us in Davey D’s Daiy Hip Hop News Forum.” Retrieved June 5, 2013 (http://hiphopnews.yuku.com/topic/502#.Ua6u9Jy8M3I).

4 Anon. n.d. “Project HIP-HOP » Programs.” Retrieved June 5, 2013

Categories: 
orientation
Categories: 
engagement
Categories: 
social
Categories: 
products
Themes: 
Digital Divide
Themes: 
Education
Themes: 
Social Critique
Themes: 
Community Action

Folly

Pattern number within this pattern set: 
40
Version: 
3
Verbiage for pattern card: 

"To qualify as folly ... the policy adopted must meet three criteria: it must have been perceived as counter-productive in its own time, not merely by hindsight. ... Secondly a feasible alternative course of action must have been available. ... third ... the policy in question should be that of a group, not an individual leader." — Barbara Tuchman

Consumerism

Pattern number within this pattern set: 
4
Version: 
3
Verbiage for pattern card: 

Quality of life is ultimately measured by on the acquisition and display of material goods. At the heart of consumerism is the thought that the “good life” can be purchased. Consumerism also contains a set of standards through which people can be judged based on material wealth.

Environmental Degradation

Pattern number within this pattern set: 
3
Version: 
3
Verbiage for pattern card: 

The natural environment; including but not limited to soil, water, air, flora, and fauna, has a natural balance. Through pollution, over usage, and lack of stewardship, the balance is broken causing the natural networks that sustain life on this planet to suffer.

Violence

Pattern number within this pattern set: 
2
Version: 
3
Verbiage for pattern card: 

Much can be achieved through dominance and submission by using violence. If the subject cannot be subdued psychologically through fear, then injury can be inflicted. If injury is not enough, then the subject can ultimately be eliminated by murder. This is ultimately the underlying threat of violence.

Civic Ignorance

Pattern ID: 
666
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
1
Social Imagination and Civic Intelligence Program
The Evergreen State College
Version: 
3
Discussion: 

We place civic ignorance at the top of our anti-patterns collection because civic ignorance is at the core of everything that human beings do to each other that is harmful.

Civic ignorance takes different forms; it is their sum total and the perfidious interaction among the various forms that creates the Agnosphere, the ubiquitous shroud that fights civic intelligence on all fronts.

It is often quite “natural” and occurs in all of us to some degree. It is most menacing in its professional varieties, when well-resourced and self-serving elites intentionally cultivate ignorance. Historically, in the United States, the tobacco companies were the most treacherous and whose campaigns can be credited with thousands if not millions of unnecessary deaths. Currently the climate change denial campaign is the most prominent and much of the intentionally spread misinformation can be traced back to a handful of dedicated billionaires.

How it Works

Civic ignorance is assured in many ways — in general, that's what we're trying to show with our project. Fixating on certain hard-and-fast "truisms" is important. Blaming the other person is important. On an individual level, not even listening to a argument that runs counter to your own is effective since that avoids any real consideration of the issue. From an institutional level, access to information and communication should be controlled by elites. The items on the public agenda should be restricted — but it should not seem like this is the case. Finally, critics of the system should be marginalized or ignored.

Evidence

Links

All of the anti-patterns are related to this!

References

Agnotology book

Verbiage for pattern card: 

Civic ignorance describes how well a group or person ignores the civic ideas, problems, or solutions of those surrounding them. The need to solve problems intelligently and taking account of all solutions is cast away in favor of the quick, the easy, and the brutal. Maybe the problem will just go away? Critics of this should be marginalized, ignored or otherwise disabled or destroyed.

Neighborhood based Community Health Workers

Pattern ID: 
913
Michael O'Neill
Healthy Living Collaborative
Version: 
1
Problem: 

Fragmented systems of service delivery that are intended to deliver health, social wellbeing, and safety are in need of course correction to address severe disparities in health and welbeing that exist.  The mandate of health care reform from the Affordable Care Act is to improve care, improve population health outcomes, and lower costs. In Washington State the timeline to accomplish this is five years.

 

How can organizations that have traditionally delivered units of care shift towards providing access to wellness for a population which creates health equity, increases local capacity, and transforms payment and delivery systems?

Solution: 

Community Health Workers are an emerging solution to this problem as shown by a case study of the Healthy Living Collaborative project in Southwest Washington and other similar projects which it is modeled after.  Community Health Workers (CHWs) are trusted community members among the people they serve who can fill a variety of culturally appropriate roles.  These roles increase access for the CHWs friends, family, neighbors, and peers to resources, knowledge, and skills that promote wellness.  CHWs are a credible voice for the lived experience of local needs and play a critical role in translating this information across cultural, social, and organizational boundaries.

Verbiage for pattern card: 

Community Health Workers are an emerging solution to this problem as shown by a case study of the Healthy Living Collaborative project in Southwest Washington and other similar projects which it is modeled after.  Community Health Workers (CHWs) are trusted community members among the people they serve who can fill a variety of culturally appropriate roles.  These roles increase access for the CHWs friends, family, neighbors, and peers to resources, knowledge, and skills that promote wellness.  CHWs are a credible voice for the lived experience of local needs and play a critical role in translating this information across cultural, social, and organizational boundaries.

Pattern status: 
Draft

Transformative Holidays

Version: 
1
Discussion: 

Suggestions by Gerald Dillenbeck: I imagine living in a U.S. culture that celebrates "Vocation Day," inclusive of Labor; "Nurturance Day," inclusive of Mothers; "Interdependence Day," inclusive of Independence and Freedom and Security; "Creativity Day," inclusive of Christmas, "Regeneration Day," inclusive of Easter, "New Seasons Day," inclusive of New Years, "Visioning Day," inclusive of Memorial, "Gratitude Day," inclusive of Thanksgiving, "Mentors Day," inclusive of Presidents, and maybe even the perennial kids' favorite "Enlightenment Day," inclusive of Halloween.

Categories: 
organization
Categories: 
social
Themes: 
Education
Themes: 
Social Movement

Inteligencia Cívica

Group Name: 
Spanish translations of Liberating Voices card verbiage
Version: 
1
Verbiage for pattern card: 

Inteligencia cívica describe que tan bien grupos de personas persiguen fines cívicos a través de medios cívicos.  Inteligencia Cívica hace la pregunta crítica: Es la sociedad suficientemente inteligente para afrontar los desafíos que se le presentan?  La inteligencia cívica requiere aprendizaje y enseñanza. También requiere meta-cognición – el pensar y realmente mejorar como pensamos y trabajamos juntos.

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