Till the Great Society is converted in to a Great Community, the Public will remain in eclipse. Communication can alone create a great community. —John Dewey
Ronn: Tell me Jahbari, what do you think is the current state of Hip Hop?
Jahbari: What do you mean?
Ronn: In my opinion, music composed and listened to, in the African-American community, used to foster an intergenerationality— we could communicate. Although we didn’t agree on many things, the aim and the language were simple, maybe not concise but we got the messages between youth, elders and even those in the middle. We could strike up some form of conversation. I look at the Hip Hop trend and its impact on other musical genres—the voices of the veterans, who often sang of love and Life’s trials and tribulations, are now stilled—from the youth there seems to be less and less emphasis in the direction of community concerns. Other than hos, cars, fame and wealth, I (we) don’t really know what the wants are, even more so, communal aims? It’s okay to want nice things, maybe not even ok, but it’s understandable, we’re humans we want to enjoy the same fruits that others are relishing.
Jahbari: Can I stop you right there? That base instinct of survival, of aspiration, of want, is being commercialized and exploited to an incredible degree. Hip Hop originally was the soap box for the down trodden, a vehicle used to shed light on societal ills, and, the struggles and joys of ordinary/adverse living. It’s just not there anymore. It comes in flashes. You now find artists fighting for creative control. You see the glorification of aspiration—every man is his own island, now, his own god. Something to aspire to or something to become is no longer a vehicle for social mobility but a benchmark for personal attainment: artificial enlightenment from an individualistic self serving journey. “Come together? No, I need bottle and a chain.” It’s notoriety over being notable. It’s quotes instead of being quotable. It’s comparison over cohesion. We’ve sharpened the human appetite to the point where its greed can digest diamonds and make even the most inane and superficial, to thunderous applause, sound virtuous and acceptable. But we the fans are to blame as much as the artists. It’s a community, the inertia of fans, consumers, and the artists need to be scrutinized also. There are many great artists out there—commercially and underground. I think there are events happening that are serving to aid in removing the wool from our eyes. Communication between the generations is opening again, sadly under strenuous conditions. Is it as open as it once was? No, but change is inevitable, cycles are also, and I think we’ll find ourselves returning to a sociocultural mobility once we, the youth, accept that no man is an island, and realize our successes aren’t solely our own and that we can’t blame others for our failures either.
Our lives are not our own, we are bound to each other, and by every action, good or bad, we pave our future as a whole community. Awareness is the only prevention and the only cure. The side effects include humility, communication, and a creativity that comes from feeling free to truly express ones self—as that becomes the landscape, meaningfulness will find its way back into the music, trust me.
Ronn: O.K. Jahbari, perhaps there are others, who are reading our discussion, who have a point of view about Hip Hop’s effect on our community and its future.