Every Martin Luther King Day, we should reflect on the progress of African-Americans and how Dr. King’s work helped our advancement as people of color. Accomplishments like Obama’s re-election and rise of black CEO’s in charge of Fortune 500 companies (currently six, the highest number ever) are largely due to the non-violent protests heralded by King. However, instead of celebrating the steps forward, many of us, especially internet writers, focus on the negatives in modern African-American culture. We shine light on things that King may not be proud of. And the easiest thing to attack is hip hop.
I’m not claiming that hip hop shouldn’t be criticized, we’ve all seen Nelly’s “Tip Drill” video. What I am saying is that Martin Luther King day is NOT the day to criticize. There are plenty of things in hip hop culture that are worth celebrating, and not just Public Enemy. Many movements, albums, artists, and songs in recent years are triumphs for our culture. Lets not be so cynical this year and focus on the positive. That’s what Martin Luther King day is about.
Odd Future best represents the experience of growing up black in the ’90s. A generation where we watched black actors and white actors side by side. A generation where white and black kids both wanted to be like Mike. A generation that had “Kenan and Kel” and “The Fresh Prince of Bel Air.” Basically, a generation that received many of the benefits Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. fought for. A world where little black boys and girls do hold hands with little white boys and girls.
Because of cultural desegregation, we saw a wave of black kids doing so called ‘white’ things. I played lacrosse for years and dabbled in skateboarding. Tyler and company grew up watching “Jackass” (a show my mom always told me was strictly for crazy white boys) and skated up and down Fairfax. Their background, and the age in which they grew up, helped them merge two distinct sub cultures: skateboarding and hip hop.
Connecting these two sub cultures on a large scale is no doubt a triumph for civil rights. Odd Future has helped make skateboarding and hip hop synonymous. They have furthered the notion that you don’t need to sell drugs or be in a gang to be an emcee. Their fanbase is a perfect illustration of their work. Shit, I’m positive they’re the reason Lil Wayne started skating. You may not enjoy the music, but the way they’ve helped tear down racial constraints in hip hop culture is undeniable. Thank you OF.
Nasir Jones Hip Hop Fellowship
Academia is finally getting their act together. Harvard created the Hip Hop Archive in 2002 and now, with help from an anonymous donor, they’ve established the Nasir Jones Hip Hop Fellowship in conjunction with the Archives. According to the Harvard Gazette, “The fellowship will provide selected scholars and artists with an opportunity to show that ‘education is real power,’ as it builds upon the achievements of those who demonstrate exceptional capacity for productive scholarship and exceptional creative ability in the arts, in connection with hip hop.” Although that’s somewhat of a vague mission statement (Marcyliena Morgan, head of The Hip Hop Archive, could not be reached for comment) this announcement is surely a positive for hip hop culture.
Academia acknowledgement of hip hop doesn’t make it ‘realer’ or more legitimate than before but it does promote an understanding of the art form – something many hip hop antagonists don’t have. With help from Harvard, and hopefully more Universities in the future, we will spend more time celebrating hip hop culture than condemning it.
Considering Martin Luther King’s style of non-violence and attitude toward hate, lets try to find the good in hip hop today. Instead of posting a ‘ratchet’ flyer that’s abusing King’s name, post an inspirational quote from King. If we, as rap fans, commemorate the positives in hip hop culture others will too. Happy Martin Luther King Day!