True Colors: Race, And The Misnomer Of Hip Hop As "Black Music"

If you can remove stereotypes and broad generalizations from the discussion, race becomes a topic many emcees are either ignorant of or just plain afraid to discuss.

Before rappers had multimillion-dollar endorsement deals with shoe manufacturers and makeup companies, it was commonplace to see even the most mainstream emcees speak out on controversial issues. In the wake of Hip Hop’s commercial boom from the late 90’s through the early aughts, and the subsequent commercial drought we’re witnessing now, most mainstream emcees on major labels sidestep anything remotely controversial.

Moments such as Lupe Fiasco calling President Obama the biggest terrorist or Kanye West quipping, “George Bush doesn’t care about black people” are now generally the exception and not the rule. In an effort to create dialogue on issues many of the most popular and commercially successful emcees are afraid to touch, HipHopDX is launching a “Taboo Series” of editorials. Whether readers agree or disagree with the opinions brought forth, our hope is to play a small part in returning the level of discourse in Hip Hop back to the days when mainstream, major label, commercially viable artists weren’t afraid to tackle uncomfortable and thought-provoking subjects.

From September 5 through September 7, HipHopDX will post these Taboo Series editorials daily, addressing topics the top mainstream rappers no longer talk about. Do you agree with the choices? Do you agree that such subjects have become taboo for Top 40 emcees? Weigh in, starting today

True Colors: Race, And The Misnomer Of Hip Hop As “Black Music”

For me, listening to Hip Hop music during my formative years was, at least in part, an entry point to black culture at large. On the most basic level, N.W.A. articulated both the fear and anger I felt as a child when I regularly saw members of the Long Beach and Los Angeles Police Departments harass the men in my family.

And while groups like X-Clan and Arrested Development tapped into aspects of Pan-Africanism and Black Nationalism inside of me that I didn’t even know existed, they were also parts of many musical influences—some of which had nothing to do with race at all. Undoubtedly, nostalgia tints my “The Wonder Years”-style memories of Hip Hop’s so-called “Golden Era.” But, my subjective and anecdotal stroll down memory lane aside, I can’t help but feeling that mainstream Hip Hop used to be a form of black music, and it no longer is anymore. I’m honestly not sure what to do with that opinion. Before you read any further, I should point out that I’m not complaining that Hip Hop isn’t strictly black music. Much like the other contributions to this Taboo Series, I just want to offer an opinion on a subject that many artists seem to have been dancing around for the better part of the last decade. It boils down to a few simple questions. Is Hip Hop black music? Should we care if the music or culture is or is not a facet of black culture?

Respond, React

This editorial was spawned by one of the less glamorous duties associated with being an editor. In June, I attended a panel on black music’s impact on advertising and popular culture. The panel featured David Banner, UCLA Associate Professor Scot D. Brown, HipHopDX.com founder/publisher Sharath Cherian, Singleton Entertainment CEO Ernest Singleton and Johnnie Walker, President of the National Association of Black Female Executives in Music and Entertainment. As with any panel discussion, there was an ebb and flow of dialogue. And since I work for a Hip Hop site, Banner’s comments stood out rather prominently.

“I did an advertisement for Gatorade; I did the ‘Evolve’ commercial,” Banner offered. “When they heard the song, they actually thought that was an old Gospel song that Gatorade had stolen. It was funny, because for the most part, everyone that worked on that song was under 35. People said, ‘I didn’t know David Banner could do something like that.’ And you know why? Because we don’t buy it! Everybody talks about the music being degraded, but it’s because we don’t buy it. A friend of mine that works at Sony Records was talking about Adele. And some people were saying, ‘Well that’s just a white woman singing black folks’ music.’ Yeah, but white folks are buying it. If we bought Anthony Hamilton…if we bought Erykah Badu the way that we’re supposed to, then it wouldn’t be no problems. Advertisers follow money. The one thing that I learned from Universal Records—and I actually think it was a blessing—excuse me, but I’m just gonna say it how I feel it. White people are not emotional. Whether it’s how many listeners you have, how many views you have or how much money you make, they will do it. If we can couple that with talent, then we could show our people.”

As you can imagine, Banner got quite the reaction with those comments. In an effort to provide them within the proper context, a video of all of David Banner’s thoughts from the panel discussion is posted below. His remarks about the Gatorade commercial begin at the 6:45 mark. I’m not touching the whole “white people are not emotional” part of the discussion. But I will say, to Banner’s credit, he has never shied away from the issue of race as it regards Hip Hop. Never. And if you can remove the generic “white people do this,” but “black people do that” aspect of the discussion, you touch on a topic that many artists are either ignorant of or just plain afraid to discuss.

Hip Hop’s Audience By The Numbers

“White people might buy 80 percent of hip-hop records today, but I don’t think they’re as big a percentage of the tastemaking crowd. If you get an underground record that’s really cool and innovative, the initial audience might be 40 percent white. There’s also a diverse group of black people who are part of that audience, including black people who are not from the same background as the obvious ghetto one. The key is that all of these different groups make up the core tastemaking crowd.” –Russell Simmons, Life And Def

There’s a commonly held belief that despite creating the majority of Hip Hop music, black people don’t purchase much Hip Hop these days. This theory is floated around so much that the Wall Street Journal investigated it back in 2005. And that’s where things get murky. In 2004, an article in The Philadelphia Inquirer reported, “70 percent of the paying (and downloading) Hip Hop audience is white kids living in the suburbs.” The statistic was attributed to SoundScan, even though SoundScan can’t and doesn’t track music buyers’ races. Similar articles have been found in Advertising Age, Forbes and Vibe. If you follow the trail of information, you wind up at a company named Marketing Research Incorporated. Carl Bialik of WSJ.com explained his findings in further detail.

“Conventional wisdom, for once, turns out to be mostly correct—with the caveat that there’s a lot we don't know about race and Rap sales,” wrote Bialik. “Each year, MRI researchers go into about 25,000 homes nationwide and talk to residents for an hour about their media habits…Among the questions MRI asks is whether the respondent purchased pre-recorded Rap audio tapes and compact discs in the last 12 months. MRI sent me the results for 1995, 1999 and 2001, for both adults 18 to 34 and for all adults. For both groups, the percentage of recent Rap buyers who are white was about 70% to 75% for all three years.”

A seven-year-old study of three years worth of data is a small and easily manipulated sample size, but it still leaves an interesting dynamic. Any way you slice it, Rap and Hip Hop is predominately performed by black males. As of Monday, September 3, 49 of the top 50 songs on Billboard magazine’s R&B/Hip Hop chart are performed and or written by people that would generally be considered as black or African-American. Robin Thicke is the only non-black performer, and he’s not a rapper. If you put stock into the MRI data, you’re left juggling the fact that Hip Hop is by and large performed by black people selling product to an audience of mostly white people between the ages of 18 and 34.

Co-opted Culture Or Diverse Global Growth?

“And all this post-racism is killing me / I heard some hipsters saying nigga real liberally / I know some of your best friends is niggas / Nigga please / I know this gentrification is killing me / But I ain’t gone pretend like I ain’t got no white friends / I mean it is what it is I guess / And if you ask me what I’m is / I say I’m blessed…” –Denmark Vessey, “Quit Smoking.”

In a vacuum, those two statistics shouldn’t matter. And while I find them interesting, the point of this piece isn’t to just throw some old, limited data at readers. How do we account for illegal downloads, considering that’s how a large portion of listeners get their music these days? When presented with MRI’s 100-plus page questionnaire, what box do participants of multiple ethnicities check? I’m more interested in what artists aren’t saying when they dance around Hip Hop’s racial dichotomy. Take Eminem, for example. He’s a white artist in the predominately black field of Hip Hop. Yet he is the best-selling artist in any genre between the years 2000 through 2010. Aside from an occasional reference and the self-deprecating talk of his teenage poverty and social ineptitude, he rarely talks about race.

If the MRI statistics hold up—and, by no means am I saying they do—we’re left with many questions. Is the current incarnation of mainstream Hip Hop a co-opted form black music or is it organically diverse enough to attract all races? That’s a trick question, because it’s probably both.

Oppression, Progress And More Questions

“All the fresh styles always start off as a good, little, hood thing. Look at Blues, Rock, Jazz, Rap…not even talking about music—everything else too. By the time it reach Hollywood, it’s over. But it’s cool. We just keep it going and make new shit.” –Andre 3000, “Hollywood Divorce.”

By pointing out what I see as rather obvious links between black culture and Hip Hop, I’m not saying only black people can identify with Hip Hop. Nor am I saying that Hip Hop should be the sole cultural touchstone for understanding black culture. But I would argue that during Hip Hop’s commercial and critical peak, both the music and culture were infused with elements of black culture. You can take something as simple as Method Man’s “Biscuits,” and trace the chorus of, “Yo mama don’t wear no draws / I seen her when she took ‘em off…” directly to the practice of playing the dozens. I’d make the same argument for early Goodie Mob albums and their inclusion of Gospel and cultural aspects of the black church. A listener could purchase Tical and Soul Food today, and totally miss or ignore those black cultural references. The listening experience would still be enjoyable. But I would argue that if you are in tune with those aspects of black culture, their mere inclusion brings the element of race into the discussion.

The other issue at hand is if Hip Hop culture in and of itself was organically diverse enough to attract all races. For most of us, the answer to that question would be an obvious yes. So, in a very real sense, Hip Hop is not “black music” anymore than basketball is a “black sport.” The majority of Hip Hop performers are black males, but the music and culture appeal to people of all races. During its peak, I would argue that even mainstream Hip Hop was not necessarily black music, but oppressed people’s music. The systematic racial and socio-economic oppression many black emcees addressed was one of many forms of oppression. And I feel those rhymes spoke to other marginalized and oppressed groups of all races and creeds that gravitated to the music and the culture. Add in the appeal of youthful, rebel culture, and it doesn’t surprise me that Hip Hop held the distinction as the most commercially successful genre of music at one time. Unfortunately, now that corporate interests are involved, artists are scared to speak truth to power when addressing what are likely millions of people of all races that still feel oppressed and marginalized in some way.

I think, recognizing and speaking on that systematic oppression is an important part but not the only part of the black experience. Besides, the assertion that blacks are solely responsible for Hip Hop is a slap in the face to any and every non-black pioneer and die hard b-girl and b-boy. But now, most of what you see and hear is just as mainstream as Country, Rock or any other genre.

Dominant elements of black culture have been a large part of Hip Hop music and culture during its entire existence. While the MRI data is muddled, most would agree that the music—and by extension, those elements of black culture—have been co-opted into mainstream American popular culture. To further speak to some of Banner’s points, should we celebrate the fact that subsequent generations of all races have learned to appreciate and profit from those cultural elements? Or does this incite anger because large groups of people aren’t financially supporting the musical expression of culture in its earlier forms? If you appreciate musical elements historically associated with black culture, are you wrong for wanting to hear them expressed by a black person? Race will always be one of Hip Hop’s taboo topics until emcees ask those questions in their songs and we candidly answer them as listeners. Banner alluded to the fact that listeners make decisions with their wallets, and I would agree. Few of the mainstream emcees willing to ask the above questions are financially rewarded for doing so.

What To Expect From Hip Hop

“Hip Hop will simply amaze you / Praise you / Pay you / Do whatever you say do / But black it can’t save you…” –Mos Def, “Hip Hop.”

As I mentioned at the outset, certain Hip Hop artists provided my entry point to better understanding aspects of black culture on a much larger scale. I applaud those artists and the emcees they inspired. But over 25 years after discovering those albums, I don’t particularly subscribe to a notion of some universal, homogenized standard for blackness. I don’t get angry when mainstream Hip Hop at large no longer reinforces certain positive aspects of black culture. Decades after my youthful naiveté has (hopefully) passed, I sought out other sources for further understanding black culture. Former professors and the likes of Ralph Ellison, Zora Neale Hurst, Marcus Garvey or any number of other contributors have informed my current, evolving understanding. Anything a Rap artist adds to that understanding is a pleasant surprise.

Black culture is complex, and all black people don’t have the same agenda. So if Rick Ross, 2 Chainz or any rapper releases music that I feel doesn’t reinforce my personal values, I don’t place the responsibility of being a standard bearer for black culture at their feet. And if I happen to be involved in some ratchet activity on a weekend in Vegas, I’m more than happy to let either of them provide the soundtrack for such activity. I think Hip Hop can do a lot of things. And if you or an artist you like uses Hip Hop to teach and inspire others about any culture, more power to you and them. But if you’re expecting Hip Hop to always do so, or you want it to consistently reinforce your moral beliefs, you may often end up disappointed.

Omar Burgess is a Long Beach, California native who has contributed to various magazines, newspapers and has  been an editor at HipHopDX since 2008. Follow him on Twitter @FourFingerRings.

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55 Comments

  • 2xUeL

    1. Both the 2000 and 2010 United States Census indicate that the American population has been approximately 75% white for the last ten years (and if I'm not mistaken long before 2000 as well). Am I missing something or do the MRI statistics from the turn of the century suggest nothing more than the idea that hip hop music is proportionally consumed by the American population? To me, this indicates that hip hop appeals equally to all races in the US. If *more* than 75% of hip hop music was consumed by whites, *that* would suggest that hip hop music appeals more to whites. 2. Hip hop in its purest form is an embodiment of what I think of as "black culture". Personally, my favorite hip hop is that which is closest to this, and it's the reason why Kanye is one of my favorite post-2000 hip hop artists. 3. Talking about race is good IF the people involved are being honest and speaking from the heart. If the people involved are regurgitating canned statements that merely represent what they THINK they should say, it's a pointless discussion, and unfortunately I think that's what most people do in these situations to this day (I believe I can speak more for white people on this because I am white and have more experiences talking about these things with whites, but I still think it's true for Americans in general). 4. If you first define what "black" means, from there you can have a discussion about whether or not hip hop is "black music". Is Burgess suggesting that for hip hop to be thought of as black music that conscious, afrocentric themes need to dominate and that not only should the artists be predominately black but there should also be evidence that the art appeals more to black people? Without making an effort here to clearly defining what black culture is, hip hop music does have its roots in black culture and because of this I think it's valid that hip hop music is black music.

  • D-Train

    Hip hop started off as a poor urban music form..... Djing mcing bboying and Graf were all jumping off..... The man did not touch the music until he saw he could make money....The man being Jewish cats as they run all the music and the media...Hip hop was pure and was about expression and you could hear it in most black neighborhoods from 79 on if you had urban radio.....Once the man got into our art form it transmored just like Rock n roll, Jazz, R & B & Blues music...... Music may be colorless but the people that control what and how you hear it, use race and trends to put out what they want u to hear...I have always been a purist when it comes to hip hop and this is what I purchase or an underground head, from spoonie G, De la, Brand Nubian to Little Brother....Majority of the hip hop shows that I go to have a white crowd with black artists.... I see the white people at edo G, Masta Ace, Krs 1 Dela or Tribe.. I've found that most of the blacks our here support the garbage that is killing our culture, 2 chains, Ross, Drake, Wayne and all those other non rapping but paid rappers..... The worse you are the more money you make in this industry and that is horrible....

    • The

      PEACE Right on the money with that one. I recall similar comment to Jazz where an artist complained that at his shows he only saw white faces. True, it is so funny that Hip-Hop had a role as something innovative- it would take something from popular culture and change it and make it its own-now it is popular culture telling it what it should be. Black folks are being told what black should be, what hot is supposed to be. That is the reason you have black men acting as women or male rappers kissing other male rappers because they want to fit in(never listened to MURS never will; ditto for Wayne and Byrd-should have taken the advice Denzel gave to Will-don't be kissing no man!-to further your career)-because that is what popular culture is telling them. Peace

    • $p|!ff999 aka $p|@t17

      The "man" or any other organization/corporation could never make money with the old school bullshit rap culture, yes, the ash black dude with the afro pick in his nappy-ass hair. NEVER. So when the sound changed, yes, the corporations came and got a niqqa paid. I love the way dudes like you talk about conscious rappers and listening to them, you're all a bunch of herbs and/or nerds...fuck off!

    • $p|!ff999 aka $p|@t17

      The "man" or any other organization/corporation could never make money with the old school bullshit rap culture, yes, the ash black dude with the afro pick in his nappy-ass hair. NEVER. So when the sound changed, yes, the corporations came and got a niqqa paid. I love the way dudes like you talk about conscious rappers and listening to them, you're all a bunch of herbs and/or nerds...fuck off!

  • dawayne1025

    hey search this group BABYLON FEAT. YUNG RIDAZ 'FLY HIGH'

  • What??

    So if I enjoy an Italian sonnet, does it make it any less Italian? Don't strip a culture of its cultural traits just so it can be inclusive. The culture can be accepting of others will keeping its nascent identity. Black is not just a race in America. It is a way to identify culture when their is no country to ascribe to. That was kind of taken away. So if there's such a thing a Italian music, Irish music, Jamaican music, or Nigerian music, then there exist something called Black American music. Hip-hop exist in their diaspora no matter who enjoys it.

  • realtalk101

    Race plays no part once so ever in the transmission of sound. Through lyrics emotion and knowledge can be transmitted into the deepest depths of the human psyche experience. There is valid intake projected that is beyond the color barrier and to simplify something as to being race based is a dis-service to something that is universally broadcast. Music is 1 thing humanity can control, it is ours as a whole, it is a defining momento of our united existence. Rap/Hip Hop is nothing more or less then an environmental perspective. It is a percentage combination to aid in forming a whole. Those who are so tied up with origin, credit etc. they are seriously bypassing the point, music is beyond racial profile.

  • prich87

    So who swaggajacked who on the intro LAKIEA Or OMAR?

  • james

    I'm white and the people who say rap is black music are just wrong. They'll usually say,"Not Eminem" added on. They'll conveniently try to explain away the most record selling musician of the last decade. That being said, American Music culture is black culture, but I hate when people will say things like, "You're white and you like rap, Stop acting black!" I've heard it from whites and blacks and it's pretty annoying. I don't think that race should play a part in day to day life with determining the ways things are treated, I know that it currently,sadly does however. Even though rap got it's start from African American culture, I believe it is time to stop stereotyping it as only "black music".

    • What??

      KD stated history very eloquently.

    • KD

      You just contradicted yourself. You stated " American Music culture is black culture" then later you say ". Even though rap got it's start from African American culture, I believe it is time to stop stereotyping it as only "black music"."......So which is it? I think hip-hop can be looked at in 2 ways. Anybody of any creed or color can wake up one day and start rapping. They can even start to participate in Hip-Hop culture (which can include dress, slang, etc), however you can't take away the fact that Hip-hop sounds (drums, SEVERE oppression, dance and RHYTHM) are purely based in black culture not even just American (BUT BLACK PERIOD), The music is the ONLY remnant of our African roots that did not get erased during slavery. MUSIC survived. Can other races relate to oppression, and everything? Yes of course. Can they decide to rap and engage in Hip Hop culture? Yes, but they need to respect the roots because the artform and sounds they are doing would not even EXIST without circumstances and CULTURE that affected BLACK People. As Future, would say Ain't No Way Around It!

  • The G.O.D.

    PEACE To the comment below with regard to ElMvis and his flow same as Rakim's, you must be sniffin' or something? You meant he bit Masta Ace's flow . EM got over because of timing and I don't mean timing as in Rhythm (he not long ago learned what rhythm-his word) is and he brought Hip Hop to the world? What world? Fuck out of here, people in the Islands don't listen to him, France? A lot of the rappers-of any color- will dismiss him as a novelty. The point is ElMvis falls in the category of a comedian- this how he started? no. Granted he does have skills but trying to put him on a pedestal is disrespectful to a lot of rappers old and new. PEACE

  • black canseco

    Take black folk outta hip hop and it's never created in the first place. Not "hip hop as we know it" not hip hop in a different form, but Hip Hop wouldn't exist without Blackfolk. It's rooted in our collective struggle, history, common musical sensibilities, draws from past music forms that we created... Take Blackfolk outta Hiphop from a creative/artistic/cultural standpoint and it ceases to be.

  • 619_andres

    I'm not Black or White but I'm a hip hop head. Ive been one for over 20 years now and really wouldn't know how to be anything else if I tried. So while it may mean something to Russell Simmons, David Banner or an editor at HIPHOPDX that hip hop might not sell well to Black people they'd all take my money without any problem. I'm not a tastemaker and I don't have advertising dollars to throw around. I'm just a Latino dude who grew up in cyphers and argued for hours over who the illest really was year after year. (Shrug) What can I say?? I don't have a dog in this fight, but I still love this hip hop $hit tho.

  • Mr_R

    In all honesty, why does everything have to boil down to a struggle? Who has been through the struggle, witnessed the struggle, etc. People don't get to choose what they encounter through life. If that was the case, I guarantee that none of you who have "experienced the struggle", would pick that same exact path. So what if people don't witness a struggle, I commend their parents, family, and whoever else contributed to that. Or, who is one to even define what a "struggle" is? To each their own, remember....

  • Anonymous

    ONLY WHITE PEOPLE BUY ALBUMS???OK SO WHY ARE RAPPERS FLOPPING LEFT IN RIGHT THESE DAYS? 2CHIANZ DOES 100k AND CURREN$Y ONLY 89k IN FIRST WEEK???

  • Anonymous

    wow wake yo game up

  • milehighkid303

    I'm a whiteboy who GREW UP in the golden era of Hip Hop. I'm also from Denver. IMO two things that HELPED me and also HURT me growin up. Had alot of black dudes used to give me a "hard time" until they heard my "knowledge" on the culture, or the fact I APPRECIATED the "struggle" or the stories that seemignly made me fall in love with the culture. Have I ever shot anyone, sold crack, or pimped a ho?? Na, don't wanna nor have I ever HAD to. Now, I say ALL that to say this, I fell in love with Hip Hop BECAUSE of the STORIES OF THE STRUGGLE, they were interesting to me because yes, I don't know about the history of the 5 boroughs of New York, or tales of South Central, or Face bein intricate with his many tales of his Houston hood or his suicidal thoughts. The culutres stories is what has driven me to love the culutre and DISMISS the race thing, I've had that card pulled so much I smile and laugh. I LOVE my black folks grew up with more of them then my own kind, to me, the race thing is MAD played in Hip Hop, the REAL PROBLEM is, is us STUPID white folks spent DECADES tryna cock block the black race and now look............ya'll DOMINATE the NFL, NBA, Music, UNITED STATES CULTURE and the way people wanna dress, talk, etc....always makes me laugh at the irony. Like I told my boy when we were smokin yesterday, "Fam, ya'll want reperations, take a look around, GOD has given it to ya'll through sports, the fact white men wanna be black, lol, and the fact WHITE WOMEN LOVE YALL...lol" MUCH LOVE TO THE CULTURE IM FOREVER THANKFUL FOR HIP HOP, YEA A SUBURB BOY SAID IT AND WHAT!?

    • Anonymous

      @xavier So fuckin true. Most black people will show love to "authentic" white people who dont try to be anything but themselves that want to understand us. Its just that the ones that are cool fail to realize its that reality you mention that pisses us off. yea some of you will think hey black people, own your own shit do this and do that, etc. but let me tell you....THAT SHIT AINT ALWAYS JUST THAT EASY FOR US!!!!! Its many things that we have to fight thru...some just out of our own culture just to GET to the playing field, let alone win on it(with all the extra shit that comes with that). Which is often the cause for our attitudes. Just sayin...that shit slaps us in the face. Its hard to be happy when your people doing bad, but you make up all this cool music and set all these trends and shit but each time you do somehow someone sits on top of that shit and gets most of the money and power while the people with all the creative spirit get crumbs...

    • xavier

      son, blacks have been the driving cultural force for this country for CENTURIES, it still doesn't help the cause. Most of the players in the nfl and the nba are black. Most of the team owners that give them paychecks are white. Most rappers are black. Most CEO's of their record lable are white. Blacks define the culture. Whites co-opt and take that culture to keep blacks from arming themselves with a rebellious culture.

    • Anonymous

      you on twitter?

  • Anonymous

    I like how black people get mad about white people doing there music, but you NEVER see a white person mad that black people are good at sports white people make. Sorry to say, but alot of black people are just bitter ass people about there music. GOt people like CHuck D hating on Elvis. Dude's been dead for 40 some years, but he's still mad about Blue Suede Shoes. That alone right there shows how ridiculous people can be. Yet you never hear someone say "That nigger Michael Jordan sucks at basketball. He's a piece of shit for taking a white man's sport" NEVER. All he gets is praise. Yet blacks get mad that white people do there music. -_-

    • tm

      Anon I hear you but I would question how much input he actually had in creating and promoting his image. I think the label did a lot of ths for him. My point is that other similarly talented rappers did not get this type of support fromo the label. Therefore, i ma saying that even tho his legacy is the comercialisation of hip hop globally the actual part he played in this was less than the actual label's part

    • Anonymous

      Maybe this is what good rappers should start learning. You can be the best rapper on earth but if you don't know how to market yourself, the people don't give a fuck! And being an artist is more than just the lyrics, just the flow, just the message, just the style, just the beats etc...It's a combination of all of these elements. Eminem became successful because of that, same for Jay, same for Pac etc...

    • tm

      Ahh but anon you have also proved my point. Em's main legacy is how he was able to commercialise hip hop for its benefit. My name is is the perfect example. What Em did was perhaps no different from Kool Keith style but the difference is he found a way of making it palatable for the masses. No disrespect but I think this is the truth

    • Anonymous

      @tm What originality did Em bring???? ARE U SERIOUS?? My Name Is (the track he burst on the scene with) was unlike anything else anyone ever heard before. The reason it got so much buzz was because it was a unique concept for a hip hop record and em's flow was crazy (based on the flows of previous pioneers, but still crazy and very original) There were PLENTY of other white rappers before Em that the major labels tried to break (vanilla ice, house of pain, marky mark) but they were mostly just one hit wonders cuz they werent on the same level as Em. So anyone who tries to say Eminem got big mostly bcuz he was white dont know SHIT! im not sure if thats what yur trying to say but i know there are people who think that

    • tm

      I say this with respect but you are missing the point. The reason why Chuck D is mad is because that there appears to not be an equitable reciprocity when it comes to giving adulation and respect. EXAMPLE: Eminem is an excellent rapper. One of the greatest ever. However,there have been countless rappers who were just as good as Em but did not sell a fraction of Eminems records. This is not Eminems fault. However, the music inddustry has catapulted Em into hip hop stardom based on mainstream appeal. Ras Kass, Pharoah Monche are just as good. Em's flow is basically Rakim's flow. WHat originality did Eminem bring to the game at all besides taking hip hop to the world?(which is not a negative)

  • tm

    It started off as an interesting article but it i was left disappointed at the end. With sensitive topics like these it is important support your point of views with enough facts. FACTS: - Hip Hop is an African American music artform not a black one. END OF DISCUSSION, END OF CONTROVERSY. Hip Hop is foreign to those in the Carbbean and Africa. Therefore, the argument of whether it is a black or white music artform is null and void. WHY? African Americans created it and is predominantly performed by African Americans. The fact that people of other races particpate means nothing. Who invented croissants? French people. CRoissants are made all over the world but we know its a frecnh food. The problem is when people broadly define areas of life by colour lines. It is a lazy inaccurate way of defintion.

    • Dazzl

      Kool here and other pioneers of Jamaican descent simply took the practices of reggae music and applied to hip hop. For example, multiple artists adding their own verses to e same instrumental, the party chants, freestyling, all that comes from reggae. Reggae and hip hop originated the same way. Parties in the ghetto

    • CN

      Yet Kool Herc was Jamaican, Puerto Ricans have been involved graffiti artists and b-boys from it's inception. Many early pioneers have Caribbean heritage. And ALL of our music stems from the rhythms that are African. Hip hop is a music form that was produced on American soil with the influence of the peoples of the African diaspora. I agree with a lot of your points, but it's Black American music. Many Afro-carribean americans have been involved from inception.

    • tm

      In reply to Jay. Yes Yes Yes I would. Don't blame me for th way the world thinks. We tend to associate things with where they originate from. My point is just because other people it pizza does not mean that it isn't an Italian invention. It was invented in Italy for the world to enjoy. I don't understand why hip hop is never viewed in the same light.

    • jay

      but would you call pizza Italian? would you call hockey Canadian? would you call cassette tapes German? just because something ORIGINATES within a certain culture/place doesnt mean it will forever be labeled as such. Its been about 35 years since the creation of hip hop. We all know where it came from, but now people are curious as to what it represents today. Thats what the author was getting at. So no not "end of disscussion" the discussion will continue and time continues and change happens

    • tm

      Quez, You raise good points and I was waiting for someone to pull this out of the hat. However, your point I think illustrates my point. It is the labelling that is the issue. It is likely that Caribbean immigrants played a major role in the inception of hip hop. This is becaue of the Caribbean immigrants in New York. The Bronx has plenty Jamaicans. However, the key word is predominantly. Kool Herc is Jamaican. I would venture a guess that more African Americans had a hand in creating and shaping the artform before the commercialism of it than any other group. Hence I call it an African American artform. The irony is Kool Herc after living so long in New York may even call himself African American now.

    • -

      i MEAN STYLE WARS.. my bad.. and that's WILD STYLE Not 8 MILE

    • -

      watch wild style and wars.. Yeah blacks were primarily the only ones rapping and djing but puerto ricans heavily took to breaking and graffiti had huge amounts of white kids doing it from the get. Saying white people shouldn't rap these days is like saying Bad Brains or TV on the radio shouldn't be doing what they doin or lenny kravitz even. It's sad but true but if white america hadn't taken a shine to hip hip like it did none of these people like jay-z or kanye or dre would be household names.. period

    • quez

      you make valid points but I think you're mistaking just a lil bit correct me if I'm wrong but cool Herc was one of the original founding father?! Isn't cool Herc Jamaican, as well as KRS-one even Biggie was of west indian background so I'd say its more then African American Culture

    • Nell

      Best comment made thus far.

  • mrmojorisin

    hip hop is American music, that was part of the Black culture, it was created and formed by black people, and once it was released to the masses, no longer. its now American culture, which black culture is apart of. 2012 and color and racism is still strong, but that's the way of the world. im white and i respect that hip hop was created by black people and i agree most white rappers suck (mac miller mg-gay, etc) but the point is now hip hop is American, and like Andrew 3k said, give it a little longer and it'll fade just like rock, blues, etc and new form of popular music will take over, cycle repeats itself, hip hop will never die, just its popularity, but then we wont get any more lame shitty whack ppl also, fuck lil wayne he sucks so bad

  • Anonymous

    Hip Hop is black culture period. Everything else is a byproduct.

  • ramses

    i didnt read all this BS ,, i just remember when blacks who was killing and selling drugs to other blacks ,,was calling michael jackson a sellout for doing pepsi commercials ,,now you all would die to do a pepsi commercial,,

    • ramses

      white people is still callin us niggers ,,an ross chicken wayne jigga boo an all your other leaders is still proving them morons right

    • alwaysright

      Damn! how old are you bruh, and who taught your geriatric ass to use a computer. In reality you're probably from the suburbs and have only seen struggle on CNN.

    • Anonymous

      well sir that was a long time ago. Just like I remember when all white people was calling black people niggers and sending dogs and tell us we couldnt drink out of their water fountain. Now yall want to be niggas smh.

  • Anonymous

    If black people was racist as they say we are EM would never have got a shot to be a rapper on the mainstream.

  • Darcwonn

    That last paragraph was spot on. Agree or disagree, people will have to respect Omar's opinions. Point blank, period.

  • gjg

    Hip hop is black music dam we are do eager to give everything to the white man just like jazz these nigger are fuck up bad. and what so sad they rich and fuck up

  • dark man x

    music is colorblind. one type of music doesn't define a whole race. but i do wish emcee's would take more pride in uplifting their community.

    • UES

      right!! marvin gaye.. jimmy hendrix..some emcees do uplift their communities, but they bring the communities back down with their lyrics. still in the end it is up to ourselves to decide what we take pride in.

  • Anonymous

    "Let's do the math: if I was black, I woulda sold half" - Eminem.

    • -

      it was eminems subject matter and skin colour that made him such a commercial success. if he had been kickin some straight gangsta shit he would of just been another vanilla ice..

  • Anonymous

    great article i really look forward to reading the next one