Oprah hip hop capitalism industry + accountability





I gotta agree with Stanley Crouch... no one needs to be treated like children who cannot take responsibility for THEIR PORTION of the chaos. Asha Bandele has it right when she says "NOBODY gets a pass."

Jason Whitlock has got it both right and wrong. Right, when he says that some of us have allowed each other to go on not accepting an appropriate level of responsibility. Wrong, when he says that what has corrupted Hip Hop is the adoption of prison values. In fact, Mr. Whitlock, what has corrupted Hip Hop is the transformation of it from mainly art and political expression, to capital and industry.

Like I said a few days ago the blame cannot be placed on any one group. But it ought to be placed on all parties involved. And the story ought to be told as accurately as possible. But no part of the story should be used to defend any one party. In fact, the telling of the story ought to be done for its own sake. In a community, when something traumatic happens, everyone is guilty for allowing it to happen. Everyone is responsible, so can we please stop playing the blame game. We're all guilty for our role in allowing this degeneration to occur. Period. For a more detailed breakdown see that Imus post.

Where Russell Simmons is mistaken is that he's defending Hip Hop circa 1980-1990, that indeed may have been simply artists reflecting their experiences. We need to make distinct the "Hip Hop Industry" from the general term of "Hip Hop." But Stanley Crouch also seems to be making this mistake when he says that "for the past 20 years" this has been going on. False. Hip Hop was not like this from day one. It went through a TRANSFORMATION as a result of its interaction with the forces of capital and industry. Crouch would seemingly have us believe that it was like this from day one when DJ Kool Herc brought out the two tables and a mic.

But do we expect anything different from Mr. Simmons? After all, he IS Hip Hop Industry. He is the representation of Hip Hop's journey from art and political expression to capital and industry. And Kevin Liles is the new Russell -- he's Simmons to the tenth power. They both take the expected capitalistic stances on Hip Hop, because they are both capitalists first and foremost. (Fred Hampton addressed this already. This should not be a surprise. He told us that without a collective vision we'd end up having black capitalists who exploit us just as much as the white ones do and did. Do we need to refer to the text?) They view it as capital -- a product not to be censured except by the consumption patterns of the free market. They see no personal responsibility to do anything different.

The so-called "right" to call someone a bitch or a hoe has NOTHING to do with poverty. Period. There are poor people the world over who do not call their mothers, sisters and daughters such things.

However, it does say something about the society into which Hip Hop has integrated into, which is what the Hip Hop community is trying to express, albeit in a defensive manner that even I am tired of hearing. This is a matter of Hip Hop selling out its roots and saying we want to make a capitalist industry out of the practice, art and communal role of being a poet, griot or oral historian. And that selling out reflects the larger capitalist and exploitive society. Without that society there would have been nothing for Hip Hop to transform into. It would have remained as it was. This does not lift the responsibility from the shoulders of those who were conned into buying into this dream. But it does help us tell the story correctly.

This is no different than Africans selling Africans into the hands of European slave masters. Are those Africans responsible for what they did in helping to create and supply the transatlantic slave trade? Yes. But also, those slave traders and their consumers created a demand for slaves that the world had never seen. Without that, those Africans would not have had such a large market into which to sell other Africans.

Hip Hop Industry circa 2007 is not the artistic and political tool that Hip Hop is/was. There still exists Hip Hop that is not mainly capital and industry. But it is not channeled through the mediums that capital and industry provide. Hip Hop Industry is just that, a capitalist "industry", no more different than the Beef Industry that Oprah attacked a few years ago.

That same Beef Industry that came together and attacked Oprah for attacking "them", as they evoked imagery of farmers and cattle raisers, when in fact this was a group of capitalists posing as such, who in reality were merely defending the economic interests of the "Beef Industry". NOT by any means were they defending the image, role and function of the farmer or rancher or cattle raiser in society outside of capital and industry.

Now, on Oprah: While I appreciate what Oprah provides in the absence of what need be, I truly think she avoids critique because she hovers in this space of vagueness and ambiguity when it comes to identifying what role she plays to our community. What is she? Is she a journalist? Is she a psychologist? Is she a sociologist? Is she a scholar? Is she an educator? By claiming to be none of these, she avoids having to live up to the standards of any of these. You can't critique her school in South Africa for its shortcomings because she's not an expert on education in South Africa so she did her best. When perhaps if she were dedicated to education in South Africa she'd have spent her money more wisely and helped plant seeds that would improve the entire nation's educational system in years to come. You can't critique the shallowness of her town hall meetings because she never said she was a journalist. Hey, she did the best she could.


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