The Terrible Beauty of Hip Hop, her flaws perfect her. I recall as if it were yesterday the excitement I felt having first heard her voice. It sent shockwaves through the community as if the gospel. It was powerful! And had been long awaited as it had traveled through history to arrive. African Spirituals had enlivened her; gave her a strong voice and character that shaped her aspirations; her conscience; her sound. It was a conscious sound that would go on to reinvent itself generation after generation; each carrying a part of her to remind us of her struggles.
The Blues would be her first offspring that told of America’s empty promises of freedom and equality; of her pain and sufferings. By the 1940s she was with child again. She delivered to the world the sound of Charlie Parker, Thelonious Monk and Dizzy Gillespie who had inherited her creativity in form of fast tempos and complex harmonies of bebop. Thereafter, her soul was electrified as it transcended boundaries of race, geography, education, and politics. Black and white America had found itself at a crossroad, on the cusp of great change. They begin to mingle again. They danced the jitterbug together; christened the sound of Ella Fitzgerald, Dinah Washington, Lena Horne, Billie Holiday, and the big bands. She managed to put the Blues in R&B, and lindy-hopped well into the 1950s where Chuck Berry Rock-n-Roll[ed] her into an explosive sound that caught the ear of the likes of Elvis Presley, the Beatles, Eric Clapton, and others who put a white face on her sound. This, unquestionably, set aflame her passions for a new genre of music which struggled until the 1960s to come around. Whereas, the likes of Gil Scott-Heron and the Last Poets dug deep into her soulful repertoire to take the rap from bebop and flow over explosive ballads which again echoed the struggles of the Blues-the injustices faced by Black America. They were insightful critiques about the nation’s wrongs, its hypocrisy and blood shedding. She had finally arrived as Gil Scott-Heron’s celebrated “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised” anointed him her godfather for his rhyming, socially conscious lyrics.
Yet before she could stand firm as a testament to Black genius, Vietnam threw her into the flame of foreign affairs. She wailed for peace and tranquility; freedom and equality; Power to the People! These were challenging times. So she escaped with a few lines of girl, played with some boy and slipped into a groove with P-Funk. This is where she began to unravel and gain notoriety for her funkadelic phase of musical madness, drugs, sex and urban violence. She stunk-up the air waves with Rick James, George Clinton, Bootsy Collins, Fat Back, and many others. Together, they were the tipping point of the evolution of her sound. By the late 1970s she had come down off the high to infuse more of the Motherland (i.e., the African drum) in her soul. She craved a lighter mood and thus took to house parties with DJ Cool Herc who employed the Sugar Hill Gang, Curtis Blow, Grand Master Flash, and many many others. It was all about good times. Then crack-cocaine hit the scene. She relapsed; got turned-out. This made her hard and promiscuous-a Gangsta Bitch! Again, the struggle had found her. Yet a part of her remained vocal-lashing out at the white world. A world full of hate and house niggas who sought to tame her because she was too outspoken and did not give a flying fuck about a token. So they corrupted her with drugs and money. As the years passed she grew beyond the ‘hood into a white world poisoned by greed. The sound of the siren they craved was sweet disaster to the community she wielded power over. She was used to corrupt Black souls some say; heaped on Black toils. This forced many to put her on the back-burner. As her flame blazed the inferno she became sparked hot-ones in the ghetto. Where she once enthralled and brought a great sense of joy, her nature had become destructive and adulterous. She was now a prostitute with white pimps who transformed her womb into a promiscuous enclave of violence to be unleashed on her community.
Without question, it was time to rethink what her critics were saying. Force myself to tear away from her siphon and handle her more objectively so as to find out what changed her, what down-loads she had been reprogrammed with with hopes of getting her back on track. After all she is the seed of the Black community; the promise of Black unity and most def’ the means to great opportunity. This is what I have come to realize is the driving force that leads me to defend her despite her imperfections.
Chapter 6 excerpt from Domestic Genocide: The Institutionalization of Society by Ivan Kilgore.
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