Saturday, September 17, 2016


Rap is rooted in slavery


This film is first of all nostalgic and that is good because we do not live on bread and water but also on recollections, as much as on dreams and projects. You will get the allusions to and mentions of “Boys in the Hood” and the famous video of the beating of Rodney King by the police in LA in 1992. You will have the right to wonder if anything has changed since now young black males are just shot to death by the police practically every week and just like in 1992 the police officers so far have gone through a judicial procedure that has cleaned them up of all charges or nearly.

You will also find the very strange community life in Black ghettos in America and the systematic raids of the police (be the policemen Black or white) to harass the young Black males they can see anywhere including in some Black neighborhoods.

But the film is a lot more than just that.

It is the real history of a group of rap music, N.W.A., that was probably the first to dare produce that music with these lyrics, the lyrics of the real street reality of Black ghettos and attacking the white dominant society for being racist, criminal, lethal and a few other nice totalitarian and dictatorial characteristics. Their most famous song was “$...K the police” of course. They were arrested in Detroit for it and they defended their first amendment rights, their total freedom of speech. That is the most important element at this point: the first amendment to the US constitution was understood at the time as being only for whites. Things have changed. But have they really? Note the freedom of speech is one thing, but the freedom of the distribution and circulation of all personal expression is far from being true because most people don’t have the slightest possibility to really be circulated and distributed as much as Trump or Clinton, even with the Internet.

The second element that is interesting is that showbiz is a big stealing industry. You always find a producer who will help you though he will help himself first. But at the same time in your group there is always one who is going to help himself slightly less equally than the others since he is the one who has the power to sign all documents and checks. You will also learn that there is no contract for years because as long as you are not untouchable you are not someone who cannot fail tomorrow. So the producer prefers no contract since then he has none to break if there is some kind of difficulty along the road.

The third element is that artists like money but they sure do not know what investing and saving are. They get it, then they have to spend it, and spend it they do on parties, women and who knows what. So that Easzy-E is HIV positive and dies of AIDS because since he was not gay he did not have to take any precaution, did he or did he not? As the doctor told him a long time too late: “You can get the virus from a heterosexual unprotected relationship.” Add to that alcohol and drugs and you have it. I guess 80% of the income is wasted on mostly useless and vain expenditures, including crazy ego-boosting cars and houses. Stardom in such cases is a long shorter than the stardom of a real star in the sky. It is true it cannot be taken to paradise in a backpack, but even so… If all industrialists were like that we would still be living in caves.

The most fascinating fact is the music. Some pretend that rap or hip hop is no music. It is just humdrum drum machine noise plus a DJ scratching records in all possible ways. And worse of all the songs are not even sung, are they? Or are they not? For me it is an extremely strong and powerful form of music because the language is “manipulated” with the lips, tongue, larynx and glottis to get a special rhythm and a special cyclical flow punctuated by strong syllables or words generally carrying rhymes. Maybe it is not what the “experts” will call operatic singing. Maybe it is not what the connoisseurs will call music hall songs or even musicals songs. But it is tremendous work on language, on rhythm and even at times the use of melodious tunes on a guitar or some other instrument.

This leads me to say that when Blacks were slaves they used such rhythmic chanting to make all the slaves work at the same rhythm to avoid as many whippings as possible in the evening when the final cotton collection was measured, slave by slave. That insistence on rhythmic speech and rhythmic music is the purest African tradition that used to have the only polyrhythmic music in the world before it started spreading to the Semitic world first and then to all the places where African slaves were imported. Rap and hip hop is the very soul of African slaves and we can understand why in Europe so many second generation forced immigrants from the Maghreb or Arab countries find in rap and hip hop a way to express their soul wound, their historical alienation, their holocaustic traumas (colonization, forced deportation to Europe as overexploited menial unqualified workers, total alienation and deculturation of their own culture and the absolute acculturation in the standard European culture of the various countries where they are used as salaried chattel.

We are here at the root of the future because the victims of these soul wounds and of these historical traumas and genocidal holocausts are the future of this world. That’s why gangsta rap is at least as important as Beethoven’s ninth symphony or Verdi’s Aïda.


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