On Food and Liquor, and the New Civil Rights Movement

Please forgive the name of my post in light of all the recent discussion surrounding black health, but I felt it appropriate in relation to an aspect of cultural movement that has been largely underserved and underestimated by our community.

If you are a fan of hip-hop you have probably heard about Atlantic Records recording artist Lupe Fiasco and his highly-anticipated debut album “Food and Liquor.” Lupe has been heralded as one hip-hop’s newest and best voices, because of his ability to blend street stories with cultural conscience.

The beauty of hip-hop lies within the eclectic collection of the voices and individuals who practice the art. While much has been made about the vices of the genre, (violence, drugs, degradation of women, and praise of material acquisition) there are some artists who inherently espouse views consistent with the struggle for equal rights and self-preservation.

One thing that is certain in hip-hop is that all of the voices have a genuine basis. Poverty, crime, and tough upbringings are the inspiration that we hear in many lyrics past and present. As such, can it be that with the world’s view on hip-hop culture and those who have grown in its influence, that we have missed and are currently missing the next wave of political activists and civil rights leaders?

Throughout our history here in America, there have been a number of perspectives to come out of the black culture with one common goal for its people: freedom. In this quest, individuals have often clashed because of their varying perspectives, from Booker T. and W.E.B. and Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr. While the methods were different, the message was the same; the emancipation of a lost and misguided race.

Could this be the same view for hip-hop, who in its own unique way has spawned a collection of eloquent representatives of the stuggle? While some artists may preach about the desire to acquire wealth to get out of the hood, there are others who preach about sustaining the hood from whence they came. The message in both is clear; do better than what we are doing now.

Because much of the hip-hop culture has been funneled into the mainstream, the less than favorable lyrical content has drawn ire from individuals with a much greater public platform to project their views. Because of this, a generation is missing out on opportunities to grow because the preceding generation can’t understand the cries and concerns when it is interspersed with bass drum and a catchy chorus.

And in a time where we have longed for a singular voice to represent the aims and objectives of our people, the artists may have been doing this work on wax and on radio all along.

When you think of artists like Puffy, Jay-Z, Kanye West, Nas and Ludacris, you don’t immediately think of political activism, socio-economic influence, and astute cultural commentary. But each of these individuals has made their marks in captivating an audience and compelling it to go beyond what they see in videos. Despite all of the disparaging statistics, a new race of independent and socially committed thinkers is being bred, and hip-hop is a large part of that.

Our generation and those after us will continue to be privy to the pain, struggle and pride that is the black experience. Perhaps it is not the politicians to whom we should lobby, or businesses or anyone else who has find it in their hearts to give to our people, but to turn to those who have the hearts of our people in their hands.

Hip-hop has taken the lead right before our eyes. Are we willing to sit at the table for feast of social upliftment and progress, or will ours be a generation known for being inebriated with self-righteousness and an unwillingness to understand just how much the hip-hop culture can change the world?

Cause in the end, it all comes down to being either food or liquor.

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Published on September 27, 2006 at 11:57 am. 9 Comments.
Filed under black culture,entertainment,mainstream culture.