I don’t know if they’d call it a manifesto, but what the folks at Democracy and Hip-hop have laid down certainly reads like one. Let me say at the outset that this is the type of critical work that we need to be creating and fighting about. This is the only way we’re going to be able to make sense of the reality we find ourselves in without resorting to the language and ideas of times past.
With that said though I have a number of questions. In fact this will probably be split up into a number of posts.
How are we to judge the following statement:
“we conclude that hip-hop, as a form of culture with literally millions of participants here and across the globe, is the best indicator; the best gauge of the consciousness of the masses of people throughout the world and it expresses not only all that is ugly about them, but all that is beautiful and all that yearns to be free. It gives the best approximation of where they are and where they are going, of the present stage in their historical movement to institute a free and democratic society.”
Is this just a numbers thing? That is, can we make this claim about hip-hop because more people listen to it/practice it than other forms of popular culture? I could easily make such a claim about house music–I could definitely make more of a claim about its rootedness (because it is largely faceless and because it wasn’t started in nyc, American music executives were loathe to try to make headway into the genre).Â I could make similar claims for electro, for techno…and a lesser claim for bass music.
Further, it’s a stretch to say that hip-hop is the “best” arbiter of what the masses of people are doing.Â If by “best” you mean “most representative” then perhaps you can make a case.Â People who are performing and consuming hip-hop do so in a wide variety of mind states, and express those states in a variety of different ways.Â But in America and elsewhere those ways are skewed by market forces.Â Those market forces may actually skew how humanity behaves in a way that makes it LESS representative.Â Even the underground responds to the market–acts putting out mixtapes just to get a record deal, which in turn skews the artistic decisions they make as far as what to include/not include in a track.Â Breakdancing has already moved out of the clubs and into spaces formerly reserved for house because the clubs want to maximize bodies per square foot.