Hip Hop: Be Truth to See Truth
40 years Hip Hop Documentary by KRS-One
By Jaden Jackson
KRS One is a self proclaimed prophet of hip-hop. He is a MC from the Bronx, New York born in August of 1965 who is most notably known for being the other half of the group Boogie Down Productions (Erwin, 2012) In the group he had music success and hits like, “Sound of Da Police” and “Love’s gonna getcha”, but after the untimely death of his other group member, DJ Scott La Rock, he began his journey as a solo artist (Erwin, 2012) He is most praised for his conscious rap style, as he constantly wrote raps to shine light on the political and economical issues that were happening around him.
In this documentary KRS One talked about there being four levels of hip-hop. He described level one as the way people understand hip-hop and how the language and ideologies are able to move and travel the minds of different people in different cultures. He talked about how in any urban community in any city around the world you will find hip-hop because it is rooted in an intellectualistic way to speak your truth on a beat. When I thought about his point, I agreed with his statements because I personally traveled to Brazil and a lot of their music was intended to be a reflection of hip-hop. Of course they had different types of music but the music that had the most expression and feeling was that reminiscent of American hip-hop. A lot of the Brazilians listened to American rappers and put them on a high pedestal as if they were native Brazilians. One famous staircase that has pictures of influencers and respected people of Brazil had pictures of Tupac and Biggie. A lot of times hip-hop is ridiculed and deemed non-sense because of our white socialized society but when you look deeper in most cultures around the world, hip-hop is the blueprint.
KRS also talked about hip-hop and branding which he cited as Level 3. He states how hip-hop changed the way music was sold and how image became just as important as the music itself. Hip-hop is what really curated mixtapes and gave a space where underground, local artists could be just as popular, if not more, as the mainstream artists that had the backing of large labels. Hip-hop popularized many brands and style because it was so inventive and different it became something that was extremely lucrative for fashion and entertainment brands. It made me think about Tommy Hilfiger and Fubu and the popularity of air-forces, baggy clothes, and gaudy jewelry. If you look at the peak of all the trends more times then not hip-hop music and artists are responsible for it. In some ways I feel like this has both helped and hurt the black community. It helped give voices to the voiceless and created a space where black people could see large amounts of success staying true to their background and not having to assimilate to whiteness. However, it hurt us in the way, more or so now, because many people who make rap music now are placed in a stereotypical barrier where they have to promote drugs, sex, and violence. They aren’t given the freedom as much as before to explore different ideas and expressions since it’s not as marketable n mainstream. We are in a space now where rap is not so conscious and instead markets a lot of artists to be gimmicky and focus on the materialistic aspect and harmful messages. In a sense it is still rooted in hip-hop but during KRS’ time they had the freedom to express their truth and let their skill be a means of education for the communities that weren’t being taught simple things that could help them elevate into a better situation. Now, hip hop has seen a loss in its message because it has been taken over by big companies and labels that make artists produce a certain kind of music.
In conclusion, I liked this documentary. I felt KRS One fed us information in a way that made sense and shined a light on the real power of hip-hop that I feel can be easily overlooked. Hip-hop is the truth that opens our eyes to many of the hidden systems of oppression and falsified history around us. It gives us the ability to write our own lessons and reach the ones who are timelessly left out.