This past Sunday the WaPo ran an article titled, “Why I Gave Up On Hip-Hop” by Lonnae O’Neal Parker. While hip hop isn’t necessarily focused on electoral politics, it is overtly and passively political.

Lonnae’s point is that as a black woman who discovered hip hop in 1979, she sees the art form (the commercial version at least) falling into unacceptable depths of misogyny and materialism. She won’t let her 12 year old daughter listen to radio hip hop. I haven’t listened to radio hip-hop for years.

I have no clue who is topping the charts and I can’t name a single rap song in play.
But I swear it hasn’t always been that way.
My daughter can’t know that hip-hop and I have loved harder and fallen out further than I have with any man I’ve ever known.

It’s hard to argue that she’s wrong.

Her article reminds me of one written in 2003 by John H. McWhorter titled, “How Hip-Hop Holds Blacks Back.” Describing a group of overly disruptive black boys, he wrote:

What struck me most, though, was how fully the boys’ music—hard-edged rap, preaching bone-deep dislike of authority—provided them with a continuing soundtrack to their antisocial behavior. So completely was rap ingrained in their consciousness that every so often, one or another of them would break into cocky, expletive-laden rap lyrics, accompanied by the angular, bellicose gestures typical of rap performance. A couple of his buddies would then join him. Rap was a running decoration in their conversation.

Both of these articles address the destructive messages in today’s commercial hip hop, and I think both of their conclusions miss the mark. O’Neal has chosen a near complete retreat, and McWhorter concludes that “hip hop creates nothing.”

Yet as this country is so desperate for an expanded political participation, as media consolidation and homogeneity break the language of democracy (Gore), as we (the left) forge ahead in search of every potential microphone and town forum, we cannot afford to dismiss hip hop so blithely.

And not everyone is. To various degrees of effect, there are several movements to engage the hip hop generation in today’s electoral and activist politics. Here are a few, but if you know of any, please leave them in the comments along with your own opinion on the state of hip hop today.

Hip Hop Summit Action Network (HSAN). Created by mogul Russell Simmons

National Hip Hop Political Convention

Sweet Mother Tour

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