hip hop music

June 23, 2003

guest blogger Kari Orr: On Russell Simmons and Hip-Hop Activism

Note from the founder: Since it is hard for me to keep the site updated as often as I'd like, I've been scouring the earth for worthy guest bloggers who can help keep things flowing. Today I'm honored to introduce our first recruit, okayplayer.com's notorious iconoclast Kari Orr.

-jay smooth


Much has been said about Russell Simmons involvement in the repeal of the Rockefeller laws.

Some have suggested that his involvement borders on negligent leadership. If he doesn't do it right it could wreck the whole movement. He's using money, starpower, and hip hop to take over important activism. (what's really behind his reparations now?)

Others are glad to see that, despite not having a PE/Dead prez/Coup under his label, he's using the profits of drug war stories to combat mandatory sentencing. (I just through that in there, cause it's a claim folks used to use against the Hughes Bros, and Cormega used against Nas in Thun and Kicko)


I'm vex because people are hi-jacking hip hop in order to push their political causes.

To be accurate, Russ ain't really using hip hop, he's just using hip hop's name in vain.

There is this thing called, "hip hop activism". Yet you ask anyone to describe it, let alone describe it, and you find yourself listening to bootleg version of "Stupid White Men".

The politics of hip hop activism
- anti-capitalist
- pro-choice
- pro-education
- anti-war
- pro-labor
- anti prison-industrial complex
- meat is murder
- pro-affirmative action
- pro multi-culturalism
- pro-conspiracy/pseudoscience

et cetera. In essence, if you go to your local university's history and english departments, and look at what issues they are concerned with, you can pretty much be sure that's what "hip hop" activists are concerned with.

I see you getting heated...but lemme ask you dis

What do any of those things have to do with hip hop?

Do any of those platforms reflect the lyrics pumped out for the past 25+ years in hip hop? When you talk about hip hop that people really listen to, most of the time the issues are not addressed, or when addressed they go opposite of what hip hop activists want.

Do many of these ideas run with, or run against the values and beliefs held in the "community"?

What portion of that community? If you think C.Delores Tucker, Dionne Warwick, and Rev. Calvin Butts were right, maybe hip hop activism reflects their views.

I cram to understand where these people get off labeling hip hop this way.

Still, what bothers me more, is do our "activists" really listen to us? Or are they just deciding that they know best what we want, what we need, and what we have asked for?

It's very clear to me, on most issues, hip hop activists are neither N'sync with the art nor the audience.

But let's be clear on these particular facts?

How does hip hop feel about mandatory sentencing?

More specifically, how do NYC rappers, who for some reason which I don't understand represent the community at large, feel about mandatory sentencing in drug cases?

You having a hard time coming up with something?

Me too.

I can think of one cat, but seeing that I don't think he counts cause only NagChampions bang his record, I dare not mention his name.

Plenty of mc's talk about
- catching a case
- dodging a case
- people that snitch and get lighter sentences
- how much time they're facing if they get caught/convicted
- crooked judges and prosecutors
- crooked lawyers

At the end of the day, you can describe the "hustle" raps as either endorsements for that lifestyle or cautionary tales.

But you can't make the argument that NYC Hip Hop wants to end mandatory sentencing.

So I'm just troubled by this whole turn of events.

-k. orr

Posted by at June 23, 2003 5:56 PM

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