hip hop music

January 15, 2004

Down With The King

In honor of Martin Luther King's birthday today, see what you can make out of this essay linking Hip-Hop with MLK's legacy:

Dr. King: The Remix

While much of the world will pay homage to Martin Luther King's 75th birthday on January 15, the eyes in many hip-hop heads will again glaze over the revival of grainy black-and-white footage from 1963. Is it any wonder that the most commercialized, mass-marketed and misunderstood figure of the Civil Rights Movement offers little more than surface appeal to the hip-hop nation? The paradox of overexposure of a particular image of Dr. King is his resultant inaccessibility to young people.

While we love to hear the story, again and again, well-intentioned teachers and less-benevolent revisionists have hidden from us much of the good stuff about the good Reverend Doctor. His legacy has been reduced by many interpreters to a still portrait of a pacific dreamer in a contextual vacuum. We have been conditioned to think that everything we need to know about King we learned in kindergarten. While we remember that he was born in Atlanta and became a timeless orator, nonviolent dreamer and national martyr, many in the hip-hop nation have yet to be introduced to the radical Martin Luther King, Jr.

Call in P. Diddy, or whoever invented the remix. The revolutionary King has been lost on the B-side for much of the last four decades, while the facts of this year in our nation's history accentuate the significance of understanding the true King legacy. Dr. King's "triple evils" of racism, poverty and war have emerged in all-too-familiar form: the Bush II government abandons American children to kill in Iraq and to perish in prison here at home, cuts off unemployment benefits and closes welfare centers, locks up innocent immigrants, and rewards the rich for their patronage of these policies.

Reinterpretation is often a struggle, and like most spaces in hip-hop, the memory of King has long been a battleground. The national celebration of his birthday is itself a product of a committed fight, not only in the dirty South but in places like New Hampshire and "by the time I get to" Arizona. There is a role for the hip-hop generation – ever primed for battle since creating one of the few post-Civil Rights forums for honest communication about race and class in American society – in reclaiming the legacy of King...

Posted by jsmooth995 at January 15, 2004 10:29 PM

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