by Solomon Comissiong
It’s come-to-meeting time in the world of Hip Hop. “It is imperative that politically conscious and revolutionary minded Emcees of the Golden Era of Hip Hop, and of today, organize a closed-door summit.” Cultural and economic liberation should top the agenda.
Escaping the Corporate Hip Hop Plantation: Building a Nation of Revolutionary Emcees
by Solomon Comissiong
“The goal is to incrementally aid the rappers to evolve into Emcees for social change.”
Drapetomania was a term created by Euro-American physician, Samuel Cartwright, in 1851 to describe a contrived mental illness that allegedly caused enslaved Africans to flee their plantations. As a means of justifying this viciously racist “medical theory,” Cartwright went on to assert that the bible called for slaves to be submissive to their masters, and because of this, they should have no desire to run away. This evil white supremacist man even prescribed “whipping the devil out of them” (slaves), as a “preventive measure.” Some of the doctors that found his version of “science” to be valid, prescribed (and followed through with) the cutting off of each of the big toes of enslaved Africans, as a means of preventing them from absconding – highlighting the extent in which white supremacists will go to justify their attempts of supremacy over people of color.
Many of the evil people who supported the wretched institution of chattel slavery would routinely attempt to convince their slaves that this was their destiny in life and things would be “good” for them in the “next world” if they did their work and were obedient. Unfortunately this system of comprehensive oppression forcibly indoctrinated many Africans to buy into their oppressors’ ideologies regarding captivity. Chattel slavery was geared towards domesticating Africans in a similar manner to that of dogs – except even more inhumane. This was done by way of brutal oppression, physical and mental. Africans were starved of any knowledge of their true history or culture. They were forbidden from reading, writing, or even speaking in their native languages. Doing so would result in beatings, or death. White supremacists of then, just like those of today, understood very well the fact that armed with knowledge, anything would be possible for African/black people – even freedom.
“Africans were starved of any knowledge of their true history or culture.”
Chattel slavery may have ceased, however the oppression of people of color continues in 2014. The United States remains a quagmire of oppression, white supremacy and institutional racism. Police brutality, educational and economic inequities, as well as gentrification (ethnic cleansing), are but a few examples. As a matter of fact, some of the least assuming facets of US society are riddled with the trappings of white supremacy and institutional racism. Take the upside-down world of corporate-backed Hip Hop music as a stark example of what can happen when white people with bad intentions gain control of cultural art forms derived from African/black people. Within the realm of corporate Hip Hop there now exists a theoretical plantation. This virtual plantation is primarily within the minds of scores of black and brown rappers who, unfortunately, have accepted the role of slaves to their corporate masters.
In 2013 this author wrote an essay entitled, “Hip Hop’s Ku Klux Klan & Corporate Slave Plantations: The Infestation of White Supremacy within Rap Music,” detailing this inconvenient reality. Hip Hop artists fail to recognize that they are routinely exploited at the expense of their dignity, their families and even the communities from which they derive. Like the non-substantive rewards doled out to select slaves in exchange for being “good niggers”, many of today’s rappers are given material trinkets in exchange for acting out the white supremacists’ wet dreams of the stereotypical “black thug,” “jezebel,” “drug dealer,” and “sex crazed Mandingo.” This is why these corporate executives created “cookie cutter” roles for misguided aspiring rappers to conform to. White corporate executives laid the foundation for much of the “coonery” we see throughout today’s mainstream media. This is the “Frankenstein” version of rap music these cretins cultivated and strategically mass-promoted. This is Hip Hop’s corporate plantation where white media executives profit from the deluge of psychologically destructive music their mentally enslaved and misguided rappers blissfully produce. These corporate producers are not good people. They knowingly profit from the wicked offspring of violence that comes as a result of the music they selectively, and exclusively, choose to promote to the masses. For anyone to believe that impressionable youth do not attempt to emulate the actions they hear and see on rap songs and videos, is beyond naïve – it is intellectually dishonest.
“Hip Hop artists fail to recognize that they are routinely exploited at the expense of their dignity, their families and even the communities from which they derive.”
Those who run the corporate the corporate media plantations could care less about the deleterious impact the music they push has upon the lives of African/black youth. They are akin to drug dealers; the only difference is that they push psychologically destructive opiates laced with bad music. Profiting off of “black death” is the name of the game, and they play this game extremely well. Like the pharmaceutical industry, their motivation is not the cure, but the sickness. The more psychologically damaged the youth are, the better chance they have at economically enslaving each subsequent generation. They strive at creating generations of mentally enslaved youth, thus ensuring that their corporate plantations exist – in perpetuity. The media corporations’ vice grip on Hip Hop has a most devastating impact on the African/black community, whether the masses recognize it or not. The fact that many may have inertia accepting this simple fact speaks to the effectiveness of the propaganda emanating from corporate media plantations. This only accentuates the crisis at hand.
There is perhaps no greater time for African/black rappers to escape from the corporate media plantation than at this very moment, before the situation worsens. Escaping the corporate media plantation will save untold lives and minds. This feat will allow a great many African/black rappers to regain and/or establish their dignity as people who are unwilling to degrade themselves, and their community, simply for a quick dollar. Historical systems of oppression, like white supremacy and institutional racism, are not new. However, masses of people of color have been socially programmed not to understand the depths and range in which these systems of oppression exist to this day. Music, as a medium, has a long history of enabling social movements to gain greater traction and promotion.
“Profiting off of “black death” is the name of the game.”
These mentally and financially enslaved corporate rappers need to understand that they can either continue to serve their slaver masters, much like Sambo, or they can serve their own communities much like modern day Griots – passing down words of wisdom to the masses. You can either work for the interests of your community, while establishing gainful employment and a “comfortable” way of life, or you can (potentially) make more money than you need while destroying the minds of countless youth, thus empowering others to more easily destroy your community. These realities must be clearly and methodically articulated to the modern day corporate rapper/slave.
Achieving this important goal of helping rappers escape their corporate plantations is going to be that much more difficult without the assistance of an engaged community. If we are not willing to (collectively) exercise the discipline it takes to stop supporting music that is mentally destructive to youth, degrading to women of and further foments racist stereotypes, then we are as much to blame as the mentally enslaved rappers and their corporate slave masters. Gone must be the days in which we idly sit by and do nothing, complain to our small circles, or remain silent in the face of this issue – or any community issue for that matter. If we want change we must be willing to do what we can to invoke that change. We must follow in the legacy of Freedom Fighters like Harriet Tubman, and help free these misguided rappers from the corporate plantations they so willingly serve. Sister Harriet Tubman was freeing Africans who had been physically enslaved against their will; we must free those who are bound in mental shackles. We won’t know the effectiveness of our actions unless we put them in place.
The corporate rappers must fully understand, loud and clear, that their collaboration with enemies of our communities will not be rewarded with our currency (social or monetary), or support. Conversely, they should also comprehend that if they create music that uplifts and empowers our communities, then, and only then, will we (collectively) support them. This is, in essence, Black Power. However, it cannot merely stop there.
“Sister Harriet Tubman was freeing Africans who had been physically enslaved against their will; we must free those who are bound in mental shackles.”
Many of the misguided corporate rappers are vastly undereducated regarding a wide range of social issues impacting the African/black community, and larger society, in general. They are unaware that the white corporate executives they aim to please are using them as pawns, simply to enrich their plantations – at the expense of people of color. For these reasons it is imperative that politically conscious and revolutionary minded Emcees of the Golden Era of Hip Hop, and of today, organize a closed-door summit. Artists like: KRS-ONE, Immortal Technique, Wise Intelligent, Dead Prez, Narubi Selah, Jasiri X, Chuck D, and FM Supreme (to name several of the many that should be involved in the organizing of this summit), should be at the forefront of putting this meeting together. The summit should take place over several days and include workshops ranging from Media Literacy, Social Justice Awareness, the Evils of Sexism and Misogyny, History & Political Awareness, White Supremacy & Institutional Racism Awareness, Money Management, Cooperative Economics, Using Art as a Tool for Social Change, as well as Youth Justice. These workshops would be facilitated by Emcees who actually use their music to uplift, empower and politically educate their listeners. Social activists, media scholars, grassroots organizers, scholars and progressive non-corporate journalists should also be invited to facilitate some of these workshops.
This is event should be a private event, closed to all media, except for those invited to participate. Making sure that it is closed to the public and media broadcast ensures that the honest dialogue remains confidential and that showcasing for the cameras will not take place. There will be no cameras to showcase for. The dialogues would be comfortable, yet blunt, allowing the revolutionary artists to explain to the corporate rappers not only how their corporate backed music is counter-revolutionary, but, also, how they can alter music their empower, while exercising even more creative energy than they were permitted on their former plantations. This will build camaraderie among the rappers and emcees, as well as creating a mentorship program of sorts. The goal is to incrementally aid the rappers to evolve into Emcees for social change – leaving their mental shackles in the past. And perhaps most importantly, they would be taught how to use their creative genius to, not only make socially progressive music, but to increase their business acumen.
“Social activists, media scholars, grassroots organizers, scholars and progressive non-corporate journalists should also be invited.”
These artists will establish new chapters in their fledgling careers, by learning how to control their publishing, images, and money. It should be a goal of this summit to, at the very least, get the artists to think about pooling their resources to create their own umbrella label, distribution and publishing cooperative, where everyone shares in the wealth generated. This will take some work, as the corporate rappers will need to understand the exploitative nature of capitalism while comprehending the vast social benefits of socialism. It will be a difficult task but not impossible. We have to keep in mind that they learned their bad habits over time. It will take time to unlearn in order to learn.
We should not be under any illusion that all corporate rappers will want to flee their plantations – some won’t. Some will prefer remaining in the oppressive house with ‘Massa,’ basking in the trinkets thrown to them. They can remain on their plantations, as we cannot sacrifice the greater mission on a few who cling to their masters’ boots. Sooner or later they will realize its time to flee, either before the planation crumbles, or as it crumbles. Hopefully, for their sake, it is before the deterioration of the plantation. However, make no mistake, we must make concerted and organized efforts to free our brothers and sisters from the mental shackles they wear. We must free them and free the land. In this case, the land is the Culture of Hip Hop. Hip Hop has never belonged to those white corporate executives who control so much of it today. They plundered it from its rightful owners, people of color who created Hip Hop. These executives stole Hip Hop just as their ancestors stole Native American land, as well as African bodies and labor. However, today is a new day. It’s a day to mobilize, organize and follow the sprit of the likes of Harriet Tubman – freeing as many as we can. We must free them and support them in the building of a new nation for Hip Hop, one that is sovereign, revolutionary and empowering. This nation will rest on the sturdy founding principles of Hip Hop – Peace, Love, Unity and Having Fun!
Solomon Comissiong (www.solomoncomissiong.com) is an educator, community activist, author, and Founder of the Your World News Media Collective (www.yourworldnews.org). Mr. Comissiong is also a founding member of the Pan-African collective for Advocacy & Action. Solomon is the author of A Hip Hop Activist Speaks Out on Social Issues. Solomon is also the writer and producer of the documentary, Hip Hop, White Supremacy & Capitalism: Why Corporations Infiltrated RAP Music. He can be reached at: [email protected]