With respect to corporate Hip Hop, I would argue that what we are seeing is not “artistic expression”, but merely a corporate commodity. Further, that the commodification of art requires its necessary reduction. This reduction can be thought of as simplification, or as replication, or as distortion. Thus instead of being expressive of, and resonant with the myriad historical and cultural dynamics of Black cultures–which Hip Hop has historically been engaged with–what we now have is, I would suggest, is in the image and interest of corporate capitalism. From a certain point of view, whereas “art” is concerned and whereas issues of cultural tradition are concerned, this might be a soulless thing which looms before us. In this way, I think that Nas was correct–Hip Hop is dead. May she rest in peace.
Vapid concepts are often accompanied by nebulous articulations of necessary actions de-linked from the tradition of Black struggle that has sought to restore the African way (cultural reclamation) and reestablish our sovereignty (nationhood and independence).
In an anti-African context, one wherein the subject status of Africans vis-a-vis slavery and colonialism has established the operational conditions of our interactions with white institutions as one of perpetual dehumanization.
Many of us, in ignorance, assume that traditional African cultures provide nothing of value, especially when juxtaposed to the spectacle of the West. This would be a profoundly erroneous assumption.
Part of the reason why we must delve deeply into African knowledges is to rehabilitate our deficient conceptions of African culture. We must, as Dr. Karenga suggests, draw upon African culture as a resource, and not as a merely as a reference (though too few do even this).
Many of us exist as signifiers of what is often a forgotten or ignored past. As Cynthia Dillard asserts, in this era forgetfulness is encouraged. Loss of historical knowledge augments the malleability of human beings, enabling those with power to forge them into whatever material they desire. Some of us have suggested that such is not to be the fate of the descendants of the enslaved and the colonized. Herein, history becomes, as Anderson Thompson says, “a heavy weapon in the battle for freedom”.