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The Brave

In: English and Literature

Submitted By GrandChristopher
Words 1665
Pages 7
Essay 3

In the book A Song Yet Sung by James McBride, McBride depicts his view of today’s hip hop culture through the dreams of one of his characters; Liz in the story. Throughout the novel, Liz’s visions only portray the negative aspects of the hip hop culture. McBride continued to inform his readers on the bad elements of today’s hip hop culture. These negative attributes are facts the whole world already knows about thanks to mass media. McBride failed to add new information to his claims and acknowledge the whole picture of the hip hop culture. Instead he focused on the violence, wardrobe, and education standards of certain individuals to conclude that “there ain’t no freedom in tomorrow” (McBride). McBride should have pointed out the positive aspects of the culture such as those individuals who participate in community outreach programs, social commentary, and political dialogue. In Liz’s Vision of today’s hip hop culture, she says she saw, “Negroes eating in taverns, thousands of them; huge, fat Negroes, gorging themselves with more food than she ever seen: giant portions of pig, pie, steak, fried potatoes, laughing heartily as they ate, holding their stomachs as they gorged themselves. Negro children with bulging faces, strutting about in undergarments as if they were the finest clothing: undershirts, undershorts, nightshirts, and sleeping caps. Other children sitting in great dining halls before plates piled high with food, desserts, pies, meats, cakes- so much food that it seemed impossible for a child to eat. Yet, even as the children ate, gorging themselves with pounds of food and washing it down with sweet, colored water, they cried out of hunger and starvation, weeping bitterly as they ate”(James McBride 40-41). Through this dream, McBride depicts the African American people of today as lazy and selfish. This vision simply tells that McBride feels as though children of today just sit around and eat all day because it’s at their fingertips. However, most individuals of the hip hop culture do not sit around a huge table and feast all day. They are out in society, providing for those who don’t get to sit around and feast. One positive aspect McBride failed to acknowledge is community outreach programs in which such members gives something back to the community to help them prosper. For example, just to name a few hip hop artist of today’s hip hop culture; music artist Alicia Keys is co-founder of Keep a Child Alive program, which is a nonprofit organization that provides medicine to families with HIV/AIDS in Africa (Green Family Foundation Sponsors Alicia Keys' Keep a Child Alive College Student...). Russell Simmons charitable activities are the focus of one third of his time and "all of his spirit." His foundation, Rush Philanthropic Arts Foundation, is dedicated to providing disadvantaged urban youth with significant exposure and access to the arts, as well as providing exhibition opportunities to underrepresented artists and artists of color (The Politics of Hip-Hop- Part One of Two). Additional to Russell and Alicia, Sean P. Diddy Combs founded "Daddy's House," a charity which provides money to underprivileged children in Harlem, New York for computer camps, trips to Africa, among other activities. It offers comprehensive educational, cultural and recreational events for children, including special holiday events for children in foster care (The Politics of Hip-Hop- Part One of Two). McBride instills another view he has of the hip hop culture in Liz. This view states, “And the children’s music, it teaches murder” (McBride 9). McBride is trying to convey the message that the music that the hip hop culture endures is all negative and talks only about violence. However, there may be a few violent songs here and there, but one cannot conclude a general statement from only a small sample of the group. There are many hip hop songs that have come out and topped the charts that were not violence based lyrics. For example, Kanye West made a song called Jesus walks. One part of the songs says, “They say you can rap about anything except for Jesus that means guns, sex, lies, video tapes but if I talk about God my record won't get played Huh?
Well let this take away from my spins which will probably take away from my ends then I hope this take away from my sins and bring the day that I'm dreaming about next time I'm in the club everybody screaming out, Jesus walks.” This Kanye West song is the perfect example of social commentary most artist use in their lyrics. They use social commentary to make their points and the individuals with similar thoughts and feelings in that society stands out so that the whole world is informed of what they are going through in their culture. This particular song has absolutely nothing to do with teaching violence; it’s a positive song talking about how hard it is to make it in the music industry successfully without talking about killing and violence; being as though that’s what the media wants them to talk about to enhance their chances of degrading the hip hop culture in such ways as McBride does in his novel. Kanye West is simply explaining why it is so hard to make it to fame and get paid millions of dollars rapping without those elements. This is the side of the culture that McBride failed to mention in Liz’s visions. Music Artist Lyfe Jennings also promotes positive values in his lyrics. In today’s urban culture; having sex, transmitting STD’s & HIV/AIDS, and childhood pregnancy is becoming very common in the community. Lyfe Jennings produced a song called S.E.X to help woman value themselves, their bodies, and self-worth; once again not teaching violence. In his song he states; “You say that you’re not ready for sex, but you’re in love. He says if you’d really loved him, you would give it up. Mama says that’s just a line guys use to get ya stuff. Which one will you trust? ..... See he’ll tell you all kind of things to get in your pants, yeah. Baby it’s a fact, that once it’s gone (it's gone) you’ll never get it back (never get it back). Hold on, to your innocence. Use your common sense. You’re worth waiting for (you’re worth waiting for). Be strong. Honey, don’t give in. Blessing comes with patience”. Not only is Lyfe Jennings informing his listeners of the situation at hand, but also providing awareness to his audience which is mostly young woman. He is creating this positive message as a special way to prevent the negatives outcomes of having early and unprotected sexual encounters. Many hip hop artists use special well-thought tactics to deliver a certain message to a particular audience. An additional positive element of the hip hop culture to point out is the political dialogue that today’s artist use to convey their messages to the public. McBride says, “And colored children ran away from books like they were poison”. These quotes made in the novel makes the reader infer that the hip hop culture does not have the desire to learn or partake in anything positive academically. This statement fails to note that most artists are doing research and really studying their art, community, society, and culture. As a result of this process, such artist put together the right choice of words and problems/concerns of the community that will appeal to a certain crowd so that their related belief or idea can be heard by whoever listens. For example, the politics of hip hop culture took an important step forward recently with the Russell Simmons-founded Hip Hop Summit Action Network's hosting of the historic West Coast Hip-Hop Summit. Organized by Summit President Minister Benjamin Muhammad, hundreds of influential performance artists, music executives, grassroots activists, public leaders, and others gathered to address key issues and to establish a progressive political agenda. Prominent participants included rappers Kurupt, DJ Quik, the Outlawz, Mack 10, Boo-Yaa Tribe, Mike Concepcion and the D.O.C., and radio personality/comedian Steve Harvey…. the first hip hop youth summit was held at York College in Queens. Featuring prominent hip hop artists such as Nas, Reverend Run of the legendary group Run-DMC, Wu-Tang Clan, rap activist Sister Souljah, and Fat Joe, the conference focused on building youth memberships and chapters across the country. Programs discussed included the "Read to Succeed Project," which is designed to bring hip hop artists into the public schools to emphasize literacy, and the anti-drug "Game Over" public service campaign (The Politics of Hip-Hop- Part One of Two). McBride’s view of the hip hop culture today is totally biased because he only talks about his personal perception. He failed to acknowledge the positive aspects of this prosperous culture that is still expanding today, making society a better place for all including children and students. The hip hop culture today is doing so much, things that weren’t even addressed by McBride in the novel in Liz’s dreams. McBride should not have made generalized conclusions on a certain situation without doing further research on the culture as a whole, stating the pros and cons. Being as though McBride failed to add other facts, his claims can easily be refuted and dismissed.

Works Cited

McBride, James. A Song Yet Sung. New York: Riverhead, 2009. Print.

“The Politics of Hip-Hop- Part One of Two”. Riaa.com. Nov 2011. Web. 9 Nov 2011.

Akil, Bakari II. “Hip Hop Commentary: Make Room for Conscious Hip Hop”. www.daveyd.com . Web. 9 Nov 2011.

Marable, Manning Dr. “The Politics of Hip-Hop- Part One of Two”. Freepass.org. 3 Feb 2002. Web. 9 Nov 2011.

Avery, Stefanie. "Green Family Foundation Sponsors Alicia Keys' Keep a Child Alive College Student..." Www.reuters.com. 20 Nov. 2008. Web. 7 Apr. 2012. <http://www.reuters.com/article/2008/11/20/idUS145550+20-Nov-2008+PRN20081120>.

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