Is Barack the Hip-Hop Panacea?

I like Barack Obama. It is hard not to respect his intellectual acumen, calm strength and political savvy. But I must admit something: I have had it up to my eyeballs with the Obamacentric feel of black public discourse over the past month! It seems that time has been divided into BO and AB (Before Obama and After Obama), and the latter era has engulfed the former; almost as if nothing has ever taken place independently of the President-elect.  

Let me give you an example. This week unabashed hip-hop hater Stanley Crouch linked nuanced criticisms of hip-hop culture on the part of filmmaker Byron Hurt and record executive Russell Simmons to the ascendancy of Barack and Michelle Obama. Noting Obama’s admonition to young people to “pull up their pants” on MTV, Crouch cites this as evidence that Obama is ushering in a new age and identity for the hip-hop generation. Simmons, Crouch contends, is just being politically savvy as he realizes a new day has begun in black America.

To be sure, Crouch ignores key facts in his flat diagnosis of Barack Obama as the panacea of hip-hop culture. Byron Hurt, an unapologetic fan of hip-hop, produced his first documentary “Hip Hop: Beyond Beats and Rhymes,” (clip below) well before Obamania seized America. There is no correlation between Hurt’s early criticisms of hip-hop and the then state senator from Illinois. Nor does Crouch acknowledge that Russell Simmons and scores of other hip hop intellectuals and fans have been engaged in Socratic questioning for years. This is why few informed thinkers would hardly identify Barack Obama’s MTV appearance a watershed moment in hip-hop culture.

It is quite possible that Stanley Crouch has been so busy calling black youth minstrels and thugs that he hasn’t taken the time to notice that the hip-hop generation is more diverse than his racially-insecure imagination and obsessions. And the fact that the suited and booted “grown and sexy” look among hip-hop elite displaced thug-wear around mid-decade is a whole nutha’ reality of which Crouch is clearly clueless. If I could afford to send Mr. Crouch a Christmas gift this season, it would surely be Tricia Rose’s latest text, Hip-Hop Wars: What We Talk About When We Talk About Hip Hop—and Why It Matters. Then maybe Crouch would realize that he and his Obama action figure have shown up at the party a little late!

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