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[Culture] [California]
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Culture is a Tool to Direct Society

Culture is something we interact with on a daily basis, and it affects everything we do as well as how we think. Yet it's something most people in u.s. society pay no mind to, or do not think deeply and critically about. Culture is a very powerful instrument of the state. Like a gun, culture can be used for bad, destructive purposes, or for good, liberating purposes.

Culture is something learned in a society. We are not born understanding culture. So just as people and a society can change, so can a culture change. When culture is passed from child to child, or from elderly to children, generation to generation, this is called "enculturation." When someone is "enculturated" it means they learn what is funny in society, what is offensive, when to eat, when to sleep, why to get angry and why to be content. All this stuff we learned through "culture." Everything, like how to sleep, what to struggle for, how to sexually satisfy, all of it is determined by culture. We have learned this stuff as a child. We observe and see what is socially acceptable in this society and at times we learn some of this culture in public schools where the teachers "enculturate" us.

In a society, a culture must determine its food, shelter, laws, education and the arts, as well as the production relations. Here in America the culture is a capitalist culture so everything is based around the profit system. Whether the people go without, suffer or are exploited is beside the point. We learn from public school that America is a liberator (which is bullshit), but we do learn this. We learn that all are equal (except those we call terrorists). We learn all this patriotism about BBQing on the 4th of July, making a turkey on thanksgiving, and adding to the economic stimulus every X-mas by making sure we run down to the mall and purchase lots of merchandise for "X-mas presents." All this is part of capitalist culture in the U.S.

It is so saturated by corporations that even the people are corporate billboards, walking advertisements for corporations. Look on any street or in any public school, and you'll see people wearing shirts with the words "nike," "adidas" "tommy hilfiger," and all the corporate sports teams. This is basically millions of flying billboards where the people are used to advertise products without even realizing it themselves. Even the movies we see coming out are patriotic and glorify the dollar and luxurious living. Music is the same and rap music in particular, for the most part is talking about bling bling and everything revolving around that lifestyle. U.S. society is so saturated with capitalist culture that the vast majority can't even comprehend any kind of culture that is based on the peoples' interests. Most of the U.S. population has never studied revolutionary culture or seen how culture is a tool to direct society, so it is completely outside of their comprehension.

Looking at what shapes culture today particularly in the oppressed nations communities in the U.S. is most definitely the hip hop movement. Rap music is a vital element for young people today in shaping their culture. We saw back in the late 70s when hip hop had kids all across the U.S. walking the streets with boombox radios, in sweatsuits, breakdancing and popping and locking. This cultural phenomenon spread from the ghettos to the suburbs. In the 1980s when Eazy E and NWA came out, people across the U.S. started doing drive-by shootings and drinking Old English 40 ouncers. So this too had a big affect on how kids were acting and the things they were doing in society.

The 1990s saw in the beginning years of hip hop a lot of talk of dope and money, pimping, etc. But toward the end of the 90s, 2pac started bringing a slightly different vibe to music. A more revolutionary scant to his music began developing, and then he was assassinated. So the 2000s came and it's more "bling bling or die trying bling bling" type of music in the hip hop arena. And so kids across the U.S. are once more affected by having gold and diamond encrusted mouths, and driving SUVs with tens of thousands of dollars worth of stereo equipment and accessories. This is the current culture of U.S. society when it comes to hip hop today. Of course there are a small handful of rappers who put out a more progressive form of rap like Dead Prez, Paris, The Coup, etc. But most people haven't heard of these groups because they are not getting the Madison Avenue advertisement contracts and are not getting signed to major record labels that are more corporate-friendly. So a progressive or revolutionary rapper may be from California and have been rapping and selling CDs and tapes since the 80s, yet someone living in Detroit never heard of them.

What makes hip hop so powerful is it attracts so many young people, worldwide. It is thus a vehicle for revolutionary culture and building public opinion. But this is something that not only revolutionaries have noticed. The imperialists are also aware of this. Anything that can potentially threaten capitalist society will be monitored and by any means manipulated.

I just finished reading this book called "Malcolm X: The FBI Files." It was basically a chronology of Malcolm X's life, but the most interesting part of the book, after reading about "white devil" this and "white devil" that, was how the feds sought any Black leaders and written in the feds internal memos, would be things like "do not allow a charismatic leader to unite Blacks, use manipulation, disinformation" etc. So basically this applies to all oppressed nations people: should the people begin to unite or organize, the state would target us for the purpose of destroying whatever we have going. In this book it also had a designation term called a "key figure." Once they designated a person as a "key figure" not long later that person was assassinated. In the book the "memos" on Martin Luther King designated him as a key figure, and soon after he was dead. Malcolm X was designated a key figure and soon after that he was dead. When these memos spoke of a key figure and said it was one who could "electrify" his people and unite them; someone who has an overwhelming influence on the community.

Looking at hip hop again in a new light, we can see how hip hop can indeed "electrify" the people and unite different levels of society. We had a 2pac who practically every kid in the U.S. listened to, and who influenced all these people in the U.S. As he began to become more politically conscious in his music, waking up even suburban kids to some of our political prisoners, I could imagine thousands of white suburban kids at the dinner table after listening to Pac ask their parent, who may be in law enforcement, or even a fed, "what's a political prisoner?" We can see how the state can see someone like 2pac as a possible rising figure a vehicle to help build revolution in the U.S. We can also see how if someone in the hip hop community like 2pac took on a real revolutionary stance in his music, it could have made millions conscious of what this country is really about. Public opinion would have received a major thrust forward. This could have changed hip hop culture into revolutionary hip hop where all major rappers began to speak reality, opening up more minds to real struggle. The possibilities are endless. Hip hop plays a major role here in the U.S., as the youth, the oppressed nations, and the lumpen will be the backbone of the revolution in this country.

To get an idea of what revolutionary culture would look like one need only look to China under Mao, 1949-1976. In Chairman Mao's Peoples Republic, China underwent dramatic change from and in all areas of life. China's past was one like most third world countries, where exploitation was considered the norm, peasants were worked to death by the greedy landowners, children were sold to pay off debts, prostitution ran wild, opium was as common as cigarettes are today, women were property, illiteracy was the norm if you weren't wealthy... Basically the majority was ruled and exploited by the few.

When the revolution came, Chinese society was transformed. All areas of life, entertainment (culture), were now in the interest of the people. The peasants no longer toiled the fields for 18 hours, or in some cases 20 hours a day, to pay off a debt to the landlord. Now peasants worked half days in the land they were given, or in the collective farm, and the rest of their day they went to school to learn to read, write and discuss revolutionary theory. Thousands of teachers and doctors from the cities volunteered to go out to the country or the mountains where the peasants had never seen a teacher or a doctor. They did this not for better pay or a nicer neighborhood. Instead they did it to help, or as Maoists say, serve the people. The ballet and opera no longer showed plays of a capitalist nature. Now the ballet and opera showed plays of the people struggling for revolution. In the school children no longer learned poison, as today's U.S. children learn: that murderers, rapists, and genocidal psychotics like Christopher Columbus, Hernan Cortez, or Amerigo Vespucci were American heroes.

Instead, in Mao's China, children learned who the exploiters were and who were the real peoples' heroes, as well as the many revolutionary leaders worldwide, and political theory. Unlike in U.S. prisons where every prison cellblock has 30 bibles in the dayroom or half the prison yard is christian or muslim, and religious chaplains make their rounds door to door, in Mao's China every prison cell had a stack of revolutionary books of leading theoreticians so that prisoners could learn of many struggles taking place all over the world. This was provided by the revolutionary government. Every day prisoners were allowed to participate in a large study group where they would discuss what they were reading and grapple with theory. Even in the factories the workers would take breaks to rest and discuss political theory in groups. Women with children were provided collective childcare in their neighborhood free of charge so they would work half day and partake in study the other half to contribute to the revolution. This was the environment in Mao's China, and this is the revolutionary culture we can look forward to. In revolutionary culture everything is done to advance the revolution. In this type of environment the people will give their all as they know their comrades right beside them are doing the same, not for personal gain or money but for the people.

Today's culture in the U.S. is all about money and everything is done with personal gain as motivation. So a revolutionary culture in this country would reverse all of this and every sphere of society would be contributing to the people. En la lucha.

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[Culture] [California]
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What is Culture

A people's culture is as important to their survival as food is. Without the guide-posts and direction signs that a culture offers to its adherents, they can soon become disillusioned, confused and easily led into self-detrimental paths. That "lostness" is what is being demonstrated by the hip hop culture of today. Obviously, hip hop has taken on the 'look' of a culture, but what kind of culture is it? From this writer's perspective, it is for the most part, a very negative and rebellious way of life. Make no mistake, the dominant culture that we live in here in Amerikkka is definitely not the way that we are supposed to and should live, but with that clearly understood, to put in it's place the glorification of violence and the degradation of your women, is just as bad!

As far as hip hop having a revolutionary value that can generate a positive environment that is conducive to rearing a nation that is capable of taking control and making manifest Justice and Equality for all, this has yet to be demonstrated. This culture-of-death that we operate in today has taken complete control of the hip hop movement and any signs of life; any signs that hip hop may have some redeeming values is quickly put to death through this culture's use of materialism and ruthless violence!

The awakening to our true culture is going to happen and a Hip-Hop culture that is dominated by artists such as: KRS ONE, DEAD PREZ, ASKARI X, etc., will play an important role in that culture!

MIM(Prisons) responds: We agree with this comrade's critique of hip hop today as needing to take up more revolutionary politics and disavow glorification of violence and degradation of wimmin. See our article on hip hop for a more complete critique.

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[Culture] [ULK Issue 10]
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The Hate U Gave Lil' Infants Fucks Everyone

THUG LIFE

T.H.U.G. L.I.F.E.
Sanyika Shakur
Grove Press, 2008.

This novel by former Eight Tray Gangsta Crip, current New Afrikan Revolutionary and captive of California’s Security Housing Units promotes peace, unity and discipline among the lumpen of the oppressed nations. As such, we rate this book positively as a cultural work. The story weaves the THUG LIFE code promoted by Tupac and Mutulu Shakur throughout. In this reviewer’s limited exposure to the collection of fiction branded as “street lit” and marketed mostly to younger New Afrikans, we see this as a superior example. A thorough analysis of this genre might parallel our discussion of hip hop music in a lot of ways.

The bulk of the story is gangster, but lessons and gems are peppered throughout. In the context of the ongoing conflict between the gangs of Los Angeles, the author introduces principles of dialectical development, though he doesn’t develop them very extensively. Cultural references to revolutionary music and movies are also dropped in the story in a way that may promote further investigation by readers who are attracted to the overall gangster story. A comrade and obvious admirer of Tupac Shakur, Sanyika seems to take a similar approach in his writing that Pac took in his music.

In one of the tensest moments of the book, Shakur paints a picture of a disciplined unit of gangsters awaiting a raid, “These bangers had grown fed up with police tactics of intimidation, false arrests, no-knock raids, and summary executions that always seemed to accompany their public ‘protect and serve’ image. They had made a pact to stand and fight when confronted without an escape route.”

Following another police raid, this time of the main character Lapeace’s apartment, we briefly meet Mrs. Delaney, founder of the Black Scouts Youth Brigade, who gives us a lesson in security: “what I do ain’t no secret, it’s just nobody’s business but my own.”

Later, Sekou, Lapeace’s road dog, promotes scientific thinking and attacks identity politics, “I could care less who speaks the truth, I want to hear it.” This is in reference to the Tupac character named Askari Shakur. Interestingly, characters in the book regularly listen to Tupac songs, while this character, Askari Shakur, is used as a stand in for Tupac in the Las Vegas beef that ends in his fatal shooting.

Throughout the book there is a theme of Lapeace searching for a family legacy of revolutionary resistance that he knows little about. Meeting Askari Shakur really encourages this desire for him, but the relationship is cut short by Askari’s assassination. This story line is typical of New Afrikans as a whole who are very ignorant of the struggles lived by their parents just a generation before. In ULK 9, a comrade told a story very similar to Lapeace’s. His mother was in the Black Panthers, resulting in their home being raided regularly as a child. But until her death, he thought she was just a criminal gangster.

The THUG LIFE code is a step. Gangsters living by the code aren’t gonna get us free. Really, gangsters aren’t gonna get us free, period. Not until they start transforming into something other than gangsters. Many lumpen organizations have a parallel analysis of the development of their members that start in the criminal mentality and transition to a more conscious one, in some cases the ultimate stage being promoted is of a revolutionary nationalist nature. To different degrees they promote trading in lumpen individualism for identifying with one’s people, or the people. The problem with these programs is that they are usually presented in a way that is limited by individualism itself. As if each member must go thru these stages. If everyone’s development is the same then we never advance. How we advance as a group is that each generation takes the lessons of the previous generations and builds on them, not making the same mistakes.

By erasing revolutionary history of the oppressed, the government has done much to set back progress. As the lumpen stand in a state of ignorance and criminality, they can only progress as a group through revolutionary nationalism and proletarian internationalism. The progression from nihilistic gang-banging to a code of conduct like THUG LIFE is just one small step, one that has not yet been taken up by the group.

One of the main roles of culture is to create idealized images that represent something that the people can relate to and emulate. Lapeace seems to be a character that merges the author’s past with his present in a way that idealizes the best of the gangster culture. Recognizing the stage we are in is part of a materialist approach to change and to culture. Lapeace is a positive image at this stage of the struggle. And a code of conduct like THUG LIFE is an important stepping stone to where we ultimately need to get.

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[Culture] [Arizona] [ULK Issue 10]
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Rapper$ Delight

Our komrades in MIM(Prisons) ask "what role does Hip Hop have to play today?" As a revolutionary culture, that is.

Since rappers are hard core capitalists it's a waste of time for me to even contemplate this question. As revolutionaries we must not waste time or energy on things we know aren't going to change. Let's keep it one hundred on a revolutionary level. Hip Hop has digressed not progressed.

It has come a long way. It's gone from "Fight the Power" by Public Enemy and Cop Killer by Ice T (who ironically enough now plays a pig in one of today's many cop shows) to "You're a Jerk" by the new boyz (the present #1 video on 106th and Park - B.E.T.) and "Throw it in the Bag" by Fabulous featuring The Dream (a shoplifting song).

So you see komrades, what Hip Hop has to do concerning the revolution and what they're doing and continue to do and will always do is on the opposite side of the revolutionary train of thought. I don't knock Hip Hop's hustle. It is what it is. I enjoy Hip Hop as entertainment while disregarding most of their lyrics lest I be tempted to shoplift (humor).

On the real, though, prior to the presidential elections B.E.T. (Black Entertainment Television), the Hip Hop channel, pushed hard for the election of Obama. Almost 24/7. Rappers threw rallies, wore shirts and pins promoting the vote for Obama. What do you think would've happened if this much attention would've been given to Sean Bell when he was murdered by three pigs of the NYPD? What would've happened if every single rapper who was still in the rap game at this time made entire CDs rapping about police brutality? Would it have raised a revolutionary consciousness within our urban youth? What if every CD put out at this time was dedicated to the memory of Sean Bell? What if every CD has the face of Sean Bell on its cover instead of a video girl in a thong bent over a Benz? Yea, that's all we're going to get: what if.

Instead this is the reality check. Michael Vick formerly of the Atlanta Falcons gets sent to prison for fighting some dogs, they're about to send Plexico Burress, formerly of the New York Giants to prison for shooting himself accidentally, and the three pigs who riddled Sean Bell with bullets get sent home to their families. Meanwhile Sean Bell's children have no father. Sean Bell was unarmed.

It's a "bloody" shame too, because the fact is, music in general has always bridged together cultural differences.

Is Hip Hop a vehicle for change? It can be, but it won't be. It will continue to pursue the all mighty dollar. What does the revolutionary culture or revolutionary culture (without the "the") look like? In the Hip Hop culture I don't see it. But if I was a Hip Hop rapper this would be some of my CD titles:

Sean Bell, Blood in my Eye, Police Brutality, Assassins with Badges, Modern Day Gestapo, When will they Murder Me?, Attica 71, It's now or never.

But since I can't rap a lick that ain't gonna happen either. So all we can do is what we can do. If you know how to rap then put it down and bring revolution to the rap game because what's already there is simply a Rapper$ Delight.

MIM(Prisons) replies: While we certainly agree with the points made on the injustice of the Sean Bell murder, we point out that many people still rap about Sean Bell years later. And a whole CD was put out for Oscar Grant, with many others putting out singles in respect to him. Most of them were very critical of the police and their connection to the state including Obama. These don't get as much play as the other crap out there, even crap by the same artists who put out these revolutionary songs.

It costs millions of dollars to make a song "popular." Therefore, if you look at the list of songs that get the most rotation, they're all owned by two corporations: Universal and Sony (occasionally Capitol gets one in). If you aren't sponsored by one of these companies you cannot afford the payola. That is part of the game. So even the big artists who do some songs for the people have to write most of their songs for the money, or else they choose to not be a "big artist." Therefore most of what the people listen to is still crap.

If you check out some of the artists that aren't on BET, in XXL or on for-profit radio stations then there is no doubt that a revolutionary undercurrent to hip hop is still present. What will never happen is hip hop becoming revolutionary for profit. But hip hop is already playing a revolutionary role at the fringes.

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[Culture] [Missouri]
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Hip Hop is Dead Until it Takes Up Revolutionary Politics

Hip Hop is Dead, Biggie SmallsHip hop culture began in the late 1970s, but it wasn't until the middle to late 1980s that the cultural life and expression of hip hop began to grow and influence youth throughout amerika and the world. Many people wrote this phenomena of hip hop culture as some fad that would soon wither away.

During the late 1980s, early 90s, the era I coin the Black Consciousness era of hip hop, Black and Latino youth found a way to use hip hop to express their anger, fears, ideas, art and frustrations within the dominant white-oppressor culture, police brutality and poverty.

Hip hop culture isn't just about the music, it's about a lifestyle - from the clothes we wear, style of hair, taggin' rail cars and walls with radical art and graffiti, unity and more. It's a culture of resistance.

However, white-owned corporations saw a profit to be made and stepped in to co-opt the movement. Yes, a lot of us found a way to eat, but the result was a lack of potency in the music and a watered-down culture where cars and ICE are the motivating factor. It is a culture that is teaching our youth that it's all about them (as individuals). That it's cool to be a dope field (sippin' syrup, etc.) and to be victims of HIV/AIDS (it's ok to have multiple sex partners). Is there any wonder why the highest rates of HIV/AIDS are among Blacks and Latinos between the ages of 13-24?

Culture in general, and hip hop culture in particular, plunges its roots into the base of the material reality of the environment in which we live in the hoods and barrios and it reflects the organic nature of society, which is more or less influenced by the dominant white society and culture of our oppressed communities.

Can hip hop be a vehicle for revolutionary culture? Yes, it can be, but it is not now. Culture is an essential element of the history of a people, and it's social development. Amilcar Cabral once has this to say about culture: "Study of the history of liberation struggles shows that they generally have been preceded by an upsurge of cultural manifestations, which progressively harden into an attempt, successful or not, to assert the cultural personality of the dominated people by an act of denial of the culture of the oppressor. Whatever the conditions of subjection of a people to foreign domination and the influence of economic, political and social factors in the exercise of this domination, it is generally within the cultural factor that we find the germ of challenge which leads to the structuring and development of the liberation movement."

If hip hop is to transform into a true vehicle for social change, we must demand that our artists keep it a hundred and give us more analysis in their music. Stop promoting the use of addictive narcotics, that they become more active in our communities, and give our youth the encouragement to study, unify, and resist oppression. If they fail to do this, hip hop remains sterile and dead. Long Live 2Pac, Biggie Smalls, Eazy-E, Left Eye, Pimp C, Big Pun and all other hip hop artists that paved the way for the next generation to refuse and resist.

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[Culture] [Idaho] [ULK Issue 10]
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Tap the Potential of Hip Hop as Revolutionary Culture

I stopped reading ULK #9 to write this topic across a piece of paper, then I continued my ULK, which I might add is very enlightening. Thank you to MIM and all my comrades who make it possible. It's great to see brothers professing unity in the game instead of killing. I'm no active member but I've got my stripes, and I would be in a unique position to be a huge positive force in these young knuckle heads life by showing them exactly what Amerikkka wants the affiliated to be and what we as humyns should be. The street cliques can easily be revamped into a united front against U$ immorality if we proceed to do such instead of siding with paper and bling which brings me to the subject at hand, hip hop music.

In Idaho the pigs only allow radio, so all day I listen to my cellie thump hip hop. I was raised on MIG and 8 Ball. I'm from Oside SD, CA but I had to look a while back to see if I was being progressive or regressive. In no way is hip hop progressive, with the exception of a very small minority like Dead Prez. It's impossible to extract a positive role in the revolution when your mind is bent on pimpory and slinging packs! What's worse is with your $ from exploiting comrades, hip hop teaches to purchase the goods of the imperialists. The hip hop industry is grossing billions to ensure we are notoriously hypnotized and killing each other for the most idiotic of ideas.

I'm disgusted that something that could be such a huge asset to the liberation of nations all over the world is the main source of ignorant propaganda for the pigs. I don't need to name songs or artists cuz anyone who can formulate the words coming out of the speakers knows. I understand that the skill it takes to be a popular musician and a lot of these people come from backgrounds that this is one of the few skills they developed besides running and thugging, so if hip hop is to be an asset we all have got to teach these artists that the pictures they are painting are influencing more people to stroll down a path that destroys themselves, others, their communities and ultimately their culture.

I'm sure that will be a major struggle of its own because these high level execs will not forsake their deals to teach us that its wrong to be capitalistic. I doubt the U$ would even have allowed hip hop to become nationwide if they hadn't noticed and curbed the industry toward mindlessness. Look what happened to Ice T when kop killer came out, he was damn near lynched. People nowadays are obsessed with the latest hip hop trying to emulate it in every form and fashion. But hip hop is not only fantasy, it is counter revolutionary.

Don't think it's just hip hop either, it's 99% of all that the U.$. feeds you from sports to TV to movies, anything to keep you perpetuating the system instead of disillusionment. Reality is hard to deal with when you're lulled by the song that soothes the savage beast. If these mediums could be utilized the message would spread fast tho. Dare to struggle, dare to win. All power to the people!

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[Culture] [Pennsylvania]
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The pain of awakening

Dear God,

I write you this letter from the depths of hell where I have been sentenced to a life of misery and pain. I curse you for opening up my third eye to a rude awakening and destroying the elaborate illusion I had created for myself. You, like a thief, have robbed me of that blissful state of not knowing and I want it back you omnipotent sadist.

You have tricked me. You have tricked me into becoming conscious, so you can laugh and enjoy yourself while I wallow in pain and loneliness as the truth slowly manifests itself to me.

I envy those I left behind, how happy they look as they sit in front of that one eyed monster, as it illuminates images of Hip Hop rappers who exploit bikini clad wimmin.

I want to be like you and laugh at the pain of ignorant people, watching them beat each other up on TV shows like Jerry Springer. I want to be a part of that crowd that cheers on Amerikkka as she invades helpless countries, raping and murdering innocent people under the guise of freedom.

I'm tired of people looking at me like I'm the one who's crazy because I refuse to conversate with snitches, who sold their soul to the prosecutors for mere crumbs. I want to be like other people and talk about basketball and football games instead of being a recluse in my cage reading revolutionary papers and thinking how to form a mass struggle behind these walls.

I want the same elated look of happiness of my face like those prisoners who play dominoes and cards all day without a worry in the world, oh how good that must feel.

I no longer want to feel the repulsive emotion known as love, which only weakens me when I expect it from people, only to be disappointed.

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[Culture] [Colorado]
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Is Hip Hop as Revolutionary Culture?

Personally I see nothing revolutionary about so-called hip hop nowadays. As someone who grew up in the 80s living the lifestyle, all I see now is everyone doing the same, saying the same, and looking the same. Hip hop needs a throat lozenge because it's lost its voice. When hip hop was pertinent there was a message in the music. A message which not only brought to light the various socio-economic maladies that affected the youth, but often times offered a remedy or blueprint to initiate change.

There were differing styles of dress depending upon how a particular individual wanted to express himself. Long gone are the Africa medallions or airbrushed jeans and hats that actually had meaning only to be replaced with precious metals and name brand couture. Real hip hop is alive and well in Cuba where they've even set up a position for the continuation of hip hop and expression by the government. Wow! In the U.S. hip hop has sold out to the mass media and has morphed into a watered down form of cheap musical entertainment. Shame on hip hop for allowing itself to become what it has. Notice how those rappers who talk about nothing of substance sell the most records while Mos Def or Dead Prez barely get a mention?

I believe that the bourgeoisie has systematically carried out a sinister plan to eliminate any type of thought provoking messages from being spread via hip hop music in an effort to keep the blind in the blind. I also believe that a direct correlation can be made between recent so-called hip hop's virtual passivity and the staggering number of inmates wandering around the multiple plantations in the good old US of A. We've been getting the message that it's okay for this government to do what it wants because we can't ever change it. There's nothing revolutionary about that!

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[Culture] [ULK Issue 10]
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Save Hip Hop

I just finished reading the latest Under Lock & Key issue 8 and, comparatively speaking, the articles and overall issues seem much more focused than the days when ULK was only a sub-section of MIM Notes. As to the topic of ULK 8 [prison labor and economics], I find myself agreeing with the line drawn by the ministry. In addition, though I can never stress enough that the progress to be made among the prison population, especially among the prison population (whether in regards to labor, health services, or any other abuse of inalienable rights) lies in the political unity and education of the existent Lumpen-Proletariat Organizations within the prison system itself.

As a 32 year old, young Hispanic male, having been raised in the inner city and having spent nearly half my life in the system, hip hop has been a reflection of my (and mines) existence for as long as I can remember. It has been blasted by everyone, from the working moms and pops to the bourgeois conglomerates; from the so-called community leaders to the bona fide revolutionaries of old. It was an expression of struggle and strength, and a message of perseverance and preparation. It was a passing fad that was eventually manacled, manipulated, and monopolized by the evil designs of capitalists who not only see the promise of a dollar, but the perpetuation of our demise.

There is too much to be said of hip hop (its history, present state, and future) than can justly be compiled into one issue of ULK alone. For far too long it has, in my opinion, been neglected by the revolutionary community as a whole. As Frantz Fanon said in regard to the lumpen, the same applies to the culture of hip hop and rap - the revolution neglected, the reactionaries didn't, and so where hip hop should (and could!) be serving as a spearhead of revolutionary spirit, it has been fashioned into one of the greatest bulwarks against revolutionary progress.

Hip hop is an art, it is music, and just as any art it is most relevant to the mind. It is a culture, and as such it is even more directly relevant to the minds of those who embrace it, not just as a form of entertainment, but as a painting of their own reality - the reality of the ghettos and slums the world over. Hip hop is international, and in most Third World countries it can still be experienced in its most free and pure form. And hip hop is a weapon, a weapon of the people, that has been turned against us.

From the days of "get free or die trying" to today's mantra of "get rich or die trying," it is apparent how deep the federal government has affected the core of our production. The government's counter intelligence program (COINTELPRO), under any other name, is still very much involved in countering the produce of intelligence harvested by the oppressed. The east coast - west coast drama that brought the murders of Biggie and Pac (not to mention the nameless bodies laid down in-between) did not occur by chance. The rise of the South and overall materialism and sexploitation permeated throughout today's industry did not occur because it was the "natural" course of hip hop. These things manifested because before hip hop was ever projected to the masses through the mainstream, it was mass inflected through its very own blood stream.

Nas - hip hop's Street Disciple - said hip hop is dead. The ALKN says that the rising of the dead is the spiritual awakening of those who have been sleeping in the graveyard of ignorance. Therefore hip hop can be resurrected and it must be. As the fans continue to bob their heads in a trance and the artists continue to be used, as the record labels continue to sell out the vibe, the revolution and hip hop must re-unite, or die trying!

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[Culture] [Idaho]
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Rap Music and Society

Rap music has recently been under fire for its misogynistic, materialistic, explicit content and for delivering negative messages to today's youth. But upon deeper examination, one tends to see that those ideas are merely the same ones being transmitted to the society at large by the institutions which govern society.

The parallels between the ideas propagated through the mass media and other sources; and the ones rapped about on the radio by recording artists are not hard to recognize. While this society proposes to thrive on such "rights" as "freedom of speech" and embraces such abstract concepts as individualism, materialism, and using sex to make profit, it lambasts and condemns artists who are the products of such defunct ideas and who have chosen to endorse and promote them for monetary gain—similar to their capitalist counterparts and employers—only creatively set over catchy beats in rhyme form.

While the hip-hop/rap culture is made up primarily of lower-class, urban youth, generally from the New Afrikan community. the question that arises is: Why are these destructive, negative values so unacceptable now? It seems that as soon as these inner-city youth find a way to use this society's own value system to their benefit, and use their experiences an conditions of poverty, drugs, and crime as an avenue to create material wealth, they are demonized for their efforts. "Rap music" as a whole is condemned. This is as backwards a reaction as is a child growing up around parents who constantly use foul language, then reprimanding that child when he uses that same language, without holding the parents to account.

Before further analysis, the distinction must be made between what is referred to as "rap" and hip-hop. This may seem minor to some, but it is an important contrast in regards to the subject at hand. The difference between the who can be compared to saying "I love you" to somebody (rap) and being IN love with somebody (hip-hop). Rap is a more commercial venture, where the artists typically brag about who has the flashiest jewelry, the hottest cars, the highest body count, and the most extravagant sexual exploits. Included in this category would be such popular artists as 50 Cent, Young Geezy, and Lil Wayne. Hip-hop, on the other hand, tends to be the expression of the artist's perception of life, their experiences, and an art form where they can articulate ideas and feelings. Artists falling into this category include Mos Def, Talib Kweli, Common, and Dead Prez. Unfortunately, both categories are lumped together and branded simply "rap" by the mainstream.

Most of the concepts being attacked come from artists in the "rap" category. Here, one can find rappers largely objectifying wimmin, advocating individualism and gangsterism, and supporting their general materialistic message by endorsing such acts as murder, robbery, and deceit, among others. After identifying these trends in rap music, one can't help but see the similarities between rap and the society at large.

Every time one turns on the television, they can not help but notice the many overt references to sex. Wimmin are scantily clad in commercial advertisements to sell almost any commodity imaginable. Wimmin in bikinis walk around boxing rings holding placards showing what round has begun; reality shows televised with wimmin competing for some random guy while employing a wide array of seductive tactics; the list could continue much further. All this is available to a general audience at any given moment throughout the day. The underlying idea is that "sex sells," and this idea is overwhelmingly used by men to objectify and exploit wimmin participants for profit.

Then there is the main reason that these wimmin are objectified—money. They stand next to an expensive car that is supposed to be the fastest and most popular; are in advertisements selling the "classiest" jewelry and apparel; and generally promote obtaining as many of the newest, flashiest, in-style material possessions as possible. This idea has become so widespread and acceptable that in schools the youth who are found to possess the newest, flyest clothes and products are the more popular, while those without the latest trendy clothes and items are the less socially acceptable.

Then there is also the issue of crime. While rappers are being chastised for glorifying violence and criminality, the chastizers fail to confront the underlying causes of such crime and its solution, instead placing the blame on rap culture. From a young age, youth are taught by society that accumulation of wealth is the desired goal of life, to look out for yourself and obtain as much as you can. At the same time—through acts of war at home and abroad— our country reinforces the idea that during the quest for the "almighty dollar." any means may be employed to get more money, including violence, murder, and deceit (among others)—only accepting those from the lower-class. When a person not from a privileged upbringing and background employs these same tactics, even for the same objectives, they are labeled "criminals" and are subject to incarceration and, in some cases, death. The laws that govern this country blatantly display the fact that they were made to protect the privileges of the upper-class at the expense of the lower-class.

This is not a defense for the clearly negative aspects of a culture that influences people from all kinds of different persuasions and races. Objectifying and degrading wimmin, and glorifying drugs and crime are definitely counter-productive and really reflect a symptom of a far wider problem. I am simply attempting to show the correlations between rap music and society, how they both inherently share and promote the same ideas and values, and how by and from the former they are criticized and scorned, yet by and from the latter they are accepted and embraced.

If we want to get to the root of the problem, our attacks shouldn't be aimed at a rap culture that developed from the harsh conditions of this society and which only reflects the same backward ideas and values that have been indoctrinated into the masses since birth. Instead, our attacks should be concentrated at a capitalist system that institutionalizes these degenerate values and ideas, and the ugly conditions it has consequently created in this country. Only when we begin to confront the root causes of crime, poverty, unemployment and racism will we be able to teach and educate our youth, and society as a whole, to new positive and progressive ideas and values, based on people helping and caring about other people-in one world: socialism. Anything short of this is a failure to confront the real issues and is simply a step backward.

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