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[Culture] [Texas]
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Chicano Rap & Language against Assimilation

I thought to write with respect to your no. 10 issue I received and appreciated very much. In regards to the main topic, hip hop, of which I am no fan, it gave a good insight as how dominant Anglo culture preys on an underclass and or minority group. Although the Anglo culture is the most prevalent in its influences, the capitalists (the Anglo class), have no respect even to its own race when it comes to the dollar sign$.

Having been born in the 50s, and part of the Chicano civil rights movement of the mid 60s and early 70s, my Raza had had enough of the Anglo suppression of our being and culture. What the Anglo race wanted of us through the South West was cultural assimilation, period! It didn't work for the majority of us, with only a few assimilating into an Anglo society. However, it is those few who assimilate that cause me concern, who follow those that went before them in their deliberate knowledge of the Anglo assimilation process.

Prior to my incarceration in 1990 "rap" music was already making itself known in the major metropolitan cities in Texas. As my years of incarceration progressed during the 1990s, I was seeing and hearing a lot of my Raza mimicking the talk (language) of a hip hop culture that was permeating throughout the free world and penal institutions. And that they were not able to speak, much less understand their own language, Spanish (or the more subtle Spanglish, Cali, or Pachuco), caused me great concern in seeing that the culprit of this subtle form of Anglo assimilation was the Anglo capitalist which controls the media, in its effort to destroy any culture other than that of its own.

Although I now see "Chicano" rap originating out of California as a form of pushing back against the Anglo assimilation process, the Anglo capitalists controlling the media has not embraced this form of Chicano "expression" (nor latino "rap" in general). The writer/reviewer of the essay "Hip Hop: Living Culture or Commodity?" did a good job in showing how a capitalist and dominant Anglo society destroys other cultures at all costs. But in having read the essay I didn't see that it addressed that Anglo commercialization of mainstream "hip hop" has an agenda to also destroy ones cultural language as well.

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[Spanish] [Culture] [Texas]
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Hip Hop en la Esfera de Acción del Estado

Mostrarlos como groseros y depravados...tener miembros detenidos por acusaciones de mariguana. Investigar conflictos personales o animosidades entre ellos. Manda artículos a los periódicos enseñando sus depravaciones. Use narcóticos y el sexo gratis para entrampar...obtener especímenes de sus escrituras. Provocar rivalidades entre los grupos de objetivo que pueden resultar en muerte. Tácticas FBI COINTELPRO documentado a ser usado contra músicos políticos.(1)

Yo sostengo que es malo en cuanto nos concierne si una persona, un partido político, un ejército o una escuela no es atacada por el enemigo, pues en ese caso, eso significaría definitivamente que nos hemos bajado al nivel del enemigo. Es bueno si somos atacados por el enemigo, ya que demuestra que hemos trazado un límite claramente de demarcación entre el enemigo y nosotros. - Mao Zedong. Ser Atacado por el Enemigo no es Algo Malo Sino Algo Bueno (26 de Mayo 1939)

Un indicación del potencial revolucionario de hip hop es la reacción del estado burgués. El verano pasado, policías arrestaron a Paradise Gray del x-clan (clan equis), y el Zulu Nation (Nación de Zulus), quien juego un papel grande en darle forma al hip hop en los primeros años. Arrestaron a Gray mientras que el estaba filmando una demostración contra el alto burguesismo.(2) Paralelizando algunos esfuerzos de Tupac discutidos abajo, Gray esta actualmente trabajando con 1Hood para promover paz entre la nación de juventud oprimida en la ciudad de Pittsburg, PA. No hay nada que el gobierno le tiene más miedo que cuando los oprimidos paran de matarse los unos a los otros.

Mientras que a la cultura popular le gusta ver Reality Rap (Rap en Realidad), ahora conocido como Gangsta Rap (Rap de Gangster), en el comienzo de la corrupción última de hip hop, la verdad es que pioneros Ice-T, NWA, y Tupac estaban desenvueltamente opuestos al estado y recibieron mucho calor por eso. Cancelaron sus conciertos, postergaron sus discos, censuraron sus canciones y se enfrentaron con constante vigilancia y hostigamiento regular.

Mientras que las formas de arte que se originaron en la cultura de hip hop han sido cooptadas por asimilación de los medios de corporaciones para servir al estado mismo, la amenaza potencial de una cultura que se queda con raíces fuertes en las naciones oprimidas sigue. John Potash sacó una documentación con detalles de la historia del estado usando COINTELPRO contra músicos, conectándolos en operaciones contra revolucionarios que precedieron y que frecuentemente los inspiraron. El describe como el NYPD organizó la primera unidad - rap con entrenamientos por COINTELPRO, y luego fueron a entrenar a otros policías metropolitanos por todos lados del país. Su libro se concentra alrededor de la vida y muerte de Tupac Shakur.

El padrastro de Tupac Shakur era, en el pasado, de los Black Liberation Army (Ejército de Liberación de los Negros) y médico revolucionario, que se volvió prisionero de guerra, Mutulu Shakur. El era uno del número de ancianos influyentes en la vida de Tupac mientras que el creció que eran parte del movimiento del Black Power (poder de los negros). En las juntas con Tupac el dice que el empujó a Tupac a que cuestionara y definiera a la tal thug Life (Vida Maleante), que, con el tiempo, ellos hicieron juntos un código de 26 puntos que fue aceptado por los Bloods y Crips, y otros más tarde, en la cumbre de la paz en 1992 en la ciudad de Los Angeles.(3) Esto indució a una operación mayor de contraespionaje fijando como objetivo a los involucrados, Mutulu incluido que ha estado enjaulado en un centro de control federal desde entonces.

Sanyika Shakur, un ex-jefe de los Crips (Azules), era uno que estaba inspirado a sostener estos esfuerzos. El también fue objeto para aislamiento en la sistema de prisión en el estado de California dónde es esta sentado actualmente (tal pacificadores son supuestamente "peor de los peores" que llenan estas celdas de tortura). Así como el señalo, el gobierno tenia razón para estar involucrados por los esfuerzos para unir a los jóvenes Negros y Latinos ya que las organizaciones de las calles de South Central estaban reclutando más gente jóvenes cada año que los cuatro fuerzas armados de los estados unidos combinados.(4)

La investigación detallado de John Potash sobre 2Pac y otros músicos y líderes, enseñan, claramente, conexiones entre operaciones negras por el gobierno y la represión de esos que movilizaron gente oprimida. El papel primario que Tupac juego en la enemistad del "East vs. West" (El este contra El oeste) en la escena del hip hop era irónico después de su trabajo para unir grupos guerreando en Los Angeles. Pero Potash pinta un retrato de manipulación mandado por el estado que llevó a Tupac que a jugar en el plan de ellos.

Potash traza el uso de sexo y drogas para manipular a ambos activistas y músicos como se describe en el documento del FBI citado arriba. El cargo de asalto sexual formulado contra Tupac es un ejemplo de esto.(5) Death Row Records, quien el pinta como un frente del FBI, mantuvo a Tupac nadando en bebidas alcohólicas y marihuana, así como el FBI hizo a su madre, cuando el era un niño, usando a un traficante que se hizo muy cercano a ella. Igualmente, Death Row cambio a Dr. Dre, que una vez canto, "Ey, yo no fumo marihuana o sess porque es conocido hacerle daño a los sesos de un hermano," a una publicidad gigante de marihuana con su solo álbum estreno, "The Chronic". En la década que siguió, el uso regular de marihuana fue aumentado significativamente entre jóvenes Negros y Latinos, con problemas grandes de adicción discapacite, quizás sea el incremento de la potencia de la droga.(6) Hoy, marihuana y bebidas alcohólicas están alabados constantemente por los raperos.

En sus últimos días, Pac estaba sobrio, leyendo Mao y piensando en unir a los negros alrededor del país. Pronto lo mataron y nadien fue acusado con el asesinato aunque en ese momento el estaba observado de cerca por multiple agencias del estado, así como Biggie en el tiempo de su asesinato.

Una lección grande para tomar de "la Guerra del FBI contra Tupac y los Líderes Negros" es que el gobierno tiene una estrategia de neutralizar líderes poténcialas que ellos usan una y otra vez. Para contraatacar esto, activistas necesitan que estar cocientes de las estrategias y formar estrategias para contraatacarlos. Como un individuo, Tupac estaba, fácilmente, manipulado, pero hasta un partido disciplinado como las Panderas Negras fueron manipulados participando en una división similar de costas este contra oeste que se pudo haber evitado. En ambos casos, el FBI tomó una ventaja de las contradicciones internas entre la gente involucrada. Bueno, mientras que estudiar tácticas del FBI es una manera provechoso para defendernos mismos, más importante, tenemos que poner políticas en mando para hacer un movimiento que sea difícil hacer caer fuera de curso.

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[Culture] [ULK Issue 10]
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Hip Hop: Living Culture or Commodity?

Hip-hop can be a very powerful weapon to help expand young people's political and social consciousness. But just as with any weapon, if you don't know how to use it, if you don't know where to point it or what you're using it for, you can end up shooting yourself in the foot or killing your sisters and brothers." — Assata Shakur

There are four main elements that make up what hip hop culture really is: Break dancing, DJing, MCing and Graffiti art. Each element plays a major role in hip hop. This beautiful culture originated in the Bronx, NY from the oppressed lumpen proletarians. The music from this culture was diligently expressed through MCing (rapping) about oppression and the conditions the oppressed people were going through in this capitalist decadent society. It was not about money, cars, jewelry and negativity but as the years went by and white capitalist businessmen saw a fortune in this culture that they could exploit the voices that created hip hop were greatly silenced.

The common refrain of many submissions we got for this issue of Under Lock & Key was that "Hip Hop is Dead." But the reality is much more complex, and we are not ready to dismiss hip hop. The objectification and commodification of culture often signifies the end of its existence as a culture, as Fanon argued. However, in the height of imperialism, where the capitalists have learned to fashion their products to niche markets, all cultures will be commodified, and yet the oppressed still need a culture to call their own.

The reason why MIM(Prisons) is focusing on hip hop in this issue on culture, is that hip hip came from the oppressed nations in the u$. Today, "hip hop" is pretty much considered synonymous with oppressed nation youth culture even as that culture continues to evolve in many different ways. This is true in the united $tates, but also true to an extent in many parts of the world today.

We put our hope in the oppressed nations because of their objective interests in progressive change. That interest comes through in hip hop culture, as much as the white corporate media and its white consumer audience do to discourage that. Still the mainstream acts like all you need is a certain type of a beat in a commercial and it's hip hop. Or dress your employees a certain way and it's hip hop.

In their day, the Black Panther Party criticized Black bourgeois elements who fetishized pieces of African culture with no context as "pork chop nationalists." There was no connection to a real people with an existing lifestyle. The Panthers were greatly influenced by Frantz Fanon, who wrote in an essay entitled "Racism and Culture":

"Exoticism... allows no cultural confrontation. There is on the one hand a culture in which qualities of dynamism, of growth, of depth can be recognized. As against this, we find characteristics, curiosities, things, never a structure."

Hip hop developed as a living, dynamic life of a people; oppressed people in north amerikan ghettos. As we'll touch on below it is still a living evolving culture that has been both adopted and adapted by people around the world. But before going global, hip hop culture was commodified by white record owners for white consumers. They sold this exotic culture to white youth looking for rebellion and excitement. Decades before, thousands of white youth gave money and support to the Panthers to express their desires to challenge the dominant culture and status quo. With hip hop, corporate amerika could sell a much more sanitized and safer version of Black rebellion to whites. And while there were benefits in terms of the building of public opinion around the struggles of the oppressed, this was soon drowned out in what became a new form of cooning - reinforcing racist ideologies.

Commodification of Hip Hop

Hip 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 grew to influence youth throughout amerika and the world.

During the late 1980s and early 90s, the culture continued to thrive. In this era, Black and Latino youth further developed their voices through hip hop to express their anger, fears, ideas, art and frustrations within the dominant white-oppressor culture, with its 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.

As Immortal Technique wrote in his article, "Gangsta Rap is Hip Hop" a few years back, what was called Reality Rap in the early years of hip hop was a reflection of the conditions that the MC's saw around them. These images were influenced by machismo and other viewpoints that were part of the survival techniques of those coming up in that environment. As survival also required recognizing that the system does not work for us, this Reality Rap was a reflection of the mass revolutionary spirit that had fueled the Black and Brown power movements of the previous generation.

The first response from white amerika was predictably negative, but the amount of attention given to hip hop quickly escalated as fears rose. There was a reason why the George HW Bush and Bill Clinton administrations spent so much time disparaging artists like 2pac and Ice-T. Someone was telling Dan Quayle and Tipper Gore to carry out their censorship campaigns. (see Hip Hop in the Scopes of the State)

To counter their critics, rappers said they were merely reporting the truth. It is true that the rapper has usually served as a block reporter, but there are two problems that have skewed this reporting. The first is bourgeois views of "objective" reporting, that pretend that what is reported and how it is reported could be somehow outside of class struggle. This view allows the oppressed to report on conditions thru rap without taking an approach that serves our struggle. The attitude is "this is just how it is", which leads to acceptance and reinforcement of the status quo.

This becomes an even bigger problem with the pressures from an industry, which tries to protect its bourgeois interests. This brings us to the second problem: the block reporters who make it are the ones reporting in a way that sells to white youth and please white corporations.

Coming from the depressed ghettos of the 1980s, flooded with crack cocaine by the CIA, there was no question of whether or not to become a professional rapper if the opportunity presented itself. As Tupac rapped in his song Don't Stop, "If I wasn't spittin' it'd be prison or death/This rap game all we've got left." 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 fiend (sippin' syrup, etc.) and to be victims of HIV/AIDS (it's ok to have multiple sex partners, without ever mentioning protection). Is there any wonder why the highest rates of HIV/AIDS are among Blacks and Latinos between the ages of 13-24?

White-owned corporations saw a profit to be made and stepped in to co-opt the movement. They became owners of record labels and put up money so these impoverished and oppressed people could sell their soul and music for crumbs while these CEO's got millions upon millions of dollars.

With the help of the rappers, the record labels promoted a one-sided image of oppressed youth, an image that has been pushed on the oppressed for hundreds of years - one of uncontrollable libidos, violence, substance abuse and general barbarism. They did this through lyrics about smoking crack, robbing and shooting other Blacks and Latinos in oppressed communities, misogynist raps and raps with no substance. We started to stray away from the four elements and this type of hip hop started to negatively influence the youth and poison their minds. While culture reflects life, it also influences it. And arguably, the corporatized thug image contributed to the thousands of deaths that plagued southcentral Los Angeles and other amerikan ghettoes in the 1990s.

Hip Hop is Dead until it takes up revolutionary politics


So with this contradiction in the culture of the oppressed came total destruction of the originality and with this concrete analysis there must be change. Like comrade Lenin once said, "concrete analysis of concrete conditions is the most essential thing in Marxism, the living soul of Marxism." We must regain the true culture of hip hop, which is based in the real struggles of the people and helps to teach, empower and unite the masses. This culture can be used to ignite the lumpen proletariat to support the revolutionary cause, like Mao once said, "Revolutionary culture is a powerful revolutionary weapon for the broad masses of the people."

Culture is an essential element of the history of a people, and it's social development. 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. Currently the revolutionary side of hip hop is not the dominant aspect of the contradiction with the corporate/oppressor side. Amilcar Cabral once had 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... 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."

We saw this germ in the Reality Rap two decades ago. 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. Hip hop needs to reflect the struggle, and push it forward. If they fail to do this, hip hop remains sterile and dead.

Hip Hop as Reflection of Amerikan Culture

During the 1990's, people like Dolores Tucker and Tipper Gore earned the loathing of the booming hip hop culture as they targeted it for censorship and blamed it for the moral depravity of oppressed people. There was a lively debate around whether art reflected life or the other way around. But the answer to those involved was clear: people didn't start rapping about murder, drugs and misogyny because they were trying to corrupt the youth. The youth were corrupted by a system that did not provide them with positive outlets and this was reflected in hip hop, both for good and for bad. Everybody knows censoring rappers isn't going to improve the hood, but improving the hood will change what people are rapping about.

Even after its takeover by white-owned corporations, hip hop continues to be under fire for its misogynistic, materialistic, explicit content and for delivering negative messages to today's youth. What they did is sanitize the rebellious voice of the oppressed, while maintaining the negativity as a form of pseudo-rebellion to reinforce racist stereotypes of what oppressed nation youth are all about. Yet, upon deeper examination, one tends to see that the messages 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 a 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 and conditions of poverty, drugs, and crime as an avenue to create material wealth, they are demonized for their efforts. "Rap music" is condemned, rather than society as a whole. This theme is a regular refrain for many rappers who tell their critics through rhyme, "I am what you made me."

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. 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 and oppressor nation at the expense of the lower-class and oppressed nations.

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 word: socialism. Anything short of this is a failure to confront the real issues and is simply a step backward.

Hip Hop Lives in Palestine, Senegal, Somalia...

When hip hop blew up in the amerikan market, it was only natural that the capitalists tried to push it globally, as much of the Third World is so brainwashed into worshiping anything that comes from the united $tates as being superior. In many cases, the Third World has adapted hip hop to their own conditions and needs though. In fact, Third World hip hop has consciously rejected many aspects of hip hop that we are also critical of: the killing, the misogyny, the drugs and promiscuity. Many Third World nations are not comfortable with all that. In Muslim countries in Africa, there are hip hop heads who very much look up to rappers from the u$, but do not imitate much of the negative lyrical content. (see http://www.africanunderground.com) There is a class difference between the Third World masses and the u$ lumpen, who have become cultural leaders globally because of u$ imperialism not in spite of or in opposition to it.

While we can be very critical of hip hop for promoting drug use, violence against the oppressed, misogyny and racism, others want to back-handedly criticize it for empowering the oppressed. In contrast, revolutionary artists often embrace while redefining the gangster and the hard images of both mainstream and underground rap music. With the globalization of hip hop and the "I'm more hard" and "I'm more gutter than you" personas that are even pushed by the mainstream, we've seen the appearance of Third World voices with a more internationalist voice.

New York-based artist Immortal Technique said in his title track about the Third World, "it makes the hood in amerika look like paradise." Meanwhile, Somalian rapper, K'naan, claims to be from the most dangerous place in the world and challenges the studio gangster images of rappers in the u$ in his song "What's Hardcore?":

I'ma spit these verses cause I feel annoyed
And I'm not gonna quit till I fill the void
If I rhymed about home and got descriptive
I'd make 50 Cent look like limp bizkit
It's true, and don't make me rhyme about you
I'm from where the kids is addicted to glue
Get ready, he got a good grip on the machete
Make rappers say they do it for love like R-Kelly
It's hard
Harder than Harlem and Compton intertwined
Harder than harboring Bin Laden and rewind
To that earlier part when I was kinda like:
We begin our day by the way of the gun
Rocket-propelled grenades blow you away if you front
We got no police, ambulances, or fire fighters
We start riots by burning car tires
They looting, and everybody start shooting...

This is the kind of "Reality Rap" that the OG's from Los Angeles used to spit, before "gangsta" became a caricature.

A thriving Palestinian hip hop scene has popularized the slogan, "Hip Hop's not dead, it lives in Palestine." This is coming from youth who are using hip hop to express their desires for national liberation, combating the slander being used to label their people as terrorists.

The idea of a global culture is still a new reality. But if such a thing can exist that is really based in the lives of real people, then it must represent the interests of the world's majority. Maybe a culture that arose from the oppressed in the heart of the empire, and was then popularized by the empire itself, can be turned around by the masses to become just that. We are currently seeing two futures of hip hop play out. One has billions of dollars behind it, the other has billions of people. If we can still call it "hip hop" culture in all its different forms around the world, then we can bet on the oppressed peoples' version winning out.

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[Culture] [ULK Issue 10]
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Pulse of the People Sounds Like Revolution

dead prez
Hosted by DJ Green Lantern
Turn Off The Radio Vol. 3: Pulse of the People
June 2009


Almost everyone who wrote in complaining about the state of hip hop cited dead prez as the exception. Taking off where 2pac left off with Thug Life, dead prez has popularized a more consistent and developed code under their slogan of Revolutionary But Gangsta. The RBG mentality comes out on this tape in their refrain, "All the G's I know is part of the revolution." While not quite gaining the popularity of 2pac, the generation of rappers just coming up is full of youth who developed their consciousness listening to dead prez albums. We think that's a good thing for the future of hip hop culture.

MIM has thoroughly reviewed dpz's earlier work, and this mixtape follows in that tradition; strong revolutionary music. The sound of Pulse is a little different than the past, with more of a rock & roll element in a lot of the samples used. This brings us to one of the other elements of hip hop: DJing. The fact that DJ Green Lantern hosted this mixtape added to the anticipation for many.

The MC talks, so it is easy to analyze the content of what they say. Graffiti, while not as popular as rapping, is similarly easy to assess for content. But dancing and making beats are more abstract arts. Some argue that music with no lyrics, dancing and even many visual arts have no political content.

As MIM wrote in MIM Theory 13:

Mao explained that all classes in all class societies have both artistic and political criteria by which they judge art - and all classes put the political criteria first. This the bourgeoisie will never admit, but it is constantly shutting out, censoring and destroying proletarian art no matter how high the artistic merit or quality.(1)

Green Lantern is interesting as a DJ who put out this latest dpz mixtape as well as Immortal Technique's highly recommended record The Third World. Before that he put out the Bin Laden single with Tech and earlier this year released a track on the Oscar Grant shooting and riots. All of these works combined demonstrate that yes, a DJ's work is political. As an artistically superior DJ and producer, who worked with such popular MC's as Eminem, Jay-Z and Nas, Green Lantern adds the artistic quality to the political line, to create a superior revolutionary culture. Without DJ's like Green Lantern the "conscious" music never gains mass appeal.

The DJ has quietly become more and more prominent both alongside and independent from MC's. Green Lantern is a good example of this with his work on video games, which now have their own soundtracks, and his own radio show. While this reviewer isn't familiar with all of these works to speak on Green Lantern's career as a whole, he clearly doesn't work exclusively on revolutionary projects. While Nas's Nigger Tape was a confusing mix of reverence for both the Black Panthers and Barack Obama, Green also worked on a mixtape that was expressly dedicated to getting Obama elected.

On that note, we can say that dead prez is the vanguard here, pushing Green Lantern to do more revolutionary projects. To their credit, dpz has always got the principal contradiction correct, and never wavered. This tape is no exception with lyrics like:

"That's why ain't nothin' patriotic in me
For their system my heart is empty"

and

"I don't represent the red white and blue
I cut the head off the devil and I throw it at you."

The latter line is from Afrika Hot!, which is both the dance hit on this release and also one of the more revolutionary tracks lyrically. The overall message of Pan-Afrikanism and Third World unity in this song is right on. But when groups like the African People's Socialist Party, who Stic Man and M-1 used to work with, go so far as to build an African Socialist International, with leadership based in the united $tates, we think that contradicts the lessons we have learned from previous attempts at communist internationals. Despite their relative oppression, New Afrikans are a separate nation, with a much more privileged class position than the many nations of Africa and should not be guiding struggle on the continent.

For the most part we were ambivalent towards dead prez's dealing with gender and sex in the past, but gave them a much higher rating than the average hip hop artist. In the final track on Pulse, My Dirty Valentine, they get into their fantasies and desires that eroticize power and rape. While MIM(Prisons) opposes sexual liberalism, we also do not try to police people's bedrooms in our efforts to overthrow the patriarchy. But by rapping about these things, dead prez is telling their listeners what is sexy, and art does influence real life.

Overall, dead prez not only provides the critique, but they also provide a method for finding solutions, the dialectical materialist approach to the world. As they mature politically, these themes seem to have become more prominent in their music. The back to back songs Refuse To Lose and Life Goes On are good examples of their inspirational and educational approach, rather than just beating their listeners in the head with rhetoric.

"Many days didn't know what to do/ but we survive/ Every struggle is a test/ a lesson/ You just gotta figure out how to overcome and catch the blessing/ They want us to turn to dope and lose all hope/ spirit broke and confused/ But I refuse to lose/ Through fear/ through pain/ through loss/ I can't stop/ won't stop/ 'til we make it to the tip top/ This is hip hop"

"If you ain't happy make a change then/ If what you're doing ain't working/ it might be time to change plans/ You're looking at a changed man/ from where I used to be/ It's no fear/ I ain't going nowhere/ so get used to me."

"You can make a choice now how you wanna live/ You can be negative/ You can be positive/ But either one is up to you/ It's your prerogative/ It's not what happens to us/ It's how we handle what happens/ The ups and downs in life give us understanding and balance."

And remember, Turn off the Radio! Turn off that Bullshit!

Notes: (1) Chinese Art in Revolution. MIM Theory 13: Culture in Revolution. 1997. p.30.


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[Culture] [ULK Issue 10]
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Eminem = Emeny

Eminem
Hosted by Dr. Dre
Relapse
May 2009

eminiem relapse album cover
Relapse is Eminem's 6th studio album, released May 15, 2009, with the sequel Relapse 2 expected to drop November of this year. It sold over 600,000 copies in the first week of its release.(1) As the title implies, the content of the album is devoted to the many facets of Eminem's struggle with drug addiction. To any fan of Eminem, or anyone who's heard his older stuff, it should come as no surprise that the main objective of Relapse seems to be to perpetuate misogyny, primarily thorough rape fantasies. Although there are two whole entire songs depicting violence against wimmin ('Same Song & Dance' and 'Stay Wide Awake'), that isn't enough to keep Eminem from making references to rape and unwarranted physical contact throughout the entire album. Physical violence isn't just directed toward wimmin; there's violence against gays, graphic depiction of child molestation, and the rare allusion of violence against his peers.

The chorus to 'We Made You' is overly conceited, but with the lyric "Who could really blame you? We're the ones who made you" he is blaming the consumers for his audacity. That is partially true: if amerikans weren't so into individualism and misogyny, then they probably wouldn't be so into Em's shit. But even more true is the role that the corporate record companies have played in pushing it on the people, which you can read about in the title article to this issue of ULK.

There is also a consistent focus on the individual's problems throughout the album, instead of problems of the group. In fact, the only thing Eminem seems to have a group perspective on is that all wimmin are bitches. In the track 'My Mom' he relates all of his drug problems to his mother's addictions, as if she was one womyn separate from society. However, all of us are affected by the culture and society we live in, and drug addiction is one way the people in a fucked up society can adjust to living this way. It's likely that Mathers' mother was the strongest direct influence on him, but she is just a reflection of her culture and society, making that the real problem. In amerikan society it is especially important for us to combat individualism, because oftentimes, ideologically, it is the largest obstacle standing between the oppressed and increased public opinion for their liberation.

In real life, Mathers has been using the 12 step program for his recovery, which he mocks in the skits on Relapse. Twelve step programs, such as Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous, may work to keep individual people from using. But on a group scale its goal is to adjust people to function without drugs in a messed up society, instead of addressing the problems of society, which can only be thoroughly dealt with through revolution. Of course, we don't think living under imperialism is easy, and people usually do need support outside of themselves to recover from addiction, and to be useful to the revolution. But we would prefer a 12 step program that's not focused on god and a "higher power" and instead focused on liberating oneself through liberation of the proletariat.

With all this talk about dealing with our problems, Relapse doesn't offer many solutions, even for the individual. 'Deja Vu' is a submission to addiction ("I wanna get away from this place, I do. But I can't, and I won't.") which is followed by the rap ballad and single, 'Beautiful.' 'Beautiful' is about fighting depression, and with a chorus like "Don't let em say you ain't beautiful/ They can all get fucked just stay true to you" it's the most, and only semi-encouraging song on the album. This can serve revolutionaries who are feeling alienated by their political views here in the belly of the beast, where the majority of amerikans are bought off by imperialism and aren't materially interested in revolutionary politics.

Dr. Dre keeps our heads bobbing, but beyond that, Relapse, and Eminem's career in general, is just another example of how imperialism and capitalism prioritize the mental health of the people last. It also is another tired example of how capitalism encourages the recording industry to push fucked up politics into hip-hop culture, and this reviewer expects more of the same from Relapse 2.


notes:

(1) http://www.billboard.biz/bbbiz/content_display/industry/e3i331f30f79c3e3c746847c8d7166631d3

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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]
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Hip-Hop as Revolutionary Culture

Hip hop in the true revolutionary sense has not been the juggernaut it has the potential of being in relations to the political and social struggles of the proletariat and lumpen masses, who are the living breath of the hip hop movement. This is because the pure essence of the hip hop sector is capitalism, it's part of a capitalist system, a false democratic society/system built upon ethnocentrism and imperialism for the purpose of massive global exploitation. The survival of hip hop is based on the pathological symptoms of a pathologenic system.

The hip hop community have ostensibly engaged in the initial phase of revolutionism, which is exposing the un-equalitarianism of the disenfranchised, which is a revolutionary act. However, in most cases the hip hop community does not go to the next level, by incorporating the subversion and rebellion of the very same system that are constantly creating inhumane living conditions, through its policies, laws and codes, that the hip hop community is constantly rapping about, and trying to escape.

Therefore, the cultural revolution within hip hop, though relevant, is incomprehensibly incomplete, in its holistic form, and needs an in depth introspection of self.

Nevertheless, certain elements within hip hop have created a grassroots movement to bring awareness with a focal point on change and liberation to the masses through an entire restructuring of our government system of control.

Remember, hip hop belongs to the people, the streets, the ghettos, and the souls of the disenfranchised. Thus, we must take back what is rightfully ours, or force those who utilize the mechanics of change to do so in the best interest of the people, instead of selfishness and personal gain.

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[Culture] [ULK Issue 10]
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Space... The Next Frontier

Uhura kissing Spock
[Spoiler Warning]
Star Trek (2009) begins with a battle in outer space, where the last remaining Romulans have traveled back in time to attack the United Federation of Planets, in hopes that by emotionally scarring Spock in his younger years, they will feel better that their planet, Romulas, is going to be destroyed by their dying sun. The Romulans blame Spock as an individual for this disaster, presumably because he was (or will be) the scientist in charge of protecting Romulas. Both old Spock from the future, and young Spock in the present, are forced to witness the destruction of his home planet, Vulcan, as revenge. It isn't clear what Spock's actual role will be in the destruction of Romulas, and for the sake of this review, we will just look at the information portrayed in this film, not the Star Trek television shows or other movies.

The writers of Star Trek would like to portray Earth in the year 2233 as its own single, united nation of Humans. This is just amerika's beloved Hollywood attempting to teach us how "peaceful" the planet could be if we all just submitted to the white nation and let them run the show. In the Star Trek future, nearly everyone from Earth is white, which not only opposes political science, but genetics and evolution as well. The filmmakers suppose that present amerika and europe will conquer all non-white nations and either destroy them, or keep them marginalized in the fields of military and imperialist science, thus having no role to play in a movie about intergalactic exploration.

The Federation societies shown in Star Trek (2009) aren't very different from amerikan society today. Alcohol abuse is common, wimmin are sexually harassed and assaulted, expensive material objects are idealized, and individualism is widespread. Humans join the military because they have nothing better to do, want persynal glory, and/or to "kick some Romulan ass." All these factors demonstrate Earth as a capitalist country, another misprediction.

The glorification of the individual is so common in this future society, in fact, that Spock, then captain of the Enterprise, abandons the ship as it is being sucked into a black hole. He does this to rescue his parents from the imploding planet of Vulcan. In the eyes of many amerikans this may seem heroic and forgivable, to put the whole crew at risk of imminent death to protect his culture. Of course, thank Hollywood, Enterprise manages to make it out safely, with Spock on board, but it is a completely irresponsible move. Another example of individualism is shown when a minor crew member is having such a grand time skydiving through the Vulcan atmosphere, ready to kill some Romulans, that he intentionally activates his parachute too late, for fun, and dies. In reality we need to combat our own persynal desires for fame, glory, and subjective "fun" in order to create and preserve a strong movement, and, when the time comes, armed struggle.

The film also supports individualism, as well as ideas of genetic supremacism, through the character of Jim Kirk, who is a naturally good captain taking after his father. He is able to come into the academy from a life of drunken recklessness and surpass his fellow students in Star Fleet. His success justifies judging people's qualifications based on their parents. The Enterprise does function as a team with many roles to play, which is superior to Rambo style heroism. Kirk is able to keep the goal of the Federation in focus, making him a good leader. Like the lumpen, his lack of investment in other things allows him to focus on one greater goal once he is able put it ahead of his self-indulgent lifestyle. While a good leader must be willing to challenge the status quo as Kirk does, the movie romanticizes this as a magical skill that he was born with, not one that requires hard work and experience, particularly in partnership with others, to develop.

The Vulcans are a logical and emotionless "race," which is intended to highlight the passion and senselessness of "human nature." This is incorrect western psychological theory, but it also provides for some good advice from Spock's father, if we humyns should take it as our own. "Logic offers us [Vulcans] a serenity humans seldom experience: the control of feelings so that they do not control you... You are fully capable of deciding your own destiny, the question is, which path will you choose? This is something only you can decide." The lesson here is to avoid escapism, and take control of our future.

But what cultural impact does Star Trek(2009) have? All good art has an impact that is more than just logical, so the question is, what is the outcome of that impact? Good art elicits a response by epitomizing a truth faced by the audience. Hollywood-style art, in contrast, attempts to impose emotional responses through generic intensity. This style of film is based strongly in eliciting emotional responses from the audience, and although there are still plenty of cliff hanging scenes (literally) and tragic moments between loved ones, the action scenes are often overdone in a way that can conflict with this goal. In the end of the movie, old Spock confirms to young Spock the importance of following your gut rather than logic, while his father admits to "loving" his mother for the first time. This triumph of emotionalism opens up the audience for a justification of subjectivism in making their decisions.

To focus back on the Romulans, achieving persynal revenge for the future loss of their home is a poor strategy that doesn't serve anyone. A real solution would have been for the Romulans to have gone back in time and advance technology to save their planet in the future. The Romulans' revenge strategy is very different from the oppressed people in our world attacking the oppressor for their own survival, even when their strategies are not successful. The oppressed lash out because they have been pushed to a point where they have no other options. This may be an emotional reaction or a strategic strike. The Romulans, in contrast, are letting their emotions drive them to act in ways that are contrary to their expressed goals, when they have an unusual opportunity to do otherwise.

It is also worth noting that the Romulans are portrayed as anti-social in appearance in ways that parallel certain lumpen groups in the united $tates. Star Trek can appeal to liberal multiculturalism with their Black, Asian, Arab and even a green-skinned humyn-like character all being included in Star Fleet. This is similar to seeing a Black president as being a sign of progress today, while using Islam, drugs and gang-banging as excuses to attack the oppressed nations. That's why we talk about the problem of white nationalism, which allows for exceptions, and not racism.

In reality, there is no way that humyn society could have survived another 225 years without eliminating the contradictions inherent in imperialism that threaten our lives on a daily basis. Thus, if this were a propaganda film from a proletarian perspective, the universe would have been portrayed as cooperative. What might make such a movie interesting is speculating how such a society might be run after eliminating the militarism and gender dynamics of today. In a proletarian version the Romulans would have seized on their opportunity to use their new found scientific advantage to save their people rather than resorting to revenge. Even old Spock, who had lived through this disaster already, could have been engaged in this project. He actually did bring technology from the future to the present, but it was just to benefit the Federation. While the Federation has the potential to serve as an example of greater international (and interspecies) cooperation in the future, like most Hollywood scifi, it serves as a stand-in for the united states or the united nations, justifying imperialist militarism against the oppressed who are vilified as irrationally vengeful monsters.

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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.
Sankyika 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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