I love hip hop. At the same time, I hate hip hop. The truth is, that I really just hate how much I love hip hop. As much as she may irk me at times, I cannot divorce her, she is just as much a part of me as the O+ blood that pumps through my veins.
We laughed together; we cried together and she even tried to teach me how to dance. Yet, two decades in, our relationship has become strained.
See, I love the way that she makes me feel, the way that she pushes me through a hard workout in the gym or gives me some head nodding melodies to make it through a tough day. I love her sophistication, the fact that she can crank up a party one minute and spit out Nasir Jones-esque poetry the next.
Yet, I can no longer ignore the less appealing portions of her legacy.
Yes, she has created a generation of millionaires and opened up doors around the world for many young men and women, but at the same time; she has fueled and sustained a culture that keeps many of her biggest fans stuck in a proverbial trap.
What I loved most about hip hop over the years, was her realness, her raw emotions, her ability to take me into the mind of a total stranger. When Tupac told a far too common tale about the plight of teenage pregnancy on “Brenda’s got a Baby,” I understood every word.
Now, I find myself at a crossroads in our relationship because along this journey I have finally come to understand what the Roots were preaching on their fabled track, “What they do,” that she is in fact, fake.
Now to be fair, hip hop has always partially been about imagining a lifestyle that one doesn’t quite live but somewhere along the journey, she lost her way. Not only did she sell us these wild, altered visions of success, she allowed us to believe them.
It is one thing to push materialism on people; it is another to push materialism on a poor group of people who hang on to your every word.
This in essence, is my problem with hip hop. It is not what she has said, it is what she has done. She has produced a culture of financial ignorance. A culture where I see far too many poor people wasting money to buy the latest coach bag or pair of Air Jordans to show off their false wealth; a culture where a young man ends up racially profiled because he saved his money to buy an expensive belt from a luxury store after hearing favorite rapper namedrop the brand.
No, hip hop did not create the socio-economic problems that afflict a significant portion of our country. In fact, it was the opposite but instead of liberation; she chose the path of exploitation.
Until now, I never understood the true power of hip hop. A simple mention of a product by a popular artist can send sales through a roof. Hip hop has become a global ambassador for African American culture.
However, with great power comes great responsibility; a responsibility that in my opinion that hip hop has neglected. Yes, hip hop may have made it out of the trap, but along the way, she left a lot of people there.
So, while I still love H.E.R., I am not quite sure if I still trust H.E.R., for I don’t quite know her anymore.