Super rapper Jay-Z and his recent comments regarding the Occupy movement are a great example of the unfortunate shift within the Hip-Hop culture from representing the poor and disenfranchised to essentially shunning them. In a New York Times Magazine profile the Jiggaman had this to say about the Occupy movement.
"What's the thing on the wall, what are you fighting for? I'm not going to a park and picnic, I have no idea what to do, I don't know what the fight is about. What do we want, do you know?"
Clearly Jay-Z is intelligent enough to know that the basic premise behind the Occupy movement is the disproportionate distribution of wealth in America and the excessive greed by Wall Street bankers, which is the primary catalyst for this country's economic woes, particularly the growing poor class, both working and not. Not to mention that Jay-Z's Rockafella clothing line began producing 'Occupy Wall Street' shirts and refused to donate any of the profits to the movement he was stealing from. The king of Hip-Hop is also the king of what's wrong with Hip-Hop.
What was once a music and culture for and about the struggles of young, urban rebels, who used music, dance and art to express themselves and fight against a system that had forgotten them, has become a culture that glorifies, defends and aspires to be the 1 percent that was once considered the oppressor. Jay's stance on the Occupy movement is reflective of GOP talking points, particularly evident in further comments he made on the subject.
"When you just say that 'the one percent is that,' that's not true. Yeah, the 1 percent that's robbing people, and deceiving people, these fixed mortgages and all these things, and then taking their home away from them, that's criminal, that's bad. Not being an entrepreneur. This is free enterprise. This is what America is built on."
What is even sadder about the comments made by Jay-Z, who seemed to almost chastise the Occupy movement, is that their political ideology, which on a large scale involved more even distributions of wealth, was a huge part of Che Guevara's ideology, the Argentine revolutionary who helped Fidel Castro overthrow the Cuban Government in 1959, a man whose image Jay-Z wore on a t-shirt several years ago during an MTV performance, which caused a huge trend amongst young people.
Rapper Nicki Minaj is also a great example of the tragedy that is mainstream Hip-Hop. Minaj, a highly successful female rapper made headlines recently for lyrics she delivered endorsing Mitt Romney for president.
"I'm a Republican voting for Mitt Romney/You lazy [expletive] is [expletive] up the economy," Minaj says on the Lil Wayne track entitled "Mercy.'
Although Minaj later denied that she is a supporter of Mitt Romney, the potential damage that follows rap lyrics such as these, particularly within the current political climate, can be damaging, particularly to a campaign that seeks to help the primary audience of these songs.
It is no secret that Jay-Z, Nicki Minaj and other rappers who use the often troubled conditions of their upbringing and the many stories which follow to sell records and essentially catapult to the one percent have much more to gain by a Mitt Romney presidency and the complete demise of the Occupy movement and any similar entity that threatens to take its place.
The driving force behind the hip-hop movement has been lost in a culture of manipulation, exploitation and subjugation. The culture itself no longer needs to strive for a seat at the table, but like many success stories, the successful often forget where they come from. Jay-Z's descent into the one percent abyss is the final chapter in a tragic drama that has been many years in the making, yet he has paved the way for many talented, aspiring artists to promote the same poisonous messages, while indoctrinating an entire generation of youth with uninformed, flawed ideologies.
Rapper Chuck D of the group Public Enemy recently called out Jay-Z and Kanye West for lyrics which promote material wealth, but are less reflective of the rappers primary fan base, who in too many cases are young disenfranchised people of color, who cannot even afford the concert tickets for these artists.
Chuck D was responsible for bringing a form of Hip-Hop into the mainstream which encouraged organizing, self love and unity,. His group Public Enemy represented a crossroads in Hip-Hop, in which the current form of the culture eventually prevailed.
Hip-Hop culture has often been criticized for being materialistic, violent and oversexed, however Jay-Z's comments about the Occupy Movement reveal mainstream Hip-Hop's extreme love affair with capitalism. What was once a revolution has become a mistress of the one percent mantra.
Follow Leigh Owens on Twitter: www.twitter.com/LeighAOwens