Losing the message of the music

2010-12-10 09:41

Music is more than a companion in ­moments of happiness or sorrow. It is more than just something to dance to or laugh to. It is an integral part of our lives, melodically connected to the fabric of who we are as ­human beings. You can walk into someone’s house – or flip through their iPod – and get insight into the type of person they are just from their music collection.

How you carry yourself, your ­attitude and your interests are all a reflection of the music you ­interact with daily.

In 1983, when I first heard hip-hop on a cassette sent to me by a friend who was living in the US, I was hooked. Here was a music form that was truly more than just music. It was a lifestyle and a state of mind rooted in four ­elements – the DJ, the graffiti ­artist, the b-boy/girl (break dancer) and the emcee/rapper. I put them in that order because at the heart of hip-hop (before it was boxed and defined) was the DJ. It is ­people like DJ Kool Herc and ­Afrika Bambaataa who gave birth to this art form and lifestyle.

Hip-hop was always more than just music. It was a mind state, an essence of life that has its origins in what I understand to be the fifth element – knowledge of self. Know thyself. Work on thyself. ­Educate thyself. And do all of this to be a better human being, to be part of a community, to be an ­active member of society. We are not perfect but the intention and a willingness to work towards a goal often holds one in good stead.

The music forms a strong part of hip-hop. I have always loved that it is like music itself, in that there is always a song for every occasion. There are rap songs to dance to and contemplate on, to learn from and to make love to. No matter what you are feeling, there is rap music to fit that ­moment. As music has ­become more the domain of ­corporations, the “activist” side of hip-hop seems to have fallen by the wayside.

More and more the irresponsible side of the music has been held up as the heart of hip-hop. The ­success of an artist is now being measured purely in terms of sales without thought for the messages. There has been a shift away from the message.

Public Enemy, one of the most influential groups in rap history, came to South Africa to perform. Chuck D, a man of knowledge and wisdom, came with a message that is relevant worldwide to the young. Yet, the excitement seems to centre around Rick Ross, who will also be coming to South ­Africa, a man with a limited ­message, one that seems rooted in sex and money.

I often feel like we are losing something and shifting towards something that frightens me.

»?Baffoe is the editor of Destiny Man

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