Conscious Hip Hop: The New Danger?


John McWhorter, by my best approximation, is an idiot. I know that this is quite a generalization since I have never met the guy, but his recent claim that conscious hip hop is a "fallacy" that is leading its listeners to a future of apolitical thought is an extravagant stretch to say the least. McWhorter, a conservative political columnist and linguist (this will become important later), has decided that by comparing British urban planning to conscious hip hop (?) and by also taking a few lyrics out of context, he has deduced that conscious hip hop is leading its listeners down a road of ruin. His assertion that " if the folks known as the hip hop generation are learning their politics from 'conscious' rap, there is little hope for our future" is quite interesting. Namely because it seems as though McWhorter is still living in 1990 when Chuck D proclaimed that rap music, back when all hip hop was called "rap music," was Black folks' CNN. Times sure have changed, since for many hip hop listeners, we get our news from, where else, news networks or (gasp!) the internet. 

Even more interesting is how McWhorter seems to pick out certain lyrics with the intent on exposing just how ignorant "conscious" lyricists are. While Pete Rock and Kanye West are both targeted, neither of whom I would place in the "conscious" hip hop category, it this quote from dead prez that demonstrates the ignorance of the writer who seems so intent upon exposing conscious hip hop's "fallacy":

Dead Prez tells us that high school is a 'four year sentence' with teachers 'tellin' me white man lies.' Message: black people should be wary of education. Deep. 'Politics.' Sounds good set to a beat.

If McWhorter had even taken the 5.7 seconds it takes to google "dead prez four year sentence," he would have arrived upon the lyrics from dead prez's "They Schools." In it, dead prez make it clear that the issue is not with acquiring an education. The issue is with publicly-run schools who choose to not teach its students based upon the student's best interests and instead opt to teach based upon outmoded curricula. Schools who continue to teach that George Washington is the "father of this country" but refuse to educate its students that he also owned slaves. This little tidbit of information would have quite a powerful impact on a teenaged child of color, possibly even spurning that child into politics. But how much more political is it to not teach those children as many sides of history as possible? And how much more political is it to make an outdated assertion that hip hop listeners are getting their political education from hip hop songs? If this were the case, not only would conscious hip hop be selling better than it is now, but BET's programming would not look like a Thugnificent video all day every day. 
It is more than obvious that someone like McWhorter is completely out of touch with the trends within the hip hop community at large. After all, he cited only 50 Cent as part of the mainstream rap machine. And to think that a linguist would not be able to understand something based upon words, lyrics, and prose: hip hop itself.  
'Conscious' Hip Hop Fallacy [The Sun]

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8 Responses

  1. *applaud* Typical conservative tactics. Take a sound bite or a quote without the context and pick at it like a sore. And you know what, It works because people are too lazy to read the source for context.

  2. this doesn't surprise me. this has been mcwhorter's modus operandi for a while now. he's a linguist with a number of books under his belt. he's of a mind that runs in the same circles as cats like ward connerly and shelby steele, he's just younger in age. a few years back, he wrote on what he called the "cult of victimology", us blaming others for our shortcomings, basically. and really took to task black folk who ridiculed those who wanted to get good grades as "trying to be white." something tells me such comments were thrown his way over the years and he's taking it out on a post-civil rights black nation as a result. i got told the same thing and i didn't devote my life to a literary smackdown.
    so it looks piece in the sun is supposed to get folks interested in his new book, which is as direct a blow as he's thrown so far towards hip-hop. eventually the word's gonna get out on this tome and it'll be interesting to see the debates that arise as a result. hopefully the emcees, writers, producers and others that come out in support of hip-hop won't half-step in their research and discourse. mcwhorter just needs to be put in his place now.

  3. You took the words right out of my mouth, ill mami. (thief!) 😉
    I couldn't have illustrated that any better I won't try to. Superb post!

  4. Unfortunately a great deal of conscious hip-hop is full of shit. Dead Prez condemn mainstream education while they champion afrocentric learning. But the fact is that much of their afrocentric theories are not taken seriously by any scholar in any country on any continent on Earth. It's nothing to do with "white folk". North American afrocentric theories are derided by everyone on Earth - except of course the afrocentrics themselves. Mainstream education is far more unbiased, disinterested, objective and reliable that North American afrocentric theories and everyone all over the entire world can see this.
    A lot of conscious hip-hop is anti-scientifc, childish, juvenile, simplisitc pop-culture knowledge where Socrated is a black African and the real Jews are black.

  5. And by the way, I agree that black Americans are treated like second-class citizens, I can understand them feeling like "victims", I can understand them being angry and would actually like to see more radical blacks.
    But that movement needs to be based upon proper scientific, rational, educated knowledge. Not the lazy minded, childish, learned-off-the-internet knowledge a lot of conscious hip-hop is based on.

  6. Hip hop is too diverse to accept this nonsense. Boycott mcwhorter's book.
    "Tell your friends to ask for jimmy!

  7. Mainstream education is indeed unbiased, to a certain extent. Your perspective on it is more optimistic than it should be, though such is to be expected from anyone considering it's widely reknown. However, the truth of the matter is that our mainstream education is NOT unbiased, but rather obscured. If it were unbiased, some of our presidents wouldn't be potrayed in taciturnity. They could've mentioned George Washington's downfalls, they could also augment lessons with the additional segments they conceal so easily; such as our countries wrongs and rights. However we've been potrayed as heros countless times but we've had our own flaws amidst the horrors of war, however this is, like our education, obscure.
    Conscious hip hop may have exaggerations but it's truth, that's why it's conscious and not mainstream. If you listen to the 'afrocentric' lyrics and pieced together history correspondingly you'd find that it's blatant truth, aside from it's flaws. Just the categorical term 'afrocentric' is disciminating within itself, history should be distanced by hypothesis rather than racial descrimination.