Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Dead Prez, Conflict Theory and Hip-Hop

"They" School Hook:
They schools can't teach us shit
My people need freedom, we tryin to get all we can get
All my high school teachers can suck my dick
Tellin me white man lies straight bullshit (echoes)
They schools ain't teachin us, what we need to know to survive
(say what, say what)
They schools don't educate, all they teach the people is lies

Conflict theory is not so much in the fore front of racial thinking recently, but in light of our discussion about the state of hip-hop and how it is popularly devoid of real messages, it seems appropriate to consider a rap group who very much has a message and what that might suggest. Consider the group, Dead Prez and really any of their songs and their message is clear. There is still very much a white American society that is oppressive and must be faced with conflict and not gradual change. They continuously challenge the make up and control of the corporate structure and are supporters of Pan-Africansim. There ideology is clear in almost every aspect of their music from album and song titles to their groups symbol which meaning is “The Army”. Consider too some of their lyrics and the substance of the group is clear. Above is the hook from the song “They” School off their first major label release titled Lets Get Free. This particular song is retaliating against what Dead Prez believes the discriminatory and unjust nature of public schooling in the United States.

I thought this was particularly interesting example of political rap music for a few reasons in light of our class discussion. First, it is in stark contrast to the popular music of the time in which the documentary was made, and even with its political perspective was still able to find mainstream success with the hit single Hip-Hop. So does this suggest that traditional themes are not the only way for rap artist to find success? At the same time, the music is filled with aggression and violence that much of the more mainstream gangster rap had as well, so perhaps tone of music is more important than the message and as was suggested in class, perhaps there is often too much emphasis placed on lyrical content as it relates to success. Dead Prez is also a strange case in light of the claim made in the documentary as well as the groups lyrics, that corporate white America is controlling message of hip-hop because the groups message is one of the African-American community breaking free of white control and establishing their own existence outside of the white machine. At the same time though the oppression which M-1 and talk about was being distributed by “the man” in the form of Columbia Records. What than does this suggest about this message and perspective? One answer might be that as Talib Kweli suggested in the country that, perhaps the people that believe that the thug persona is the only way to get to the top in hip-hop are those that just listen to the radio. Dead Prez is a very particular case in hip-hop, but there are many other groups with messages and relevance that are all too often left out of the discussion.

1 comment:

  1. Carson thank you for your post. I have read through many of the posts about hip hop and for the most part they do not provide the insight that yours does. It's easy to look at the flashy, "gangster" rappers and see the stereotypical rapper, but you provide an alternative image that many of us may not be familiar with. I really appreciate how you dissected the group and their message, showing that the tone of their music rather than the message conveys the same element of violence, yet they are still a conscious, political rap group. I think the movie was aiming to show that under all of the popularized, hardcore, gangster rap image is a complex identity that all rappers are grappling with, even the conscious ones. Overall, I think the media is a source of the warped image of rap and rappers; and, the major reason why many alternative rappers are overshadowed by the more flamboyant, gangster rappers, because they are ultimately portrayed as the primary representation of a rapper.