Hip-hop hasn’t always been a subject discussed in mainstream publications on a grand scale. Especially here in the great white Northwest. However, with more and more writers and publications finding interest in hip-hop, we’ve seen a lot of stories circulating recently. With those stories, we’re also seeing a lot of very ignorant things being said in the comments section.

If you’re ever unsure about the opinions of folks who think nothing like you, scroll to the bottom of a news article and read the comments. Keep a barf bag nearby though because a few will surely make you sick. Over the last few months I’ve read far too many unsavory comments on stories in the Oregonian, Willamette Week and the like. The open letter posted by Casey Jarman yesterday had quite a few comments that made me wonder exactly where these idiots get their information from.

The more people talk about hip-hop, the more obvious it is that they are extremely misinformed about exactly what hip-hop is. Basically, they’ve got hip-hop f***ed up. Let me clarify a few things.

1. “Hip-hop is not music.”
This was found in the comment section of Jarman’s article. The reader went on to explain what qualifies something as music; “study and practice, an investment in instruments, accessories and music, and a commitment to try to create something new.” A few people took the time to point out his errors, but he is not alone in this opinion. Many people suffer from ethnocentrism: judging another culture solely by the values and standards of one’s own culture. Meaning, if something is different from what they know of their own culture, they assume it is invalid.

However, Hip-hop artists are musicians. They study their craft. Hell… Ludacris has a music management degree. Many of the local rappers and producers I know studied music in college as well. And even still, music is art. There’s no requirement to be an artists. Those who doubt the musical validity of rap have never tried to lay a verse over a beat. It takes talent. It takes an artist. And we have some very talented artists here in the NW. Open your ears.

DSC_97402. “Hip-hop is JUST music.”
Alright, let me let you in on a little secret. Hip-hop isn’t just some genre of music; it’s a culture. Within that culture, music is the heart – it sets the tone – but hip-hop is so much more than just music. We have hip-hop dancers, graffiti artists, clothing designers, WRITERS. All types of artists of different mediums contribute to hip-hop. They all have their place. Hip-hop is about self-expression, about going against society and being damn proud of it. Hip-hop is about fighting oppression and thinking outside of the box. The music might be the most noticeable thing about our culture, but it’s not all there is to it.

3. “Hip-hop is ignorant.”
Naw player, you’re ignorant. You are ignorant to the diversity of hip-hop music. You probably only listen to the mainstream garbage they play on the radio. You think hip-hop is all about b*tches, booze, and bling. You don’t take the time to listen to the Mos Def’s of the world, so you settle for 2 Chainz (who also has a degree, by the way). There are plenty of artists who spread positive messages rather than talking about women spreading their legs. Portland’s Luck-One has a catalog full of music that addresses social issues and encourages the search for knowledge, as do the fellas of The Resistance. If you limit yourself to listening to mainstream music, that’s your own fault. Knowing the way society views hip-hop, do you expect “them” to propagate the positive or the negative? Be smart.

4. “Hip-hop is violent.
The same person who said hip-hop isn’t music said, “a study of statistics reveals that there is a significantly higher incidence of violence – including the use of weapons – at hip-hop and rap shows, than at virtually any other type of entertainment.” *sigh* I really wish people understood that not all statistics are valid. And not even the ones that are deemed valid are accurate reflections of the truth. They say numbers don’t lie, but the people who provide those number do. Think on that for a moment.

Furthermore, I attend a lot of rap shows (at least far more than this guy) and I’ve honestly never seen any violence. Aside from the privileged white kids who got into a shoving match with me at a Wale concert 3 years ago because they wanted to be closer to the stage. Other than peccadilloes such as that, I don’t know what violence they speak of. I don’t see the weapons referenced.

Mac Blue Monk5. “Hip-hop has changed.”
Alright, now this one has some truth in it. Hip-hop, like everything else in life, has changed. As technology evolves, so does music. The tools and instruments used have changed the sound a bit. The subject matter has changed too. But the overall message of hip-hop, the defiance, the fight against societal norms, the revolutionary aspects are still there. I hear a lot of old heads complain about the lack of “Fight the Power” and “F*** the Police” type messages but they are still there. Hip-hop artists still organize rallies and work within their communities to fight oppression. Again, you just have to open your eyes and look in the right direction. You can’t expect to find the true essence of hip-hop in mainstream. As always, the roots run much deeper than that.