About a week ago, acclaimed rapper and social activist, Chuck D, from the 1980′s rap group, Public Enemy, spoke to a group at the University of Georgia to discuss, and critique current hip-hop. He noted that the culture of this once didactic genre is now nothing more
than this esoteric materialistic lifestyle, meaning that its lyrics are no longer preaching of social commentary, or pleading for change.
The Seattle based rapper, and his producer Ryan Lewis have released mixtapes and EPs since 2009, and dropped their first studio album, The Heist, in October. The duo have made waves all over the U.S., specifically at middle school in Detroit.
Susan Johnson, a teacher at Centennial Middle School was suspended for three days after playing Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’ well known song, “Same Love” during class. What could be so controversial about the song that would warrant such bizarre consequences, you ask?
Well, one, if not the most contentious social issue of today; gay marriage.
“Same Love” is one of the few pro-gay marriage rap songs out, featuring lyrics in support of equal rights for same sex couples. The school cites its various bureaucratic rules of approval for any song that can be played in the classroom as the reason for Johnson’s suspension. Upon hearing the news, Macklemore took to his Facebook page to issue a statement about Johnson’s consequences. The end of his statement relates to what Chuck D mentioned in his lecture, regarding the absence of social change and real issues in rap music.
This incident demonstrates how too often we are quick to silence conversations that must be had. Even if people disagree, there is far more potential for progress when people are vocal and honestly expressing their thoughts about gay rights. When we are silent and avoid the issue, fear and hatred have a far greater life span.
It is high time that hip-hop and rap return to what it once was, a platform to discuss relatable social issues, and a place for individuals to acknowledge and fight for current problems. Sure, every once in a while, it is great to rap about this high status lifestyle, but the reality is, the majority of us aren’t making it rain at the club, or taking home a new girl every night.
We’re dealing with everyday problems, and sometimes, that Lamborghini Murcielago needs to take a backseat to advocating social change. Yet of course, we are still idolizing and buying music from rappers that spend an entire four minutes discussing yearns for a “big booty hoe. The real question here is why these rappers are so successful, but songs regarding change are so few and far between. How many times can we listen to the same song, with the same lyrics, about the same elitist characteristics of these glamorized rappers?
We can only remain optimistic that substance will soon erode consumerism in these popular songs.
Check out the music video for “Same Love” below.Tags: Chuck D, Hip-Hop, Macklemore, music, Public Enemy, rap