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Published on April 8th, 2011 | by Staff 12-13

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Letter to the editor: Addressing the stereotypes that “Warm Brew” depicts

[The article that this refers to can be read here]

Kimberly Nao
Student Outreach Specialist
H-House

As someone who came of age as hip-hop first took off into mainstream culture, I agree with your sentiment that hip-hop’s original spirit and the quality of the music has fallen by the wayside.  However, the degeneration of the genre has to do with more than simply how it sounded.  Originally, hip-hop displayed the African-American oral tradition which values “clever rhyme schemes and word play,” but despite its checkered past, it was often socially conscious.  I would love to see another image of hip hop rather than the tired stereotypical images of thugged out, drugged out rappers who have no sense of hip-hop history.

The history of hip-hop pre-dated A Tribe Called Quest.  Run DMC brought hip-hop to the mainstream with their classic album “Raising Hell.”  Their song “It’s Tricky” celebrates the value of word play with lines like “It’s tricky to rock a rhyme/to rock a rhyme that’s right on time/It’s tricky.”  But in that same song they downplay the use of drugs and the stereotypes of African American males as drug uses with the lines: “We are not thugs; we don’t use drugs but you assume on your own/They offer coke and lots of dope but we just leave it alone.”  The image presented by Run DMC is a far cry from the visual that you presented in “The Samohi” of Mr. “Spliffton” and his colleagues.

When I “hearken back to the golden age” of hip-hop, I think of KRS-One who talked about the value of multicultural education in the song “You Must Learn” when he states: “I believe that if you’re teaching history, straight up facts, no mystery/Teach the student what needs to be taught/’Cause black and white kids both take shots/When one doesn’t know about the other one’s culture/ignorance swoops down like a vulture.”  Back then, KRS-One saw himself as an urban griot, the African storyteller who kept history and culture alive while commenting on our current reality.  These are the true roots of hip-hop.

You might consider celebrating a rapper like K’Naan who teams with KRS-One to define what a “real man” is in his song “Think of All the Things” and informs us about the political and social issues in his native Somalia.  K’Naan also states that he does not use drugs or drink and never will.  YouTube him, and hear him talk about why he has never smoked marijuana, not even while on tour with rasta, Damian Marley.  He says, “I just don’t do anything outside of music that would make me feel better about my life… I keep it pure because I don’t want anything to take away from my natural high.  I just don’t want to risk it.”

It’s not enough to reclaim hip-hop by being able to put a rhyme together. Remember the positive values that it promoted back in the ‘80s and ‘90s as urban communities were plagued with gang violence, crack cocaine, and little hope of a future due to poor education levels in the “hood.” To read more about the history of hip-hop, check out “Hip-Hop America” by Nelson George. Perhaps a look at hip-hop’s true past can guide the youth of today into a brighter future.

eic@thesamohi.com


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One Response to “Letter to the editor: Addressing the stereotypes that “Warm Brew” depicts”

  1. Matthew Rich says:

    Let me preface by saying the following is meant with the utmost respect.

    Unfortunately, The Samohi staff has failed to post the original article online. Consequently, I have no knowledge of the particulars to which this letter is a response. Fortunately, I don’t think this weakens my argument. [We apologize for this, and it has since been remedied - The Samohi]

    To be frank, I do not see how Ms. Nao’s personal reminiscences on the beginnings of hip-hop justify her critique in the relevant sense. Her article amounts to saying that because what she identifies in the art form is not represented by Warm Brew, Warm Brew is not true to the art form. It is a shame to both herself and the newspaper that either would let this kind of backwards, subjectively-justified logic take precedence over the opinion of a writer who, by very nature of the article he was writing, was not making any objective claims.

    Hip-hop has historically represented – if we are going to be foolish enough to pin it down to any specific message – the essence of diversity. Hip-hop artists have continually touted the virtues being yourself. Her lack of appreciation for whatever she sees Warm Brew as representing is itself contrary to this concept of acceptance. She describes Run DMC as “commenting on our current reality” while looking down upon Warm Brew’s commentary of their own. This kind of close-mindedness is certainly not in line with hip-hop’s characteristic celebration of diversity.

    All artists of any medium can be said to do is paint a picture, or convey their sense of the world. It is for this reason that one who truly listens to even 2 Pac’s most violent lyrics cannot justify any dislike; he was not endorsing, but simply describing. In a more recent example, Odd Future’s Tyler the Creator compared himself, in an interview, to a movie director, who plays out stories through his lyrics. Hip-hop that takes this form is not to be judged on the content of its lyrics but on the artfulness and verisimilitude of its depiction. In this realm, Warm Brew certainly succeeds.

    There are plenty of writers on the paper with plenty of opinions to not need to indulge the arbitrary disdain of whoever else at the school has a bone to pick. In the future, please try to be more selective.

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