Scott Simon’s article entitled “Hip Hop: Today’s Civil Rights Movement?” was very unexpected and interesting to read. This article explores the work of writer Todd Boyd and his book The New H.N.I.C.: The Death of Civil Rights and the Reign of Hip Hop. The article begins with words from the author himself saying, “I would suggest that you might get a better read of what’s going on in the world of black people today by listening to DMX on It’s Dark and Hell is Hot than by listening to repeated broadcasts of Martin Luther King speeches.” Reading this sort of blew me away. Yes, I can get my head around the fact DMX represents what is current now, but to think that his words would hold more meaning than those of Dr. King is something that I would need more convincing of.
The comparison of the two is by no means demeaning in any, nor does it take away from the significance of Dr. King or DMX’s words. Boyd just firmly believes that the politics of Dr. King are specific to a certain time period, that being the Civil Rights Era. While it is extremely important to learn from his words in that time, it is inevitable that our perspective change to the present day. It is here that hip-hop becomes a relevant source for discussion of civil rights. Boyd continues his argument saying, “Hip hop is inherently political, the language is political…it uses language as a weapon, not a weapon to violate or not a weapon to offend, but a weapon that pushes the envelope that provokes people, makes people think.” I stopped to think after reading this. I completely agree that hip-hop is political. It has become a stage for people to share their different beliefs through music and lyrics. I think of songs, though, whose words have come off as offensive. I continue to think about discussions I have overheard about the use of the n-word in modern hip-hop songs. Many people find that offensive because of the connotation of the word as extremely derogatory. As I continue to read the article, I see that Boyd disagrees. He says that hip-hop has “come along and changed the meaning of that word—n-i-g-g-a.” He references Tupac Shakur’s use of the word as an acronym for Never Ignorant Getting Goals Accomplished. This turns a word that had such a negative connotation into a word of affirmation. The article continues with other excerpts from songs that display political beliefs and social struggles of modern times. As I continue reading, I am more and more sold on that idea that hip-hop does hold a relevant place in discussions of civil rights today.
This article stood out as relevant because not only does it raise important questions about civil rights in popular culture, but it maintains the point that music is transgressive. It truly does speak to people in a way that other things cannot. Granted, I cannot fully convince myself that a hip-hop song is more relevant than the speeches of Martin Luther King Jr. , but it is not hard to understand that for many, listening to the words of hip-hop artists as they share their struggles and beliefs has opened the door for new conversations about relationships between races and civil rights today. Hip-hop is more than just a genre, but rather a social movement. The same cultural expression that brought civil rights activists together during the Civil Rights Era is still prevalent today, just with different styled music. This article was a firm reminder of the significance that culture and music play in our beliefs in politics and social relationships.