Friday, September 4, 2015

When Hip Hop Stopped Being The Hood CNN

A throwback from 2012...

Music of any genre means different things to its fans, it’s all about how we receive and interpret what we hear. Music gives artists the freedom to express themselves however they see fit. It’s their platform to talk about whatever they want. So if they decide to educate, entertain, or do both, it’s their choice. In all honesty, the majority of today’s Hip Hop music seems to only entertain, rather than inform us. And this could be the reason why many people do not look to Hip Hop as a new source anymore, as it once was in the past.

Another reason could be because we have several different mediums reporting information to us constantly. With just a touch of an icon on our cell phones we are able to spread news to each other faster than ever. But years ago, before all of this advanced technology we got our information from our nightly news broadcasts and newspapers. And because they selected what they wanted to report, not everything was reported. As was the case with certain problems that plagued the city of Los Angeles.

In the late 80s and early 90s the local news was not reporting the issues that the Black community was experiencing in L.A. We didn’t hear much about the Black men that were harassed by the police simply because of their race. The people that endured these situations with the L.A.P.D. did not have a way to share stories of what was going on in their community.

Just as many music artists of the 60s and 70s used their music to spread messages and tell stories; in the late 80s Hip Hop artists were doing the same. Hip Hop music had become the news source for the culture. And no one told the stories of what was going on in L.A. better than five young Black men from Compton, CA.: Dr. Dre. Ice Cube. Easy-E. MC Ren. DJ Yella. These five names mean more than just “Gangsta Rap.”

At a time when Hip Hop music was only coming out of New York, N.W.A. used music as their way to introduce the world to life on the West Coast. And for us Hip Hop fans that grew up in Southern California, this was the first time we got to see and hear about the lifestyle we were familiar with. N.W.A. kept it real in their music. So real that us fans were not only entertained, but were also taught about the growing problem of police brutality. N.W.A. was truthful when they told us about how the police treated them on a daily bases. They were definitely Niggaz with Attitudes, and they had a very good reason to be so.

When the group released their first album “Straight Outta Compton” in 1988, they experienced much criticism and backlash for their lyrics. Many people thought of them as a bunch of thugs who hated the police and used inappropriate language.

N.W.A.’s song “F The Police” is probably the group’s most scrutinized song. While many tried to censor them, several others identified with the song’s lyrics because it described the life they were living. The realness Ice Cube gave us in his lyrics were relatable for many of the group’s fans: 

“F with me ‘cause I’m a teenager with a little bit of gold and a pager searchin’ my car, looking for product thinkin’ every nigga is selling narcotics.”


 “I ain’t the one for a punk MuthaF with a badge and a gun to be beatin’ on, and throwin’ in jail…”


“…young nigga got it bad ‘cause I’m brown and not the other color so the police think they have the authority to kill a minority.”

The song conveys the group’s feelings in the most transparent way. N.W.A. was candid when they rapped about how they wanted to even the score. While people were so worried about what the group was talking about, no one ever stopped to think about fixing the problems that led N.W.A. to write such lyrics. But hindsight is always twenty-twenty, and we now clearly see that the group was basically foretelling what was to come years later…

Fast forward to March 3, 1991, when Rodney King was beaten by five L.A.P.D. officers. The same issue that N.W.A. was talking about in their music years earlier was displayed worldwide for everyone to see. L.A. police officers were out of control and no one seemed to care until the Rodney King beating videotape surfaced. On April 29, 1992 the officers who beat King were acquitted and L.A. citizens reacted and retaliated. Just as N.W.A. talked about, people had reached their limit. And the six days of rioting that followed proved that.

Today’s music doesn’t seem to be informing us in the same way it once did. Gone are the days of Public Enemy telling us to fight the power. Gone are the days of Arrest Development educating us about homelessness and Mr. Wendal. Throughout the years Hip Hop as our news source has pretty much died. The content is completely different now. We do have a few Hip Hop artists like Common, Nas, and J. Cole who are known for spreading knowledge. And every once in a while other artists will give us a song with some profound insight, but it’s not being done in the same radical way as before.

It seems like Hip Hop artists would rather play it safe, than take a stand and be different…I don’t know. But I do know the music has grown to take on a more braggadocios persona. Yet, many Hip hop fans would like to hear music that goes deeper, rather than just telling us about “bad bitches,” what alcohol to drink, or what clubs to go to.

N.W.A. told stories about the world they lived in. Some may have deemed their approach to the situation inappropriate, but it’s clear that it was necessary. Especially since, here we are 24 years after the release of “Straight Outta Compton” and the song “F the Police” is something people can still relate to. The subject matter is just as relevant today as it was back then.

Even though N.W.A. and other early Hip Hop artists gave a formula on how to successfully educate, entertain, and impact people all in one song; Hip Hop is no longer giving us our cultural news like it was before.


  1. Tamika, Tamika, hit the nail on the head right here with this post. I was't going to see Straight Out of Compton, thinking it was going to be some coonery, but I'm glad I did go and see it, because I felt dumb for not realizing just how big of a movement their music caused, as I WAS RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE OF THE LA RIOTS; however, I was just a small child when it happened. Thanks for sharing your two cents and spreading awareness on what we're still being victims of: POLICE BRUTALITY!

    1. Hey Marie! Glad you were able to see the movie and see a different side of things. Thank you so much for your feedback and for sharing this post!