Does art imitate life or does life imitate art?
We will examine the medium of rap or hip-hop music and its function in American culture. We will attempt to examine this expression of art from an honest– objective perspective.
There exist many influential mediums that utilize audio and visual stimulation– music and television—hip-hop is just a drop in a bucket of a larger lexicon. With each of these mediums the question of what influences what becomes blurred and almost indistinguishable. I see it as such: the 80/20 rule. The art impacts the lives that perceive it, and the creators of the art are impacted by aspects of life that they wish to convey. Art tends to imitate a portion of life that is provocative or noteworthy and it highlights and often embellishes this phenomenon.
Life, on the other hand, is very much influenced by what it perceives. So life, or a portion of life, will reside in the comfort of the status quo– while the rebellious nature, that desires change, will often imitate art. And seek this art out as a means of expressing this innate desire for change. It then becomes a self-referential pattern if you will. Art– bringing to the forefront of society something hidden and unbeknownst to the majority. In turn the highly suggestible of society will imitate this art. From this process “pop” icons and influential figures are birthed creating their own phenomenon. Seemingly out of no where, stars are born and the strength of their gravitational pull draws people in. And for a time these figures tend to exercise an influence of power until their star power fizzles out and they are replaced by the next cultural icon.
There is a thin line between art and propaganda…
Let us examine the art of hip-hop– art in form but a device in function. It serves many purposes in the modern era. A means of marketing… A means of venting… A medium to exchange knowledge… A means of individual expression…
In its inception hip-hop was a pure Art form. It served as a voice of a disenfranchised portion of society—as a means to both express and provide a healthy fun outlet for individuals. Hip-hop was a four-point art form that included break dancing, DJing, graffiti display, and MCing (actual oral poetry on top of a beat– rapping). In its current state, hip-hop has become mutated into a disfigured remnant of itself. The art form has been raped, ravaged, exploited, commercialized, and pimped out to the highest bidder–and not by accident but through systematic design.
The phenomenon of hip-hop has evolved. It is a powerful force that has the ears and energy of the youth. There was a time when the art form spoke out about social injustices among the disenfranchised—it gave knowledge to the youth about who they were and could be in a positive light.
It provided quality dance music that allowed the body to freely expressive itself and tune in with energies of the natural environment. Hip-hop enlightened the youth by dropping conscious jewels. It had its flaws but it was an overall positive powerful force in American society.
But special interest became intertwined with the art. Money became their means of infiltration and manipulation. Fame became a poison, and artist placed fame above the art. Statistics and money became the major motivation of producing the art while talent and artistry began to gradually lose significance. Artist began to utilize gimmicks in aims of selling records and lost the purpose of the art form. Money became the only purpose of making the music. The art began to glorify opulence– unrealistic life styles, misogyny, violence, and drug culture. The art began to sell hope.
Thus we have liquor companies investing heavenly into hip-hop culture—soliciting their products through song lyrics and music videos. You have the industrial prison complex having mutual interest with record labels encouraging violence and illicit drug use. You have the drug underworld “powers to be” having a vested interest in the art helping market new drugs and so forth to susceptible ears.
We have the fashion-industry sponsoring artist to market their name-brands that the susceptible hold with such prestige and a manifestation of self-esteem.
And so on and so on and so on…
So hip-hop current state is in a tug-of-war.
With the advent of the Internet, music is not so much a monopoly. Generally those controlling the means of distribution and marketing the music hold all of the power. Now there are different channels for a pure artist to reach their target market. Hip-hop has a means of organically resurrecting itself. And the recent success of hip-hop artist J. Cole is encouragement enough to show that hip-hop is beginning to rebirth itself.
(With little to no marketing, he outsold major pop-hop artist who had major labels backing them.)
People are addicted to the relate-ability and appeal of the music to their lower-selfs. Not elevating but staying within the bestial realm of the carnal senses—and this serves a purpose. So the music is marketed towards this sect. The 808s and rhythmic drums awaken and lead the subconscious, awakening the body and having it involuntarily move in conjunction with these rhythms. The mind absorbs the lyrics and registers them. The lyrics repeat over and over and begin to evoke thought. And before you know it the music becomes a part of you. You’ve imitated what you are to become. As the people begin to desire more from their music, the art form will become what it once was. The people will awaken from their comatose state, for hip-hop is the spirit of the people. As the spirit awakens the non-sense we gradually die.
Such is the nature of art it both enlightens and it condemns…