Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Mos Def takes a break between takes to drop "Casa Bey"

As an undying devotee of the wonderous perfection of Black on Both Sides and Black Star, it's hard to get one's hopes up over the forthcoming The Ecstatic.

It's now been ten years since the release of Black on Both Sides, burgeoning mixed bag of an acting career, lackluster releases and the occasional guest verse, it appears the Black Dante's opening salvo on Both Sides wasn't a harbinger of hope for the heart of hip hop at the millennium, but a slight pit stop on its descent into creative cultural irrelevance.

Hip hop isn't dead; Kanye and mainstream music consumers can attest to that. But its cultural relevance as a art form that could both entertain, educate and elevate has become so diluted it's hard to not blame younger generations for not being able to differentiate between hip hop the culture and hip hop the art. The culture has become a brand name, an overly simplistic, yet easily defineable mixture of slang and style that's become appropriate for mass consumption and that's fine: part of making it in the mainstream is becoming one with the masses.

And while easily disposable hip pop will always be part and parcel of the business, it's become increasingly difficult to find message within the gloss that isn't trite, contrived, or convoluted. The often disparaged moniker of the "socially conscious backpacking hip hop head" (i.e. Tribe, Common, Mos, the Roots) has led to an uneasy balance, and the reality that just like the optimistic young activist who cowtows to the responsibilities and comforts of age and convenience, so too have our generation's supposed speakers of truth lost the edge, the fight and settled down for the comforts of commercialized action/pothead films, and late night gigs with job security.

For kids just discovering the fire and energy of artists that inspire and invigorate, take time to cherish and hold onto that feeling. It never, ever lasts.

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