Monday, February 11, 2008

Hip-Hop Unity: A Dream or Reality ?

Ever since the legendary borough battles of Queens and the Bronx with MC Shan and KRS-One, a rivalry has always existed in the ever changing landscape of Hip-Hop from dissing each other on wax like the controversial Canibus,Wyclef and LL Cool J name calling and N.W.A. vs Ice Cube (even went as far as Dr.Dre VS Eazy-E.);Hip-Hop became the battleground for MC's to settle beef or bragging rights on record. It even went as far as claiming lives of some: Tupac Shakur and Notorious B.I.G. Were their deaths worth such rivalry between the Bad Boy Camp and Death Row Organization ? This Started the infamous East-West beef that went overboard, and groups like Westside Connection, Mobb Deep and Capone-N-Noreaga released songs contributing to the segregation of coastal hip-hop. From borough, coast, camp to inner-city beef (504 Boyz dissing the Hoy Boyz for Lousiana supremacy) rappers and MC's created a battlefield through lyrical trashings, such disunity for ego's sake or territorial pride sacrifices the unity of a culture, for the whims of a powerful few.
But why would Hip-Hop artists, often at the mercy of record labels, settle for notoriety by dissing others on their album. Chino XL released an album dissing rappers, politicians and people in showbiz and others as a gimmick, to enhance the metaphors he wrote for his songs. Others like 50 Cent's "How To Rob" wasn't intended to diss emcees in the lyrics, and y got stabbed at a club by one of the rappers in his song. So even as far as riding "Diss" records for gimmick-value might not be safe after all, since some take lyrics as against them very personal.What draws a line from dissing directly and using the diss as a critique? KRS-One takes his to a more general level, first by omitting certain wack rapper's name and substituting general words like "MC's with no skills" for example. Ultimately, no one is dissed, and with their own judgment should decide if the do fall under the category or not.
Sure enough, dissing is not the only harm done to hip-hop unity, but the loose foundations of many hip-hop organizations. Those bred by money, and that alone, tend to destroy each other within the organization. Bad Boy ran a loose ship to which some of their artists were forced to retire or shop for another label. Another is the serious love-hate relationship of mainstream hip-hop and the underground counterparts. The mainstream looking at the underground as penniless. Lyrical complex MC's strictly for the backpacking, cipher b-boy crowd, while the underground views the mainstream as commercial garbage, using recycled beats for profit, Such artistic differences already create a standoff and disunity in hip-hop. Instead of respecting the choices of each sound. the two try to tear each other apart and see who is the last one standing.
Hip-Hop in the P.I. is no different, many groups of MC's belonging to their respective camps fragment hip-hop unity by dissing other camps. This traces back to the tribal mentality of most of the Filipinos, going way back before Legaspi colonized the Philippines. Each group having a different sound looks down on those who are different. Like the pre-Hispanic Tribes, they waged wars based on the different headdress a tribe had, or the tattoos they were recognized for.
Many blame each other for hip-hop's slow growth in the P.I. when in fact the real issue is the "crab" mentality of the artist and their supporters. If an MC were to shit on all other MC's in the P.I. in one song, all the potential listeners already shut off their ears to those crews due to that one dissing MC.
The bottom line is effort and the maturity of artist to extend a hand of peace, instead of a diss. There is so little to lose and more to gain by maintaining a unity in the hip-hop community. especially here in the Philippines, where hip-hop is still neglected and respected by the media, record labels and others. When abandoned by the powers that be, severing ties between artist is like abandoning hip-hop for the sake of personal greed and ambition, which will only take one so far. With hip-hop in still infant stages in the P.I. it still needs all the help from everyone that believes they are part of the community. In order to develop, hip-hop must first struggle to survive against the elements bent on destroying it. With that frame of mind, only then can hip-hop unite and still stand against non-believers.


Note: This piece was originally published on "SoulSonic Newsletter" September 2000 (Issue Six) we post this because we think that even this article was written 8 years ago.. the topic or content is still relevant up to this day...