In Hip-Hop, we have license to talk about anything. To say how we feel, however ill-informed, half baked (pun intended) and narrowly Socratic our point of view might be. It's not my fault that The Chronic album came out when I was a sheltered sophomoric church kid. I loved that album from the first moment I heard it -- even though at the time I didn't know what chronic was. I saw the leaf printed on the CD and thought that they were West coast environmentally conscious rappers.
I love God and I love Hip Hop. I see no contradictions in the equation, and yet I feel the tensions that exist as they both live present in my life. I believe that everything that is secular is not always profane and that which is sacred is not always life-giving. Hip Hop as a genre is thirty-six years old and I've never known a time in my life that the culture was not in some way present in my life. I have been made proud, ashamed, saddened and made glad as Hip Hop and I have grown together. Will and Dana Dane broadened us and took us to the world. Run DMC and EPMD made us appealing to mainstream society and conscious to our own urban plight as the new Black America emerged from Reaganomics. Mary J. Blige made us hum and sing to the rhythms and beats that were organic to a street ethos that was emerging from the burrows of New York. Biggie and 2Pac are constant reminders that life should matter more than death.
In remembering December 1 -- World AIDS Day -- I'm convinced now more than ever that life matters. All life matters. In every incarnation, life matters. I have sat in amazement at the silence of Hip Hop as young gay men and some women, both black and white, kill themselves in response to being bullied because of their sexual orientation or affectional preference. Suicide is not the cure for queerness. What often angers me about Hip Hop is not always what we say but what we fail to say. Our cultural defeats that occur through a valiant and worthy fight don't bother me as much as the defeats that occur because we won't fight for what is inherently righteous and just.
Matthew Shepherd, brothers Jose & Romel Sucuzhanay and Tyler Clementi are reasons why the voice of our collective culture must be in harmony with our conscious love for one another. We have a responsibility to discuss all that ails our society, neighborhoods and families from violence to bullying to HIV/AIDS, mental health and economic disparities.
Every faction of our collective lives together should work to see a cure of AIDS in our lifetime, while simultaneously working with all our resources to reduce the number of new infections -- especially among brown and black people. In the 2009 report, entitled "The State of AIDS in Black America" the Black AIDS Institute research says, "An estimated one in five HIV positive Americans don't know they are infected and the most recent race-based data shows more than half of positive Blacks are undiagnosed."
I am Hip-Hop. I am part of the culture but seemingly while Hip Hop has gotten older in some ways we refuse to grow up and take on the responsibility to our own people that we so desperately need. Yes, we must sing, rap, dance but we also must think deeply and concern ourselves with the world in which we live, the world we create with our own words.
I don't know if society will ever normalize homosexuality but we should be spiritual, just and compassionate enough to humanize it in a way that gives dignity to human worth. When we do this we become a part of the reason someone may want to live instead of die and we become more than an invisible bully like The Gooch, we become a present help to people who need to hear 16 bars that matter.