Link to this page: https://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/682/12561
The Socialist - reader's comment:
Racist Starkey attacks rap
Wayne Scott, Socialist Party Scotland
David Starkey's comments on Newsnight on Friday 12 August exposed the racist attitude of the British establishment. He repeatedly implied that 'black culture' is synonymous with violence and criminality. He also attacked rap music as violent and said that it glorifies riots.
'Historian' Starkey's comments are to be condemned by socialists. It would be foolish however for socialists to act as if reaction is not present in rap music. You only have to look to the rapper DMX who writes notoriously homophobic music. You will not have to look far to find rampant sexism in rap either.
However, rap music has many positive aspects and some of it paints an accurate picture of the life that many impoverished young people face, which is one of the many reasons that young people have come to love the genre.
The Black Panther Party influenced early hip-hop groups heavily. The Black Panthers were a militant black organisation during the civil rights movement in the US that advocated self-defence against police brutality. The group went as far as to call for socialist revolution as well as community control of the police. Their influence is shown clearly in the music of Public Enemy, 2pac and KRS-One.
People often distinguish between 'political rap' and 'gangsta rap'. Gangsta rap is in many ways reactionary, however it is often simply rebelling against many of the same things as the more political rap like Public Enemy.
NWA were also rebelling against police brutality in the ghettoes. Gangsta rappers like Biggie Smalls talk about the criminal behaviour that people in the ghettoes can get caught up in.
However this is due to the fact that under capitalism, people often feel they have a choice of criminality or going hungry. This is reflected in the recent looting of essential items such as nappies.
When 2pac released his album 2pacalypse Now in 1991, the then US vice president called for the album to be banned. This was because the ruling class feared the consequences of millions of impoverished black youths hearing the message of this album.
The song Trapped deals with police brutality in the ghettoes. Words Of Wisdom is an attack on the racist establishment. The song also encourages youth to read the works of radical black activist Malcolm X. Brenda's Got A Baby tells a tragic tale of a 12 year old girl who falls pregnant and is soon forced into drug dealing and prostitution. At the same time he questions why we need a system that allows this kind of tragedy to happen.
The establishment fears political rap music, worrying that if young people hear the message behind it, they may question the class society that we live in.
If we are to ever move away from poverty, police brutality, slum housing and drug addiction, we have to overthrow this rotten system of capitalism that leads to riots and misery for millions.
The alternative would be a programme of mass job creation as well as building decent quality housing for all.
This is summed up in the Dead Prez song Police State; "Organise the wealth into a socialist economy. A way of life based off the common need. All my comrades are ready we're just spreading the seed."
In The Socialist 17 August 2011:
The street eruptions and aftermath
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