(Just half an hour ago I typed up like two paragraphs in word here only to discover my lovely Intel Mac crashes when saving word documents. Neva thought it would happen even I heard about it. If it had happened in lectures… I would’ve been so pissed. Turns out, changing some setting in preferences would help. Punk ass Microsoft)
It’s almost 3:00am on 31st December, 2006. Some 20 hours before 2007. Scary. Can’t believe 2007 is here ‘cause 2000 was like yesterday. Or really. And because I can’t sleep I thought might as well use this time to reflect. Trying to do it right.
True I haven’t updated this blog for so long. Too long sometimes that I don’t even want to touch it. But that isn’t because Hong Kong has been the perfect place to live on Earth and I just got no materials to write about. More because I got too many things happening in my life, that I can’t write about anything I used to able to think about. Not only time wise I can’t afford to do so, mentally I can’t. I wasn’t feeling it. If this blog was meant to evolve with me and document the change in me, then the time I didn’t write about anything would be the period I couldn’t figure out where I was at.
But now I want to write about Hip Hop. I meant to do it in summer, but I was caught up with something else. Now’s this is it. I’m with it. But the reason behind is not very convincing: I just watched the DVD that came with Common’s last album Be (I had this album like, last year, but randomly I decided to watch the bonus DVD tonight when I wasn’t feeling anything else), and there was this last scene when he went to a junior high in South Side Chicago, where they had a group of young students doing poetry, led by Common and the teacher. This little boy, must be like 13, spitted fire. And what he spoke wasn’t about how he looked or was better than somebody else; it was just about him and GOD, and finding himself. Few lines, but that was the moment that should impact anyone who claims they love Hip Hop. At least, it moved me.
What is Hip Hop? In North America, it’s about the bling. Selling. Business enterprises as Jay-Z and Russell Simmons said. In fact, so weird that on any MTV compilations lately you’d find Snoop Dogg and Kelly Clarkson then followed by Pharrell. Or Jadakiss featuring on Paris Hilton’s single (When I saw Jada doing that, I was like… yo, is this a joke? Funny for the rapper who thought he knew how to ask WHY).
In Hong Kong, … screw that. You either get kids who admire Hip Hop because of the look of the clothing and being a B-Boy. Or you get them clubbing kids (and middle-aged men) who “dance” to the top 40’s Hip Hop, including Pussy Cat dolls. In the magazines here, they still try to preach them kids on historical facts of Hip Hop like “in the 70’s in Bronx, New York, a bunch of teenagers started this music when they move to a beat called Hip Hop, with other elements like break-dancing, MCing, and graffiti. These are the four pillars of Hip Hop”. And you flip the page, there’d be lists of clothings and accessories for you to “look” “Hip Hop”, with the names of stores and addresses (Come on kids, Hip Hop is not even an adjective).
Yeah, they aren’t incorrect things to say, but before anyone want to say anything about Hip Hop, they should ask themselves this question: does Hip Hop move you? Do you feel it inside?
To go back to why and how Hip Hop came about got to do with black history, the roots of black music from Blues to Jazz to Funk (just to name a few), and I ain’t even qualified to talk about it ‘cause I ain’t expert in it. But I know this: Hip Hop is the music you pop your head to when you feel it. You rhyme with it when it came right. You break and pop-lock cause that’s the moment. You put that scratch to your mix cause you got beat right. What else? Just having fun man. Doing your thing. It’s that simple, so simple that it speaks for itself.
You don’t really need to wear Air Force 1’s. You don’t need to wear baggy jeans if you ain’t feeling it (for y’all Hong Kong kids, stop saying you "gotta wear baggy jeans to look like a B-Boy", and give dumb reasons like "because that’s how young black people dress... because back in the ghetto they used to wear clothes that were given to them even though they didn’t fit". Just don’t say shite like that). You don’t even need bathing ape. Hip Hop isn’t about how or what you dress, but about who you are.
I know this statement, by simple logic, doesn’t really make sense: if you are just trying to be YOU, why you have to listen to Hip Hop or even take part in it? Then you are like anyone else (like the classic statement: I’m just trying to be different, just like everyone else!). And the answer to that, simple: because Hip Hop music allows you to be creative, unique, individual, with style.
It’s because I love Hip Hop so much that it hurts me when I see people misunderstand Hip Hop. Some think it’s immature. Some think it has no content. Some think it’s only cool if you talk about gunning down somebody else. But to me, that’s just the music I can relate to, and it’s almost spiritual when I can relate to it.
Then there’s the aspect of empowering oneself with Hip Hop, that goes beyond any sort of looks or clothes that one can buy. It’s about the strength when you express yourself. It’s about the creativity. About speaking out. About being proud of yourself, because of who you are – and that’s why I think, at this stage, it’s so hard for Hong Kong people to “feel” Hip Hop, because we are even confused about our identity. Or as professor Ackbar Abbas said, when Hong Kong people are in face of China’s quasi-colonialism, it’s not about nonrecognition of who we are, but misrecognition, like reverse hallucination in Freudian sense. Or maybe it’s because our colonial history was bloodless with no struggles, or our struggles used to be in the form of economic success, that collectively, we are having a hard time finding an identity – if that’s the case, who are we to be proud of?
Still today, a lot of us in Hong Kong finds our own identity in shopping – yeah, and that makes sense, because in the post-modern world people define their own identities by consuming. That’s why consumerism and capitalism solves our identity crisis, because it’s more than just a therapy – it’s a chance for us to get a “sense” of us. When individuality is submitted to consumerism (and likewise other mechanisms of ideologies) as a way to solve identity crisis, where is the place for Hip Hop?
I agree with Chris Rock: “Love Hip Hop music, tired of defending it”. That’s why I give it up to artists who are still true to themselves today: the Roots, Mos Def, Kweli, Common, Kanye, Madlib, Blackalicious, Lyrics Born, the Perceptionists, Dead Prez, De La, Jazzy Jeff, Primo and Guru… yo I can go on and on. And Dave Chappelle, for having brought us the Block Party that not only brought Lauryn Hill and the Fugees back, but to tell us how a concert is supposed to be a party, ‘cause it’s about the fun and vibe at the first place.
(… and he also brought us Rick James, Prince, and Byaaaaaah!)
R.I.P. James Brown.