LZ Granderson: Hip-hop is turning 50, and its work is not yet done

LZ Granderson, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Entertainment News

Dear hip-hop,

I can't believe you're 50.

Five decades of moving the crowd — starting with DJ Kool Herc's house parties at 1520 Sedgwick Ave. in the Bronx back in '73 — and look at you now … not a single wrinkle.

But there are a few scars.

Some of them were self-inflicted, like the perpetuation and monetization of the East Coast-versus-West Coast rivalry. Most others stem from outsiders trying to silence you. Like when the Grammys waited until you were old enough to drive before establishing a category for you in 1989. And that's just one example of how America tried to silence you. Your coming-of-age movie begins with Tipper Gore buying her 11-year-old daughter a copy of "Purple Rain," and it ends with 2 Live Crew becoming the first act to have that black-and-white "Parental Advisory" sticker slapped on it.

During a congressional hearing during that whole saga, folk singer John Denver testified: "The suppression of the people of a society begins in my mind with the censorship of the written or spoken word. It was so in Nazi Germany; it is so in many places today where those in power are afraid of the consequences of an informed and educated people."


Thirty years later, the 1619 Project is being banned in schools, and "critical race theory" has become public enemy No. 2.

The title of public enemy No. 1 is already spoken for.

When Chuck D of Public Enemy pointed out in 1990's "Fight the Power" that John Wayne was a racist, the rapper was the one who took the criticism from America even though Wayne said in a Playboy interview in 1971, "I believe in white supremacy."

In the 1950s, LAPD Chief William Parker actively recruited white males from the South to patrol predominantly Black neighborhoods in Los Angeles. He called Black people "monkeys" in the newspaper, but it was the lyrics of those who grew up in these conditions that drew America's scorn.


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