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Category: Culture
Posted by: IDurham
Lauryn Hill - Miseducation

“You might win some/But you just lost one . . . :(1) ” Unmasking the Miseducated


On August 25, 1998, a girl from South Orange, New Jersey released a groundbreaking solo debut album that many consider the album of a generation. Lauryn Hill confronted personal, social and political issues in the critically-acclaimed album The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. However, through the transformation that occurs while listening to this album, a deep and rich history follows Hill through to the end of her exegesis on being educated. In this profound history, one sees the evolution of a young girl of Haitian heritage becoming a multi-faceted, multi-layered ingénue. Likewise, one also sees the completed product of a rarely spoken, subtly observed and blatantly emoted struggle to find a niche, a place where she makes up her mind to define her own destiny.(2) Her public persona reverts all the way back to a parade of boos on a Harlem stage to roles in television and film to production, collaboration and musical affiliation with Wyclef Jean and Pras Michel. These experiences came to a standstill, a boiling point, as she embarked on creating a lyrical, theoretical, and sonic world where the listener was introduced to a little girl with skinny legs and a pressing curl, whose mother always thought she’d be a star.(3) Perhaps the most interesting phenomenon in this journey with Lauryn Hill is the role her spirituality and/or religion play in the total makeup of her character. She seems to maintain an unfailing faith in something greater than herself but through her music and sometimes erratic behavior, she has a public identity struggle where she attempts to recognize who she is and whose she is. Hill cites numerous spiritual and iconic figures of different religions, as well as ideologies, in her music which suggest a kind of polytheism; she believes that all these things amalgamate to form the essential Lauryn Hill. However, through the invocation of these supernatural forces, is Hill outwardly conveying a self-created form of religion or is she pulling from all facets of her geographic life—the Caribbean, Africa, and America, specifically New Jersey—to exhibit a kind of worldliness that validates her blackness or Africanism?

Lauryn Hill single-handedly transformed how society viewed rap and hip-hop with her solo project garnering five Grammys. But consequently, her work with the Fugees catapulted her into commercial and industry success. She became the voice for a generation of youth and young adults that sought to be “fly” and true to self while living out a constructed standard of what they should be. A case-by-case analysis of her lyrics exposes her obvious acumen in various and sundry intellectual and religious modes of thought. However, three religions or at least religious ideological structures seem to permeate throughout her music so much so that, in my opinion, Lauryn Hill becomes this hybridized spiritual iconoclast who attempts to prove that she can be every woman and an individual at the same time; she takes on the role of the most learned uneducated professor in the field of life.

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Posted on: 01/13/09:

Happy Birthday! Motown Turns 50

Category: Culture
Posted by: RBAFounderX
Happy Birthday! Motown Turns 50
By Mark Anthony Neal

In the months leading up to the presidential election, much was made about the size of the crowds and the energy level at Obama rallies. For clues, some looked to the Obama playlist—the songs that served as the soundtrack for those frenzied events. True to his overall political strategy, Obama’s playlist cut across various popular genres—country music stalwarts Brooks and Dunn were as likely to be heard as much as the McFadden and Whitehead disco-era classic “Ain’t No Stoppin’ Us Now.”

But the common denominator at so many of those rallies was the sound of Motown, the once fledgling and once black-owned record label founded in Detroit 50 years ago today. The campaign’s embrace of the Motown Sound was likely not happenstance nor simply inspired by the president-elect’s fondness for soul music from the 1960s. More probably, it is the result of the campaign’s legendary attention to minute details and the understanding that the Motown catalogue was uniquely suited to bring together a nation of disparate opinions, concerns and beliefs. As Suzanne Smith writes in Dancing in the Street: Motown and the Cultural Politics of Detroit, “Motown’s music symbolized the possibility of amicable racial integration through popular culture. But as a company Motown represented the possibilities of black economic independence.”
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Category: Politics
Posted by: RBAFounderX
Why President Elect Barack Obama is not the first Hip Hop President
by Rosa A. Clemente

"Each generation out of relative obscurity, must discover its mission, fulfill it, or betray it."-- Frantz Fanon

It has been 45 days since the Hip Hop generation helped usher in the first Black male President of the United States of America. Since that historic night, many within Hip Hop culture, like writer Greg Kot of the Boston Globe, entrepreneur Russell Simmons, artists Common, Jay-Z and P. Diddy, have declared President-Elect Obama the first Hip Hop president. In my humble opinion they are wrong, dead wrong. It does not matter how many Hip Hop pundits, non-profit organizations, and recognizable figures within the culture declare it. Much like an MC or B-Girl battle, I'm ready to challenge that declaration.

As a long time community organizer and Hip Hop activist and journalist, I have always followed a rule: never allow someone to become your priority while you become his or her option. For President Elect Barack Obama and the entire Democrat Party leadership in this country, the

Hip Hop generation has never been a priority, we have always been an option and that option is used mostly to get out the vote during elections. Efforts like Vote or Die, Generation Vote, Rock the Vote, Respect my Vote, do not empower a generation - they are catchy slogans emblazoned on pretty white tees that offer empty rhetoric. At the end of the day, those G.O.T.V. efforts become guaranteed votes for the Democratic Party and often fail to educate their followers about candidates that run outside of the two-party system.

I believe that like many before him, President-Elect Barack Obama's campaign used Hip Hop to create excitement amongst young people in this country, but we must clearly see through the $750 million bling-bling marketing haze of his campaign. The few times he was pressed on his association to Hip Hop, he spoke about offensive rap lyrics and Black men having respect for themselves by pulling up their pants. I do not recall one specific mention of the political victories and social consciousness brought out by millions in the culture. Just because you brush off your shoulders, fist bump the future First Lady, or play a mean game of street ball, that does not make you Hip Hop. What we have now is an Obama administration that came into power with the promise of change, but is remixing that promise by sampling from the Bill Clinton Presidency, including Hillary herself, and this new remix will do nothing to change the mass conditions of our people.

In Van Jones new book, The Green Collar Economy, Van says, "It is time to change from fighting against something to fighting for something." For me that statement encapsulates why I chose to accept Cynthia's McKinney's invitation to be her running mate and why the Green Party made history by choosing us as the first women-of-color ticket in American Presidential politics. I accepted the call because I was no longer interested in fighting against the Democratic or Republican Party.
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