” Try to make changes, try to make it right. Nobody listens so you gotta fight…”
-“Games People Play” Sweet G (1982)
Over the last couple of weeks the media have been buzzin’ about the protests taking place in London over the death of Mark Duggan, a black man, gunned down by the police. Apparently, the rebellions were organized mostly by activists via social media networks. In contrast, the main Hip Hop story happening in the US over the weekend was Hip Hop artist, the Game, being accused of playing a game of “You Got Punked” with the Compton Sheriff Department via his Twitter account.
The “what” is clear.
News sources report that , last Friday, somebody using @thegame posted a request to over 500,000 Twitter followers to call the Compton Sheriff’s department for a Hip Hop internship which resulted in the hot lines being jammed for hours.
The “why” is debatable.
If you believe The Game’s camp, either somebody hacked into his account and started hittin’ folks up with the sheriff’s digits or it was an accident that could happen to anybody.
If you believe the sheriff department’s version, it was a diabolical game of “You Got Punked” which jeopardized the lives of every man, woman and child living in LA. Or worst, it delayed their doughnut delivery for the evening.
Either way, it is enough the have the Game possibly bought up on criminal charges, prompting the captain of the department to compare the stunt to “shouting fire in a crowded movie theater,” which, by the way, is not covered under the Game’s Constitutional right to Free speech.
If we look at what is happening, globally, we have to recognize that this issue is a whole lot bigger than an Internet prank. It is about the potential power of Hip Hop artists and social media to provoke social unrest and political change.
Hip Hop historically speaking, there has always been a fear by the “powers that be” in this country of entertainers using their star swagga to spark the masses to political action.
During the 1940’s and 50’s there was the fear that entertainers were going to “brainwash” the American public into believing that Communism was a better alternative to the poor and oppressed than good ol’ Capitalism. The artists of the 60’s were persecuted for opposing the war in Vietnam or advocating equal rights for African Americans. And during the 80’s Hip Hop was accused of making “ghetto youth” drop their boom boxes and “fight the power.”
We must remember that it was not misogynistic lyrics that got NWA put on the FBI’s hit list but it was the song “F*** the Police” that raised awareness about police misconduct in Los Angeles during the late 80’s. Also, “pimpology” was not the source of the beef between Ice T and the Feds but it was his song “Cop Killer,” by his heavy metal group Body Count. We must also remember that it was not his problems with 50 Cent that resorted in Young Buck, allegedly, being censored by a mysterious “lyric committee” but a song that spoke out against police brutality.
Also, any Hip Hop artist that dares to give props to Mumia Abu -Jamal or Assata Shakur is bound to feel the wrath of the Fraternal Order of Police. Back in 2002, bowing to pressure, MTV tried to sensor Public Enemy’s “Gotta Give the Peeps What They Want” video for a “Free Mumia” lyric. Also, earlier this year there was an attempt to block rapper, Common’s appearance at a White House poetry function for his song, “A Song for Assata” that was recorded a decade ago.
Dr. Carter G. Woodson once said, “if you control a man’s thinking, you don’t have to worry about his actions,” so there has been a constant attempt to dumb down and de-politicize the youth through mainstream Hip Hop. However, historically, attempts to control the human spirit have never been fool proof. With the growing popularity of social media it is still possible that a message on Face book or a Youtube video may be just enough to spark a revolution in the United States such as what is happening in other parts of the planet.
In cities across the country “flash mobs” are showing up in malls and other public places courtesy of somebody on an iphone with too much time on his hands. For the most part the purpose of the gatherings is to, simply, act the fool. However, suppose flash mobs began to get politicized and start showing up en mass at city council meetings, rallies and protests?
What would have happened if a rapper decides to turn his half million Twitter followers loose on the establishment after the murder of another Sean Bell or an Oscar Grant?
Don’t get it twisted. That is the real fear of the authorities, not some sophomoric prank.
Their greatest fear is that one day rappers like the Game will stop playing games and start mobilizing the masses for political power.
In 2011, every thug with a Blackberry is a potential revolutionary.
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