Notes on Hip Hop Conservatism -- by General Baker, September 2006
We are not going to purge hip-hop conservatives, but we can struggle against conservatism in hip-hop.
The concrete basis for the ideas guiding this conservatism is historically valid, but it is a restrictive ethos which prevents a new generation of hip-hoppers from truly appreciating our current circumstances.
The entirety of hip-hop is an array of contradictory ideas and materializations. This I have strived to drive home consistently in my works. It lacks, however, a responsible and educated Left which can give an accurate context to hip-hop and fill the void left by the marginal Right.
It is important that the reader clearly understands that the classification of a Left and a Right within hip-hop is not to make synonymous with the Left and Right of the macro-political spectrum. The usage of the terms 'Left' and 'Right' merely situates a body of ideas within hip-hop that represent either a progressive force or a reactionary/conservative force; reactionary force palpably composing the Right.
If you will, and with hopes to avoid being pigeonholed as a Communist, because I think George Will, a true Old Guard conservative would know this, I would like to say something about Marx. Marx was a student of Hegel and was familiar with every subtlety of his work, but he was hesitant to allow just anyone to critique Hegel because of his skepticism about their own familiarity with and appreciation of this monumental German philosopher. I oftentimes feel the same regarding the conservatism within hip-hop; that not just anyone can lay down the sword unless they know or struggle to know all the characteristics of hip-hop. This has compelled me to write critically about this knee-jerk leftover predisposition which hovers over hip-hop like a black cloud. It simply is not marginal enough to be not annoying.
The right-wing of hip-hop—that is the intellectuals who preserve hip-hop in a magical past; the writers who, like Pan-Africanists fancying the constructing of boats to sail "back" to a mythical Africa, want to, in People Under The Stairs fashion, float us back to the "good ole' days" when it was "all about fun"— is no longer able to express hip-hop in its newest and fullest of forms.
It is time we break with the Old Guard of Hip-Hop (the approximately late 80s to mid-90s hip-hop generation), and with its ideology. It is time we split with those who have the ideological lock on hip-hop theory. From Kevin Powell to KRS-One, the Right holds the monopoly on most hip-hop philosophy and praxis. While we can say that everyone is a philosopher and that the multitudes of albums of hip-hop artists are the incarnate form of their philosophies, the only established philosophy—okay, the the philosophy of motherfuckers who got books out—is a conservative one.
Where does this knee-jerk philosophy I speak of come from? Who constitutes the Old Guard? The answer is not as neat and tidy as I would prefer it to be. When considering the ideas which compose the Old Guard we must always consider them in motion. What I mean is that hip-hop conservatism has an objective/economic and subjective/ideological basis. It came from somewhere and there are a host of historical influences which push it forward.