Make Music for the Solution–By Any Means Necessary!!
By Maj Toure
“By any means necessary!” This is the now-legendary quote embedded in every revolutionary’s conscious and or subconscious mind from the mouth of our great freedom fighter, now-ancestor, Malcolm X. Politicians, civilians, Uncle Toms, leaders, followers, and any person within earshot of Brother Malcolm’s electrifying speeches have uttered this phrase. Malcolm’s words verbalized African liberation, empowerment, political upheaval, and the destruction of the oppression of African people both in America and abroad. But has everyone understood and taken heed to these most valuable words? Is everyone using whatever tools they have at their disposal to bring the necessary change?
The hip-hop community (which is a multi-billion-dollar global business) has the opportunity to take advantage of their said Constitutional right to freedom of speech. But lately these “freedoms” seem to exist primarily for the blatant disrespect of African women and the overvaluation of a devaluating U.S. dollar. This disturbing behavior has been detrimental not only to the local African community, but has tainted the outlook of many youths in various parts of the world. Through the manipulative mass media, they have painted a picture with this music and its videos to say, “This is the [African- ] American way, and all blacks in America behave this way because it is in their best interest.” But it must be said that hip-hop was not created with such negative undertones. It began in the most oppressed sectors of the African community where our conditions created an urgent need for militant self-expression. Some hip-hop historians say it originated in the Bronx, N.Y., however the first recorded hip-hop song was actually produced by a Philadelphia group called the Fat Back Band when hired DJ King Tim III first flipped lyrics on the B side of “You’re My Candy Sweet” in 1979.
Even though this early group merely grazed over African life in the seventies and eighties, more well-known songs such as Grandmaster Flash’s “The Message” did begin to hint at the pains and frustrations that a hip hop outlet opened up for expression. Dancing, singing, and poetic verse can not only display hardships, but also the different options for shaking off social and financial burdens.
The easiest ways to spread these new options is to look to our ancestors for guidance. For it was Africans who coded messages through dance in order to perfect our forms of self-defense. Martial arts, which were prohibited by the slave masters, were shifted into seemingly non-threatening dance configurations to be passed off as exercise. This form of exercise evolved into the graceful self-defense technique known today as capoeira.
Another example of positively embedded messages were the songs and the use of artwork that helped to transport runaway Africans during the years of the Underground Railroad. Quilts often indicated safe houses with symbolic designs in the windows hung in plain view. In code the designs told the runaways where to go. Also on these trips, unknown to slave-owning whites, Africans would sing “Wade in the Water” out loud to hiding runaways. This meant sit in the water for a while to rest because it would wash away their scent and cause the bloodhounds not to follow them.
Even under the harsh conditions of enslavement, our ancestors used expression and communication as revolutionary tools to resist white domination. It would serve the nation and the world better if we took a lesson from our elders and took the opportunity to utilize the potential of music as our own medium for change.