Taken from ThyBlackMan (May 04, 2019)
Music 101: Reconsidering KRS-One's Belief that Rap & Hip Hop Music was "Edutainment".
by Staffwriter - Dr. James Thomas Jones III
(ThyBlackMan.com) In 1990, KRS-ONE (Knowledge Reigns Supreme Over Nearly Everyone), of Boogie Down Productions fame, posited that Rap Music should be considered "Edutainment"; a new genre of thought or education that was both educational and entertaining.
KRS-ONE believes in this concept so significantly that he titled one of his albums Edutainment. Most adherents of the Temple of Hip-Hop agree that Edutainment was one of the most crucial rap albums to ever be released. However, I believe that the concept of "Edutainment" is actually more influential than the impressive song list that continues to move listeners to this very day. When one considers the vertical ascension of Hip-Hop Culture's influence on several generations of earthlings, it is no stretch to consider it the greatest cultural force in the lives of millions of people strewn throughout the globe.
KRS-ONE's insinuation that rap music is "Edutainment" is not only profound but also extremely insightful. When compared to other forms of entertainment, when compared to singers, the rap emcee's influence is unparalleled as his method of communication is often unplanned and therefore flexible in a manner that few singers could ever manage.
When viewed in this light, it is not difficult to comprehend that of all entertainers, it is the rap emcee who possesses the most significant potential to shape the worldview, hopes, dreams, and priorities of listeners. There is little doubt that the most powerful vessel imaginable on the cultural landscape for the past fifty years has been a young African-American male or female holding a microphone in front of an attentive crowd. As an educator, it pains me to admit that it is the rap emcee who possesses exponentially more influence over global youth than most teachers, coaches, politicians, and parents. Hence, it is no stretch to term Hip-Hop Culture the cultural equivalent of a well-placed nuclear bomb.
There is no doubt that Hip-Hop Culture is everlasting as the B-Boy is found in Moscow, graffiti adorns buildings in Amsterdam, Brazilian women dance in hip-hop videos, "white" girls pursue opportunities to drape themselves over "black" rappers, even Happy Feet, the lovable penguin of cinematic fame, is capable of busting a move to a hip-hop beat. When one considers that being multi-lingual is a pre-requisite to understanding a cypher at the BET Awards or that Percy Miller, aka Master P of No Limit Records fame, is the genius behind the PBS children's show Yo! Gabba Gabba, there is little room to debate the present success and promised longevity of every facet of Hip-Hop Culture. Even the most ardent opponents of Hip-Hop Culture have to admit that it long ago became the main course in the cultural diets of young people around the globe.
The alluded to visibility and influence of Hip-Hop culture makes KRS-ONE's Edutainment construct all the more important for the following reasons:
- Hip-Hop Culture has become a welcoming ambassador that has introduced people from the farthest corners of the globe to black culture.
- Hip-Hop Culture has projected the reality that Black America is not monolithic in any facet of its cultural existence. If nothing else, the rap music/videos have prominently displayed the good, the bad, and the ugly for all who care to look.
- Rap Music has consistently provided an unobstructed view and alluring path via infectious beats and mesmerizing lyrics to curious on-lookers. It is no stretch to assert that Hip-Hop Culture has served as both an educational and entertainment tool for those lacking any real connection to urban Black America; this population includes African-American youth who have been raised in suburban communities by parents who have done their best to erect walls capable of preventing the cultural radiation emanating from impoverished black communities.
Quite possibly the most dangerous aspect of Hip-Hop Culture, rap music, in particular, is one that cannot be solely attributed to the musical genre.
The alluded to danger is most prominent for those who have no previous exposure to Black America and therefore no historical framework to place the multiple contradictory messages that are being projected as black culture. The absence of prior exposure pre-ordains one's inability to discern between braggadocious ness and an actual statement from a hip-hop emcee.
It is truly a peculiar moment when two listeners hear the same lyrical offering and gather vastly different understandings due to the cavernous divide found in their individual background. While blacks steeped in a relevant black culture recognize the comedy and lineage associated with Johnny 'Guitarsquid' Watson's song Super Man Lover that was refashioned for a hip-hop audience by the lyrical genius Redman, other listeners devoid of this context hear testimony of hyper-sexuality and promiscuity that they foolishly take as valid portrayals of authentic black life.
It is this tendency of those absent cultural intelligence - awareness, familiarity, and norms - regarding Black America that naively ingratiates absurd comedic caricatures as an authentic representation of black life, culture, traditions, and norms. If allowed to run rampant, such brer rabbit stories become not only legendary but also an accepted description of black life "in the ghetto." I do not need to tell you that more than a few record executives raised away from the bosom of black urban life use such understanding as a guide for the continuation of what they truly believe are apt representations of black life.
Ironically, it is this perverse misunderstanding that demands hip-hop emcees desirous of fame and fortune to fit themselves into a totally fallacious stereotypical caricature that was constructed in the womb of ignorance, misunderstanding, and multiple illiteracies.
The above matters have led me to believe that KRS-ONE, a figure commonly referred to as "the teacher", may have to return back to his "Edutainment" construct and refashion it as "Mis-Edutainment" as anyone who knows Black America can testify to the fact that what we are seeing at this present moment from Hip-Hop Culture has nothing to do with authentic black culture. Put simply, I do not recognize these images being hoisted on television as a representative of the genius and beauty of the black folk who displayed for me the beauty of blackness.