By now, most heads have heard that a million-dollar museum is being erected in the Bronx in honor of hip-hop. While this is undoubtedly a major milestone for the culture, one has to wonder if the project will do it any justice.
On Wednesday the BBC reported that the museum—which is currently in the planning stages—has already begun to stir up controversy. Apparently the contents are up for debate, with City Council members attempting to distance themselves from “modern-day hip-hop culture, which…has become tarnished by turf wars and lyrics which promote misogyny and violence.” Councilor Larry Seabrook stated that the museum was intended to “memorialize what hip-hop really is.”
Super. Cause the What is Real Hip-Hop? debate hasn’t dragged on long enough already.
The BBC article paraphrases Seabrook’s definition of “real hip-hop”:
…a cultural movement initiated by inner-city youth in the Bronx in the 1970s.
It arrived during a financial crisis, when funding for music classes in schools had been pulled. With widespread poverty and violence on the Bronx’s streets, hip-hop provided an important outlet.
So hip-hip is supposed to be an outlet for inner-city youth coming up in the midst of widespread poverty and violence—and yet it shouldn’t touch on any of the harsh realities of those conditions? Am I missing something here?
Further, if Council decides to exclude gangsta rap, who determines what’s “gangsta” and what’s “real hip-hop”? Will City Council get all caught up in dissecting lyrics, or will they bring in a panel of so-called hip-hop experts to do the categorizing? Will the museum ban all gangsta rappers, or just ones that have shot, or been shot, or gone to jail?
What about beef? Will diss tracks get an artist disqualified? Will studio gangstas get the pass along with dudes that actually have a heavy rep in the streets? Will they assign a team of investigative journalists to figure out who is real and who is just fronting?
Sounds like a bit of a gong show to me.