By Lana Moline
I can clearly remember the first rap song I ever heard. It was “The Message” by Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five on WAIL 105 FM. Now, if you are familiar with that station you have definitely just admitted to being……..hmmm, what’s the word……on the block long enough to have seen a few things. How’s that? That song was a social commentary about all the things that were going on at the time. And even though it’s been over twenty five years, every single thing that they are rapped about is still prevalent. True enough, Issues such as poverty, homelessness, illiteracy and disparities in wealth with regard to race have been addressed on some level and many incentives, and programs were put into place to try to right all of these wrongs. Yet here we are today facing phenomenal drop out rates, subclasses within the homeless populations and an economic system designed to sustain the income level of the poverty stricken. Yes, many of us have done great things and we all know someone who has made us proud. But let’s be honest. Look around us. Slums, ghettos, schools without adequate funding and resources still exist. Divorce rates are so high that many kids have yet to see both parents at a dinner table together.
So I ask myself as a parent what can I do to make sure my kids have solid foundations and the intellect to move beyond all of that? How can I impact positive change right where I am? What will make a difference? And then it dawns on me, teach them the truth without watering it down. Give them all the information they need to truly make an intelligent decision. Deal with the things that are really important to them and encourage them to reach the highest level they can in whatever path they choose.
So when my son who was soon to be eleven at the time came to me and asked if I would purchase a rap album for him I couldn’t dismiss him. Even though everything about rap has changed since WAIL 105 and many of the songs can’t even be played on the radio I still had to deal with his request. I had to find a way to direct his interest so it would benefit him. We sat down and talked about all the options in rap and why his parents don’t play any of that at home. I told him about the socially conscious rappers whose songs he will never even hear in mainstream. And I asked him about his personal convictions; what is important to him, what direction he wants to go in life and so forth. He had a lot to say. So I couldn’t in good conscious just say “no” because quite honestly I was relived that he chose Common whose mother is also an educator. My son had been drawn into the song “A Dream” from the “Freedom Writers” soundtrack, he felt something new and wanted to experience it again. But there was still so much that he had questions about before he could even realize what the lyrics that he found himself singing meant.
Now, I have been a long time student of Cornel West, PHD, Director of the African-American studies program at Princeton. I read his book “Race Matters” shortly before I graduated from college because I soon came to understand that with or without a degree race certainly matters. I remembered his passion with trying to reach the youth and reconnect them to their greatness and from that came the August, 2007 released rap cd “Never Forget: A Journey of Revelations.” We sat down and listened to it together and that started the never ending conversation about the state of the world today and his future. He gets it. He knows that it’s not just about the beat but that every choice he makes, even with regards to rap, has to support the direction he wants to go in.
Lana Moline is a freelance writer and poet who lives in Ft. Worth with her three kids and husband Emile. Married 11 years, both media professionals have vowed to maintain integrity in all aspects of print and broadcast journalism.Visit her at www.lanamolinespeaks.wordpress.com