Sunday, September 27, 2009

KRS-One: Messiah Merging Music and Mysticism for Hip Hop Religion

"Even the highest art is only a means to an end-- it ought not to be made an end in itself. The inspired artist must in the end put aside his theme, his medium; his work and turn to the Divine alone, not to its expressions down here." [1] Yet, according to Publishers Weekly writer Calvin Reid, Lawrence Parker (KRS-One)'s "The Gospel of Hip Hop will focus on the origins of Hip Hop, its signature components -break dancing, graffiti writing, rapping and deejaying-and its cultural legacy." Mr. Reid goes on to quote KRS stating, "Hip Hop is not just music but a fully functioning culture." [2]
These statements of what KRS's Hip Hop Bible is intended to do as a life-guide manual for "HipHoppas" KRS's term for members of the hip hop culture, fly directly in the face of fellow philosopher Paul Brunton as considering something transcending the human state evidenced by his use of words like spirituality and divine. In 2000 speaking of his Temple of Hip Hop and members, Lauryn Hill, Kid Capri and Busta Rhymes, he states, "We believe that not only is hip hop divine, but the temple is divinely ordained, because we accept it as that."[3]
Under this rationale we may accept anything as true and proclaim it so because we "accept it as that." The thought process here seems wanting and juvenile. However, it bears out KRS-One's further reasoning that "In 100 years, this book will be a new religion on earth." Wikipedia uses the definition utilized in religious studies as found by Clifford Geertz.[4] "A religion is a system of human thought which usually includes a set of narratives, symbols, beliefs and practices that give meaning to the practitioner's experiences of life through reference to a higher power, deity or deities, or ultimate truth.."[1]
The questions here beg, who or what is that higher power, deity and or truth. Could it possibly be the God to whom KRS made reference to on his partial album, Spiritually Minded featuring Gospel Hip Hop Minister James Edward Cooper (B.B. Jay) entitled, "God is a Spirit." The song leaves no room for doubt as to what God they were singing about quoting the Christian Bible Book of St. John 4:24. As well they make references to being "Chirstlike" and using a refrain from the book of Revelations, "Those who have ears let them hear." It is then that the 2002 release goes weird.
First, referencing Christ overturning the money changers in the temple saying, "mine will be called a house of prayer," and immediately following those lyrics with "mine is called the house of hip hop."It is here that KRS-One's merging begins to truly take the form of a gospel. His own. The book is modeled after the Christian Bible with the goal of changing the lives of its believers from whatever they are or were to lives of H-L.A.W. (Health, Love, Awareness, and Wealth).
The Temple of Hip Hop that houses this new "religion" has grown from a preservation society into a ministry, archive, School, and Society (M.A.S.S.). that will maintain hip hop as a genuine political movement and culture as it has been accepted by the United Nations (U.N.). Though the U.N. only recognized hip hop as a non government organization. Hip hop as a formal religion will likely change that status, as would a determination of hip hop as a political movement.
Thus, founder of such a prestigious organization as the Stop the Violence Movement and songwriter, producer of 18 of some of the, if not the most politically and socially conscientious music in modern times, as well the recipient of BET's Lifetime Achievement Award may have out-thought himself this time.
The very elements that make up the essence of his argument as iterated on the PowerHouse Book's website[5] as an overstanding that hip hop brings you back to humanity through the use of your five senses and absolves you from reliance on technology and reintroduces you to your own intrinsic ingenuity, fails miserably insofar as techniques, that is, intellectual technology derived over many years empowers us to be technically proficient rappers, dancers, artists, deejayer's, beatboxes, etc…
His additional argument that "The only way you can feel spiritually naturally is when all the institutions have failed," is more than likely a view he's adopted coming from an abusive home life which he fled at aged 13. After living on the streets, and in homeless shelters and serving some time for selling marijuana at 19 he encounters, ironically enough a social worker, and part time DJ, 22 year old Scott Sterling. There is no question that their relationship continues to impact his work and life as does the senseless murder of Scott while trying to break up a fight in August of 1987 as well as his 23 year old son, Randy Hubbard-Parker's suicide just days before his 24th birthday in July of 2007.
KRS-One's aggrandizement of hip hop is overblown in light of history. To mention one name in particular, Gil Scott-Heron was ground breaking in the field of politically and socially conscious rap in the 1960's and 70's. Break dancing started in the 70's during the disco period. Mini and maxi skirts, hot pants and halter tops, Converse All Star gym shoes, now called Chuck Taylor's were all available at your local K-Mart store in the 60's and 70's. Baseball jersey throwbacks have been available since at least 1921 through the 1980's. Graffiti predates hieroglyphics. And according to Socrates education is about drawing out what is already there. The word itself, education is from the Latin e-ducere meaning "to lead out."
Paul Brunton warned, "Those who find their fulfillment in any form of the arts and who look to if for their highest satisfaction may become, and often do become, attached to it in such a way that it blocks their way to the still higher level where all attachments, including this one, must vanish. For unless a man finds his higher self and values it above everything else, he has not brought his quest to completion."[6]
"... I think I have the authority to approach God directly, I don’t have to go through any religion [or] train of thought. I can approach God directly myself and so I wrote a book called The Gospel of Hip Hop to free from all this nonsense garbage right now," said KRS. The obvious question is if you do not have to go through any religion to get to God why make one up?
[1] http://wisdomsgoldenrod.org/notebooks/14/3
[2] http://www.publishersweekly.com/article/CA6634673.html?nid=2286&source=title&rid=
[3] http://www.urbanfaith.com/2009/09/bets-dirty-laundry.html
[4]http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religion#cite_note-0
[5] http://powerhousebooks.com/thegospelofhiphop/
[6] http://wisdomsgoldenrod.org/notebooks/14/3
 
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