Even though there’s a lot of knowledge to be learned by reading and listening to scientists, philosophers and other scholarly people, I’ve learned not to exclusively rely on their “kind” of wisdom. Sometimes real wisdom can be attained from places you least expect, like in Hip Hop culture.
The way I see reality is necessarily different from the way you see reality, simply because we have different backgrounds, different parents, teachers, like and dislike different movies, have different levels of knowledge about different subjects. Simply put, you and I, dear reader, are different persons altogether, even in the hypothetical case of us being “identical” twins. No two persons, no two minds are the same. And knowing that reality takes place in our minds, that we think about reality in our own languages, are able to describe an inner world only according to the words we know, our realities are necessarily different.
Or at least, so it seems. The reality we learn about is the reality we can describe with words and can agree upon. We’ve agreed to call animals with wings that fly through the air “birds”. But what we see flying isn’t a “bird”. The word we agree to describe something with isn’t the thing itself. Your name is not who you are. When you ask someone “who are you” one of two things happen: the person says his or her name, or the person sits you down and starts an endless list of things they are not… “I’m not violent, I don’t like cheese, I’m no …”, followed by an even longer list of what they think they are and like. The thing you really are is so grand and so indescribable one would be forgiven to suspect the whole litany to be a fantasy, made up on the spot. Yet there they are, sitting on the other side of the table, ordering the 100th drink.
Hip Hop to the core, featuring KRS One
We only see the reality our knowledge, our words enable us to see. We perceive what we know, what we’ve learned about. Personally I’ve learned a lot about life from my parents, teachers, friends, family, books, films and music. I grew up during the early days of Hip Hop culture with iconic names like Fab 5 Freddy, the Treacherous Three, The Funky 4 Plus One, Grand Master Flash (& the Furious Five), Futura 2000, and in the video clips throughout this post, the first and last one specifically, you can see how Doug E Fresh has been doing his thing in 1984 and 2014. My parents gave me my first musical taste with a lot of soul, reggae, traditional African music from dad and Simon & Garfunkel, Evita, and later Abba from mom. And there their first child, me, was treated to the birth of rap music and Hip Hop culture with break-dancing, “electric boogie” graffitti art… Actually a lot of those early rap stars started out as graffiti artists. Like Futura 2000, who is a graffiti artist first:
Spray-paint artist Futura 2000: “Futura is what I spray!”
Far be it from me to claim that everything used to be better in the old days, but I have to say that the modern MTV image of Hip Hop is a far cry from the positive force it used to be in the 1970s, 1980s and even the 1990s. I experienced the early culture being taken over by commercial forces with the introduction of “Rapper’s Delight” by Sugar Hill Gang; from then on more and more Hip Hop talents were bought by the music industry and Hip Hop’s original message of struggling for freedom and having fun in a save way by organizing rap battles and dance contests on the street, got lost and it became all about getting the gold chains, fast cars and even faster girls…
The Funky Four Plus One More… What’s with all the numbers?
It was much later in life that I learned about who these early Hip Hop stars really were, that they were true freedom fighters, how Grand Master Flash revolutionized Deejaying (that word didn’t even exist before Hip Hop) and how he introduced the world to “scratching”. I’ve recently dug up an old lecture by one of my favorite rap stars from the (g)olden days, KRS One; I’ve linked it at the end of this post, it’s two hours long, but if you’re at all interested in Hip Hop and it’s origins, or want to learn something about the power of words, or ponder on the metaphysical, KRS One melds it all together in a beautiful whole.
This 1984 Santa Rap is the first instance of the phrase “Big Fat Whale” that I know of
“God is the greatest human invention in human history.” This is the surprising insight I’ve been given by this wonderful soul called KRS One. “The reason Africans created God, is so that humanity in it’s infinity, would never run out of something to RISE to. This is why God exists; if God doesn’t exist, YOU don’t rise.” He then goes on to explain why you, dear reader, ARE God, and why we should see each other like the Godly and eternal creatures we really are, how much better everything would be if we could only recognize our true self in each other and our self, so we could all be something to rise to. I can understand what KRS One is talking about, even if I’m an atheist or agnostic, because he also explains that he’s not talking about a Biblical God or something spiritual, but just about us being the universe’s attempt to find reason, intention and meaning to it’s existence. Enjoy, and Merry Christmas!