Malcolm X Manifolded: A Rhythmic Cultural Movement
Malcolm was our manhood, our living, black manhood! … And we will know him then for what he was and is – A Prince – our own Black Shining Prince!
In honor of Black History Month, we’re going to take a look at Malcolm X, and his continuing influence inHip-Hop.A preacher, an activist, a Muslim, a teacher, a father, an African-American; all these words describe the man known as Malcolm X. Just like everyone else, Malcolm experienced realizations and drastic changes all around him. However, one thing Malcolm always fought for was human rights in the black community. During his time with Elijah Muhammad and the Nation of Islam, Malcolm expressed his feelings and thoughts about how the black community needed to rise up to become equals and even how he supported the ideas of armed self-defense, self-reliance, and black nationalism. After leaving the Nation of Islam, converting to Sunni Islam, and a visit to Mecca, Malcolm’s views and philosophy changed in tone from its original counterpart. Though he still focused most of his message and time on the black community, the idea of peace between all different races of the world began to become a part of his overall message as well as attempting to make the strict code and conduct of the Nation of Islam more lenient. Though Malcolm X may not be with us anymore, the history he made and his messages continue to live on through others who were influence by him.
People began to express their own idealism and thoughts on race equality and their communities through the only means they could; through music. Hip-hop and rap artist throughout the years have stated that Malcolm X’s philosophy and the Black Power movement have influenced them greatly; this includes Tupac Shakur, members of Wu Tang, Public Enemy, KRS-One, Kendrick Lamar, and many more. A major factor that seemed to open artist’s eyes was that both Malcolm, and the Black Power Movement he was a part of, held a firm belief that the harder they push for change, their voice will be heard eventually and not be silenced. Not limited to just equal rights for the black community, many artists have brought other social issues to the limelight that effect many urban communities such as gender equality, poverty and the homeless, race equality for all, single parent households, and substance abuse. Though more prominent, in terms of a certain subject being the main focal point back in the early days of hip hop and rap, today’s mainstream rap and hip hop touch said subject differently by exhibiting wealth and riches to give the general public the idea of how successful they have now become compared to the poor or unfavorable upbringing they experienced before. Yasiin Bey aka Mos Def has went on record as to say how Malcolm X is one of is favorite thinkers and speakers. The song “Mathematics” is a perfect and clever example of addressing social issues by using numbers and the encouragement to “Do your math” to realize how the communities differ in terms of how sever the social issues are, as well as using an underline meaning with the “Do your math” quote to also encourage kids to finish their studies in high school to avoid said issues in the song.
Probably considered the most important figure in all rap music, Tupac Shakur has also publicly stated many times on 1/2
how much Malcolm has influenced him. The boost in self-esteem and confidence that Malcolm gave to many African-Americans can easily been seen within Tupac, and within the many motivational speeches and lyrics of Makaveli. Tupac spoke highly about change in the black community, including equality between races as well as the treatment and gender equality of women. One of his most recognized songs “Dear Mama” shows just that by confessing his love and appreciation for his mother, and addresses his upbringing as well as his respect for his mother despite the bad memories such as his mother’s cocaine addiction. Another popular hit is “Changes”, which addresses police brutality that surrounds him, racism that he has observed, and drugs and gang violence that happens way too often. Activist Huey P. Newton of the Black Tupac Speaking Panthers is mentioned as well, until finally encouraging the listener that has a whole we need to change the way we live to finally live in peace.
Amore current hip hop artist that expresses certain issues in a similar but also different way is Kendrick Lamar. The song “Hiii Power” seems to expresses the need to “open one’s eyes” to conspiracies and other horrible events that occur around all of us. Out of all the songs used as examples of social realizations, this song mentions the most important black activists such as Malcolm X, Martian Luther King Jr., Huey P. Newton, Bobby Seal, Marcus Garvey, and Fred Hampton. A push forSelf Determination, which Malcolm advocated strongly, seems to be what the lyrics are trying to get across and how people should create their own legacy following in the footsteps of our ancestors. On top of the lyrical content, the music video also further elaborates on the eye opening theory by showing archive footage of the horrors of the world’s history.
Exposing racism, police brutality, government corruption, and fighting for human rights all expressed in music is something that could not have been done if it wasn’t for Malcolm X making his own stand and doing something about it. The USA would be a very different place if it wasn’t for the bravery and the risks Malcolm X had took just to make us all at an equal playground as humans and as a species; one person can make a difference, and make a revolution happen.