|Common: Rapper with the image of "street cred" and a "man's man" persona |
seems to have morphed into a little boy.
By Danny Haiphong
“The corporatization of hip-hop has occurred alongside the rise of the Black misleadership class.”Common's appearance on Jon Stewart's Daily Show officially anointed the veteran hip-hop artist into Black misleadership status. The interview was a blatant display of affection for the rule of white supremacy and US Empire. In response to a question on the relevancy of institutional racism, Common shamelessly promoted a politics of respectability by explaining that Black Americans should extend a "hand of love" to White America. Black people should also forget about the past as someone would do to mend a romantic relationship. And similar to a fight with a romantic partner, Black America's motto should be "baby, let's get past this."
RELATED STORY: Uncle Tom Celebrities - What Good are Awards and Ratings if the People Who Gain These Successes Stab Blacks in the Back?These comments propelled Common into the club of Hip-Hop artists that have jumped on the backward politics of the Obama era. Jay-Z, Nas, Chuck D and scores of other hip-hop artists have sought to capitalize on Obama's influence on the Black political landscape. Jay-Z's cozy relationship with Obama, Nas's admiration of Obama and Skip Gates, and Chuck D's plea that Black America re-elect Obama in 2012 are all examples of the way the Black misleadership class has thrived in the corporate hip-hop machine. For a long time, young people of my generation saw Common specifically as a "conscious" rapper that promoted positive political messages in songs like "6th Sense" and "Song for Assata." Ironically, his Daily Show comments place him in the same plane as those working to murder Assata Shakur and erase hip-hop's radical roots.
Common's induction into the Black misleadership class should come as no surprise. As the corporate media has consolidated into six mega corporations, monopolies like Viacom have virtually erased grassroots hip-hop from mass accessibility. The corporatization of hip-hop has occurred alongside the rise of the Black misleadership class. Barack Obama was Wall Street's top choice to lead this class in an era of permanent capitalist crisis. Wall Street expected the well-groomed Obama to defend and expand its policy of permanent war, repression, and austerity. He did so with flying colors and made sure to keep Jay-Z on speed-dial as an added public relations boost. Hip-Hop artists past and present jumped at the opportunity to solidify their careers through the promotion of the anti-Black, war criminal Commander in Chief. This is where the corporate media and the Obama era converged most acutely.
Common's advice to exonerate white America of its crimes is all Black America has heard over the last seven years from Obama and the media. In every speech or statement where Obama felt compelled to chastise Black Americans, the primary message has been to forgive, to forget, and to remember that his presidency is all the oppressed Black majority should ever demand from racist America. Common's words are thus a mere reinforcement of the neo-liberal, Obama consensus that Black Americans and all oppressed people for that matter should focus on making a career within empire instead of fighting the genocidal and oppressive system of white supremacy.
“Hip-Hop artists past and present jumped at the opportunity to solidify their careers through the promotion of the anti-Black, war criminal Commander in Chief.”
The dominance of respectability politics in the Obama era has brought white supremacy to crisis level contradictions. White Americans in the 21st century truly believe that racism affects them more than it does Black America. Throughout the Obama era, polls have shown that Black Americans believe that conditions bettered under Obama when the opposite was in effect. The Black Lives Matter Movement has begun to expose these contradictions through the struggle against the daily police murder of Black Americans by police. In response, the Empire has sent out its Black misleadership class in full force to stifle the development of this movement.
Common took full advantage by gladly accepting the request to star in Selma. The film blatantly glorified the Black misleadership class, especially in the movie’s conclusion. Common potentially earned himself a promising acting career for his willingness to play distorted and destructive caricatures of Black American history. What Common lost in musical value to the ruling class (one could argue he never had any), he's gained in a new found alliance with Oprah and the rest of the Black misleadership class. His plea to Black America to get past white supremacy is actually a request for support for his endeavors from the Empire's Black corporate club. Common and the rest of the Black misleadership class know full well that the only way to enjoy the spoils of imperialism is to appease White America and most importantly, the interests of establishment.
What makes Common's comments so peculiar is the direct nature in which he made them. While Obama and his followers usually drape color-blind rhetoric and historical fallacies with coded babble, Common outright stated that not only should Black America extend a hand of love to White America, but do so under the pretenses that racism is a thing of the past. It matters little to Common that every 28 hours a Black person is murdered by US law enforcement or that Black people in US prisons outnumber the total prison population of China (population of 1.4 billion). Such comments show no concern about the ballooning wealth gap between Black America and White America, which now stands at a difference of 1200 percent. Black women are the fastest growing prison population in the US, but don't expect Common to pay attention or write a song about it. Doing so would shatter the blatant deception that somehow extending a hand of love to white supremacy could possibly bring its victims any closer to freedom and liberation.
“Common's words are a reinforcement of the neo-liberal, Obama consensus that Black Americans should focus on making a career within empire instead of fighting the genocidal and oppressive system of white supremacy.”
As Common crosses over to enemy lines, the Black Lives Matter movement has inspired Kendrick Lamar, J. Cole, D'Angelo and others to use their place in hip-hop in service of the movement. What is needed now is a battle for the legitimate place of Hip-Hop in the growing resistance to white supremacy. Artists such as J. Cole must not only create music that inspires a generation, but also challenge those like Common who are using their voice to destabilize the movement. Politicized hip-hop artists, just as any institution under the rule of US imperialism, cannot exist alongside the parasitic corporate hip-hop industry and the Black misleadership class. Jasiri X, Dead Prez, and a host of revolutionary hip-hop artists decided long ago that the only way to fight imperialism as hip-hop artists is to create a culture that contributes to the consciousness of a people's movement. Common's statements present another opportunity to sharpen the class antagonisms of US imperialism and directly relate them to the preservation and development of a culture of resistance through hip-hop.
Hip-hop has long been a tool used by oppressed people to fight the 21st colonization of Black and brown people. As Obama and the rest of the Black misleadership class continue to support the looting of oppressed people, Israel's genocide of Palestinians, and never-ending drone and proxy war all over the world, the left in the US is still in the formative stages of charting a new path to fighting imperialist exploitation. It is not prepared to create a revolutionary mass culture, but the Black Lives Matter movement specifically has shown that culture and resistance are interconnected phenomena. Common's comments on the Daily Show are a reminder that culture is just as vulnerable to imperial theft as the labor and resources of the oppressed. Common's hand of love to white supremacy reeks of the opportunism that has become so rampant among the corporate talking heads masquerading as representatives of the oppressed. This will continue until the entire system of imperialism responsible for their existence is brought down.
Danny Haiphong is an organizer for Fight Imperialism Stand Together (FIST) in Boston. He is also a regular contributor to Black Agenda Report. Danny can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and FIST can be reached at email@example.com.