What happened in Orlando this past weekend was a tragedy.
The media coverage surrounding it, pointing the finger at a mass group of religious people, was a counteract act of the same.
Since September 11, 2001, American media have portrayed Muslims as terrorists—simple as that. There is no sugar coating that reality.
As Americans—as human beings—we’ve done close to nothing to defy such stereotypical quota. It seems as if most of us have become numb to it and have gotten used to mainstream media portraying all Muslims as terrorists, all because a small minority, who claim to be Islamic radicals, have committed some of the most horrific attacks upon mankind.
In retrospect, as fans and students of Hip Hop, I think we often times forget how Islam has actually affected our beloved culture—we forget the impact it’s had on the movements that led to the birth of Hip Hop.
When Hip Hop first hit the scene in the early 70’s in the Bronx, NY, the Civil Rights Movement was just shy of coming to a close. One of the biggest names in the Civil Rights Movement was the legendary Malcolm X, a member of the Nation of Islam. After Malcolm’s assassination, his impact continued not just in those fighting for equality, but also in pop culture.
We’ve heard Malcolm’s impact in the music of artists from Jay-Z, Kanye, Kendrick, Nas to even the late 2Pac. There’s no doubt that the wisdom and teachings of this great man, a man of the Islamic faith, inspired the very legends of our culture.
Some of the gatekeepers that paved the way for artists like Kendrick and others with similar conscious/positive music catalogs are also members of the Islamic faith. When we think of some the most popular names in the 80’s/90’s Hip Hop era who are Muslims, we think of A Tribe Called Quest, Mos Def, Rakim and Busta Rhymes. During that era, Hip Hop artists were joining The Universal Zulu Nation started by Afrika Bambaataa and taking on the Islamic faith was a common practice in the movement. Today, we have artists like French Montana and Snapchat maven DJ Khaled—both men of the Islamic faith.
Despite their beliefs, these artists have been respected, their music and messages supported, and their Islamic ties often times overlooked. Since it’s beginning years, Hip Hop has always been subconsciously influenced by the Islamic faith—whether in its lyrics or inspiring its artists. Yet, the culture has yet to take a stand on the conflicts surrounding the faith in defense.
Discrimination in 2016 is real.
Whether it’s a young boy not being able to wear his hoodie without being shot at because he’s black, or the safety of the LGBTQ community and their families being threatened in a sudden instance at a nightclub, discrimination is alive and well, yet underplayed. The conversation on equality and social acceptance in depth is long overdue, but it seems no one has yet to host a ground for such dialogue to happen.
In Hip Hop, there has always been a duty—a duty to tell the story of the underdog, the streets, and how we as its lovers and students have overcome. There has also been a responsibility within our culture to tell the story of our times. There was once a time in Hip Hop when the lyrics used to give answers, like in Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power” and I believe it still has the capability to do so.
We overlook our obligation as human beings, as well as the gatekeepers of Hip Hop, when we refuse to stand up for not just our culture, but the issues that can be addressed by our culture. I believe that if we can easily rule out who represents Hip Hop and who does not, what artists are here today and gone tomorrow, then we can also stand up for humanity at-large—that’s metaphorically what Hip Hop is and does. We have a responsibility to shame any act of discrimination and inequality from racial differences, gender differences and religious differences—Islamaphobia included. Our culture was built on unity and it continues to thrive off of such. It is our job to continue to unite and promote the same.