What if all women were bigger and stronger than you? And thought they were smarter? What if women were the ones who started wars? What if too many of your friends had been raped by women wielding giant dildos and no K-Y Jelly? What if the state trooper who pulled you over on the New Jersey Turnpike was a woman and carried a gun? What if the ability to menstruate was the prerequisite for most high-paying jobs? What if your attractiveness to women depended on the size of your penis? What if every time women saw you they’d hoot and make jerking motions with their hands? What if women were always making jokes about how ugly penises are and how bad sperm tastes? What if you had to explain what’s wrong with your car to big sweaty women with greasy hands who stared at your crotch in a garage where you are surrounded by posters of naked men with hard-ons? What if men’s magazines featured cover photos of 14-year-old boys with socks tucked into the front of their jeans and articles like: “How to tell if your wife is unfaithful” or “What your doctor won’t tell you about your prostate” or “The truth about impotence”? What if the doctor who examined your prostate was a woman and called you “Honey”? What if you had to inhale your boss’ stale cigar breath as she insisted that sleeping with her was part of the job? What if you couldn’t get away because the company dress code required you wear shoes designed to keep you from running? And what if after all that women still wanted you to love them?
When Lauryn Hill stepped forward to accept her fifth Grammy Award in 1999, she paused as she collected the last trophy, and seeming somewhat startled said, “This is crazy, ‘cause this is hip hop music.’“ Hill’s astonishment at receiving mainstream acclaim for music once deemed insignificant testifies to the explosion of this truly revolutionary art form. Hip hop music and the culture that surrounds it—film, fashion, sports, and a whole way of being—has become the defining ethos for a generation. Its influence has spread from the state’s capital to the nation’s capital, from the Pineapple to the Big Apple, from ‘Frisco to Maine, and then on to Spain.
But moving far beyond the music, hip hop has emerged as a social and cultural movement, displacing the ideas of the Civil Rights era. Todd Boyd maintains that a new generation, having grown up in the aftermath of both Civil Rights and Black Power, rejects these old school models and is instead asserting its own values and ideas. Hip hop is distinguished in this regard because it never attempted to go mainstream, but instead the mainstream came to hip hop.
The New H.N.I.C., like hip hop itself, attempts to keep it real, and challenges conventional wisdom on a range of issues, from debates over use of the “N-word,” the comedy of Chris Rock, and the “get money” ethos of hip hop moguls like Sean “P. Diddy” Combs and Russell Simmons, to hip hop’s impact on a diverse array of figures from Bill Clinton and Eminem to Jennifer Lopez.
Maintaining that Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech is less important today than DMX’s It’s Dark and Hell is Hot, Boyd argues that Civil Rights as a cultural force is dead, confined to a series of media images frozen in another time. Hip hop, on the other hand, represents the vanguard, and is the best way to grasp both our present and future.
Do not look for a sanctuary in anyone except your self.