Dart Adams

How Touré Failed Hip-Hop AND America


On July 14th, the Washington Post published a piece by Touré titledHow America And Hip-Hop Failed Each Other.” Touré’s editorial quickly made the rounds through the Hip-Hop blogosphere. I personally read it and have to say that I have a few issues with his article. The data that Touré used regarding the war on drugs, the incarceration rates, unemployment rates and the books he brings into the discussion to help hammer home his conclusion was not the problem. Oddly enough, where Touré’s entire piece fell apart was when he discussed anything regarding Hip-Hop. Let me explain why…

Basically Touré’s entire article hinges on how Hip-Hop went from having a majority Black audience in the 80’s, when it was largely Afrocentric and fairly conscious/uplifting, to possessing a mostly Caucasian audience that reveled in criminal/gangsta archetypes in the 90’s. Touré attributes this changeover directly to America’s war on drugs, begun by Richard Nixon but kicked into overdrive by the Reagan administration and its by products and aftereffects. My issue is that while the FBI’s anti-drug funding increased exponentially and crack’s growing presence in the inner cities obviously affected the culture of Hip-Hop, those outside influences weren’t the key reasons Hip-Hop’s aesthetic and core fanbase switched between the 80’s and 90’s .

“If you were an outsider to Hip-Hop culture you’d simply take Touré at his word, seeing as how he’s the ‘expert.’ That would be dangerous & ill advised.”

Let’s get to the meat of the issue here. The switch-over Touré is referring to in his article actually did occur. I saw it happen firsthand and I lived through it. Why did it happen? Not exactly for the reasons that Touré alludes to, they were far more organic and internal. Between the years of 1986 and 1993 Hip-Hop had this change in core fan base. What happened in Hip-Hop itself during those years holds the key to everything. The first part of this era includes the first Hip-Hop Golden Era which spanned the approximate years of 1986 to 1989. During this era advances in sampling technology, production techniques and a new focus on lyricism all emerged.

MCs like Rakim, Big Daddy Kane, Kool G Rap and afrocentric/conscious groups like Boogie Down Productions, Public Enemy, Stetsasonic, Gang Starr, Jungle Brothers, A Tribe Called Quest and De La Soul, among others, all came into prominence. What we tend to forget is that hardcore/gangsta acts like Schooly D, Just-Ice, Ice T, N.W.A, Geto Boys and many others were popular as well. This is where the naturally fickle nature of urban music reared it’s ugly head.

In urban music (such as Hip-Hop) generations occur in three to five year segments. If a particular style or sub genre of Hip-Hop is hot in 1991 it will fall off sometime between 1994 and 1996 in most cases. Take into account the rise and fall of once super successful acts like Fu-Schnickens and Das-EFX, for example. The first Golden Era of Hip-Hop came to a natural end after four years and settled into crucial space that gave rise to the second (and last) Golden Era of Hip-Hop which lasted between 1992 to 1996 (some include 1997 while I contend it’s part of another era entirely). During the years of 1990 and 1991 the changeover Touré attributes to outside influences other than byproducts caused by internal cultural turmoil occurred.



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  • me

    this article is trash. i didnt read toure’s but i cant see it being any more trash. trash

    • NobodyAskedYou

      Thanks for chiming in, Touré.

    • Mrs_Rance

      I thought I was the only one that noticed.

  • DivaB

    Thought provoking… Hip Hop has many layers, all of which tell a story. Good job.

  • brian


  • love the fact based points on here. hate the unnecessary, cliched, black intellectual “im more right than you are” cattiness. When both articles are combined you have an AMAZING narrative of hip-hop. Great work on the piece, in the future can we figure out less divisive and crabby way of disagreeing or expounding?

  • Publicist

    First, Toure is an Uncle Tom and he is married to a White Woman so I do not listen to anything that nappy headed wanna be Black Conscious Negro has to say

    • Do you know who Uncle Tom was?

    • Mrs_Rance

      Is he an uncle Tom because he has an education and is intelligent and successful? Who do you admire? Uneducated, unaccomplished people? Are you one of those people who call intelligent black people house n*gga’s like you’re a proud field n*gga? Learn your history and stop taking the words of fellow field n*ggas as gospel. All that’s gonna do is keep you in the field and I can assure you none of the slaves aspired to that.

  • very good job breaking apart Toure’s fluff piece and an even better job at tellin the complete story…..

    • Mrs_Rance

      What complete story? He tells tidbits about fairly unknown rappers that he had some inside info on claiming they ran their era. He barely mentioned the big stars. He didn’t even touch on the West Coast rappers that brought gangsta rap to the mainstream. He credits Hammer with introducing white boys to rap. The Beastie Boys and RunDMC attracted them to the genre long before Hammer was even thought of.

      • Apparently I need to hold your hand and walk you through this. The Beastie Boys debuted in 1985/6. Their album DID introduce White America to Hip hop and made a gang of young White kids Hip-Hop fans. What you fail to understand is those same kids later became Run DMC, LL Cool J, Public Enemy, etc. fans and Hip Hop’s fan base back then was STILL mostly Black. The shift Toure & I refer to didn’t happen until the years 1989-1992. I thought I made that point abundantly clear in the 1500 words I wrote already.

  • I think you made great points in regards to the fan base shift but Toure’ s article is more about Hip Hop’s overall embrace of the drug culture. He slammed his peers though, people he has interviewed and claims he has respect for.

    • Mrs_Rance

      Rappers are not Toure’s peers. He’s not a rapper. I didn’t see him slam anyone. He told the truth. Are we not even allowed to say it when the rappers are blatantly doing it? Should we say drug dealing is good? Should we say it’s cool for rappers to claim to have been kingpins when they were corner boys at the most? I’m not getting the slamming part.

  • What Toure did was tell an uncomfortable truth!
    And for the life of me I can’t understand why (and I don’t know who this author is), Black people have such a hard time with truth, responsibility, and accountability!
    I will end with 3 words: Prison Industrial Complex.

    • kingBeno

      No one is ignoring the truth. I am tired of that house n-word Toure telling our story. We all know why hip -hop is where it is and where it came from. That was a break down. Some stuff that doesn’t make it look any better, he neglected to add. I stop caring for Toure after he said something grimey about Pac and his trial. That is “their boy”. He doesn’t belong to us.

    • nycplayboy78

      Not three words but four – Prison Military Industrial Complex…..

      • YoungCosby

        Those are two completely different entities. The Prison Industrial Complex is about the privatization of the prison system and profiting off of prisoners. Military Industrial Complex is about creating fixed situation that forces war mongering leading to defense contracts. One is an internal problem, while the other is more external.

      • nycplayboy78

        But they both rely on sending Black and Brown People in their respective grinders for the benefit of the 1%

  • I do think the record industry played a major part in promoting gangsta rap, which was with us for over 20 years. Toure might dress it up with vocabulary, but at the end of the day he’s
    just another “blame it the white man” type of guy. This article was
    intelligent, insightful and didn’t descend into any hateful rhetoric. Kudos Dart.

    • Mrs_Rance

      You didn’t even read Toure’s article did you? My word.

  • Im just gettin to the second page but already it is a very thought provoking read. Kudos already!!



  • Inspace2020

    This article wreaks of Hip-Hop nerd with mediocre writing skills mad at “sell out” writer for “speaking” for HIp-Hop. Step your writing skills up and maybe you can write “think pieces” for WP or TIme.
    Seriously though, did you actually read the Toure piece? You’re talking about micro events that admittedly did have something to do with the shift but Toure article took a more macro viewpoint of the transition. I agree with what another commenter said, both pieces together tell a fascinating story but the cattiness/jealousy being shown is embarrassing. Get over yourself and become a better writer then maybe you can be the cat that other small time writers can throw stones at.

  • Mrs_Rance

    You could have written this story without mentioning Toure’s article at all. One has nothing to do with the other. You aren’t proving anything he said wrong. You are not even addressing what he said. My problem with Toure’s story is we’ve heard it all before. He must be running out of ideas. But at least he researched to write it. He used facts. Your story, on the other hand, is an opinion piece. Not a fact in the whole thing. Not to mention your very limited view and knowledge of hip hop history. So basically Toure wins this one. He is a professional writer not just an opinionated person with access to spout his opinion to an audience like every person who leaves a comment on this blog. Before you try to come at Toure I’d recommend you step your game up. Maybe it’s too late to get a journalism degree or even attempt to match Toure’s experience, but it would serve you well to take a writing class or two and learn the merits of research and fact checking if you want to even attempt to imply you are on his level.

    • lilkunta

      Why does DArt Adams need a journalism degree? You do realise that Toure himself DOES NOT HAVE A JOURNALISM DEGREE, nor even A COLLEGE DEGREE. Toure is an expert because he calls himself an expert. Toure is singly blaming drugs for hip hops change and this author Dart Adams is right, toure is wrong for that.

    • So…none of what I wrote about happened and I know nothing about Hip-Hop? There are numerous people in Hip-Hop/Rap that would disagree with you. As far as “research” goes there are people who write books about Hip-Hop who ask ME to consult them and I’ve written two curriculums for Hip-Hop courses taught in American colleges, the latest will be @ Oregon State University this next Winter semester. So much for your assumptions about my level of “experience”, ma’am…


      • Teammm

        Stop arguing. I learned a lot from your article AND Toure’s article.

  • DC

    There’s so much wrong with this article. First of all, the notion that Hip Hop cycles in 3-5 year segments is not a fact, that’s an opinion. That sounds like something you made up to sound intelligent. And if that were the case, please explain how the glorification of drug culture has been popular from the early 90s to the present.

    Secondly, acts like NWA and ICE-T were extremely conscious even though they were “gangster.” They showed you the good, the bad, and the ugly. They didn’t rap about how great it was to run around selling drugs.

    Third, all of this first and second golden era talk sounds like you researched hip hop off wikipedia. Thats lame as hell.

    I get where you’re coming from with regard to Hip Hop gaining a larger white audience through acts like MC Hammer, but what you completely disregarded is that “gangsta rap” has sold just as much. And those audiences are mostly white. I don’t see how PM Dawn is relevant at all. Also, magazines follow trends, they don’t set them. So if The Source declared it “The Year Of The Underground,” thats because that music was making a resurgence. And you’re right about why “gangsta rap” and “hardcore rap” initially became popular. It was the polar opposite of popular rap. But you clearly don’t understand how popular rap became gangster rap…which is what Toure’s article is touching on. You really didn’t understand his article at all, and this is the second time in recent months I’ve seen Toure blasted on this blog. Give up. He’s smart and he know’s what he’s talking about. This article is a fail.

    • The 3-5 year segments for Hip-Hop isn’t opinion. If you go back through the individual eras of Hip Hop starting from 1979 when the first Rap records were produced you’ll see it’s fact. Drug culture had been popular in Hip-Hop since 1986, hence why I said the shift happened between 1986 -1993. Also I added that “Gangsta Rap” as it was called was ALREADY POPULAR and/or prominent previous to the shift and I mentioned N.W.A. as being one of the prominent groups right in my article. Much like Toure did you probably missed/glossed over the fact. Read it again…

      No one said Toure wasn’t smart. He’s Bostonian (as am I) so of course he is. He was just mistaken in a key aspect of an article he wrote in a major publication/periodical. I completely understand how “Gangsta Rap” became mainstream but that really wasn’t the sole focus of this piece. The purpose of this piece was where Toure went wrong in his article.

      Does anybody else wanna f*ck with Hollywood Court? © Andre 3000


  • NegRican24

    The only lightbulb i got from this article is that MAYBE if the 3-4 year rules applies then i won’t have to suffer too much longer with N.Minaj and soon after Titty Boy. Here’s hoping!!

  • nancy

    This article didn’t do much to disputes Toure’ claims. I think the article if anything is just an addition to what he said, and I never thought id see the day I would agree with Tuore even if I agreed.

    You can deny the influence music has on our culture. Weather YOU choose to deny it or not you better believe there are those that do recognize the influence and use it against us ! It promotes everything & only that which bring harm to us. S e x, drugs, violence….and what are our number one problems in today’s culture ?

  • Matt9744

    So the guy wrote this article and in saying “gave rise to the second (and last) Golden Era of Hip-Hop which lasted between 1992 to 1996 (some include 1997 while I contend it’s part of another era entirely),” then it clearly means that those trying to push the issue of including 1997 as the last year the Golden Era ended becos of Biggie Smalls who died in 1997 means that Biggie wasn’t after all part of that Golden Era. Take nothing away from Biggie’s talent, but he was still very much NOT part of the elite class of that ended in 1996. So in essence, the writer of this collumn is simply stating what we Pac fans and those that know TRUE HIP HOP that hip hop lost it’s self when Tupac died. That was the end of it all. Biggie was just hype…

  • really thought provoking,i’m 41 and remember all the stages that the author states and I would only give 1 critique, the changes that it had on FEMALE Mc’s.I seen it all to where it is today with wack (yes wack remember I’m 41) flow and it seems like EVERYBODY is trying to sound like lil Wayne but don’t remember b4 wayne there was Nas,before Young Money there was Juice Crew,but u don’t hear that it’s all about the here and now and it waters down the music.I know I’m coming from a “old head” but I still rock “Shook Ones” in the ipod and that’s when u had a dope beats and vicious flow.I have yet to hear the track where u made “the face” it just makes u bop ya head and those are the days i miss

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  • Superabound

    The popularity and promotion of the criminal/gangsta in hip-hop was wholly the deliberate creation of rich jewish music executives in order to further oppress and harm black society. Look at today, when all of Americas financial woes are blamed squarely on poor black people simply wanting to own their own homes, instead of the international Zionist bankers who extracted $21 trillion of wealth from American workers and smuggled it offshore. Realize who your real enemy is.

    • BawonSanmdi

      Speak on it brother, It is a shame that people sit there & ignore the reality that they are surrounded by. Just to be accepted, accepted as what? a stepin fetchit?

  • All I want to say is this: the FIRST song that got white people interested in hip-hop… was Rapper’s Delight.

  • linda

    Great work on the piece, in the future can we figure out less divisive and crabby way of disagreeing or expounding? I am on ( == BlackWhitePlanet– c 0 /m==), met many good guys and beauties, they also
    want to find true love. Now I have found my l’ove , so I recommend it to you, I
    hope everyone can find their best l’ove.Goodluck.Should we say it’s cool for rappers to claim to have been kingpins when
    they were corner boys at the most? I’m not getting the slamming part.

  • BawonSanmdi

    The Europeans that control the music industry knew good & well where Rap was on a conscious level before promoting the “criminal black male” as the thing to be along with sagging pants which ties into homosexual activity & wearing pink. They changed the name to Hip Hop for a reason which was to tell you this type of music is on its “last leg”. The war drugs oops I mean the war on blacks first, brings an expansion to gangsterize the conscious fight the power mindset PE brought to let the masses know “Don’t Believe The Hype” on “Channel Zero”! Their first attempt Vanilla Ice was rejected so In comes Eminem & the propaganda movie 8 mile where he was called rabbit. A white rabbit for people to chase down the rabbit hole to Wonderland. Who was Jay z before Tupac & Biggie? Tupac was the realist of this time that spoke real issues but when people start listening? He had to go. Propaganda works best when it looks real & this is Psychological Warfare.

    The most potent weapon of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed.

    — Steven Biko

  • Habib Jenkins

    It’s funny how all these so-called underground hip hop heads/bloggers are always concerned with what someone on a mainstream level is doing.