How Touré Failed Hip-Hop AND America
The cover of issue #39 (December ’92) of The Source declared 1992 “The Year Of The Underground.” From that point on if you weren’t hard, reppin’ the streets, keepin’ it real, smoking blunts, drinking 40’s, playing ceelo, selling crack, bustin’ guns or just keeping it raw or gutter you were seen as not being down with “real Hip-Hop” by 1993. Touré completely glossed over these occurrences in the world of Hip-Hop making it seem as if these changes in Rap and it’s culture occurred almost overnight and they were directly affected by the government’s so called “War On Drugs.”
Touré didn’t even mention how the Time Warner/Cop Killer Controversy or the LA Riots in 1992 affected labels staying away from signing conscious rappers and Rap groups in the following years (case in point, Paris’ Bush Killa LP being released later as Sleeping With The Enemy on his own Scarface label after being dropped by a major). If you were an outsider to Hip-Hop culture and weren’t a fan through this tumultuous time you’d simply take Touré at his word, seeing as how he’s the “expert.” That would be dangerous and ill advised to say the least.
Let’s finish with Touré’s constant mention of Katheryn Russell-Brown’s “criminalblackman” and it’s application to how Hip-Hop artists (and by extension all Black men) are viewed. The thugged out image that pervaded Hip-Hop actually began as an adverse reaction to the Pop Rappers in gaudy sequined outfits that supposedly sold out the culture. From 1992 to 1996, Hip-Hop went in the opposite direction with it’s sound, look and overall aesthetic (as I previously established it always did naturally). That’s NOT to say that corporations and labels didn’t exploit this supposed “criminalblackman” image, focus on it, leading others to adopt it and reap untold fortunes from it.
In conclusion, Touré admirably found a way to simultaneously simplify and complicate the shift of Hip-Hop’s fanbase and focus during a crucial phase “at the same damn time.” For that he failed.