The Myth of the Hip Hop Protest
By: Adisa BanjokoThe Bishop of Hip Hop

Any people, anywhere being inclined and having the power have the right to rise up and shake off the existing government, and force a new one that suits them better.”- Abraham Lincoln

well my people, it looks like the president has really decided to do this. We’re gonna go to war. The economy sucks, jobs rates are low, home buying costs are rising and the educations system is in TOTAL shambles…..and still they build more prisons.

The other day my wife and I were watching Malcolm X. I don’t know how many of you have seen it, but I encourage you to check it out again, even if you have already. We were watching a scene where Malcolm was talking about violence as he and the beloved Betty Shabazz were watching TV. The civil rights leaders and the general Black population of the time were shown getting bitten by dogs, getting sprayed with hoses by the fire dept. and get brutalized by the police. It’s still shocking to witness today. It was then that my wife pointed out a real eye opener in terms of what makes a protest effective for the people.

My wife turned to me and said “See, that’s why today’s protests don’t work anymore.”

“What are you talking about?” I asked.

“Look, in those days, thing were bad, and the people decided they would go out and do what they had to do to bring attention to their cause. When the media played the scenes of these people getting brutalized, it slowly softened the hearts of the general public. It made people think about the state of the country. It made all people come to grips with where the country was racially and socially. It’s because these people did their protesting on their own terms.”

“Today” she continued ”if people decide they want protest, they have to go get a permit by the city. Then all the vendors set up shop to sell their t-shirts and whatever. The hot dog guy gets his permit so ’the revolution’ can have some nourishment. We then find out, that we have to break down the stage and get everybody out of the plaza by 4pm. Because the clean up crews will show up at 4:30.…that’s not a protest” she concluded.

My mind spun. She was right. All these years most of what we THINK is a protest….is just state sponsored, backed and planned public events. The concept of Hip Hop protests, is in reality, a myth.

How different would the outcome be if someone said “At 12 pm on Tuesday 100,000 of us are meeting on Market St. No permits, no t-shirt sales, no hot dogs…just the people.” I wonder how many would show up then? Would you show up? Only you know the real answer.

Because if you DID show up, that changes everything. You might lose your job if they got involved. You might get arrested. You might miss a big test in math (awww, nobody would mind that). But you might be seen on TV by family members who might oppose this kind of protest. You might get kicked out, or evicted. Would you do that to keep the draft from coming back? To keep the body bags of our young people from piling up at the airports in droves? Would you do that show that blood is more precious than oil? Because that’s what it’s bout to come to.

But beyond that, a protest of that kind would mess up traffic. It might hurt some businesses that day. People who did not participate might be late for work, or late coming home. They would watch to news to see what all the commotion was about. When they got home, they’d see you on the screen, fighting for what you thought was right and just. THAT, is how you get your cause heard by the masses.

But I don’t think Hip Hop is ready for that level of protest activity. I don’t think the Hip Hop community is dedicated enough to that kind of sacrifice. We don’t have what the panthers had in them. We don’t have what George Jackson, Assata Shakur, Angela Davis and Geronimo Pratt had in them.

I hope I’m wrong. But either way, we’re about to find out, because the war is going down. Below, I wrote some ideas that I think can help those who love Hip Hop show solidarity in protesting against the war:

A Comprehensive Strategy for Using the Elements of Hip Hop for Protest Purposes

1. MC’s: start rhyming about the war. You don’t have to do it on every song, but you can dedicate 8 bars to the cause every 3 songs. Clear Channel is probably not playing you anyway, so don’t worry about a lack of rotation. Invite the b-boys to your show and share the stage.

2. B-boys: Go to the protest functions in your local areas….set up shop and do what you do best. You might lay out your linoleum or cardboard and tag it with anti-war slogans.

3. Graf writers: You guys have been, in my opinion, the backbone of the anti establishment mindset in Hip Hop. But if you are gonna risk getting arrested anyway….don’t just run around scrawling your names on wall in these times…If you are gonna go out there, teach the people. Use your art to inspire the quest for justice. Throw up anti-war slogans, quotes from great speeches, and do portraits of revolutionaries instead of just characters.

4. DJ’s: On your mixtapes and in the clubs, dedicate 20-30 seconds of every hour from your set to play clips from MLK, Malcolm X, Louis Farrakhan, Huey P Newton etc…..Throw in more Paris, PE, Dead Prez, The Coup, PRT, Zion I, Bas One, Jurrasic 5, Talib Kweli, Mos Def, and KRS ONE in the clubs, on your mixtapes and in mix shows…….throw old school conscious acapellas over today’s hip hop beats…. And don’t even try to tell me people don’t dance to the conscious stuff…..“Break the Grip of Shame” will tear up the club in any part of the country.

5. Hip Hop Print Media: Make more room in your publications for social commentary. You don’t have to become “The Commemorator” to have an public opinion section in the mag. Open your hearts to the needs of the community. Also, try to chill out on hyping up disputes between rappers. Use your publications as tools of peace, rather than platforms for these brother to try to out embarrass one another. It would strengthen the community and your readership if you did that.

I also included a list of books, music, and movies I think people should be taking in right now to keep their mind open to the realities of right now and to defrag their minds with much of the propaganda you see on the TV and hear on the radio. If you are in the Bay Area, do not get your books from major chain book outlets. Take the time to go to Marcus Books or whatever local mom and pop bookstore is in your area. Support the people who were putting out the real wisdom from day one.

The Bishop’s Books and Beats for the Kinds in the Streets

Top Ten Books For Those Looking for Clarity in These Times

1. Autobiography of Malcolm X- Alex Haley
2. To Kill A Blackman- Louis Lomax
3. Masters of War- Michael I. Handel
4. The Art of Peace- Morihei Ueshiba
5. Muhammad: His Stories Based on the Earliest Teachings- Martin Lings
6. Lest We Forget: White Hate Crimes- Alphonso Pinkney
7. The Four Agreements- Don Miguel Ruiz
8. Yes, Yes Ya’ll- Charlie Ahearn
9. The Art of War- Sun Tzu
10. Assata-- Assata Shakur

Top Ten Hip Hop Albums to Buy During These Times

1. It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back- Public Enemy
2. Death Certificate- Ice Cube
3. Straight Outta Compton- N.W.A.
4. O.G.- Ice T
5. Lets Get Free- Dead Prez
6. By all Means Necessary- Boogie Down Productions
7. The Devil Made Me Do It- Paris
8. Quality- Talib Kweli
9. New World Order- Poor Righteous Teachers
10. Illmatic- Nas

Five Other LP’s to Stay Focused in These Times

1. Breaking Atoms- Main Source
2. 18th Letter- Rakim
3. Organized Konfusion- Organized Konfusion
4. Done By the Forces of Nature- Jungle Brothers
5. All Hail the Queen- Queen Latifah

Five Non Hip-Hop LP’s to Reflect On

1. Anything by Israel Vibrations
2. Anything by Earth Wind and Fire
3. Any John Coltrane LP
4. Stings Greatest Hits
5. Anything by Nikki Giovanni

Six Movies or Documentaries to Watch

1. American History X (Ed Norton is the bomb)
2. Eye’s on the Prize (doc. On civil rights movement)
3. Malcolm X (Spike and Denzel at their best)
4. Hurricane (Denzel at his 2nd best)
5. Day of the Gun (doc. By KRON News in S.F.)
6. Style Wars (hip hop doc. Very dope)

As a generation, as community, this war will be our defining moment. We have done much, considering the kinds of protesting we have been doing….It has done us a lot of good, in many respects…But whatever we have, or lack, will be exposed right now. After all the sacrifices that were made by those before us, I pray we come out on top. And if you are upset about the reality of war right now, try to remember this anger the next time a voter registration drive is in your area…We might have been able to avoid all this if a few more thousand people VOTED, instead of just yapped with their mouths. Lets do all we can, to save every innocent child, woman and man.

Adisa Banjoko can be reached at :