On the Question of CulturePosted: January 29, 2017 | |
If you’re down with the culture, hip hop culture that is, then you’ve probably been bumping the new Migos album, if that trap sound is to your taste. After having given it a good listen, personally I think a number of the tracks are well-crafted. As far as the release as a body of work, it’s solid. I say that because the album title itself manages to conjure up the question of culture. For any trend observer, it’s quite obvious the hip hop genre and elements associated with it have penetrated many cultures beyond the black.
I came across a remark one of the group members made which got me thinking and ultimately sparked the idea for this piece. In a statement, he reportedly said: “It’s time to let the culture be known. It’s time to claim it.” I found that particularly fascinating and here’s why:
Firstly, let me pose a question. What does culture mean to you? If you’re wondering what my answer to that question is, then let me elaborate: aside from the obvious which is – everything relating to ideas, arts, social behaviours, and customs; personally I feel it’s much to do with ownership. That’s why I can relate to the aforementioned statement in quotes. What is interesting is that the question of ownership, as a black man writing this from my own personal observations of self and kin, is one we have not given enough thought, if our collective actions are anything to go by. But the fact that there are more conversation around it signifies a forward step in the direction of gaining some perspective and hopefully the betterment of our grasp of that particular subject since it has great implications beyond the scope of this article and which I can’t claim to have the expertise to expatiate on and consequently no intention of asserting because that is up to the people to contemplate, debate and ultimately act upon.
I’m no expert but in my humble opinion I believe that it’s time for a shift. Time for us to think more broadly as a nation of people however geographically dispersed. Time to be aware of our position relative to power. In essence, it’s time for Africans and those of African descent to rise up and begin to establish the basis for equal equity in today’s civilisation.
I remember a time when mama asked me what I wanted from an education, and what I was to do with it, and who I was hoping to become as a result of its attainment. I told her: “Not a superstar but a disrupter, an African innovator, the black Jack Ma” and what I meant is simply – something akin to what he is to China. She replied: “Now you’re talking my son. Go ahead, explore everything the world has to offer!”
Years later, after having traveled to other parts of the world, mixed and mingled with people from different cultures, and even having met many of my own people who are like-minded, I’m more than ever convinced that there’s still a greater need for us, especially the people of Africa, particularly the youth, who make up the world’s largest young demographic, to realise that success doesn’t equate to fame. There’s so much more we can offer outside our most notable sphere of influence which is admittedly, predominantly in the entertainment industry. But for that to occur on a larger scale than is currently, and by the numbers necessary to secure not only our advancement but our very livelihoods, then we need to adjust our reference points and widen our sources of inspirations.
For clarity’s sake, I’m not insinuating that there aren’t African people, or those of African descent who have made great achievements outside entertainment. But there’s need for a change in our attitudes and expectations for ourselves in order that we don’t continue to fall victim to ‘culture vultures’ and actually see our creativity and ingenuity translate into the upliftment of our collective condition which currently, at this point in history is still in a state that is dire. Because even though we are influencers of today’s globalised culture, we don’t have the systematic structures in place to make us bona fide beneficiaries.
© Heath Muchena, 2017
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