Saturday, June 05, 2004

Thanks, but no thanks, Ronald Reagan

“All right people, ease on through, Rappin’ Ron Reagan’s got cheese for u…”
“Rappin’ Ron Reagan”

“Don’t push me cuz I’m close to the edge, I’m trying not to lose my head….”
"The Message"-Melle Mel

"We got actors runnin' for president, so what the hell is wrong with this government?"
"Sign of the Times"-Cowboy

Back in 1984, I used to listen to hip-hop in my room at my home in a small town in Connecticut. There was one song I heard on a college station that played hip hop, I think the station was WESU at Wesleyan, Connecticut, that I have on tape and I don’t know the name of the artist but it was called “Yeah ,You Can Do It”. It was a really positive song, pre-Public Enemy, about black people uniting and doing what they have to do to reach their goals.

The chorus went:

“Yeah you can do it,
it don’t matter if your young or old,
Yeah you can do it,
Focus now and achieve your goals,
Yeah you can do it,
it don’t matter if your young or old,
Yeah you can do it,
And if you do it you’re solid gold.”

The song addressed social issues, saying:

“Puberty, poverty stopping blacks…”

The song also gave props to Martin Luther King and Muhammad Ali, and social conditions, but they condemned Ronald Reagan. They chastised him for cutting welfare, saying it hurt blacks in the urban community. Towards the end of the song, they warn of Reagan’s BS, saying,

“Never let Ronald Reagan fool your behind”

When I get the tape out of storage I will be able to break it down better. But I bring up this to say how Ronald Reagan and his social policies affected black people so much in the early 80’s that he had such an immense influence on the formation of early 80’s hip hop. This was music that could quote Ronald Reagan, make fun of him, and parody him (remember “Rappin’ Ron Reagan?), while at the same time allowing people to vent their anger towards him. In the movie “Boys In the Hood”, there was a scene in which the main characters where children and they walked into an alley and saw a poster of Ronald Reagan. It had bullet holes in it. The youngsters went on to put a middle finger up at the poster. Such was the response to the Ronald Reagan era, or should I say error?

As I sit and watch the Ronald Reagan tributes on C-SPAN, I have to wonder how much people will remember how much Ronald Reagan was instrumental in making hip hop the angry, political music it was? How the behind the scenes schemes of the Reagan era US government and the CIA put crack on the streets and an AK-47 in every gangbanger’s hand in the late 80’s, setting the stage for NWA’s classic “NWA and the Posse", leading up to NWA’s “Straight Out of Compton” and the formation of “gangsta rap”.? How the social policies and the resulting destruction of every urban in the USA lead to the increased political consciousness of the late 80’s and early 90’s? To me, it all goes hand in hand.

So, if anything, we all have not only Kool Herc, Melle Mel, Afrika Bambatta, Russell Simmons, RUN DMC, BDP and Grandmaster Caz to thank for hip hop’s formation, we also have Ronald Reagen to thank for making everything so messed up in the first place and giving people a reason to unify, stop the violence, find out who we really were, and take the gold off our neck.

But no thanks to Ronald Reagan for the brothers who died in the mess that he created in every city in the USA.

From “Rappin’ Ron Reagan”

Ronnie’s the boss, he wears the pants
That man of mine sure loves to dance,
Got a good record on civil rights
My youngest song grew up in tights…..

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