Blame for negative messaging in hip-hop should start at the top

This is part three of a theGrio series on hip-hop and its cultural impact on Black America. Click here for part one of the series.

Is hip-hop destroying black America?  To answer this question fairly, we must first discard the distorted image of hip hop that mainstream media has passed off for the past 20 years.

Hip-hop is a movement consisting of four main artistic elements: DJ’ing, rapping, breaking and graffiti.  But at its core, it is a philosophy based on the idea that self expression is an integral part of the pursuit of peace, love and unity. It was created by young visionaries who tapped into their greatest potential and gave birth to one of the most important cultural phenomenon the world has ever seen.

Shaped by the spirit of Africa, The Carribean and black America, it is a culture that binds us under the belief that we must strive for excellence through our respective art forms, as well as within our souls.  It’s a lifestyle that unites people from the U.S to Nigeria, France to Brazil, Japan to Mexico, often unable to speak each other’s language but fully capable of understanding all that makes us who we are.

True hip-hop is the MC who raps from the heart or enlightens the people.  It is the DJ who speaks with his hands. It is the 6-year-old B-girl who break dances like her life depends on it or a group of young dancers whose moves defy gravity effortlessly. It is the graffiti artist whose shapes and colors breathe new life onto gritty city landscapes or the beatboxer who manipulates sounds like a one-man orchestra. It’s the aspiring politician who genuinely reflects the people she represents, the progressive educators who give voiceless youth a platform to express their deepest thoughts and the grassroots activists who launch campaigns against the negative messages promoted by  the music industry.

For millions of people here and abroad, that is hip-hop, the way it was meant to be…and it is NOT destroying black America.

If this doesn’t sound like the kind of hip-hop you’re familiar with, blame the music industry and mainstream media for bombarding you with a steady diet of rappers talking about drugs, sex and violence for over two decades. Blame MTV, BET, and other networks for trying to redefine what hip-hop is in order to sell it to unsuspecting consumers.

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Sebastien Elkouby is a Hip-Hop Culture historian and award-winning educator.  He is responsible for the 2013 campaign to promote conscious rap music. Check out his educational program, Global Awareness Through Hip Hop Culture and his blog, Contact him at or on Twitter @SebIsHipHop,