This time, the messenger is a kid named Eminem, who tells hardcore stories about a different part
of the dis-
enfranchised America you would prefer to ignore, just like the ghetto. Only this time it's the trailer park.


Dre Is The Architect Of Not One
But Two Rap Revolutions
By Michelle S.

After a few years of chart domination by over-sampled production and Dr. Seuss-caliber rhyming, the popular curve of hip-hop music is starting to swing back to gritty realness. Commercialized rap is being displaced by a new breed of MCs—ones who actually have something to SAY with their music.

The most notable example of this new "trend" is the incredible success of Eminem. But to demonstrate how clearly hip-hop has come full circle, we must look at how history is repeating itself.

Because behind it all is Dr. Dre.

Dre was a major force in putting rap on the national radar in 1986 with his legendary crew NWA. He produced the landmark album "Straight Outta Compton," a record that, at the time, completely tapped into youth consciousness by giving the world an unflinching glance at the hardcore reality of inner-city life.

While the boyz in the hood championed the album as true to the streets, the heat spread by word of mouth to the suburbs. White kids feverishly snatched up copies of the ultimate ghetto experience. That's when the media immediately began their assault to discredit the group as juvenile delinquents.

The first order of business was to squash the outcry around the track "Fuck Tha Police," which dealt with the subject of police brutality—a phenomenon that had been covered up for years. It became most controversial song of that era, denounced by every law-enforcement and community organization in the country. It was also one of the most prophetic hip-hop records to have ever been dropped. NWA was tellin' you the real shit before Rodney King, before Amadou Diallo, before Rampart and countless other violent episodes hit our front pages.

Lacing those inner-city messengers with phat beats to get 'em heard was Dr. Dre. Fast-forward to the year 2000 and "The Marshall Mathers LP," as Dre's production taps into youth consciousness with a whole new generation of music consumers.

But this time, the messenger is a white boy—a kid named Eminem who tells hardcore stories about a different part of the disenfranchised America you would prefer to ignore, just like the ghetto. Only this time it's the trailer park. History, folks, is about to repeat itself.

Eminem has a hold on the hood AND the suburbs, just like NWA did. His rhymes are clever, funny and thought-provoking, just as Ice Cube's and Eazy-E's were back in the day. And although he's white, this MC has mad street credibility among the black and Latino kids, cuz he possesses a lightning-fast flow never before heard in hip-hop music.

Now, right on cue, comes the mainstream media's misunderstanding of—or maybe we should say deliberate attack on—this modern-day street poetry called hip-hop. Already, news organizations are trying to take Eminem out, portraying him as a menace to society. His fury and misogyny is "poisoning the minds of your children." Meanwhile, two angry kids whose parents lived that convenient life of American Denial murdered 11 innocent people in a high school. No, Eminem is not poisoning youth. He's simply communicating with them.

Go ahead and look the other way, like you did with NWA when they talked about the cops. As usual, the media tells you who to blame for all your ills, singling out the hip-hop messenger as the cause instead of dealing with what they actually represent: the result. Eminem sprung from the American underclass, the product of poverty, neglect, abuse and the rampant infiltration of drugs in our society. And he's telling you a story about all the rage and hopelessness attached to that futile existence.

But the truth that's even harder to swallow is that Eminem speaks about widespread oppression that is now not just race-oriented but class-oriented. That kind of reality is positively frightening to the establishment, especially in an election year. So his message must be denounced or dismissed immediately. The parallels between Eminem and NWA are so obvious, it's ridiculous.

Dr Dre has once again taken hip-hop to the forefront of American consciousness. With Eminem, he has helped smash down color lines in a music community that has never embraced a white MC before. Plus, their partnership has also almost single-handedly taken back the art of the rhyme, making that skill important again. The real messages are getting HEARD again. And they are rattling the establishment again. Their success is also teaching a whole new generation of music consumers the difference between Mos Def and Common on one side and Puffy and Mase on the other.

Ironically, after so many white rappers have played themselves trying to hang in this game, it's Eminem who'll be opening doors for skilled MCs from the underground like Xzibit, Ras Kas, Chino XL and Canibus, who now have a better shot at being embraced on a mass level. And through music, producer Dre has successfully raised up the voices of his underprivileged peers, delivering their brutal stories through writing and rhyme to two different generations of hip-hop youth.

We owe this man some respect for taking a stand. He is the architect behind our millennium's new beat poets.

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