'I Can’t Breathe:' An Introduction To Activism In The Hip-Hop Community

'I Can’t Breathe:' An Introduction To Activism In The Hip-Hop Community

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At the tail end of 2014, a heated debate over the importance of race in hip-hop reached it’s peak. It had begun in its present form nearly a year earlier when Macklemore and Ryan Lewis won Best Rap Album at the 56th Annual Grammy Awards. Many felt that they had been unfairly given the award over Kendrick Lamar, whos mammoth and eclectic sophomore album had been a favorite to win. In the subsequent debates over the importance of race in hip-hop, Iggy Azalea and Eminem, among others, were also the subjects of some criticism over cultural appropriation, institutional racism in the music industry, and racism implicit in the way these artists presented themselves.

At the end of 2014 rapper and producer Q-Tip took to Twitter in what is known as a Twitter seminar to educate Iggy Azalea (ever stubborn on the subject) on the cultural and historical roots of hip-hop. While this blog post will not attempt to enter this debate, it is important to draw on Q-Tips most important tweet within that seminar: “@IGGYAZALEA HipHop is a artistic and socio-political movement/culture that sprang from the disparate ghettos of NY in the early 70’s.”

Q-Tip’s words ring true to many in the hip-hop community. Born out of the tail end of the Civil Rights Movement, hip-hop has long been a conduit for social commentary and activism. As a representative tool for marginalized communities, hip-hop has been used to voice discontent, anger, sadness and celebration. Yet to outsiders, the genre has instead come to express nothing more than lean-sipping, loud-smoking, bottle-popping and misogyny. What was once a powerful movement has seen a vast expansion with the focus on celebrating black culture (for example) falling to the wayside. Yet the often-vilified genre is still producing an incredible amount of talented artists who aim to be activists through their music, actions and other artistic approaches. “P****, money, weed”, the often quoted hip-hop mantra, is certainly relevant, but it is not the only message in hip-hop as some might suggest.

The state of hip-hop activism in the past 15 years can be broken down into three categories. These three categories are protest songs, social commentary songs, and non-music related public appearances and discourse (shout out to Kanye with this one).

Protest songs, not limited to hip-hop but inherently tied to the genre, are songs that explicitly identify social and political issues on the global, national and state levels (KiD CuDi, Lil’ Wanye, and the Game, as martians, might also suggest an intergalactic level), and then name who they feel is to blame for these issues. They seek to identify not only the problem, but also the perpetrator.

An excellent example of this is Killer Mike’s song "Reagan," in which he indicts Ronald Reagan, Oliver North, the Bushes, Clinton, Obama (the once-revered “hip-hop president”), the economy, and even the hip-hop community itself for crimes against marginalized communities as a whole. Dead Prez’ blames a police state for a slew of issues, including mass incarceration, racism, and murder, in his song "Police State. "Dead Prez’ even goes on to suggest that we work toward a socialist economic structure, where man is equal. In "I Can’t Breathe," Kxng Crooked laments over institutionalized racism in the United States, using the death of Eric Garner at the hands of the NYPD as an example. He evokes an image of the Klu Klux Klan with the lyric:

The grand jury never indicts
The grand dragon’s wearin’ his white, true indeed
.”

He is referring to the fact that the actions of the grand jury reflect the racially motivated actions of the grand dragon, the term for a state leader in the KKK.

Social commentary songs are those that refer to a social justice issue, but don’t necessarily seek to name a perpetrator outright. Instead, the artists lament over issues in order to bring them to light. Consider Chance the Rapper’s "Paranoia," a hidden track on his popular mixtape Acid Rap. "Paranoia" is a personal and moving illustration of the fear and uncertainty of growing up in Chicago. Chance sings in whispered tones:

I know you scared
You should ask us if we scared too
I know you scared
Me too


.”

He invites the average listener into his world, using inclusion to spread the word about violence that doesn’t need to be occurring. J. Cole offers another example of song that uses social commentary as a means of activism with his track "Be Free." Without ever explicitly referencing the shooting of Michael Brown at the hands of a Ferguson, Missouri policeman, J. Cole incorporates eyewitness accounts from Brown’s friend Dorian Johnson to bring us to the tragic events in Ferguson. He is bringing to light the issue of excessive policing. Yet beyond that he is asking for everyone, black or white, to stop killing each other.


Hip-hop artists are known to be extremely vocal beyond the realm of music, delving into areas such as sports and fashion at much higher rates than artists in other genres. The same holds true when it comes to activism beyond music. Non-music related public appearances and discourse is common among rappers, and can often fall into the realm of activism. Rapper Killer Mike, who kills only the mic and the occasional FOX News anchor, is well practiced at making public appearances as an activist and advocate. Following the tragic events in Ferguson, Missouri, Killer Mike appeared on FOX News and CNN (multiple times), with CNN listing his credentials as “rapper and social activist.” He spoke about more than simply Ferguson as a single event, addressing racism and violence on a grander scale.

Childish Gambino has approached non-music activism in another way -- through his Twitter page. In a long series of tweets earlier this year, Childish Gambino remarked on what it means to be white versus what it means to be black in America with lines like, “i hope I’m so big and white my cousin wasn’t shot and stabbed twice in the neck twice last night.” His approach is both poetic and visceral; he uses the repeating line “i hope I’m so big and white” and follows it with a remark about black and white experiences. While unrelated to his music, it is a powerful tool for bringing awareness to an issue, and places a celebrities face to a movement.

Activism in music in general has always been a conduit for social discourse, hip-hop music is especially important. Hip-hop, since its inception, is inherently tied to marginalized groups. It has moved beyond advocating for civil rights in the United States, popping up in places such as the Middle East as a form of protest for those living under authoritarian rule. Due to its ties to marginalized groups, hip-hop has a better chance at mobilizing communities and making them understand how issues affect them and how they might voice their grievances.

It is not to say that hip-hop is without its flaws. I recently wrote a short piece detailing homophobia in hip-hop, and volumes could be written about misogyny in lyrics. These are issues with which the hip-hop community must reconcile. Yet we must not forget that there is a power in hip-hop that is unparalleled. More artists need to tap into that potential, and perhaps stop making songs about f****** groupies.

Cover Image Credit: YouTube

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Your Wait time At Theme Parks Is Not Unfair, You're Just Impatient

Your perceived wait time is always going to be longer than your actual wait time if you can't take a minute to focus on something other than yourself.

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Toy Story Land at Disney's Hollywood Studios "unboxed" on June 30, 2018. My friend and I decided to brave the crowds on opening day. We got to the park around 7 AM only to find out that the park opened around 6 AM. Upon some more scrolling through multiple Disney Annual Passholder Facebook groups, we discovered that people were waiting outside the park as early as 1 AM.

We knew we'd be waiting in line for the bulk of the Toy Story Land unboxing day. There were four main lines in the new land: the line to enter the land; the line for Slinky Dog Dash, the new roller coaster; the line for Alien Spinning Saucers, the easier of the new rides in the land; Toy Story Mania, the (now old news) arcade-type ride; and the new quick-service restaurant, Woody's Lunchbox (complete with grilled cheese and "grown-up drinks").

Because we were so early, we did not have to wait in line to get into the land. We decided to ride Alien Spinning Saucers first. The posted wait time was 150 minutes, but my friend timed the line and we only waited for 50 minutes. Next, we tried to find the line for Slinky Dog Dash. After receiving conflicting answers, the runaround, and even an, "I don't know, good luck," from multiple Cast Members, we exited the land to find the beginning of the Slinky line. We were then told that there was only one line to enter the park that eventually broke off into the Slinky line. We were not about to wait to get back into the area we just left, so we got a Fastpass for Toy Story Mania that we didn't plan on using in order to be let into the land sooner. We still had to wait for our time, so we decided to get the exclusive Little Green Man alien popcorn bin—this took an entire hour. We then used our Fastpass to enter the land, found the Slinky line, and proceeded to wait for two and a half hours only for the ride to shut down due to rain. But we've come this far and rain was not about to stop us. We waited an hour, still in line and under a covered area, for the rain to stop. Then, we waited another hour and a half to get on the ride from there once it reopened (mainly because they prioritized people who missed their Fastpass time due to the rain). After that, we used the mobile order feature on the My Disney Experience app to skip part of the line at Woody's Lunchbox.

Did you know that there is actually a psychological science to waiting? In the hospitality industry, this science is the difference between "perceived wait" and "actual wait." A perceived wait is how long you feel like you are waiting, while the actual wait is, of course, the real and factual time you wait. There are eight things that affect the perceived wait time: unoccupied time feels longer than occupied time, pre-process waits feel longer than in-process waits, anxiety makes waits feel longer, uncertain waits are longer than certain waits, unexplained waits are longer than explained waits, unfair waits are longer than equitable waits, people will wait longer for more valuable service and solo waiting feels longer than group waiting.

Our perceived wait time for Alien Spinning Saucers was short because we expected it to be longer. Our wait for the popcorn seemed longer because it was unoccupied and unexplained. Our wait for the rain to stop so the ride could reopen seemed shorter because it was explained. Our wait between the ride reopening and getting on the coaster seemed longer because it felt unfair for Disney to let so many Fastpass holders through while more people waited through the rain. Our entire wait for Slinky Dog Dash seemed longer because we were not told the wait time in the beginning. Our wait for our food after placing a mobile order seemed shorter because it was an in-process wait. We also didn't mind wait long wait times for any of these experiences because they were new and we placed more value on them than other rides or restaurants at Disney. The people who arrived at 1 AM just added five hours to their perceived wait

Some non-theme park examples of this science of waiting in the hospitality industry would be waiting at a restaurant, movie theater, hotel, performance or even grocery store. When I went to see "Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom," the power went out in the theater right as we arrived. Not only did we have to wait for it to come back and for them to reset the projectors, I had to wait in a bit of anxiety because the power outage spooked me. It was only a 30-minute wait but felt so much longer. At the quick-service restaurant where I work, we track the time from when the guest places their order to the time they receive their food. Guests in the drive-thru will complain about 10 or more minute waits, when our screens tell us they have only been waiting four or five minutes. Their actual wait was the four or five minutes that we track because this is when they first request our service, but their perceived wait begins the moment they pull into the parking lot and join the line because this is when they begin interacting with our business. While in line, they are experiencing pre-process wait times; after placing the order, they experience in-process wait times.

Establishments in the hospitality industry do what they can to cut down on guests' wait times. For example, theme parks offer services like Disney's Fastpass or Universal's Express pass in order to cut down the time waiting in lines so guests have more time to buy food and merchandise. Stores like Target or Wal-Mart offer self-checkout to give guests that in-process wait time. Movie theaters allow you to check in and get tickets on a mobile app and some quick-service restaurants let you place mobile or online orders. So why do people still get so bent out of shape about being forced to wait?

On Toy Story Land unboxing day, I witnessed a woman make a small scene about being forced to wait to exit the new land. Cast Members were regulating the flow of traffic in and out of the land due to the large crowd and the line that was in place to enter the land. Those exiting the land needed to wait while those entering moved forward from the line. Looking from the outside of the situation as I was, this all makes sense. However, the woman I saw may have felt that her wait was unfair or unexplained. She switched between her hands on her hips and her arms crossed, communicated with her body language that she was not happy. Her face was in a nasty scowl at those entering the land and the Cast Members in the area. She kept shaking her head at those in her group and when allowed to proceed out of the land, I could tell she was making snide comments about the wait.

At work, we sometimes run a double drive-thru in which team members with iPads will take orders outside and a sequencer will direct cars so that they stay in the correct order moving toward the window. In my experience as the sequencer, I will inform the drivers which car to follow, they will acknowledge me and then still proceed to dart in front of other cars just so they make it to the window maybe a whole minute sooner. Not only is this rude, but it puts this car and the cars around them at risk of receiving the wrong food because they are now out of order. We catch these instances more often than not, but it still adds stress and makes the other guests upset. Perhaps these guests feel like their wait is also unfair or unexplained, but if they look at the situation from the outside or from the restaurant's perspective, they would understand why they need to follow the blue Toyota.

The truth of the matter is that your perceived wait time is always going to be longer than your actual wait time if you can't take a minute to focus on something other than yourself. We all want instant gratification, I get it. But in reality, we have to wait for some things. It takes time to prepare a meal. It takes time to experience a ride at a theme park that everyone else wants to go on. It takes time to ring up groceries. It takes patience to live in this world.

So next time you find yourself waiting, take a minute to remember the difference between perceived and actual wait times. Think about the eight aspects of waiting that affect your perceived wait. Do what you can to realize why you are waiting or keep yourself occupied in this wait. Don't be impatient. That's no way to live your life.

Cover Image Credit:

Aranxa Esteve

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Time is Finite

Watch the clock.

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I obsess over time. I have always planned schedules, made up routines, and calculated where and when I'll be at certain times, no matter how far into the future. During the course of my day, I figure out what tomorrow will be like and what events will occur. I think of all the things that will eventually happen and even the possibilities or unexpected occurrences. No matter what happens, I have at least an inkling of what my time-frame is to complete specific tasks. I know what will come and when.

Even in a class, I keep my eye on the clock. My mind may drift off into my own "schedule land," in which I think of the rest of the day. Who will I eat with? When should I go to sleep? How much work will I get done? All of these questions and more pop up in my head, and it can be overwhelming, and yet, I find it to be extremely useful at the same time. Yes, I may cause a headache or two from my over-analytical tendencies, but at least I have an idea, a prediction, an expectation of what I will do next or where I will go. It heightens my motivation; it gives me more determination in order to succeed and complete my day in a productive manner.

My obsession, and yes I call it that, may seem anxiety-ridden or even psychotic, but my thoughts about time focus on how much I have yet to do even if I have done so much up to this point. While I acknowledge my prior experiences, accomplishments, and even failures, I still have so much more I have to do. This is not a matter of wanting either. This is a need, a necessity. The problem is that time is finite.

I cannot control the speed of time, no one can, but I and everyone else can utilize it while we have it. This, in effect, will allow us some sort of manipulation over the passing of time in our own individual lives. If you have a goal, whether big or small, it can be reached simply by you acting on it now. Develop a mini plan based around the events that might happen, and make sure there are certain "checkpoints" to attain. Think about how much time will be used in between each checkpoint, accounting for successes and downfalls as well. Once you frame your work, you can start, and start immediately. There is nothing worse than an improper, late, inaccurate schedule or conception of time. You have all of these goals and events listed and ready to go, so start now while you have the most time to do it all because if you miss something, you'll regret it.

I don't mean to scare you, but this is the reality of life. We live in a finite world: surrounded by finite things and people and opportunities. We can stop whatever we're doing, but time will never cease, so while it is still progressing and while the earth is still rotating, we need to do what we have to in order to get to the point of happiness and personal acceptance with our lives and our successes. Stay alert, and keep watch of the clock because every tick and tock and pendulum swing matters.

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https://www.pexels.com/photo/assorted-silver-colored-pocket-watch-lot-selective-focus-photo-859895/

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