An accidental channel switch on the television brought me face to face with the new hot media phenomenon, a film titled Get rich or die trying, a success story about a rapper whose name reads like currency. This is an example of how people can buy into the success = cash (obtained by any means including crime) equation. Only a great level of struggle and frustration can bring people to that state of denial of right and wrong. I can understand how a ghetto kid faced with no alternative to a life of crime would embrace rap music as a propeller – but let’s get some things straight: it is not a means of salvation. The attitude expressed is based on greed, anger and machismo. It is undeniable that rap serves as a social equalizer, but if the standard of success is to be measured only in terms of sales, there is not much hope for music as a consciousness-raising tool. In fact, this kind of music is by nature a consciousness-lowering tool. It brings you to a place where all values are rejected but for the almighty dollar. I remember a group named The Last Poets, way back when, who originated the rap form, with literary panache and sensitivity. Langston Hughes expresses struggle in his uniquely artful and compassionate style. We have to separate the grain from the shaft.

My philosophy is just the opposite: forget about getting rich and try to survive with consciousness-raising creativity. This approach may seem out of sync with capitalism, but it has its benefits, i.e. after a number of years I can live with myself. I don’t know how what’s his face will feel about himself in a few years once the buzz is over.

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