Hip Hop With a Cause – America Is Dying Slowly
February 10, 2007, 5:54 pm
Filed under: Album Reviews

Hip hop is not generally considered to be the most socially conscious of musical artforms, particularly in the mass media. Guns, drugs, bitches… these would probably be the type of subject matter that the majority of people would associate most closely with the genre. Of course, those of us in the know realise that although these may be undeniable symbols associated with the music, it would be ridiculous to state that hip hop does not engage in serious social issues and in this case, charity. Part of the Red Hot Organisation’s series of releases that cover a wide range of genres, all of the proceeds from this release went directly to the struggle against AIDS in the US. Judging by the statistics listed in the liner notes, there is no getting away from the powerful grasp that the disease has taken in America: in 1996, ‘AIDS was the leading cause of death for young black men and the number one cause of death for all Americans aged 25-44’. Alarming stuff.

Given that the primary reason for this release was to raise money and awareness of HIV and AIDS, you would not necessarily expect that much from it musically, but this is an enjoyable if somewhat uneven album that features some of underground hip hop’s true heroes. Providing a cross-section of the genre at this time, the album joins together artists from east, west and the south and avoids being overly preachy, with Biz and Chubb Rock informing us that without a rubber, you won’t get a ‘backstage pass’ and Domino reminding us to ‘sport that raincoat’. The fact that these songs can make you dance, laugh and be reminded of a serious issue all at the same time is testament to the power of hip hop and the the artists involved in this project.

Highlights for me are the Prince Paul produced ‘No Rubber, No Backstage Pass’, Wu Tang’s ‘America’ which delivers the message of the album with an intelligent and thought-provoking eloquence and ‘What I Represent’ which sees both OC and Buckwild make a thoroughly enjoyable contribution. Despite a few skips here and there, this is pretty consistent over its sixteen track selection: I was suprised by its overall quality when I got a hold of it recently. Click the link and enjoy.

I had intended to put some decent hours into the blog over the weekend but it doesn’t look like it’s going to happen. Hopefully within the next week I will be dropping the ‘FDB Guitar Mix’ as well as an Alley Al inspired post on the issues surrounding the infamous crossover from underground artist to mass media darling. These to come and more in the future: stay locked and drop some feedback if you’re feeling it.

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