It was recently announced that Lauryn Hill’s The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill would be inducted into the the Library of Congress’ National registry. The registry allows 25 recordings that are “culturally, historically and aesthetically significant” onto its annual list. This honor bears a mainstream significance that is rarely attributed to Hip Hop music. Lauryn’s nomination bears several points to be acknowledged.
The Library of Congress and Hip Hop
Only 5 Hip Hop recordings have been added to the registry to date: Grandmaster Flash’s The Message; Tupac’s Dear Mama; Public Enemy’s Fear of a Black Planet; De La Soul’s 3 Feet High and Rising; and The Sugarhill Gang’s Rapper’s Delight. The grave lack of inclusion for Hip Hop music echoes the time when Hip Hop was an unaccredited source of creativity and musical artistry. The fact that Hip Hop has become by and far the largest influence upon mainstream music that the world has ever known has not stopped the efforts of the mainstream to marginalize and pigeonhole the genre has an irrelevant force in music history and relevance. Therefore, anytime that the registry recognizes the significance of a Hip Hop recording as “culturally, historically and aesthetically relevant to the American canon of music it is a extreme honor. However, this goes on to illustrate the need for Black culture to not measure itself against the mainstream acceptance and accolades.
Hip Hop has for quite some time proved itself to be a force to be reckoned with in the music that is unparalleled in influence, success and poignancy. The fact that Lauryn’s album is being included is on one hand a huge accreditation to here artistic offering and simultaneously evidence of the fact that these mainstream measures of success are ridden with ulterior motives and false acknowledgements. I can think of a dozen Hip Hop recordings that should be in the Library of Congress’ registry that are not. And, furthermore, the fact that Ben E. King’s Stand By Me having just made the list from its 1961 recording is more than evidence that the measurements of Black contributions to music are evaluated far differently from that of it White counterparts is evident.
The problem is that while the mainstream would like our country to believe that it is objective and altruistic in its evaluations, nothing could be further from the truth. In a truly post race society there would be no special distinction made for such an action. It would be a given that all American music of any genre produced by any artist of any nationality would be evaluated the same. It would be a given that all cultures would be celebrated equally. It would be a given that greatness would be measured by a fair standard free of propaganda and bias. But such is not the America in which we live. Our America is ridden with
The point is that while some American institutions survive such as the Library of Congress registry, The Oscars and others, these opinions cannot be expected to reflect the truth about America and its analysis. The inclusion of some Hip Hop albums tells us that our country is at a place where they can no longer discredit Black contributions to American history; however, the fact that these contributions are undervalued and taken out of their context of greatness (until decades later) signifies the lack of equality that is viewed as acceptable. In truth this is evidence that Black America cannot and should not measure itself against a standard that was designed exclude it. Lauryn’s inclusion may make headlines; however, what those headlines fail to explore is the reason that Lauryn’s inclusion is a newsworthy piece of information. Our problem has been the assimilation of “American” ideology that dictates to us how we should feel about ourselves and our culture. So while The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill‘s inclusion in the Library of Congress is in some ways an achievement it is simultaneously a message: we have not come as far as we would like to believe.
I’m not sayin; I’m just sayin,
An Angry Black Man