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Wynton Marsalis vs. Hip-Hop: Is Hip-Hop Music More Damaging than the Legacy of Confederate Statues?

Jazz musician Wynton Marsalis said Hip-Hop music is more damaging to the African-American community than Confederate statues, which represents leaders who fought to preserve slavery.

During a podcast episode by journalist Jonathan Capehart of the Washington Post entitled “Cape Up.” Respected Jazz musician Wynton Marsalis said Hip-Hop music has done more damage to the African-American community than the statue of American and Confederate Commander Robert E. Lee.

Lee’s duty was to defend his native Virginia. He saw himself as a Virginian first, and an American second. Lee defended southerners right to enslave millions of their fellow human beings. He fought for the American flag, but he also fought against it, which made him a traitor of the United States of America.

Marsalis said Hip-Hop has been a negative influence on the African-American community since the mid to late 1980s when the music genre was still in its infancy, and apparently in 2018, he still feels the same way.

I’m not familiar with Marsalis’ history with Hip-Hop music, but some of these artists come from different backgrounds and some express their experiences, thoughts, social-political views, philosophies, and ideologies through the art of music.

Over the last few years, Hip-Hop music has been dumb-down without much originality. During the 1980s and 1990s era, artists were applauded for being original, creative, and for being themselves.

Here are some artists and songs that have contributed to Hip-Hop and made a positive impact on the genre:

• Nas, whose name means “Helper and Protector” in Arabic wrote the song “If I Ruled the World.” The song is about imagining a world without racism and injustices. “I Can” is another song by Nas about uplifting children, and the third verse is dedicated to African history.

• The Pharcyde’s “Runnin’,” is about dealing with bullying, peer pressure, and the stress that comes with being famous.

• Ice Cube’s “Dead Homiez” is a dedication to his friend who passed away, and the song also brought awareness about the violence from his neighborhood in South Central, Los Angeles, CA.

• A Tribe Called Quest’s “The Infamous Date Rape” brought awareness about men and women who found themselves in uncomfortable rape situations.

• Xzibit’s “The Foundation” is a heartfelt letter dedicated to his son, and the song offers suggestions of how his son should navigate through life, to not be a follower, and to be his own man.

• Digable Planets’ “Le Femme Fetal” is song turned into spoken word poetry that brought awareness about a woman’s psyche when dealing with abortion.

The Hip-Hop artists mentioned above all had debut albums from the 1980s or 1990s. Hip-Hop Duo Blu & Exile burst on the Hip-Hop scene in 2007 with their modern-classic debut “Below the Heavens.”

Blu, the rapper, and Exile the producer were focused on carrying on tradition from the artists who came before them. Their song “Below the Heavens, Part I” captured Blu reflecting on his life, and the religious undertones throughout the song found him conflicted with Christianity because he was raised by his reverend stepfather.

All the artists mentioned above are my favorites, but there are many more who have similar philosophies and ideologies like J Dilla, DMX, Gang Starr, Outkast, 2Pac, Slick Rick, Wu-Tang Clan, De La Soul, Scarface, Brand Nubian, Common, Black Star, Public Enemy, The Fugees, KRS-One and much more.

To say Hip-Hop music and contributors are worse than Confederate statues that represent people who wanted to continue slavery in America is ignorant, because what is worse than being forced to be enslaved? For example, who wants to be stolen from their homeland, forced to leave their family, lynched, burned, castrated, etc.

I understand Marsalis’ frustration because some Hip-Hop artists choose to not have substance and creative content within their music, but unfortunately, this is much of today’s Hip-Hop music. Also, the violent and sexually explicit lyrics is the dark cloud that has followed Hip-Hop for many years, but the radio programmers, record labels, and more control what they want the audience to hear if the audience isn’t willing to research meaningful music themselves.

So what kind of song is more marketable?

A song about partying and doing drugs, or a song about empowering people to stand up for what they believe in, to not forget their history, and to not be ashamed of themselves, etc.

The music industry is a business, and people in powerful positions are interested in making money, not promoting positive messages that could spark the minds of their listeners who may have the ability to create real social change.

“If the truth is told, the youth can grow. They learn to survive until they gain control. Nobody says you have to be gangsta’s, h***. Read more, lean more, change the globe.”

- Nas, I Can, God’s Son

The overall conception of Hip-Hop gets misconstrued by people who don’t understand the music. With a tool like the internet, it’s now easier than ever to find many different types of Hip-Hop music. After researching, you might find your new favorite artist because that is what happened to me when I found out about The Pharcyde many years after their debut album.

It confused me when I heard Marsalis’ comments about Hip-Hop music being more damaging to African-American communities than the representation of Confederate statues. Marsalis’ comments confused me because Hip-Hop artists Nas and The Pharcyde gave me hope during dark periods in my life.

For instance, I was diagnosed with cancer as a teenager, and Nas’ Stillmatic gave me hope and helped me believed I could defeat cancer. The Pharcyde’s Labcabincalifornia helped me during my transition of becoming a hip amputee when I became an adult.

2018 marks my 15th year anniversary of being a two-time cancer survivor, and I credit Hip-Hop music for uplifting my mind, body, and soul during this difficult ordeal.

To find out more about how Hip-Hop music has given me hope during the darkest times of my life, click here:


I don’t own any content from the articles and image of Wynton Marsalis and Robert E. Lee. No Copyright Intended. All content is copyright to their respective owners. All Rights go to their respective owners.

I don’t own any lyric content and Hip-Hop album covers from Nas, The Pharcyde, Blu & Exile, Ice Cube, A Tribe Called Quest, Xzibit, and Digable Planets. No Copyright Intended. All content is copyright to their respective owners. All Rights go to their respective owners.

I don’t own any content from the inFAMOUS images. All images content is copyright to their respective owners. No Copyright Intended.

All Rights go to Sony Interactive Entertainment (SIE), developed by Sucker Punch Productions.

“American Heroes: General Robert E. Lee – Patriot or Traitor?” A Patriot's History of the United States. Bruce Catton, This Hallowed Ground (New York: Washington Square Press, 1961), 466-82; James MacPherson, Ordeal By Fire: The Civil War and Reconstruction (New York: McGraw-Hill, 2001), 519-20.

“At the Speed of Life.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 1 June 2018.

Bennett, Jessica. “Wynton Marsalis: Rap Is More Damaging Than Confederate Statues.” EBONY, EBONY, 23 May 2018.

“Biography.” Wynton Marsalis,

“Death Certificate (Album).” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 3 June 2018.

“Digable Planets - Blowout Comb.” Discogs.

“Give Me My Flowers While I Can Still Smell Them.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 1 June 2018.

Hinz, Luke. “Why Wynton Marsalis' Anti Hip-Hop Comments Are Unfair.” HotNewHipHop, HotNewHipHop, 3 June 2018.

“Labcabincalifornia.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 1 June 2018.

Nas logo. Digital image. Brands of the World., n.d. Web. 5 June 2018.

PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale. All-Stars Roster Cole MacGrath. Sony Interactive Entertainment. Web. 5 June. 2018.

PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale. All-Stars Roster Evil Cole MacGrath. Sony Interactive Entertainment. Web. 5 June. 2018.

“Stillmatic.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 3 June 2018.

“The Low End Theory by A Tribe Called Quest.” Genius.

The Pharcyde Image. Digital image. Delicious Vinyl. Delicious Vinyl, n.d. Web. 5 June 2018.

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