Currently, in the United States, mainstream Hip-hop/Rap music is primarily shrugged off by most as a novelty and a viable option for product placement amongst a teeming new demographic with disposable income. Most are intrigued by Kanye’s perpetual battle with the paparazzi or Suge Knight’s disgraceful stumble from pretty much owning Rap music in the 1990’s. It’s not that so-called “conscious rap” doesn’t exist, but it is a hotly debated argument that Clear Channel has effectively phased out the moral balance in Black music by placing them in silos and completely eliminating the independent artists who may be advocates of change and substance. The crux of this article from the New Yorker explores the theoretic corollary path to Islamic extremism through “Gangsta Rap” and the “By Any Means Necessary” charge of Malcolm X. -jp
But France’s relationship to African-American culture has recently turned awkward, as hip-hop and the rhetoric of Black Power and Malcolm X are deployed by minority youth in the country’s banlieues to mock the ideas of colorblindness and secularism (laïcité). After 9/11, some American commentators claimed that “The Autobiography of Malcolm X” was a radicalizing text that taught “victimization,” and drove young Americans such as John Walker Lindh to participate in jihad. Similarly, the authorities in France are now wondering if it was a dangerous mix of Islam and black militancy—personified by Malcolm and brewed in France’s prisons—that drove the Charlie Hebdo killer Chérif Kouachi to violence. Fifty years after his death, Malcolm X is again troubling trans-Atlantic waters.
Hisham Aidi is the author of “Rebel Music: Race, Empire and the New Muslim Youth Culture,” a study of black internationalism and global youth culture.