|Resistance in the Global Village
To the extent that hard-core gangsta rap produces a political program, it involves the construction of an urban guerrilla movement (or at least a tactical reorientation that would have whites falling victim to the numerous shootings now claiming young black lives). Urban guerrilla movements are notoriously ineffective. They only succeed when they are connected to wide-ranging forms of political organization including labor struggles, middle-class revolt, and the "rural guerrilla." Gangsta rappers who eschew the turn to the guerrilla remain trapped within the anarcho-fascist politics of drug dealership and gang-bangerism. The "primitive" accumulation practiced by the drug dealers and by gangsta rappers like Eazy-E and NWA is strictly "precapitalist" and no match for the internationally organized capitalist bloc with its huge armies, advanced armaments, and high-tech domestic security systems.
The extremity of gangsta rap, which makes cultural commodities of the 1960s and 1970s seem more akin to those of the 1940s and 1950s, means that thresholds are rising. White (male) consumers need more and more powerful images, more powerful shocks, to feel like they are getting the most for their money. The system as a whole can tolerate anything as long as it gets consumed. What it cannot tolerate are cultural practices that offer concrete models, tactics and, above all, training for organized resistance. Gangsta rap, in spite of its contradictions, in spite of what is retrograde in it (like its often vicious sexism and homophobia), at least contains elements that give us a glimpse of what a radically oppositional culture could look like. Again—and it cannot be stressed enough—it is not the responsibility of entertainers, however politicized, to produce the organizations that will sustain this culture. What is needed are both national and local networks of committed revolutionaries willing to deliver on what gangsta rap can only "represent."
Boris Marighela wrote, "The urban guerrilla is not afraid of dismantling and destroying the present economic, political and social system, for his aim is to help the rural guerrilla and to collaborate in the creation of a totally new and revolutionary social and political structure, with the armed people in power."24 This means that the male urban guerrilla must be willing to dismantle even those aspects of the social system that benefit him: that is, the system of sexist oppression that divides minority communities and promotes their ongoing conquest. Of course, it took a woman, Yo Yo, to make this kind of connection. In a rap entitled "Westside Story" (on her album You Better Ask Somebody (1993), produced by Ice Cube) she proclaims, "I got me a man who's down with revolution." Aside from teaching her that the govern ment is the "real enemy" and by "showing power" during the riots (by "serving" numerous Molotov cocktails), he differentiates himself from other men by treating her with respect: "He doesn't want to slap it, flip it, rub it/He just wants to check it and protect it." Although this relies on a very problematic and traditional model of gender roles (of men as protectors of their female property), it at least suggests that a commitment to revolution involves a transformation of exceedingly violent and counterrevolutionary gender relations.
Given the proper political support, guerrilla rap could overthrow Hell. This promise arises when, in the song "Judgment Night," Onyx's Sticky Fingers growls exasperatedly, "We're fuckin' gonna raise hell and make the white man call me master." From the standpoint of the white dominators, nothing could be more hellish than a turning of the historic tables in which blacks assume the same proprietary position that whites occupied during the days of slavery (and mutatis mutandis still enjoy today). Yet this is what a social structure with "the armed people in power" will look like if white youth are not willing to demonstrate active solidarity with their black brothers and sisters. The reviewer of the album Judgment Night (1993) states, "For white kids, it's now more rebellious than ever to embrace black culture."25 The challenge faced by these "white kids" is to make their embrace revolutionary rather than merely rebellious.
Matthew T. Grant