Thomas Chatterton Williams in his book, Losing My Cool: How a Father’s Love and 15,00 Books Beat Hip-Hop Culture, wrote: “Nietzsche believed the greatest deeds are thoughts. ‘The world revolves around the inventors of new values,’ he wrote. For more than thirty years the black world has revolved around the inventors of hip-hop values, and this has been a decisive step backward.” (p. 218)
In his book, Williams describes his experiences growing up with increasing allegiance to those inventors and the hip-hop culture, until discovering a much broader world when he went off to college – and more importantly due to his father’s constant influence and love. Certainly, not all of hip-hop is negative, but much of it is. For many, many black people, according to their own testimony, the more gangsta forms have had a devastating effect on black culture and those forms are the “new values” taken up decisively by a generation.
Williams goes on to write that his generation, in order to pay the debt they owe their ancestors for all they suffered through in order to make possible in his generation a black President, who is a counter example as a “nuanced thinker” of hip-hop culture, his generation must take up the challenge to do things differently and make things right for the sake of the new generations coming.
I see in Williams’ description of his experience and the “new values” of the hip-hop phenomina a similiar experience of another generation and another racial group – the overwhelmingly white Baby Boomer generation. The “1960’s” generation proclaimed a new morality with a whole set of “new values.” In their belief that their generation’s purpose was to usher in a Brave New World, the age of Aquarius, they have been relentless in overturning anything they perceive as getting in their way. As Nietzsche said, the world has revolved around this new morality and their new values.
Like hip-hop, not all that this generation has done is wrong or bad. Many aspects of white, 1950’s culture needed to be upended – racism, the “Stepford Wives” expectation of women are examples. The proverbial baby was thrown out with the bathwater, however, because of an unnuanced rejection of all that came before them. We are beginning to reap the whirlwind.
One predominate characteristic of this generation is their rejection of the notion that their ancestors, or even their parents’ generation, have anything worthwhile to say to them or to teach them, and as a result their generation is known as the first one to cast off history and lessons from the past as informants of how things should be. This may be a bit of overstatement, but not by much. What is even more sad is that the generation in the aggregate does not acknowledge or perhaps even realize the tremendous sacrifice and denial of self past generations have endured for their generation’s existence.
I am hopeful when I read the demographic trends of younger generations. They will have their own problems, of course, but there seems to be a reclaiming of history and past experience as informants for figuring out how to live life. As Williams claims it is up to his generation to overturn the very negative influences of hip-hop on African-American culture, so is it up to his generation, including all races, to overturn the negative aspects of the Baby Boomer zeitgeist for all Americans.