Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Reaganomics, Hip-Hop, and Crack-rock


From Reaganomics and trickle-down politics, narcotics demolished us,
causing black consciousness to not exist
that was the 80’s, crack babies and AK’s
NWA, gangsta rap in its heyday
I took it all in and analyzed, stayed to myself cause all I did was fantasize
the eyes of this young black kid, seen the damage that crack did
families impacted, even preachers back-slid
slavery of a different type, kryptonite dipped in white
even superman got addicted when he hit the pipe
niggas was fiendin’ for that chemical demon
in a climate of recession and political schemin’
tax breaks for the rich to dig the country out the ditch
cuts to government programs, but aint that a bitch
how CIA orders allowed dope to cross borders,
sold weapons to Iran, but target blacks on the corner
in 6th grade, the teacher asked my friend why he hates cops
he said they gave his daddy five years for eight rocks
and by the time his dad came out, homie was banged out,
his mom had relapsed and he was headed the same route
my generation was orphaned
broken hearts and empty homes, spiritual abortion -
when kids lose hope, the only options are rap, athletics, and selling dope
view life through a narrow scope, we used hip hop to cope
with a system that created conditions for nihilism
it’s hard to listen in class when your mama’s in prison
little kids wearing D.A.R.E shirts, watching the Cosby’s
cocaine killing us softly, while they bomb Gaddafi
we’re America’s bastards, and pulled ourselves from the ashes
the beautiful mess that came from chaos and madness

Since 1987, drug culture has become an increasingly salient feature in Hip Hop.  I’d be willing to bet that half of the songs heard in the mainstream or underground have at least one reference to selling drugs.  No more than a year after crack cocaine became an epidemic in the inner-city, it made its way into Hip Hop.  In 1985, “The Batter Ram” by L.A. rapper Toddy-T, warned d-boys of the LAPD’s new weapon used to knock the doors off of suspect crack houses.  Through the years, it was followed by Public Enemy’s “Night of the Living Baseheads”, NWA’s “Dopeman”, Ice Cube’s “Summer Vacation”, Clipse “Grindin”, Jay-Z “Roc Boyz”, and hundreds of other songs. Reaganomics, Hip Hop, and Crack-rock is an ode to my generation, whose resilience during a devastating social ill, manifested itself in the most dynamic genre of music.  Residual effects of the crack epidemic continue to impact individuals, families, and communities.  Despite this, the creativity and ingenuity of youth serves as a silver lining in the midst of chaos. 
I use the term Reaganomics not only referring to the economic policies of Ronald Reagan administration, but also the overall political climate of the Reagan era, it's corruption, and sentiment towards poor people of color in America. These sentiments are demonstrated by Reagan's use of the term "welfare queen" and also the mandatory minimum sentences for possession of crack, which was disproportionate to the sentences received for possessions of equal amounts if powder cocaine(mainly used by the affluent).

During the early 1980’s the country was in a recession and cocaine was already a popular and highly glamorized drug. Then introduced, was a cheaper, smokable version, which offered a faster and more intense high. When you add this to the mix, with people who were poor and already vulnerable to addiction, it's devastating.  Families were ripped apart by addiction, incarceration of parents, and extreme violence.  Kids were traumatized, thrown into the foster care system,or raised by family members with limited resources.  Communities that were already poor lost many of their employable adults to the pipe, prison, or death.  Another consequence of this cheap version of cocaine was that petty street dealers, who were often inner-city youth, discovered a new niche. How young black and brown folks were able to gain access to such large quantities of cocaine is shady, and has been linked to CIA corruption overseas.

Whatever the case, this was a generation of black youth who were already marginalized and had limited opportunities in the job market. Selling crack instantly became a viable option to make a decent amount of money. Many youngsters like Easy E, used their business savvy and proceeds to fund record labels and launch the music careers of their peers. Hip Hop has fed a millions of families and sent black kids to college. It's given us some classic music and a sense of hope. At the same time, hip hop's unsavory relationship with drug culture has sensationalized the destruction of our communities and led our youth astray.

I am a proud member of the Hip Hop generation. A cultural cohort, whose music was created by black inner-city youth, and will always be intertwined with street culture, and now drug culture. For better or worse, it is what it is - a beautiful mess.  


  1. I know a lot about this! I was orphaned due to my moms drug addiction! Thanks for sharing!

    1. Thanks for reading my post April! Most of our generation, myself included, were affected in a similar way. It's good to see where life has taken you, a testament to your resilience.

  2. Wonderfully done! I appreciate the tribute to Hip Hop, as well as the concise run-down of the history of crack in the Black community and the economic and sociopolitical factors that led to the epidemic. It's so important that folks get a comprehensive picture of what we've been dealing with since "that shit" hit. Thanks for putting our voices out there, Jermaine.

    1. Thanks Jei! I'm glad you enjoyed it. I'm sure we will talk more about this soon. And thanks for the inspiring convo as well!

  3. Freeway Rick was at a Town Hall meeting in San Diego last week. It is interesting how the Sac Bee story that covered the government's involvement in our crack epidemic impacted the lives of the people who were brave enough to speak out. It was never really addressed or debunked. It just faded into the background. Kind of like the S&L crooks back then. Reagonomics ==> Bushonomics ==> Baby Bushonomics ==> Obamanomics...

    1. Thanks for reading my post. Yeah, I was there at the townhall meeting. I'm glad I had te opportunity to learn more about Freeway Rick, other than his participation in the drug trade. He's a brilliant guy, and seemed very humble.

  4. Hi i'm going to Stonybrook University for my Masters in Social work. Were doing a presentation on the New Jim Crow Laws, The War on Drugs and Reaganomics. Your words perfectly encompasses the era of my studies. Were you personally effected by the war on drugs and reganomics and if so how?