[Editor’s note: The following text is excerpted from “A Message To The National Hip Hop Summit” delivered by the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan to a gathering of leaders of the hip hop community on June 13, 2001 in New York City at The New York Hilton hotel. To order this message in its entirety on MP3, DVD and CD, please call 1.866.602.1230, ext. 200 or visit store.finalcall.com.]
Allah (God) created nothing without an aim and a purpose, and blessed is the man or woman who discovers his or her reason for being. Each of you in this very powerful and revolutionary hip hop community may have only wanted to make a good song and make a great impact, but maybe you are not aware that you have been chosen to lead.
I am a spiritual man, so I have to speak to you from the Books (Bible and Qur’an). You may not think that I am “too hip,” but when you hear from the Books 1.) Who you are; 2.) Why you are called, and 3.) What your mission is that you have just begun to see, then you will know that the Prophets of Allah (God) who saw all the way to The Judgment and to the end of the present world had to have seen hip hop.
You will not find the words “hip hop” necessarily in the Bible or in the Qur’an, but you are there in a very big way.
In the Book of John, it says, “In the beginning was the word. And the word was God and the word was with God and the word became flesh and the flesh dwelled among men. And the light shined in the darkness but the darkness, comprehended it not.”
I do not think it is an accident that music and culture have moved to this time, and that the spoken word has become that which is affecting youth throughout the entire planet. In countries where governments do not like Western music or Western civilization, people are sneaking around listening to the word and moving to the beat of the hip hop generation.
If in the beginning was The Word, and The Word was with God and The Word was God, then “God” here means “Force and Power.” The Word has Force, The Word has Power—Force and Power to move men to think new thoughts and to do new things.
‘Set the stage for the next phase of rap’s evolution’: Understanding, accepting your role as a leader
There are a lot of people my age that talk about the lyrics of rap artists. They are upset that the rap artists speak of killing, using drugs, the misuse of our women, ripping off people and killing police, but these lyrics do not come from apples that have fallen from some other tree. The society says it wants the rappers to clean up their lyrics, but the society does not want to clean itself up.
So, what have you done, young people? You have brought out of the closet people’s realities. The youth have manifested the wickedness of their parents, their teachers, the judges, the politicians and the rulers. When you talk about “gangster” lyrics, you are literally showing aspects of a government that tells you that you should kill a leader that they disagree with—assassinate him, destabilize his government, cause hundreds of thousands, even millions of people to die, because you do not like their form of government. What is that but gangsterism in the name of government?
When you talk about killing, when you talk about shooting, you have got to clean that up. You talk about smoking weed and snorting coke, but that is something that went on in the White House and it goes on behind the doors in the best of society. What society would like to do with the young people is break the mirror, rather than look in the mirror and clean themselves up. If your lyrics reflect what is in the society, and society cleaned itself up, then you would have to talk about something else.
In China, in Japan, in Europe, in Africa, in the Caribbean, in Central America and South America, the youth are following you. You are already the leaders of the world—and it is frightening folks in power, and they are asking themselves, “How do we get our children back?” Then they determine, “Let’s get Puffy. Let’s create problems in the hip hop community. We have already put guns among them, drugs among them, fostered gang life among them, now let us put them against each other so they will never come to realize their power potential. Let’s make them fight and kill one another.”
Every time you use your rap song against another rapper and the magazines publish your words, the people that love you then turn on the people that you have spoken against. Then, the one you spoke against speaks back against you and his group becomes inflamed against you.
When you are a rapper and you understand your leadership role, you must understand that with leadership comes responsibility. You did not ask for it—it is imposed on you; but you now have to accept responsibility that you have never accepted. Your potential to change reality is so great that, if you learned the skill of words and how to use words; if you learned how to say what it is you want to say, but say it in a way that gains universal respect, then the rap would evolve to an art form that will never be replaced. It will evolve to be that form that will set the stage for the next phase of its evolution.
The freedom of speech is one thing, but “freedom” is not “license.” That’s what is wrong in American society: You can say anything you want to without care for how it affects anything; that is not “freedom,” that is license. You say, “I’ll do anything I want to do. I’ll say anything I want to say because I’m grown—don’t nobody tell me what to do!” That attitude is revolutionary; it is really shaking up the parents, and it is probably the right attitude to break from the old, but it is not the right attitude to come into the new.
‘What do you have to say?’ Organize, politicize and enlighten youth to become instruments of change
The elders are rejecting the youth because the youth are not listening to them, and the youth are doing something that the elders do not quite understand. Let me help the elders to understand what is going on here: When Allah (God) took the Children of Israel out of Egypt, He let the old wander in the wilderness for 40 years until all of them died out. He took nothing over 20 years of age into the new land but Joshua and Caleb, because the people were wholly rebellious. So, it is the youth that inhabited The Promise Land.
Is that a sign of you today? You are the most courageous generation that we have ever had. You are the strongest generation that we have ever had. You are the most fearless generation that we have ever had. But your courage and your fearlessness are being used by the enemy so that you will destroy each other.
When you pull the gun out, it makes you feel powerful, but the gun did not get you a following in China; the gun did not get you followers in Iran, Egypt, Ghana, and South Africa. It was The Word. You do not need the gun to empower you, because the gun in the hand of an underdeveloped mind becomes an instrument of self-destruction. You have become now tools of a Satanic mind that will use you to destroy your future.
I believe you can change the reality of American life and the racism that exists that has defiled, corrupted and destroyed American society. I believe that they cannot fight a war if the youth are enlightened and become instruments of peace and justice in the world. You can force government to change policies.
I believe that 18-30 is the age group in America that is not registered, and do not care about voting. So, the politicians court the “gray power” because old folks have united; they court the “gay power” because gays have united—but they have no program for you because the youth, which is the most potentially powerful group in the country, have not organized. If the youth were organized, politicized and highly enlightened, then the two-year-olds that learn your rap can learn more than ABC’s, Donald Duck and Mickey Mouse, because they are listening to you more than they are listening to their parents and teachers.
Will you accept your responsibility as a leader? This will take some courage, but you have got that. It is also going to take some study: You have to digest newspapers, because “current events” are what rap artists have got to rap about. But put your own spin on it.
Let me tell you some current events that are happening that I believe you should be a part of: Did you know about Kwame Nkrumah or Gamel Abdul Nasser? These are people that have passed on, but Gamel Abdul Nasser was an Egyptian Arab and Kwame Nkrumah was an African leader educated in America. Together they came up with the thought of the “United States of Africa.”
That was a dream deferred, but now Africa has come of age and her leaders have said Africa will never be able to deal in a global economy if they are 55 separate states. They have determined to become the United States of Africa. They want to set up a central bank and one currency. They are working out the problems that would keep them divided by ethnicity, tribal and language division.
Look at what is happening with the Palestinians and the Israelis, human beings so bereft of the spirit of life that they would strap a bomb on themselves because they have nothing to lose. Israeli children dying from bombs; Palestinian children dying from bullets … What do you have to say about it? Can you be a peacemaker? The scripture says,“Blessed are the peacemakers. They shall be called the children of God.”
What about the Brown and Black condition in America? The Hispanic community is growing fast and the enemy wants to put the Black and the Hispanic community against each other like we are “natural enemies,” when we are natural allies. What do you, as the leaders, have to say about that? Can you rap in a way that a Mexican youth, a Dominican youth or a Hispanic youth can say, “I’m not for that no more. We’ve got to come on down with some peace.”
What do you have to say about the Department of Children and Family Services snatching Black children, Brown children and orphaning them off into strange environments? What do you have to say about the drugs that come into America? And America has these powerful satellites that can spot a grapefruit on the ground and tell you what the label is on the grapefruit, but cannot find the drugs that are coming in? What do you have to say about the gun manufacturers?
What do you have to say about the abuse of women, the pedophiles that are going around? You are the teacher. Can you teach the young that,“Where there are no decent women, there are no decent men, for the woman is the mother of civilization”? Can you teach young people to admire women and not abuse women, to respect and honor women and not defile women? Can you teach like that?
This is the challenge of responsible leadership that is chosen to lead, and I believe that leadership to be you.