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Hip-Hop Fridays: Material Love Part II

The sad and for many, jolting death of Aaliyah has caused almost an entire community, that we have described as preoccupied with a materialistic and superficial worldview, to search for answers regarding questions about the purpose and meaning of a human life. In all of the media reports that we have read regarding Aaliyah; and in all of the tributes, documentaries and commentary that we have viewed, over the past week, regarding her career, we have, not once, heard any mention or measurement of the value of her life in terms of her material possessions and financial wealth. And we have especially noticed a desire, even an apparent need, on the part of her fans and those who have only recently become acquainted with her creative works, to move beyond the image of Aaliyah - crafted by those guiding her career - and into a deeper understanding of who Aaliyah was as a human being. In just one week the emphasis on Aaliyah has moved away from an almost exclusive preoccupation with her talent, toward an almost exclusive preoccupation with the heart, soul, mind and purpose of Aaliyah. The true value of Aaliyah is being measured more accurately in her death than it ever was while she physically lived - and certainly more than it ever was by those who were attracted to her image but who had not adequately reflected over the lifeforce that gave birth to her talent. Although she has physically died, she really lives, to the degree that all of us begin to know her spirit - the meaning and purpose of her creation; the “why” of her life.

In that sense, no matter how far entrenched and under the influence of materialism that each of us may be, death forces us all to gravitate to a more balanced view of reality. And in that way, death is an essential part of the process that grows us all into the understanding of life. As it reads in Hebrew 9:16-17:

For where a testament is, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator.

For a testament is of force after men are dead: otherwise it is of no strength at all while the testator liveth.

Last week we went into certain aspects of the materialism that in many ways is dominating the Hip-Hop community and industry. But we qualified what we wrote by making clear that what afflicts Hip-Hop is also prevalent in society and humanity in general. Today, we get deeper into this and look at the difference between the materialistic state of mind and the that which is more spiritual. We ask that the reader temporarily drop all prejudices, assumptions, stereotypes and preconceptions that they may have regarding the concept of “spirituality” as we move into this area, today. Think deeply over what we really understand of the concepts of “material” and “spiritual” and where we obtained our current understanding of these critical concepts/realities.

This applies, as well, to those who may believe that they have a firm grasp on topics such as the “spirit” and “soul” due to the fact that they have accepted religion. As an example Muslims are outright told in the Holy Qur’an that they have not even been taught much about the subject(s). In the 17th Surah, or chapter, of the Holy Qur’an and the 85th verse it reads, in different translations (italics are ours):

YUSUFALI: They ask thee concerning the Spirit (of inspiration). Say: "The Spirit (cometh) by command of my Lord: of knowledge it is only a little that is communicated to you, (O men!)"

PICKTHAL: They are asking thee concerning the Spirit. Say: The Spirit is by command of my Lord, and of knowledge ye have been vouchsafed but little.

SHAKIR: And they ask you about the soul. Say: The soul is one of the commands of my Lord, and you are not given aught of knowledge but a little.

This should cause us all to approach this topic with deep humility and an open mind.

As promised, we probe this subject from the writings of Minister Jabril Muhammad. We quote from a section of his new e-book, A Written Testimony,

As you carefully read his words, please apply them to the current condition of Hip-Hop music as well as to the overall evolution of Hip-Hop, as a culture.

Minister Jabril Muhammad writes (all bold, italics and underlining are ours):

...if we study deep enough we’ll see that what is true in the physical realm is likewise true in that realm, or part of reality which gives the physical its meaning and motion. Simply put, that is the spiritual plane or aspect of reality. It is out from the realm of the spiritual that the physical comes.

Now this does not mean that the spiritual preceded in time the physical. No. In the light of the words of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, which carry us into the deepest realms of reality, both have always co-existed. They coexist in an inseperable manner. However, it is the spiritual which gives meaning and motion to the physical. The spiritual takes precedence over the physical in that it directs and renews the physical. This has always been true. And it will always be so. So it is in this sense that the spiritual produces the material.

Many resist this fact. This is due to the fact that so many of us are so very materialistic. Therefore, we don’t see as clearly as we could or should. At the root of this materialistic attitude is a narrow and selfish view of reality; a very warped idea of the value and the meaning of life itself - even the life of the person holding that narrow and selfish view.

The materialistic outlook signifies a preoccupation with or emphasis on material objects, comforts, and considerations, as opposed to spiritual or intellectual values. In contrast with the spiritual outlook it is relatively superficial. The spiritual, which ought to be the determining factor of the true worth and use of the material, is devalued, discarded, ignored and even mocked by those driven with the materialistic disposition.

To be materialistic means to be out of balance. One does not see reality - as reality is - out of that frame of mind which is materialistic. That state of mind works utterly against the natural workings of the original mind, in which there was - and is, when it is working properly - the proper relationship between the spiritual and the physical aspects of the same reality.

The unspiritual mind-set seldom really asks “Why?” in the ultimate sense of that word. This is due to a subconscious recognition that the “why” question, put forth in the proper manner (or spirit) leads to the destruction of the materialistic origins or roots of that state of mind. The materialistic attitude originates and resides in the first prompting of resistance to the original principle; which was originally established or set up by Him, Whom Muslims reverently call by His name Allah, or that religious people call God (by other names). Allah establishes what He did after His own nature, which comprises the most exquisite blend or balance of all elements.

Of course, the opposite extreme is not good either. To ignore the material needs and wants of life is to be impractical; even foolish, suicidal and fatal. Then again, there is that which only appears to be spiritual, but which is in fact the materialistic in disguise.

The doctrine that physical well-being and worldly possessions alone constitutes the greatest good and highest value in life is fatal to true spiritual development and progress. An excessive regard for worldly concerns degenerates the human beings into a beast like existence. Crass materialism causes people to forget spiritual values and corrupts the quality of good relationships. The inordinate love of possessions, of material things, an inordinate concern for comfort; the constant pursuit of wealth; acquisitiveness, covetousness - this leads to spiritual blindness, or deeper, it prevents spiritual development from occurring in the first place.

Again, the materialistic point of view regards matter and its motions as constituting the universe, or the dominating force in creation. It views this as the source of the best explanations - to the exclusion of the spiritual - of reality. All phenomena, including those of mind, are seen as due to material agencies. It is the view that spiritual realities do not exist, or at least, are relatively unimportant, despite the overwhelming proof to the contrary.”

(End of quote)

In light of the above, what are Hip-Hop artists manifesting when they repeatedly rhyme about their cars, jewelry, guns, drug sales, robberies, murders and sex with women that they do not know - and visually demonstrate the same in music videos?

Are their consequences for those who ingest or are entertained by such, in audio or visual form?

Do artists have a responsibility to lead their fans/consumers into a deeper understanding of life, beyond the material aspects of it? If so, how can they begin to assume such responsibility and leadership? And can artists truly provide an example of the more spiritual side of reality while being promoted, marketed and distributed by those who are motivated by material wealth?

Cedric Muhammad

Friday, August 31, 2001

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