I’d like to wrap up the Hawaii Hip-Hop features on a different note. Whenever I visit any place in the world I want to learn the story behind the artist, the local political climate, and background of the culture. After all, Hip-Hop has been giving us a snapshot of streets we’ve never been and the real story behind places we normally just get a rosy, vacation view of since its inception.
Of the many things I’ve seen in Hawaii, ʻIolani Palace had the greatest impact on me. I knew of the King Kamehameha unifying the Islands, have been to Bishop Museum, seen the coconut trees he planted in Moloka’i and of course been to Pali lookout where he won one his greatest battles. Also, my Father-In-Law makes sure to take us around the Island of Oahu and give an in-depth history of the places we see. He also tells us of the difficulties the Natives and Locals face as culture and custom are pushed aside for luxury and lucre. But, hearing and seeing the history of King Kalākaua and Queen Liliʻuokalani puts into perspective why the Native Hawaiians and by extension the Locals have a bittersweet relationship with the U.S. and prior invaders.
On one hand, there have been some benefits to having outsiders on the Island. Visiting Hawaii is cleansing, the modernization of any place on earth brings comfort to those of us who are accustomed to modern living. However, it’s hard to argue that most of the modernization wouldn’t have happened anyway and likely without the loss of as many lands that were/are sacred to the Hawaiian people.
This brings me to my point. We are generally taught the dance, art and primitive history of places like Hawaii. We are never taught of the intellectuals, modern thinkers and great generals of these lands. Colonization wants you to believe that everywhere it touches it “civilized.” That it made everything better and there was no way these “savages” of distant lands would have ever grown without it. It uses its missionaries to speak to the “nobility” of taking what did not belong to it. The more you learn, the more you realize this isn’t true. The more you realize that it would have been perfectly fine for the colonizers to bring whatever their “knowledge” was to these places and leave that “knowledge” to the natives instead of taking over their land. Land that the natives usually show them how to cultivate before being double-crossed.
It angered me to read of Queen Liliʻuokalani’s imprisonment. How politics again stood on the neck of respect and decency. There are so many known cases of this happening across the world in past times, the difference here is you see a documentation of it all. You get a timeline of the process. President Cleveland was sympathetic to the cause of sovereignty for Hawaii. Politicians waited out his presidency only to further exact their plan of taking the Islands deviously. Clinton later apologized for illegally taking Hawaii from the Royal family, however, apologies are empty without action.
The more I look at it, the more I believe, though there would be difficulty in transition, it is right for Hawaii to achieve sovereignty. The infrastructure is there, the culture is heavily taught and more intact than most places that have lost their customs to colonial takeover. As a displaced African I’m deeply affected by such matters. Having little to no information on my ancestry, there is no place in the world I’ve felt at home. It leaves me to be highly respectful and intrigued by the history and cultures of the places I’ve been. Since Hip-Hop has taken me to most of them, as an invited guest I can observe closely, listen unbiased and gain a clear understanding.
Understandings like these are a good reason for keeping Hip-Hop strong and dense in quality rhyming. There should be fun and bravado, but we can not lose the stories of the streets us rappers come from. We can NOT lose the voice. My hope is by doing these features on these artists and tastemakers you’ll come across their stories, how they got to the places they are, and they will be inspired to tell them in greater detail. Maybe there will be some empathy and understanding as we all suffer through gentrification, colonization, and loss of pure culture. Maybe we can fight together for each other to hold together what’s left..maybe…