Who's behind profanity in rap & hip hop?
What's the connection between the profanity rappers use in their songs and early African culture? There isn't one. As far as experts can tell, there were no curse words, as we understand them today, among the hieroglyphs of ancient Egypt. This shouldn't be too difficult to fathom, for the very word "hieroglyph" itself means 'sacred, holy, or divine writings.' According to the book, The Egyptian Museum in Cairo: a Walk through the Alleys of Ancient Egypt (2005) by Abeer el-Shahawy, "The ancient [monotheistic] Egyptians called their language…'the divine words' or 'the words of the god'. The word hieroglyph comes from the Greek, and also means 'sacred writing'." As has been well documented, the core of Greek culture and philosophy are indeed African based. Understandably, "hieroglyph" was the highest form of writing as can be seen from the related word "hierarchy," defined first as "a division of angels" in Webster's Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary.
So who are our "conscious" rappers and "keeping-it-real" hip-hop artists unwittingly imitating when they saturate their songs with swear words? Brace yourself for the answer: Slave traders, slave owners, and their descendents. Yes, it appears that curse words find their origin in European culture. They were foreign to the African mind. Derrick Jensen, a "conscious" White man who wrote The Culture Of Make Believe (2002), confesses: "I remember something I'd learned years ago that taught me much about the power and longevity of social strictures. Many of our swear words…have their origins in the language of the Anglo-Saxons." The World Book Encyclopedia (1988 Edition) states that the "Anglo-Saxons were members of the Germanic tribes that settled in England in the A.D. 400's and 500's." That the Anglo-Saxons influenced today's English, World Book agrees with Jensen. It goes on to reveal:
"The Anglo-Saxons left their mark on the English language in its grammar and in thousands of words, including perhaps a fifth of the words we use today. These words may be traced to the dialect developed in central England. The southern dialect became the chief literary language of Anglo-Saxon England and was used mainly in verse." But since words are merely sound vibrations, how is it that certain ones came to be considered profanity and others not? Jensen asked the same question, and then provides an interesting answer:
"How did they [swear words] come to be considered unacceptable in polite society? The words are just sounds; there's nothing inherently noxious about them, and they were perfectly acceptable to Anglo-Saxons. Well, in 1066, William the Conqueror and his troops invaded England from Normandy and beat…the Anglo-Saxons. Before then the Anglo-Saxons had been the ruling class. Now, Normans–whose language derived from Latinate roots–were the rulers. Suddenly, if you said words that a year before had been perfectly acceptable, you were considered to be of the lower class." Poof. Cuss words. One set of Europeans declared that certain words from the language of another set of Europeans were no longer acceptable. "The point?" asks Jensen. "More than nine hundred and forty years later and several thousand miles away, these words…still carry the weight of the code."
Further emphasizing the European connection with the origin of swear words is the following list provided under the Wikipedia on-line encyclopedia entry for "profanity": 'Arabic, Chinese, Czech, Dravidian languages, Dutch, English [but not Pidgin English or "Black English"], French, French (Canada) [but not Haitian or French Creole, spoken by many of African descent], German, Hebrew, Indo-Aryan languages, Interlingua, Irish, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Scots Gaelic, Spanish, Swedish, Tagalog, Welsh.' While non-European languages are mentioned, no African language is among them.
As I state on the back cover my out-of-print book Wicked Words: Poisoned Minds–Racism in the Dictionary (1997), "Words are vehicles of our thoughts. Try, as you may, you cannot think without words, no matter what language you speak. When we think out loud, for example, we use words." If your thoughts are rancid, your words are rancid. Take, for example, the expression I'll represent with the letters "MF." Who in his right mind would ever think of having sex with his own mother? (Though it can be expressed crudely, there's actually no insult in calling attention to the fact that a man copulates with his wife, the mother of his children.") It's beyond revulsion yet, this is what some of our "conscious" rappers and "keeping-it-real" hip-hop artists regularly call themselves and others. And a**h***? How repugnant! These and other profane words are anything but saintly.
That the word "profane" (from which we get "profanity") is used illustrates that the divine is an inescapable element of the discussion. The American Heritage College Dictionary defines it thusly: "Marked by contempt or irreverence for what is sacred." To put it tersely, when we use profanity we're spitting on hieroglyphics, the "divine" or "sacred" language of our ancestors, as it represents all ancient languages on the Continent. I'm not down with that. Granted, rappers and hip-hoppers can retort that they're expressing the frustrations of Black people through the common language of the people, hence, their use of vulgarities. Let it be noted, to be "vulgar" isn't necessarily a bad thing. Let me explain.
"Vulgar" is defined in American Heritage as something that is "associated with the great masses of people…or expressed in language spoken by the common people." Neither of these definitions is offensive. There's even a Bible translation from about the 4-5th century called the Latin Vulgate because it was written in the language of the common people. But weren't there curses in the Bible and even Egyptian prayers and related literature? Yes, but there was a difference between receiving a curse from God for disobedience and you calling down evil upon someone because you didn't like him. You were to respect your fellowman and leave the judging to God. "Out of the same mouth come forth blessing and cursing. It is not proper, my brothers, for these things to go on occurring this way." (James 3:10-12) This is a text your more recent ancestors on this continent used to get along while in slavery.
The fact of the matter is society is sinking further into a cesspool or evil; a quagmire of doom. Since you have such an impact on the youth of some many non-African cultures, your responsibility is great. And try as you may, you'd be hard pressed to find any curse words among the many "words" in and the oldest civilization on the planet. You come from kings and queens young ones. You come from Pharaohs who spoke a divine language, and yet you use the gutter words of the Anglo-Saxons. You've succumbed, now overcome. You're better than that my dear, precious young brothers and sisters. You're better than that. Amen.
Word for the Week (or is it "Weak"?): monotheism: belief in one god as opposed to polytheism, belief in many gods.