Is hip-hop holding blacks back?
August 6, 2003 1:29 PM   Subscribe

How Hip-Hop Holds Blacks Back As a white guy with a young kid, I worry about how the often gleefully violent, misogynist rap music he may choose to listen to could affect him. Maybe that's a racist thing for a white boy to say, but when a black scholar like John H. McWhorter says it, maybe it's worth considering.
posted by kgasmart (97 comments total)
 
I swear, black people, why can't they be more white like everyone else?
posted by Stan Chin at 1:38 PM on August 6, 2003


I bet the same thing was said about jazz back in the day. It also depends on which hip-hop you listen to. I prefer the good stuff.
posted by strangeleftydoublethink at 1:41 PM on August 6, 2003


Maybe he's just not listening to the right rap music, sure Snoop Dog, Dr. Dre and Eminem are fine in small doses. But every genre of music has it's good and bad influences. If your son insists on listening to hip-hop, which is good for exposing him to different cultures, surprise him on X-mas or his next birthday with Del tha Funkee Homosapien, KRS-One, Mix Master Mike, Beastie Boys recored after 1990 or Run DMC. Anyone else have any suggestions for hip-hop that doesn't lower your IQ while you listen?
posted by BartFargo at 1:44 PM on August 6, 2003


Yet another social theorist putting the cart before the horse.

On preview, BartFargo: Aesop Rock, Anticon, Anti-Pop Consortium, and that's just the A's.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 1:46 PM on August 6, 2003


Regardless of the race of the author, it still comes off more as "Why can't they make nice music anymore, like when I was a kid", imo. I can see saying that some of it could be detrimental to kids, but "Hip-hop creates nothing"?
posted by stifford at 1:46 PM on August 6, 2003


Anyone else have any suggestions for hip-hop that doesn't lower your IQ while you listen?

Hmmm. Anything from De La Soul, of course.

Prince Paul's A Prince Among Thieves does an excellent job of satirizing the gangsta-rap trend, but I wouldn't give it to a young kid to listen to.

Deltron 3030 I quite liked.

Princess Superstar is uneven and doesn't have the greatest voice, but she's really funny when she's on.

If you're willing to import, from England you can get a two-disc set of the Best of the Sugar Hill Gang, which has the full fifteen-minute version of "Rapper's Delight." Bliss.
posted by Prospero at 1:50 PM on August 6, 2003


Cop Killer is how old? Er, and it's a rock song. Examples of people Mr McWhorter clearly hasn't listened to: KRS-1, Mos Def, Talib Kweli, The Roots, Blackalicious, Chuck D, Common, Arrested Development, the Def Juxx artists, the Anticon artists, Latyrx... I could go on.
posted by nthdegx at 1:50 PM on August 6, 2003




The article starts with a racist premise: black music is misogynistic/violent. This has nothing to do with race (or with hip-hop) - it's a blatant fallacy. Sexist (Bloodhound Gang) and violent (Limp Bizkit) music is a feature of the modern pop landscape, not of hip-hop in particular. Who is this asshat?

Those of you busy listing "conscious" hiphop are ignoring the miserable subjectmatter of this article. I mean, he even attacks "The Message," for god's sake, as a celebration of violence. Save the undie advocacy for those who are ignorant of "different" (or boring-) sounding hip-hop, not those who (stultifyingly) criticize rap for its basic immorality.

Also: right-on, strangeleftydoublethink.
posted by Marquis at 1:55 PM on August 6, 2003


This article is complete speculation, there are zero actual figures to back up his assertions, basically making the entire article worthless

Lets not forget that Hip-hop and gangster rap has a huge market outside of black youth. Black teens would have had to buy several disks each to account the numbers Snoop-Dog, Dre, and hard-core gangbanger type rappers got. So why haven't all the white teens who listen to that stuff turn out as bad as the black teens who (supposedly) do?

McWhorter never accounts for this. Which makes the whole thing rather worthless in general

And of course, the entire premise is suspect, because McWhorter only gives us TWO anecdotes as evidence. In order to make claims like this you need to provide at least some scientific rational for your beliefs. Give us a survey or something, I mean god.

Honestly I just fucking hate people who base their entire belief system on bald assertions with no factual backing. This guy needs to learn to think or just shut the fuck up.
posted by delmoi at 1:59 PM on August 6, 2003


I think he's less indicting hip-hop music as he is indicting hip-hop culture; from what I see of hip-hop youths here in NYC, he's absolutely correct. Yes, there are flaws in his argument, but something is wrong when these kids can't function in a peaceful society. How is getting shot and shooting at others a cultural norm? How is misogyny a cultural norm? That's just fucked up.
posted by The Michael The at 1:59 PM on August 6, 2003


Jurassic 5 is decent.
posted by Witty at 2:00 PM on August 6, 2003


Oh yeah, and "Cop Killer" is heavy mettal rock, not rap. Sheesh.
posted by delmoi at 2:01 PM on August 6, 2003


The article is complete nonsense if only because the majority of consumers of hip-hop are white. Noone wonders if hip-hop is holding back white kids.

The reason, I believe, everyone wants to blame the culture of anti-intellectualism, stigmas (stigmae? stigmata?) against "acting white" (ie, being academically successful), listening to hip-hop, and poor taste in clothes for the problems of black youth despite the fact that white adolescents have many of the same outward trappings of this culture is because middle aged adult columnists are unwilling to blame the parents. You become a lot more popular by writing, "kids these days with their crazy clothes and loud music," rather than telling readers, "it's mostly your fault that your kids have turned into little demons."

by glamorizing life in the “war zone,” it has made it harder for many of the kids stuck there to extricate themselves.

I look forward to the next article on how punk and the Sex Pistols were holding back the British youth and how whites in New YOrk were held back by the Ramones.
posted by deanc at 2:03 PM on August 6, 2003


I think the drug war that makes poor neighborhoods the marketplace for weed, crack, coke and x has had a much more detrimental affect on our culture than rap music.

and why didn't this dickhead call a cop on the guy that was breaking in to all the cars?
posted by chris0495 at 2:05 PM on August 6, 2003


I think he's less indicting hip-hop music as he is indicting hip-hop culture...

Well, he has a go at the music itself too:

Rap’s musical accompaniment mirrors the brutality of rap lyrics in its harshness and repetition. Simmons fashions his recordings in contempt for euphony...Anyone who grew up in urban America during the eighties won’t soon forget the young men strolling down streets, blaring this sonic weapon from their boom boxes, with defiant glares daring anyone to ask them to turn it down.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 2:05 PM on August 6, 2003


How is misogyny a cultural norm?

How misogyny is a cultural norm.
posted by trharlan at 2:07 PM on August 6, 2003


Prospero: Deltron 3030 is also Del the Funkee Homosapien, I didn't want to mention him twice because I thought that would look like I was reaching.

Anyone else?
Mainly I'm just looking for recommendations for me... and kagasmart's son of course...
posted by BartFargo at 2:08 PM on August 6, 2003




how about egyptian lover and mantronix
posted by mmascolino at 2:13 PM on August 6, 2003


A friend of mine, Nick Van Axl, coincidentally showed me the article just before it was metafiltered. He feels compelled enough to email the magazine in response. He has this to say:

Usually I am not one to respond to editorials, but this particular article struck a very familiar chord with me. The demonizing of music is nothing new.
However it seems as though Mr. Mc Whorter has actually listened to the music which he is criticizing. That alone is the difference.
After reading his seemingly thorough critique of the music and culture that surrounds it (of which I emphattically include myself) I noticed a lack of certain names. Public Enemy, Arrested Development, Common, and others are intentionally ignored in favor of "Cop Killer" by Ice-T which is on a rock and roll record by Body Count This track is a perfect example of lyrics taken out of context. Written as a retort to the savage beating of Rodney King by L.A.P.D. officials who then got away clean, this is a protest song.
Taking examples and illustrating the negative of rap isn't very hard to do... It also isn't hard to do to the Blues. I could quote you from 32-20 blues by Robert Johnson. Or I could quote you many of the reefer-intoxicated lines of Cab Calloway. But I will spare you that.
Just as his generation has Marvin Gaye singing how "It makes me wanna holler, the way they do my life"
we have Chuck D pointing out that
"Airwave abuse
Give it up or turn it loose
Radio got the hood in a noose
Videos market gangs and hoes
Somebody's behind
Pullin head robbery
Big biz bought your minds bodies and souls"
-Fine Arts Militia "Leave With Your Own Mind"
Criticizing rap as "creating nothing" is a very interesting point, but that is discounting the facts.
You are completely ignoring the fact that rappers Mos Def and Talib Kweli (both with seperate solo careers, and together known as Blak Star) own a bookstore entitled Nkira Books which also serves as a community center in the heart of brooklyn.
Deliberately ignoring the words and deeds of both of these rappers is a bit short sighted.
Honestly it is a bit like me (a reader) telling you that City Journal Magazine creates nothing because Phillip Morris is a major contributor. And let's not ignore the facts.... Phillip Morris harms more black people per year than "Gangstas" do.
posted by nthdegx at 2:15 PM on August 6, 2003


I think McWhorter has a point. As long as the hip-hop culture continues to glorify the thug/gangsta mentality, people who listen to it are more likely to buy into the message that life's violent, it's all about money, the world is against you, women are bitches/hos. The lyrics and artists he references certainly aren't sending positive messages. NOT that artists have a responsibility to do so - they can sing/rap about whatever they please, certainly - but I don't think it's doing anyone any favors. Rather, I think it's perpetuating an aggressive victim mentality that is very seductive to anyone who perceives him/herself to be on the short end of society's stick.
posted by widdershins at 2:22 PM on August 6, 2003


the fire you left me, that was a great article that really deserved its own thread - it's a little out of place here with only a cursory mention of black culture at the end.

What widdershins said, though I agree that McWhorter's article is problematic.
posted by orange swan at 2:41 PM on August 6, 2003


Aint no record that can hold me, I'm oversized
Ears ever be open to the words of the wise
But there's untold cats on my corner perpetrating
Read a few books and now they're talking
They're looking to convert yours truly, but I'm unruly
--Roots Manuva
posted by strangeleftydoublethink at 2:52 PM on August 6, 2003


Nobody's brought up Gang Starr yet. Here's for including them on a short list of hip-hop that makes you think and does not ignore history.

I don't necessarily disagree with everything McWhorter says, but citing Ice-T and Schoolly D is ridiculous. How many teenagers (white or black) even know who Schoolly D is?

Listen to some contemporary hip-hop, good, bad, or indifferent, then maybe I'll hear you out.
posted by blucevalo at 2:52 PM on August 6, 2003


..."often gleefully violent, misogynist rap music"...

I bet the same thing was said about jazz back in the day.

Often gleefully violent, misogynist jazz music?
posted by 4easypayments at 2:52 PM on August 6, 2003


Often gleefully violent, misogynist jazz music?

Well, maybe the musicians, but you know what I mean.
posted by strangeleftydoublethink at 2:58 PM on August 6, 2003


orange swan, you've got to be kidding me! i thought you were better than that!

As long as the hip-hop culture continues to glorify the thug/gangsta mentality, people who listen to it are more likely to buy into the message that life's violent, it's all about money, the world is against you, women are bitches/hos.

Widdershins, what you're criticizing has nothing to do with hip-hop. The same markers that you're criticizing appear in every other genre of music. It doesn't mean that you'r'e wrong - you're right that misogyny/violence/greed is a negative message - but criticize the [lack of] values, not the genre. By aiming your invective only at rap, you are painting the entire genre with the same brush, and (inadvertently) racializing the issue: hip-hop is still thought of as black music.

I think that a lot of the attacks on hip-hop are based on an antiquated fear of black people - Eminem blew up so big because it was even scarier to see a white artist acting like a "scary" black guy. Misogyny/violence/racism is present (and encouraged) across an enormous spectrum of pop music: we mustn't let it become a race issue. Hip hop is not to blame - it's the artists who promote these negative values, and the (greater pop) culture that celebrates them.

(As for conscious hip-hop, you can't go wrong with The Streets.)
posted by Marquis at 3:08 PM on August 6, 2003


And at the same time, classical music going down the tubes, though I am not making a correlation here.

Any guy that eats in KFC is in no position to talk about values of any kind. Not let the smart alecks sling their chicken bones at me.
posted by Postroad at 3:13 PM on August 6, 2003


As long as the hip-hop culture continues to glorify the thug/gangsta mentality, people who listen to it are more likely to buy into the message that life's violent, it's all about money, the world is against you, women are bitches/hos

Bullshit. Hot 97 and MTV sell that culture, not hip hop. It's marketing to make money off of teenagers who (now don't be shocked) are interested in sex and violence. The bling-bling shit is a fad, and kids will eventually get bored with it and move on. See jazz, rock and roll, Iggy Pop, The Sex Pistols, Public Enemy, Hair Metal, etc; Everything will always be the death of something...

But don't think for a second that the shit they play on the radio is true hip hop. I'm not going to mention any more names of the true-school artists, because so many others in this thread have. But as KRS said "Rap is something you do, Hip Hop is something you live".
posted by SweetJesus at 3:19 PM on August 6, 2003


right on, sweetjesus.
posted by Marquis at 3:22 PM on August 6, 2003


Anyone else?

Insight and Mass Influence.
posted by eddydamascene at 3:42 PM on August 6, 2003


Yo I shower fat freeze / On the powers that be / So when they come to me with bullshit / I devour that steeze / Like tryin to charge a hundred grand for Bachelor's degrees / And creating filthy air that be stifling the breeze / And filling our TV's / With these gold tooth wearing MC's / Who probably don't even know their ABC's [But got cheese] / But we all know that cheese goes bad and gets molded / So my priority is wisdom for my head to hold it

The wicked get scolded [Their soul] / They sold it / They got a million ways to make sure that we're molded / Along the same lines as those with no spines / But the power of these rhymes is changing the times.

-Mr. Lif & Akrobatik (The Perciptionists).


I'm going to post again, because the idea that hip hop is "holding back the blacks" (unlike 400 years of white dominated culture, 200 something years of slavery, Jim Crowe laws, crack cocaine, etc) is just so fucking stupid. Hip hop is one of the only truly authentic forms of black expression that white people haven't completely co-op'ed yet.

Gangsta hip hop makes millions of dollars for the same reason Jerry Bruckheimer movies always make millions of dollars - You can never go wrong be appealing to the lowest common denominator.

But very few Berkeley professors write articles about how Jerry Bruckheimer is holding back white kids.
posted by SweetJesus at 3:44 PM on August 6, 2003


Scooped by Fark again? We can do better!

"when a black scholar like John H. McWhorter says it, maybe it's worth considering."

Shortly after the last time John McWhorter came up in a thread I went back and forced myself through Losing the Race with as open a mind as I could muster. Having read the entire book, I'm still going with my first impression: the guy is an idiot who enjoys building premise after false premise to support his half-assed opinions. The worst part is the overwhelming smugness that oozes off every page.

The book's last straw for me was when (about two-thirds of the way through the book) he made an odd mistake while giving an example of Black English...

(hold on, I photocopied that page... here it is, page 186: "Ain't nobody even be seein' her on weekends" as an example of a black "sentence pattern". Be seein' is used like a present or future perfect tense, while ain't is more like simple past, present, or future tense verbs-- the two forms are never used together! You will never ever hear someone say "Ain't nobody ever be seein": it's either "Don't be seein'" or "Ain't seen." Even a five-year-old could tell you that something is wrong with that sentence, but McWhorter slips it in casually-- just after talking about his credentials as a linguist and a speaker of the dialect, if I remember correctly.)

...and I gave up on him completely. (Did finish reading it, though. Lived down to my expectations.)

What was my point again? Oh yeah: John McWhorter is an idiot. Yeah he's black. Yeah he has an advanced degree. He still can't put together a solid argument. Please stop giving me links about him and telling me how brilliant he is. Truant kids at a Kentucky Fried Chicken as the stand-in for the entire race? Great.

Sorry about all that. I just had to vent. "The Message" was "angry and oppositional"? %#%$!

Oh, a few questions for those who say that he has a point: do you typically think this way, or is this a special case? How would you respond to, say, an article condemning movies or video games as corrupting forces? What about all the white kids who listen to rap: has it ruined them too? Didn't people say the same things about jazz and rock and roll and, well, every new artistic genre since, um, ever? ("The Rite of Spring is the Devil's work! Burn them, burn them all!!")

No matter what it's made against, this argument typically sucks.
posted by tyro urge at 3:52 PM on August 6, 2003


Yummy, Yummy, Yummy, I got love in my tummy
And I feel like a-lovin you
Love, you're such a sweet thing
Good enough to eat thing
And it's just a-what I'm gonna do
posted by quonsar at 3:57 PM on August 6, 2003


McWhorter's an interesting cat, at least -- he's a linguistics professor at UC Berkeley (whose class I sat in on a few times, and which was *very* good, btw) and his previous book was, if i'm paraphrasing correctly, primarily about how black cultural attitudes toward Establishment structures have influenced black children in such a way that they do poorly in school. (something that a socialogist named Ogbu -- if I remember correctly -- has also written about). Interesting stuff.

that said, why write *this* article? well, i think he definitely makes some good points (i found interesting his dismissing of hip-hop apologists' reasoning that violent rap is a cry out against oppression), but yeah, a lot of the article's examples feel a little forced. definitely not his best work, and yeah, even occasional hip-hop fans are going to tear him a new one, because he's trying to debate using examples from their culture, with which they are infinitely more familar. which is what we see happening here.

regardless, from my experiences with him i've found he's a bright guy and a brilliant and compelling liguistics professor and so i always like to catch up on what kind of articles he's writing. i'd say, cut him some slack as far as the examples go, and maybe think about what he's trying to say -- maybe find reasonable examples, even -- rather than going the simple route and pointing out that Body Count was an (ill-advised) heavy metal band.

man, body count sucked.
posted by fishfucker at 3:59 PM on August 6, 2003


do y'all wanna hear some rhymes I came up with the other day in atlanta? I was in town visiting the coke museum. anyways, brace yourself fools:

I'm boobin
washin' my hands with paul reubens
I fell on a bee
aw yeah this how we doin'

I ate mexican twice yesterday, got the receipts to prove it
if you make me eat mexican again I just might lose it

posted by mcsweetie at 4:06 PM on August 6, 2003


hate to break it to you all, but misogyny isn't just a problem of "other" cultures.
posted by jann at 4:13 PM on August 6, 2003


As long as the hip-hop culture continues to glorify the thug/gangsta mentality, people who listen to it are more likely to buy into the message that life's violent, it's all about money, the world is against you, women are bitches/hos

Having delivered pizza in south central LA, I've had the chance to witness this culture up close. But hell, just because I listen to GG Allin doesn't mean I'm going to start doing lots of drugs and sticking strange things up my ass.

Seriously though, even if it's possible that the music has a bearing on their culture, just on the other side of highway 10 there's some hella nice neighborhoods. So my question is, what's causing the lack of aspiration to succeed in the "normal" world? Or is this a deeper issue than aspiration?
posted by starscream at 4:15 PM on August 6, 2003


the fire you left me: Of everything I've read in recent memory, that article had one of the most interesting lead-ups to asking an interesting question, which unfortunately (for the sake of this thread) remains unanswered. But I can suddenly see why one of my friends is so enthusiastic about economics.
posted by DaShiv at 4:33 PM on August 6, 2003


Many writers and thinkers see a kind of informed political engagement, even a revolutionary potential, in rap and hip-hop. They couldn't be more wrong.

Actually, John, you just proved it's possible.

The cultural language of hip-hop spans the spectrum of value and spans the globe. Frankly, "White and Black" talk as pertains hip-hop today looks mighty foolish. The situation is more complex than your apparatus can resolve to, John; talk to your god about an upgrade in the next life.

The descendents of hip-hop (i.e. trip-hop, chillout, jungle) have among them some very serious and very helpful artists working full-steam. It's complex and largely wonderful. Who cares what a handfull of BoneThug, Inc. labels put out? Momentary fodder. Now look at Tribe Called Quest, RUN DMC and Doc Oc and tell us hip-hop is merely venomous.

Also, BartFargo, Paul's Boutique was released in '89. I know you're trying to help the kid out, but let's not get too fast and sloppy with the facts. ;^)
posted by squirrel at 4:40 PM on August 6, 2003


I could quote you many of the reefer-intoxicated lines of Cab Calloway. But I will spare you that.

Actually, kindly kick down with that.
posted by squirrel at 4:53 PM on August 6, 2003


I've heard an argument like this before ... in one of those damn fangled new rap songs.
You're talking like you a G / But you are killer killing your own / Your just a racist man's posse / ... / Now who gives a damn / About, the ice on your hands? / If its not too complex / Tell me how many African's died / For the baguettes on your Rolex?
posted by seanyboy at 4:53 PM on August 6, 2003


i'd say, cut him some slack as far as the examples go

I would agree, if McWhorter didn't arrogantly dismiss the possibility of any redeeming value in hip-hop at the outset. His analysis is a shell game, where he undermines any challenge to his thesis by continually switching the subject to the same set of messages no one with any credibility is defending.

The National Council of Teachers of English... enthuses that “hip-hop can be used as a bridge linking the seemingly vast span between the streets and the world of academics.” But we’re sorely lacking in imagination if... we think that it signals progress when black kids rattle off violent, sexist, nihilistic, lyrics...

It's one thing to demonize violent, sexist, nihilistic messages; it's quite another to imply that hip-hop has been incapable of delivering anything different. Imagination is not the problem here -- it's the willful ignorance of people like McWhorter.
posted by eddydamascene at 5:21 PM on August 6, 2003


Hip hop is one of the only truly authentic forms of black expression that white people haven't completely co-op'ed yet.

Who buys more hip hop? White teens. Who is the best selling hip hop artist of the past five years? A white rapper (Eminem). Who is the most critically acclaimed non-Eminem hip-hop artist of recent times? Another white rapper (The Streets). Who profits more from hip hop? The white-owned record labels and white-owned media firms. Those record labels and media firms showcase a determined drive to only allow expressions that promote the old racial stereotypes that members of society have been trying to hard to eliminate for so long. If you're a black rapper, its pretty rare to become successful without succumbing to involving the racial stereotypes in your work, no matter how talented you are. If you're a white rapper, its much easier, even if you are absolute shit.
posted by Darke at 5:28 PM on August 6, 2003


Darke--the last link in your post is comedy gold.
posted by Prospero at 5:38 PM on August 6, 2003


This has been a great discussion, guys. Props to all the metatalkers.
posted by jengod at 6:11 PM on August 6, 2003


Who is the most critically acclaimed non-Eminem hip-hop artist of recent times?

Dizzee Rascal?
posted by inpHilltr8r at 6:28 PM on August 6, 2003


I just wanna know where Kool Keith and all his aliases fit into this equation. That shit's just wacky, yo!
posted by afx114 at 6:41 PM on August 6, 2003


As a white guy who spent most of his life not listening to hip-hop for the reasons this article gives, let me say it's total bullshit. I went to college and discovered hip-hop, real hip-hop, the stuff earlier posters have been talking about, like Del tha Funky Homosapien and Run DMC. Hip-hop is the only place real poetry is taking place today, assuming you know where to look.

As at least two people posting before me said, check out Definitive Jux records. Their music showed me positive, beautiful, living hip-hop, not the bling-bling crap on MTV. These guys have vocabulary. Aesop Rock is white, but he's no Eminem. His rhymes are literally poetry:
Yo change the fuckin channel
I burn a Coma candle
When the flame fades, consider my flatline a soldier's sample
We them cats talkin noise behind that New York trash heap
Where the stench of commuter briefcase replaces a bad sleep
And it's, worker zig-zaggers versus piggyback flashers
Training Generation Fallout
Waterfall bricklayer pincushion crawl out
There's smoke in my iris
But I painted a sunny day on the insides of my eyelids
So I'm ready now (What you ready for?)
I'm ready for life in this city
And my wings have grown almost enough to lift me
I'm a dinosaur with Jones Beach in my hourglass
Passing the time with serial killer coloringbooks and bags of marbles
Don't tell me you ain't the droid that held the match to the charcoals
Don't tell me God and Satan don't carpool
(This is our school)
I'm not trying to graduate to life at the curse on the lounge barstool
Head in a jar on the desk, feet dangling in a shark pool


Okay, sorry, that's probably a lot of reading, but I had trouble figuring out where to cut it off. Other names...don't forget Company Flow, Mr. Lif, the kinda 'out there' Prefuse 73 over on Warped Records.... and I can't think of a mysogynistic word in any of their works. Except maybe Del's old "Black girls are better than white girls / White girls ain't better than black girls"....
posted by jbrjake at 7:11 PM on August 6, 2003


I couldn't find a link, so here's a verse from 'Analyze' by Mass Influence:

I'm blessed with this knowledge of me, myself, and I/
strive to survive and succeed up in this land of lust and greed/
change times, look around seeing the signs/
of the change that changed you, of all you've changed/
because once you notice the change, yo, it doesn't seem so strange/
America, America, home of the beautiful/
My pops says it's out of control up in this world/
indeed, from front lines to picket lines to school and lunch lines/
to always show myself the world, the times/
I'm different, unique, and verbally I'm gifted/
sent here on this planet to get a mind uplifted/
from black to white the issue's wrong never ? in the slightest way/
feel the stress every day/
from the ignorant one who's got nothing good to say/
the slander, hype by media propaganda/
corporate agenda-dollar bill goes hand-in-hand/
man to a man and on to the child/
the youth of today they're going so buck wild/
but in my mind, with the nonsense betraying/
the people look at me, I'm just saying/
I'm black (labels the color of my skin)/
Hate (exists in this world we all live in)/
Peace (not enough of it going around)/
Mass Influ (how we seeing it, how it's going down)/
Analyze.../

posted by eddydamascene at 7:18 PM on August 6, 2003


I just wanna know where Kool Keith and all his aliases fit into this equation. That shit's just wacky, yo!

Ahem. That was my Doc Oc reference, afx114. And while we're giving props, let's not forget basehead, the b-boys (again, because they deserve it), the pharcyde, and DJs Krush, Shadow and Zero. And a billion others.
posted by squirrel at 7:31 PM on August 6, 2003


well it's darn near impossible for me to take seriously anyone who apparently misses the point of and does not see the art in grand master flash's "the message" and then actually goes on to describe melle mel's delivery as "menacing". astonishing. i don't know anything about mr. mcwhorter but my first impression is one of ivory towers and the cluelessness that tends to furnish them.
posted by t r a c y at 7:46 PM on August 6, 2003


If I were Gary Coleman, I would add an eleventh campaign strategy: to mandate an epilogue to the end of music videos with gratuitous sex and/or violence where the main character(s) of said video would be found, in the epilogue, to be in jail, in a physical/occupational rehabilitation setting, in a pregnancy clinic, in paternity court, in a sexual assault/STD office, in the hospital. The purpose is to dramatise consequences for otherwise consequence-less activities shown in most mainstream videos. The epilogue would be filmed for each video but epilogues would only be shown for every x videos aired, thus preserving the surprise/novelty-factor, and hopefully the impact of the message of the subtle and silent PSA. If I were Gary Coleman -- or on preview, even if I were Arnold Schwarzenegger -- that's what I'd do, yes.
posted by philfromhavelock at 8:17 PM on August 6, 2003


Who buys more hip hop? White teens. Who is the best selling hip hop artist of the past five years? A white rapper (Eminem). Who is the most critically acclaimed non-Eminem hip-hop artist of recent times? Another white rapper (The Streets).

So because a minority of white guys are starting to do something that black people have been doing for 20 years, it suddenly ceases to be authentic for a black person to do hip hop? I don't buy that. Hip hop is just expanding it's borders, the same way it happed with rock and roll and jazz. But would you say that Jazz isn't authentically black because Michael Brecker is popular? Of course not.

White people are a part of hip hop anyway, and they have been for a long fucking time. Russell Simmons started Def Jam with Rick Ruben, a white guy. The Source was founded by Dave Mays, a white guy from Harvard who did more for the hip hop scene in Boston than anyone but Ed OG. Eminem, a white guy, signed 50 Cent, who despite what you think of his radio shit, had been putting out dope mix CD's in New York for 6 years and no one would sign him because of skeevy New York record industry shit. He had to go to fucking LA to get a record deal.

Who profits more from hip hop? The white-owned record labels and white-owned media firms. Those record labels and media firms showcase a determined drive to only allow expressions that promote the old racial stereotypes that members of society have been trying to hard to eliminate for so long. If you're a black rapper, its pretty rare to become successful without succumbing to involving the racial stereotypes in your work, no matter how talented you are.

Well, that's a record industry wide problem, not a hip hop problem. But there are plenty of independent hip hop labels that give artists their due - Def Jux, Rawkus, Rockafella Records, Bomb Hip Hop, Coup D'etat and probably half a dozen independent labels in your back yard. In New England I can find dope white MCs, black MCs, asian MCs, etc. White people doing hip hop is not a problem. It's a good thing.

If you're a white rapper, its much easier, even if you are absolute shit.

Right... Turn on MTV, turn on the radio. Most artists on commercial hip hop radio are black. You think the Streets gets played on Hot 97.7? The Streets get played on alternative rock stations, along with Eminem and the Beastie Boys. But that doesn't matter anyway, because 99% of commercial hip hop radio is shit. The college stations and the internet is where its at.
posted by SweetJesus at 8:52 PM on August 6, 2003


If you're going to attack the author for going off about backdated groups, you might not want to be bringing up, say, Arrested Development. Yeah, bringing up De La Soul shows you're au courant. You might also note that the article echoes some points made here - such as that staying popular requires certain performers to lower themselves to stereotypes. And he admits that he focuses mainly on the popular.

In any case, he's a black social conservative who goes overboard in his criticisms, and shows a bias against the music as a whole (in a "journal" aimed at an audience of mostly practitioners and conservatives - so the authors don't have to be too careful). Somewhere in there, however, is a persusasive argument just dying to get out.
posted by raysmj at 9:05 PM on August 6, 2003


So because a minority of white guys are starting to do something that black people have been doing for 20 years, it suddenly ceases to be authentic for a black person to do hip hop? I don't buy that.

Where did I make that assertation? I was arguing against the idea the whites haven't co-opted hiphop. You helped out arguing the same point as me on that. =)

Other than that misleading attack, your opinions pretty much mesh with mine. I agree that it is partially a record label problem. But I also think its a media problem as well. I did a google search for Hot 97.7 (You didn't give a market), it appears that there's a generic hip hop station by that name and frequency in most major markets, which meshes with the white-owned media firms problem. Del the Funky Homosapien didn't get any airplay outside of college and net radio until a cartoon band showcased his abilities.


Oh, and look at Bubba Sparx. Zero talent, halfass beats recycled, and he still got more airplay than 99% of all black hip hop artists two years back.

Also, in major contrast to the last link in my previous post.

Dizzee Rascal?
I guess I have to look into this.
posted by Darke at 9:46 PM on August 6, 2003


Some other Metafilter McWhorterish discussions, and quite good ones too.

Here, here, here, here.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 9:51 PM on August 6, 2003


I bet the same thing was said about jazz back in the day.

Often gleefully violent, misogynist jazz music?

Well, heroin addict music, which had a grain of truth -- that didn't mean the music wasn't great. (Incidentally, the jazz musician who teaches at a high school in my town was prohibited from a church in the mid 1950s on the grounds that jazz promotes heroin.

Eminem blew up so big because it was even scarier to see a white artist acting like a "scary" black guy.

Partly true, I'm sure, but mostly Eminem blew up because he's a very, very good rapper. I don't like his lyrics much, but in terms of sheer technique and musicality he's great; tracks like "Lose Yourself", where the backing and vocals merge perfectly, verge on genius (a lot help from Dre on that front, but his new albums show he has plenty of independent beat-making ability). It's cool to hate him, and I'd love to join in, but he's too damn good. (And yes, a fair portion of radio hip-hop is crap, but a fair portion isn't . "Popular" doesn't always mean watered-down dreck.)

Brief anecdote: a friend of mine's an MC; he went to New York a couple months ago and brought back a ridiculous number of mix tapes, some of the greatest stuff I've ever heard. Some tracks rival bebop in their sheer density: there's so much going on. Complex polyrhythmic rhyme schemes; rhythms sliding back and forth, in and out of synch with the backbeat, or floating a triplet ahead. Yeah, the lyrics aren't that deep, but they're elegant, quick and funny; lyrical depth isn't really the point. (And the violence, what violence there is, is usually in jest -- remember, hip-hop started in part as a way to avoid physical confrontation.)

McWhorter may have valid points buried somewhere, but when he effectively says hip-hop isn't music, that's just complete fucking idiocy. It's not even worth shaking your head sadly at; in a decade stuff like this will be the inadvertent-humor equivalent of the 1905 ladies home journal article warning against the perils of Ragtime or the 1930s professor solemnly lambasting Swing.
posted by Tlogmer at 2:47 AM on August 7, 2003


From the article: "The rise of nihilistic rap has mirrored the breakdown of community norms among inner-city youth over the last couple of decades. It was just as gangsta rap hit its stride that neighborhood elders began really to notice that they’d lost control of young black men, who were frequently drifting into lives of gang violence and drug dealing."

Both the rest of that paragraph and the next paragraph sabotage his entire argument, which, it turns out, is pissed-off conjecture. Hip-hop, indeed, mirrored the changes in the communities that it originated in.

Beyond that, no further conclusions about the supposed evils of hip-hop assume any kind of coherence. I'm not aware of any hard evidence of this mirror taking on the role of aggressive community-swallowing monster.

It isn't an accident that some of the hardest shit out there came out of a period wherein the NYC Crown Heights and the L.A. Rodney King riots were looked upon with utter shock by most of the U.S. The mirror, unfortunately, is accurate.
posted by attackthetaxi at 5:03 AM on August 7, 2003


BartFargo - "Anyone else?"

Dungeon Family, Outkast.

McWhorter seems to have confused the extreme of the spectrum (as presented by MTV), with the whole of the art form. I'm a folk-rock playing throwback to the sixties, with a thorough attachment to melody, harmony and peace & love lyrics, but I've heard plenty of hip-hop that I have to admire for its artistry.

Of course, I'm a big fan of musical hybrids as opposed to "pure" forms, so I especially enjoy artists who take elements of hip-hop and blend them with other genres. Beck and G. Love come to mind in that category.
posted by tdismukes at 6:23 AM on August 7, 2003


Ya know I am getting tired of this argument. Because as people have already noted there are plenty of great "up" positive rappers. But another large chunk is what amounts to (IMHO) just reflection of what is going on in inner city environments. I know this has become a cliche, "I'm just talkin about the streets", but I think to a large degree its just reflection. When I here Outkast ,and even The Roots occasionally, talk about guns and and drugs I know that its meant as more of a wake up call than posturing.

As for good hip-hop, I've gone over this before but:
As above, Def Jux (Aesop, EL-P, Mr. Lif, RJD2, and often overlooked Cannibal Ox)
MF Doom
KMD (old but recently released)
J-Live
Little Brother (everyone should own their first album)
MC Paul Barman (I suspect this could be a MEFI favorite. anyone back me on that?)
Busdriver
Medina Green
Cee-Lo
Atmosphere
Mike Ladd
Non-Phixtion
Count Bass D
Cunningliguists
posted by Dr_Octavius at 6:27 AM on August 7, 2003


Well, the "thug culture" existed long before hip-hop, and it was reflected in the music of other eras. If you don't believe me check out Sly Stone's There's A Riot Goin' On, "Riot in Cell Block #9" by the Robins, and countless other R&B numbers. Plus this isn't a phenomenon unique to black music. Listen to a lot of rockabilly, 60's-70's biker rock, a lot of Guns-n-Roses and AC/DC even the Stones and you'll hear some equally gritty lyrics. The street hoodlum (of whatever race or location, which accounts for Eminem and the Streets) is a rock and roll archetype and there will always be a faction of "thug music" around. Some may glorify it simply for cash, but the best of it can be quite insightful. But to say that it "causes" it is putting the horse before the cart.

Also, Nappy Roots are pretty good, too.
posted by jonmc at 6:37 AM on August 7, 2003


Is country music holding whites back?

also NTM, Ice-T has actually said that Johnny Cash's "Folsom Prison Blues" is some harder shit than just about any gangsta rap out there. You could add Merle Haggard's "Mama Tried" and Steve Earle's "Copperhead Road" to that pantheon.

Never mind that modern shit, country's got a badass tradition goin' way back...
posted by jonmc at 6:45 AM on August 7, 2003


The Streets get played on alternative rock stations, along with Eminem and the Beastie Boys.

This reminds me of a terific feature I read in the Onion's AV Club a few years back (unfortunately, it was not archived online) about how the divide between "alt-rock" radio and "hip-hop" radio was really a racial divide; notice how "alternative rock" radio (side note: remember when it actually was an alternative?) frequently picks up and plays popular white rappers, such as the aforementioned, but you'll never hear a group like the Roots on any "alt-rock" station, even though the music they make, stylistically, and the way they make it, is much more like rock than someone like Eminem (by that I mean playing their own instruments instead of sampled beats, using guitars and drums and such). Fascinating subject and one I'd never really stopped to consider before reading it.

But yeah... this article is just another example of someone trying to find an easy way to demonize a part of the culture instead of trying to find solutions to the problems.

And on preview...

country's got a badass tradition goin' way back...

Yeah, unfortunately, unless you dig to look for the good stuff nowadays, the badass part is almost completely gone-- turn on CMT or a country radio station and, for the most part, you'll hear prefab pop with faux-twangy vocals. Nauseating.

(Granted, you can say this for pretty much any musical form-- as I discovered when I started being unable to distinguish bands or songs on alt-rock radio.)
posted by nath at 7:03 AM on August 7, 2003


also NTM, Ice-T has actually said that Johnny Cash's "Folsom Prison Blues" is some harder shit than just about any gangsta rap out there.

And I've actually seen Johnny Cash quoted as defending "scary" rap by pointing out that no one ever actually believed that he shot a man in Reno just to watch him die, or even wanted to. So Cash, at least, knows the score. Maybe we should try to get an essay out of him.
posted by COBRA! at 7:08 AM on August 7, 2003


The bad ass template, jonmc, is "Stagger Lee," "Stagg-O-Lee," or "Stack O Lee." Notice the parallels in this article with the front page post link. The whole myth of Stagger is thorny, by the way, and surely it by now it too easily lends itself to posing of a stupid and cliched sort, one picked up on by listeners who also suffer from a lack of imagination.

Meanwhile, I think there's a Sun blues recording called "I'm Gonna Murder My Baby," written by a guy who actually did go out and murder his baby. So the line between reality and song is not always so separate, as Johnny implies.
posted by raysmj at 7:14 AM on August 7, 2003


no one ever actually believed that he shot a man in Reno just to watch him die,

True enough, but Merle was definitely as much of a badass as his music implied, as proved by his stretch at San Quentin. Plus just to add to the country badass pile, Don Kirschner of Midnight Special fame was quoted as saying taht of all the acts he dealt with, David Allan Coe (of "Longhaired Redneck" fame) was the most frightening. Sadly he's turned into a self-parody and a racist one at that.

On preview, good call ray, I was wondering when stagolee was gonna come up. Greil Marcus wrote an excellent article in Mystery Train connecting the Stagolee myth and Sly Stone's Riot and now there's a book out on the myth (which permeated both the blues and country, Frank Hutchinsons version is great too) which I'm buying next payday.
posted by jonmc at 7:17 AM on August 7, 2003


True enough, but Merle was definitely as much of a badass as his music implied, as proved by his stretch at San Quentin.

I love the Hag, but I think he was in San Quentin for writing fraudulent checks. Although maybe his toughness was embiggened by stuff that went down while he was inside.

Oh, and, the more I think about it, this entire essay is like complaining that all of those violent Shakespeare plays were holding the English back.
posted by COBRA! at 7:22 AM on August 7, 2003


From Country Capsule:

Unfocused, unruly and unsettled, Haggard learned early to walk the mean streets. As a teenager he took on every unskilled job that would have him, from oil field roustabout to hay-pitcher to short order cook. That was the bright side. He also saw the insides of various penal institutions for crimes ranging from burglary to auto theft and even to escape.

Before he had reached the age of 21, and not long after having married his first wife, Leona, he was serving time in the notorious San Quentin Penitentiary, thanks to a bungled attempt at burglarizing a tavern. But the three-year stretch within those gray and desolate walls became the experience that totally altered his view of life. After a stint in solitary confinement for making home brew, he abruptly assumed the role of model prisoner and earned a parole in 1960.

posted by jonmc at 7:28 AM on August 7, 2003


Hmm. I got the checks thing from an interview in Spin a few years back, but I have no links to back it up. And your story's more entertaining, anyway.

Are any of these new-fangled rappers crafty enough to go into solitary for making home brew?
posted by COBRA! at 7:38 AM on August 7, 2003


MC Paul Barman (I suspect this could be a MEFI favorite. anyone back me on that?)

I'm definitely 'bout it. I was wondering why he wasn't brought up sooner.

what can I say?
I'm a lonely male that'll settle for any phony in a ponytail

posted by mcsweetie at 7:43 AM on August 7, 2003


I guess you could call Barman an "angst'a" rapper?
posted by jonmc at 7:45 AM on August 7, 2003


Well, the "thug culture" existed long before hip-hop, and it was reflected in the music of other eras. If you don't believe me check out Sly Stone's There's A Riot Goin' On, "Riot in Cell Block #9" by the Robins, and countless other R&B numbers.

Apart from two lines in a verse in Thank You For Lettin' Me Be Myself Again, There's A Riot Goin' On has nothing to do with any so-called thug culture. Certainly, I can think of no one who thought so when it was released. Drugs, disillusionment with the whole hippie ethos and the breakup of the band are topics which have much more to do with the album. Family Affair and You Caught Me Smilin'--these are about crime and violence? Puh-leeze...

The Robin's Riot In Cellblock #9 is a novelty number written by Lieber and Stoller. If one can argue that it is about thug culture, then so is Elvis's Jailhouse Rock, let alone Lloyd Price's Stagger Lee. The truth to absurdity ratio is the same in making the claim in either case.

One could make an argument that pre-war (WW II) blues are very much about crime and violence--and certainly the consensus in the black and white communities at the time might support the notion--and a close listen to some of, say, Mississippi John Hurt's lyrics might bear this out, (I'm goin' downtown with my razor in my hand...), but it would be not quite as weak an argument as linking the examples in the quote above to some so-called thug culture. But I wouldn't make the argument, myself: Lieber-Stoller lyrics, There's A Riot Goin' On and Mississippi John Hurt are not exactly Suge Knight territory....

Otherwise, what tyro urge and raysmj said.
posted by y2karl at 7:56 AM on August 7, 2003


The Robin's Riot In Cellblock #9 is a novelty number written by Lieber and Stoller. If one can argue that it is about thug culture, then so is Elvis's Jailhouse Rock, let alone Lloyd Price's Stagger Lee.

Which I would argue. It's only a matter of degree. The white "cats" who made up Elvis' initial male fan base were derided as "delinquents" and "hoods" as I imagine most white fans of R&B were. If the lyrics arent as blatantly shocking as say Snoop Dogs, well, it was a different time.
posted by jonmc at 8:09 AM on August 7, 2003


Out of 75 comments, I've only seen one female hip hop artist mentioned. While not all rap/hip hop artists are sexist, much of the culture (especially what is represented in videos & on the radio) is. I guess that's why I tend to prefer Missy Elliott & Eve to Eminem & 50 Cent.
posted by witchstone at 8:23 AM on August 7, 2003


Upon review, y2karl has a point, in that the "thug culture" was not as explicitly represented in the lyrics of the aforementioned music as it later would be in hip-hop, but it certainly was in the culture surrounding it. For examples, check out Richard Price's novel The Wanderers and the blaxploitation flicks of the seventies.

The Marcus essay that both of us mentioned does tie Stone's Riot into the decline of the 60's/hippie/civil rights ethos, but it specifically references gangsterism and street crime as what it's declining into. Witness the Bobby Seale quote that serves as it's epigram and the legnthy treatise on the very "thug culture" film Across 110th street contained therein.

If anything the extreme nature of gangsta rap could be seen as illustration of street life changing from rumbling leather jacketed hoods in streetgangs to machine gun weilding gangsters.

also, nice to be debating music with ya again, karl. :)

I guess that's why I tend to prefer Missy Elliott & Eve to Eminem & 50 Cent.

I'd consider Eve every bit the qual of eminem and superior to 50 cent and I consider Missy along with females like MC Lyte to be among the best of the genre.
posted by jonmc at 8:35 AM on August 7, 2003


You guys are killing me.

Let me go back to square one. I'm not a rap/hip-hop fan, never have been, never will be; you wanna know which contemporary bands have been influenced by Brian Wilson's late, great Smile, I'm your man. But my ignorance of hip-hop is astounding.

Which is to say that three-quarters of the worthwile, "socially responsible" artists mentioned in this thread, I've never even heard of before. I have, however, heard of 50 Cent, Eminem and others who, frankly, sell more records, and therefore, maybe, have a broader cultural impact as a whole.

And it sounds to me from the tone of this discussion that once you get into hip-hop you quickly realize that there is a whole universe of it out there, any flavor (flava?) you want. Great. But the public face of hip-hop is often just as McWhorter describes; put the Roots' album sales next to 50 Cent's; the admitted crack dealer who enjoys showing off his bullet scars wins that battle, hands down.

And it is that image that is the intial attraction for so many. It's the scent of danger, man, been that way since Elvis and before.

But I'd argue that such overt paeans to gleefully violent misogyny do influence the culture. Why do so many people want to believe it doesn't? Didn't the mere appearance of the Beatles inspire kids to grow their hair long?

Which is not to say that tales of agression and disdain for women are going to translate into a rap sheet for my kid or anyone else who listens to the music, but McWhorter's opening anecdote is valid, and sort of Beavis and Butthead-ish, don't you think? I can see the animated duo getting into someone's face, "RISE UP, FROM THE GRAVE..."

For kids, anyway, cultural heroes are to be emulated. When you're talking kids who are teetering anyway, kids who are getting little family/community support who don't necessarily perceive any incentive to point to trying to succeed, how is it that the tale of a similar kid who's been shot and dealt drugs and went down the wrong path and is now a huge star and multi-millionaire not supposed to serve as some sort of perverse inspiration, to be mimicked?
posted by kgasmart at 11:30 AM on August 7, 2003


I totally disagree with you guys and agree with the author on most of his points.
1. Yes, there are some positive rappers and hip hop artists out there, but they are the wildly popular ones that everyone imitates. The most popular are the ones that glorify gang violence, hating women, killing, and other anti-social behavior. I haven't seen De la Soul up there with 50 cent lately. I don't see kids running around imitating De La Soul!

2. You tell me seriously that kids imitating hip hop lyrics, dress, mannerisms, lifestyle, and such doesn't hurt them? If you're hiring people for your business, are you going to hire someone who looks, acts like, and emulates a gangster street thug? Seriously...if that was your company and you are responsible for it's success. Who are you going to hire? A kid who acts like he hates you and wants to blow your head off and doesn't speak "business" English?

3. I don't believe for a second that white kids buy more hip hop. I'd bet that 99.9% of black kids listen to hip hop and it's ilk almost exclusively. A small percentage of white kids to as their exclusive music choice. As a result, the hip hop culture has become their culture and has consumed the black culture and these kid's life imitates the music. And frequently, there isn't a whole lot else out there that they can use as a role model of what is "right" where many white kids have other role models or views of society outside the hood. Hell, I started listening to NWA when they came out in the 80's. But I had enough other positive messages and people in my life and expectations of me to know that the life and culture NWA was glorifying was not one that would lead to great things. Many kids in the ghetto don't have what I did, so they think it's the only way.

Yes, hip hop helps blacks express themselves. Yes, some of it is wonderful and artistic and great poetry. Yes, there are a lot of poeple who listen to it and don't become street thugs. However, the more the kids adopt the gangster culture into their lives, the less prepared they will be to enter the social and economic cultures that are necessary to "get ahead" in America. You don't see CEO's who are street thugs. You don't see doctors or lawyers or IT professionals who look like 50 cent and speak "ebonics" at work. You don't see professional people who curse and gesticulate wildly and disrespect women openly. It just doesn't happen. And the more this music tells kids that the lifestyle is great and leads to power and success, they will continue to fail in bigger society. Without other positive roll models (and music is a HUGE role model), the downward spiral will continue.

And I'm not dismissing racism, Jim Crow, slavery, etc as also having a great deal to do with the problems blacks are having in this country. I'm saying that Hip Hop and it's absorbtion into their mainstream culture isn't helping them at all.

I know, I'm setting myself up for the flaming. But I think that you are all being a little naive in saying it doesn't hurt the black culture at all.
posted by aacheson at 11:31 AM on August 7, 2003


kgasmart, I agree with some of your points regarding the message that some rap is putting out, but slamming hip-hop generally because it has been used to convey a violent message is like shooting your TV because you don't like one of the shows. Even if it's one of the more popular shows.

Also, if this thread is going to continue--and it may have run its course already--we should distinguish between rap and hip-hop, because there is a difference.

aacheson, if dizziness persists, discontinue use.
posted by squirrel at 12:18 PM on August 7, 2003


Squirrel, are you trying to insult me?
posted by aacheson at 12:41 PM on August 7, 2003


i'm kind of surprised that a black scholar like mcwhorter isn't looking into the cause of the misogyny and violence in rap music. it doesn't happen in a vacuum, y'know.

also: this far into the thread and no mention of esg? for shame.
posted by pxe2000 at 12:51 PM on August 7, 2003


Squirrel, in the words of KRS-One:
"Rap is something you do while hip-hop is a way of life."

aacheson: I don't think your getting the point. Your putting the horse before the cart (or should that be cart before horse), Rap did not come first, crack sales etc. did. Inner city youth are not selling crack because the want to be the next 50 Cent, they are selling because you make MONEY. Rap imagery is not coming from thin air, it comes from real situations and making music about these situations is the way out for many people. Now if your talking about suburban kids playing dress up at the local Burger King then of course thats a different story and not the topic of the article.
posted by Dr_Octavius at 1:11 PM on August 7, 2003


Dr_Octavius, I know that rap isn't the cause of social decay (drug dealing, etc) but it's not helping kids get out of that way of life. Before rap, everyone knew the ghetto was not a place you wanted to stay-it isn't a good place. Now rap makes the ghetto sound like the only place a "real black person" should want to be. It provides no alternative choices but the ghetto life. It provides "role models" who are drug dealers, womanizers, wife beaters, and violent, anti-social, psychopaths. And kids who try to imitate the heros of the rap/hip hop culture are just digging themselves deeper into a hole. With no other alternatives being put forth my their music or their heros, it's not suprising.

When you say the music is a "way out" for the kids...a way out of what? Yes, it may speak the truth of what's going on in their world-but provides nothing more than a confirmation of what they already experiencing.

That was what I was trying to say, I was just talking too much before.
posted by aacheson at 1:35 PM on August 7, 2003


aacheson, I'm sorry. Your post was sincere and my comment to you was snide. I disagree with you on such fundamental grounds that I didn't know where to start, a frustration which often leads to the easy snark.

You don't see CEO's who are street thugs. You don't see doctors or lawyers or IT professionals who look like 50 cent and speak "ebonics" at work.

You speak of hip-hop as a failed means to success as you define it, yet hip-hop has never proposed to be any such means. Also, some of your comments were embarrassingly racist, such as your assertion that all black kids listen to hip-hop exclusively. Ouch. I see from your profile that you're a lover of techno. I am, too. How many CEO's do you know that wear glowsticks?
posted by squirrel at 1:36 PM on August 7, 2003


I grew up in Oakland and was known in school as the "little white girl," so I'm not saying those things while sitting in my suburban kitchen in Westchester, squirrel. I also currently live in Oakland, and I don't see many black kids blasting The Dave Matthews Band on their stereos. Yes, my experience is limited, but I know it's safe to say that more black kids listen to Rap/hip hop than white kids do.

I love techno. So do many other people. But people who succeed in the world know that they can't bring alternative cultures into the workplace and live that culture every day if they are going to get buy successfully in the "real world." I haven't adopted the techno culture as my only lifestyle and live it, dress it, speak it. If I did, I know I wouldn't have the job or life I have today. I'd be a pathetic tweeker who hangs out in the Tenderloin. Same for these kids. It's the adoption of the culture and lifestyle and the lack of positive alternatives that is hurting them. If they listened to rap/hip hop and had other avenues available to them to experience life, it would be different. But they don't, and so rap and the life it glorifies is all they know, and that is hurting them.
posted by aacheson at 1:55 PM on August 7, 2003


but slamming hip-hop generally because it has been used to convey a violent message is like shooting your TV because you don't like one of the shows. Even if it's one of the more popular shows.

You know, if James Gandolfini had actually bumped off anyone in real life, I might concede you this point. But the fact is that with some rap artists, life imitates art which imitates life. Take 50 Cent again; caught recently with assault weapons in the car. Eminem's gun charge. Tupac. You can cite all the socially valuable rap you want, and I'll agree that it can be a wonderfully expressive art form, but there's no getting away from the fact that for some of the genre's most successful artists, "thug life" isn't just a description of their past; it's a description of their aspirations.
posted by kgasmart at 2:20 PM on August 7, 2003


Who are you going to hire? A kid who acts like he hates you and wants to blow your head off and doesn't speak "business" English?

aacheson, do you feel that the average kid in Oakland, who certainly imitates hip-hop lyrics, dress, and mannerisms, hates you and wants to blow your head off?

I don't believe for a second that white kids buy more hip hop.

You're arguing percentages, where other posters are talking about raw numbers.
posted by eddydamascene at 3:31 PM on August 7, 2003


...there's no getting away from the fact that for some of the genre's most successful artists, "thug life" isn't just a description of their past; it's a description of their aspirations.

Granted. Still, you're extrapolating the attitudes and behavior of a few individuals to narrowly define a broad genre of music. There's no way to do that without looking uninformed and narrow-minded.

Dr_Octavius, with props to KRS-One, hip-hop has become more than the lifestyle that accompanies rap activity. As a musical movement, it has roots in the rhythmical turntablism that early rap used as a springboard. However, hip-hop has outgrown that role and no longer merely serves rap. Hip-hop expands on the sample-based freestyle and incorporates new influences freely. Hip-hop is like instrumental jazz played with chunks of sonic culture.

Perhaps you could say that hip-hop is what happened one day when DJ's started working out before the rappers showed up for practice. Hip-hop DJ's now upstage MC's, which certainly disposes of MrWhorter's condemnation of the genre on the grounds of its lyrics: a lot of hip-hop doesn't have lyrics as such.
posted by squirrel at 3:47 PM on August 7, 2003


kgasmart: I wrote this post for you and your kind.

I'm sad that rock has been holding white people back.
posted by djacobs at 5:17 PM on August 7, 2003


Maybe that's a racist thing for a white boy to say

Nothing "Maybe" about it, my friend. It's clearly a racist thing for anyone to say. In your heart, you *knew* it was racist, but you thought that by posting a disclaimer you could soften the blow.

As a white guy with a young kid, I worry about how the often gleefully violent, misogynist rap music he may choose to listen to could affect him.

I'd be more worried about the actions of his government. Also, as you raise your child, I'd seriously interrogate where, how and why you identify threats to his safety. Is Limp Bizkit more or less of a threat to your son's attitude towards the world than 50 cent? Why? What about Mötley Crüe or Mos Def?
posted by djacobs at 5:29 PM on August 7, 2003


call me misinformed, but i thought mos def was one of the more pro-female rappers out there...? is this false information, or is he like speech from arrested development where his liberal, progressive politics mask a hatred of women?
posted by pxe2000 at 7:36 PM on August 7, 2003


djacobs, the ever-so enlightened one, has among this faves of hip-hop Missy Elliott's Under Constrution." A sample lyric from a a featured song, "Back in the Day."

"What happened to those good old days, when hip-hop was so much fun/those parties in the summer y'all, and no one came through with a gun."


Oh, damn, music isn't what it used to be! (Wasn't that attitude decried by others here, as well as on your own site?) Kids today!
posted by raysmj at 8:11 PM on August 7, 2003


maybe it's drugs? "Finally, the time has come to decriminalize drugs. Trafficking in drugs attracts young blacks mainly because it offers much better pay (provided they don't get caught) than do the legal alternatives, which tend to be low-wage jobs. Even conservatives and liberals who are reluctant to make drugs legal have to recognize that the present system does enormous damage to the black community, especially to the many black men who spend years in prison on drug charges." -- Gary S. Becker, the 1992 Nobel laureate
posted by kliuless at 8:54 PM on August 7, 2003




kgasmart: I wrote this post for you and your kind.

Ah, me and my kind. Amazing that it only took 90-some posts to get around to this.

Listen, junior, Limp Bizkit bothers me every bit as much as 50 Cent. They're cut from the same cloth: Look how cool/renegate/tough/threatening/violent I can be. I think it's one thing to cop that attitude, another when it becomes who you are. And who, in turn, you inspire others to be.

Your laundry list is fine and good, you'll note that nowhere have I said that there is no valid and relevant hip-hop out there. But I again point you to album sales, and thus overall impact on the culture as a whole. For every kid who gets into it to the extent that you are and discovers the vastness of the genre is a kid who's happy to live with the obvious.

And the obvious, at this point, is every bit the characiture of itself that right-wing radio is; the more extreme, the more willing to push the envelope, the more "edgy" it is perceived to be, and we all like our cheap thrills.
posted by kgasmart at 11:01 AM on August 8, 2003


I think it's one thing to cop that attitude, another when it becomes who you are. And who, in turn, you inspire others to be.

I agree - then why did you single out hip-hop and not all pop music?

But I again point you to album sales, and thus overall impact on the culture as a whole.

Album sales have very little effect on cultural relevance. In 2 years, every hip-hop band will sound the way underground hip-hop does today.

And the obvious, at this point, is every bit the characiture of itself that right-wing radio is; the more extreme, the more willing to push the envelope, the more "edgy" it is perceived to be, and we all like our cheap thrills.

good point.
posted by djacobs at 7:35 PM on August 9, 2003


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