Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Harping on Hip Hop

I know some folks are too quick to yell "RACISM!" I generally try to avoid jumping that particular gun, but I don't know if the following qualifies or not:

The title of today's episode of CNN's Paula Zahn Now is "Hip-hop: Art or Poison?".

The write-up on their site says,
"Shocking images and lyrics have America asking if hip-hop has gone too far. "Hip-hop: Art or Poison?" A Paula Zahn prime time special. Tune in Wednesday at 8 p.m. ET."
Of course, there are obvious comparisons between this debate and those of the mid-1900's about Rock N Roll. So, I find myself wondering if the apparently middle-aged Zahn never learned or has forgotten the lessons of that era.

Beyond that, though, I have to wonder why these questions would apply to Hip Hop in the 21st Century and not Rock N Roll or any other musical genre.

The episode's title seems to be equally interrogative and declarative. After all, for it to be a question even worth the on-air asking, one must consider there to be a strong case to be made for BOTH sides.

I mean really. POISON?
It's music. Some of it is awful, some of it is great, and a lot of it is somewhere in-between.

And again, I wonder why it's only this music, largely performed by Black artists, that merits such a broadcast.

12 comments:

Eccentricly Dull said...

Great Post West...

PBS had a special on Tuesday about Hip-Hop, Violence and Misogyny so maybe CNN is jsut trawling behind..

I agree that the argument could be made that there is a lot of sex and violence in rock & roll as well.


I still welcome anything that will start the community in the questions of why is it that songs of consumerism, sex and violence are so often portrayed as the pinnacle of 'black' entertainment today?

As to why it gets attention now, it is black history month.

West said...

Welcome, e.d.

Yeah, it is true that they've got a BHM theme going on, at the moment. Too bad they took it there, though.

DJ Black Adam said...

Well, there are a couple ways of looking at it. Rock and Roll was a generational gap, whereas with Hip Hop (Commercial Hip Hop) I have talked to people of all ages, races and political affiliations who just find the messages being telegraphed and expressed by the music to be “poison”.

You got: Pimp Worship, Prostitution and Stripping Glorification, Drug Dealer glorification, blatant materialism targeted to the people who can afford things the least, etc., etc., etc.

And then, creatively speaking as a musician and producer myself, production flatly sucks these days, rappers have little IF ANY skills (Outside Peanut Butter, Inside Jelly?). Damn, Like KRS One said: “You can be a pimp, hood, hustla or playa..but make sure first that you'se a dope rhyme sayer!!”

West said...

There's a generational gap to HIP HOP, as well, and there were people of various ages who disliked the messages of ROCK N ROLL, back in teh day, I'm sure.

And again, there are examples of negative themes in HIP HOP, just as there are examples of them in ROCK N ROLL and other genres.

DJ Black Adam said...

West, I see your point, but this is beyond generational, I have a 15 year old cousin who is a rapper that can't stand the crap coming out.

Rock & Roll was not in an era where the VIDEO medium was helping spread a message (and the record sales shows that).

Maybe its BET and MTV that has added fuel to the fire, but the images and lyrics of mainstream Hip Hop music, are from my observation, destructive and mirror a destructive culture that has formed in urban communities of Blacks and Latinos.

West said...

Mirroring behavior is not the same as being responsible for it. To be poison, Hip Hop and other music genres would have to be largely responsible for ills of these communities, as opposed to being reflections of them.

Then, when you consider that, reportedly, white youth are the largest group of consumers of HIP HOP, perhaps its popularity and pervasiveness is a sign of something much broader than the proclivities of ethnic minorities.

DJ Black Adam said...

West:

You wrote: “Mirroring behavior is not the same as being responsible for it. To be poison, Hip Hop and other music genres would have to be largely responsible for ills of these communities, as opposed to being reflections of them.”

Then let us just remove the term “mirroring” and submit the term “Agitating Factor”. I am a DJ, and if there is one thing I know, is that music AFFEECTS people.

I have had clubs filled with a couple thousand people, and played with their emotions with music, it is just what it does.
That being said, music that is pumped into Black America glorifying pimps and gangstas just isn’t a reflection of that actuality but theme music.

Worst yet, it attempts to make acceptable the despicable themes of pimping women or being pimped by its message, that is much more than a mirror.

You also wrote:

”Then, when you consider that, reportedly, white youth are the largest group of consumers of HIP HOP, perhaps its popularity and pervasiveness is a sign of something much broader than the proclivities of ethnic minorities.”

Maybe so, since the “Say No to Drugs” campaign came out after the problem became a white suburban problem. Either way, it doesn’t change the fact that there was a problem before white America noticed.

Same with Commercial Hip Hop, there was a problem since NWA first broke the genre of gangsta rap. And because we did nothing about it, it grew like a cancer to the negativity it is now.

Like the Blastmaster said: "You could be a mack, a pimp, hustler or player...But make sure live you is a dope rhyme sayer"

West said...

I wouldn't deny that music affects people, but affecting someone is not the same as poisoning them.

You're saying there's something wrong with Black America. I don't deny that just like I don't deny that there's something wrong with much of America, but I wouldn't go so far as to claim that Black America is poisoning the rest of the country or the rest of the world.

Not everything that negatively affects me is poison, just like not everything that positively affects me is the cure.

DJ Black Adam said...

Well, I can understand you objecting to the word poison, but I guess the Tovarisch in me knows that commerical Hip Hop is at least a potent opiate of the masses, and especially the Urban Youth, and that ain't a good thing.

The term poison may be excessive, but I understand the overall intent of the statement and am not bothered by the choice of the term. Heck, wasn't it BVD that called a "woman" poison? But I digress, that is more systematic of the problem with the music...
As for "Black America" posining the rest of America, I don't think "commerical hip hop" IS Black America.

West said...

Is "metal" poison?

Are violent movies?

DJ Black Adam said...

I don't listen to enough Metal to know, and violent movies are also to a degree "poison" in the sense that it is being forwarded here.

Fact is, if they are or not, does not change the problems that are agitated by the subject matter of commerical hip hop.

West said...

But it would say something about the standards that are applied to different genres, media, and groups of people.

That was one of the points of my original post.