Tuesday, May 8, 2007

On hip hop...

I've always found the evolution of hip hop music to be an interesting subject and how it relates to the African American community. As an outsider looking in (and as a disclaimer), I come with the complete understanding that I will never truly understand the community, but I also believe that my opinions are worthy of consideration. Of course there are exceptions and of course other genres of music are equally guilty of sexist and considerably offensive language, but I wonder how mainstream hip hop can get any worse. Brings to mind a quote from the Boondocks, in which Martin Luther King awakes from a coma to present day : "BET is the worst thing I have ever seen."

More often than not, music videos featuring rap artists are rife with incessant images of materialism oftentimes overlaid on a background of urban poverty. Alcohol is forever flowing and the parties never stop. Finish off with bountiful amounts of scantily clad women serving purely as servile objects of sexuality and you have the basic formula for the everyday rap music video.

The problem I have with this isn't that these images are merely "offensive," but that too large of a percentage of music videos follow this formula without the balance of the other side of hip hop that reinforces socially positive messages and ideas. In response to the recent Imus debaucle and the ongoing usage offensive language, Russel Simmons, co-founder of Def Jam records, and members of the Hip Hop Summit Action Network have publicly asserted that they are pushing to have the words "bitch," "ho" and "n----r" bleeped by the recording industry and radio and television stations. This is an interesting gesture, but I seriously wonder how it will affect the industry.

Peronsally, I believe that Imus' use of the language is not equivalent to rappers using the language simply because Imus is not black but a rich, white male. It's great to hear that discussion about the language used is now happening, but Imus not being black makes all the difference. People who agree to the statement that "black people said it, therefore white people are justified in saying the same things" must also honestly believe the statement that "black people, as a whole, are on the same social level and have the exact same opportunities as whites, as a whole."

Don't get me wrong, I love the genre, but I follow a rule of thumb when deciding which hip hop artists to support: if he's got more platinum teeth or more jewelry than my mom, forget it. From there, I follow up with a rule of index finger: talent.

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