Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Black Culture Beyond Hip-Hop

An article in yesterday's Washington Post, very succinctly said what I have been trying to say for some time, and that is, simply, that hip-hop is NOT black culture.

Oh sure, it is one part of our wide and varied culture, but it certainly isn't, or at least SHOULDN'T be the centerpiece. Indeed, hip hop is a sub-culture... and not just a black one, either.

Black culture is a constantly growing component of the wider American cultural garden. A garden in which many things grow... soul-satisfying foods, our churches, our entertainers, scholars, soldiers, jurists, statesmen (and women) and professionals of all sorts. The soil in this garden was prepared, seeded and tended by those who came before us, who intended that we should all be fed, economically, culturally, and spiritually, by the fruits of their labor. We should be fed from that garden and prosper.

Hip hop is is a weed in that garden. Like Poison Ivy, growing in your Azaleas, hip hop has attached itself to black culture and won't let go. Like Poison Ivy can choke and kill your Azalea, Hip Hop has the potential to destroy not only black culture, but our community as well.

Hip hop is a danger because it is a celebration of immorality, poor (or non-existent) values, crime, bad ideals, and low expectations. Worse yet, too many middle-class blacks are clinging to it on some sick grasp at authenticity, also known as "keepin' it real"

Hip hop is overgrowing in our cultural garden and we had better eradicate it now, or we'll never get anything good out of that soil again.

In his article, I think that the most important statement that Chatterton-Williams makes is that "...the glorification of lower-class reality in the Hip hop era has quietly taken the place of white racism as the most formidable obstacle to success and equality in the black middle classes".

I think he is right.


jessabean said...

I just finished reading the editorial about five minutes ago, then wandered over to your blog. Lo and behold, you'd already written a response!

I tend to agree that "hip hop culture" brings the black community down more than it lifts it up. It is disappointing to think that many hip hop artists consider bling and women and hot cars to be major components of their identity and the image they want to share with the world. I'd rather hear the "real" stories: the life experiences, the social issues, the hopes and dreams.

As a music lover, though, I can't give up hope. Hip hop is an art form, a tool, a means--and in the hands (or mouth) of the right artist, I think it can be a beautiful thing.

There's more I wish I could say, but I'm not a succinct person and I don't want to hijack your thread! As always, you are clear and to the point. Another nice post on an important issue, GF.

Gunfighter said...

Thanks Jess... or Bean... Jessabean!

Never hold back when commenting here, my friends.... I don't get wound up about it.


super des said...

I think it's like saying hippies are white culture. Sure there are white hippies just as there are black hip-hoppers, but that's not ALL white people (or back people), and all people of this race are not involved in this.

I agree that with any stereotype, it brings down more than it builds up. But we all know that stereotypes and generalizations are not always accurate.

DJ Black Adam said...

Hey Gunfighter:
While I agree with the author of the articles overall intent, I think there should be a differentiation between “Hip Hop” and “Gangst Rap” or “Thug” culture. And no, I am not a “Hip Hop” apologist, I am (amongst other things) a musician and composer (hip hop is not my genre of choice; I compose Jazz, Neo Soul and alternative). However I think those of us who differentiate between “gangsta rap” / “thug culture” and “Hip Hop” are generally musicians who understand genre and sub genre.

I just don’t think it is fair to lump Taleb Kweli, Mos def and the Roots with 50 cent, Snoop Dog and Ludacris. The equivalent would be to lump Luther Vandross and Lional Richie up with R. Kelly and Chris Brown because they both sing “R&B”. Who would do that?

The fact is, that you would have a gang of “Hip Hop” artist jump on board unequivocally for the misogyny and violence to be purged for urban radio if people could just not lump them up with the negative.

Again, I am not a “Hip Hop” apologist. To quote the O’jays, “I love music”. Now, of course I love “People” more than music, so if we had to get rid of all hip hop to stop this drama of misogyny, etc., I would say do it.

Fact is, if we want something done about the issue, Black and Urban Radio must be hit in the pocket books, that’s the only way this stuff comes off the air.

King Isepik said...

I agree with DJ Black Adam. There are sub-categories and Gangsta Rap and Thug are what I consider misogynistic and we'd all be better off without that attitude.

I'd gladly sacrifice it, however, if it eliminated the core rot of gangsta rap and the attitude that follows it.

Conseula said...

I have to agree with DJ Black Adam. Gangsta and thug culture are deplorable and damaging and we should all be working to dismantle it. (DJ Black Adam is also right when he says this is largely an economic project, but we have to hit the pocketbooks of large media conglomerates as well as urban radio to get this stuff off the air.) However, you can't throw the baby out with the bathwater. The Roots and De La Soul and Outkast are unequivocally hiphop and I am more than happy to let them represent black culture. The problem is that people who comment on hip hop in the mainstream press are often people whose hostility about hip hop usually means they don't actually listen to it. All they see or hear is the random video on BET or a stray profane lyric or two blasting from someone's car. You can't really judge an entire genre of music from on that.

And I think we really have to take a closer look at the assumptions of the author of the piece. I am as big a fan as the next person of Dubois, but is his idea of "cultivation" really the measuring stick of black success we want to use? Is it really not possible to be successful and cultivated and still like hip hop? Is "sitting with Shakespeare" our goal?

When we are talking to young people about the kind of people they need to be in the world, our goal shouldn't be determining what music they should or shouldn't listen to. We should be teaching them to live lives of dignity and respect. That may mean giving up thug culture. It could also mean a whole host of other things, including giving up antiquated ideas of assimilation.