Mouse rant blog vent mouse.

Friday, April 23, 2004

Fear of a Black Planet

That was the c.d. that was sitting in my passenger seat. This was years ago in my single days. I was on a date with a guy a bit, but not much older than me. He picked the disc up and said, "Ugh. How can you listen to this rap music?" That was the first and last date. I know nascent grumpy old fartitude when I see it.
I thought of it while listening to my new addiction, Air America, this morning. The hosts of Morning Sedition were taking phone calls on "hip hop culture". One grumpy old fart after another called in with the same litany of complaints about rap:

*It's not melodic--it's noisy.
*I can't understand what they're saying.
*It's violent.
*It disrespects women.
*It's obscene, sex-obsessed, grossly sexual.
*It promotes drug use.
*The kids who listen to it look and act ridiculous.

The danger of the modern grumpy old fart is that he thinks that his is hip and with it, so the problem must be the music. When you point out, as the hosts on the show pointed out, that this litany of complaints are the same racist, youth-loathing, sex-phobic complaints that have been aimed at every new music that emerges from black culture. Replace the words "rap" and "hip-hop" with "rock and roll", and the talk show could be straight out of the 50's and 60's without any other changes. And it's easy to "prove" that a certain kind of music is all these things if you only look at certain songs, certain lyrics.

*It's not melodic--it's noisy.
*I can't understand what they're saying.
*It's violent.
*It disrespects women.
*It's obscene, sex-obsessed, grossly sexual.
*It promotes drug use.

Ours is a violent, misogynistic culture. It's inevitable that some of the music it produces will reflect that. It does seem that the violent, misogynistic rap music is the most popular, but that's the result of the mentality that dominates the record industry now. Record executives are actively trying reduce the diversity of the music that is released, and putting all their efforts towards promoting the handful of albums they do release. The few records that do get released are going to reflect the racist stereotypes and misogyny of the record executives. Those records are promoted relentlessly and purchased in large numbers by the violent, misogynistic buying audience. Because it sells, record executives are reinforced in their practices. It turns into a huge echo chamber. The monopolization of radio and television stations makes it increasingly difficult for alternative voices to invade and break up the circle jerk.
It's not just hip-hop that is affected. Punk rock, at least the stuff that makes it onto the radio, which used to be a fantastic way for female musicians and subversive viewpoints to have access to the airwaves has been reduced to the same bullshit as everything else on the radio--mean sexism, stupid materialism, the whole frat boy viewpoint.
If you don't like this crap, and I know I don't, you can do something about it. Boycott MTV and corporate labels. Buy from independent labels. Make an effort to seek out diverse music; I promise, it's out there. Go to shows to support smaller bands. But trashing entire genres of music is helping no one.

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