How Hip-Hop Failed Black America

Discussion in 'Too Hot for Swamp Gas' started by tim85, Jun 20, 2014.

  1. tim85
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    tim85 Well-Known Member

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    This isn't necessarily what you think it is. I thought it could be an interesting change of pace for here.

    A think-piece from The Root's (some of you may know them as Jimmy Fallon's house band) iconic drummer Quest Love.

    http://www.vulture.com/2014/04/questlove-on-how-hip-hop-failed-black-america.html

    A snippet for your consideration:

    "
    I want to start with a statement: Hip-hop has taken over black music. At some level, this is a complex argument, with many outer rings, but it has a simple, indisputable core. Look at the music charts, or think of as many pop artists as you can, and see how many of the black ones aren’t part of hip-hop. There aren’t many hip-hop performers at the top of the charts lately: You have perennial winners like Jay Z, Kanye West, and Drake, along with newcomers like Kendrick Lamar, and that’s about it. Among women, it’s a little bit more complicated, but only a little bit. The two biggest stars, Beyoncé and Rihanna, are considered pop (or is that pop-soul), but what does that mean anymore? In their case, it means that they’re offering a variation on hip-hop that’s reinforced by their associations with the genre’s biggest stars: Beyoncé with Jay Z, of course, and Rihanna with everyone from Drake to A$AP Rocky to Eminem.

    It wasn’t always that way. Back in the late '80s, when I graduated high school, you could count the number of black musical artists that weren’t in hip-hop on two hands — maybe. You had folksingers like Tracy Chapman, rock bands like Living Colour, pop acts like Lionel Richie, many kinds of soul singers — and that doesn’t even contend with megastars like Michael Jackson and Prince, who thwarted any easy categorization. Hip-hop was plenty present — in 1989 alone, you had De La Soul and the Geto Boys and EPMD and Boogie Down Productions and Ice-T and Queen Latifah — but it was just a piece of the pie. In the time since, hip-hop has made like the Exxon Valdez (another 1989 release): It spilled and spread.

    So what if hip-hop, which was once a form of upstart black-folk music, came to dominate the modern world? Isn’t that a good thing? It seems strange for an artist working in the genre to be complaining, and maybe I’m not exactly complaining. Maybe I’m taking a measure of my good fortune. Maybe. Or maybe it’s a little more complicated than that. Maybe domination isn’t quite a victory. Maybe everpresence isn’t quite a virtue.
    "
  2. exiledgator
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    exiledgator Gruntled Premium Member

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    Thanks for posting.

    It was kinda what I was expecting, but with a few interesting wrinkles. He's arguing that Hip-Hop's success simultaneously mutes it:

    And that the muting is easily done by the powers that be (whitey?).

    He also suggests that the original message has left:

    And here:

    But couldn't the same be said for other genres, save disco? ;) Rock and Roll still (arguably) survives, but is a far cry from the socially conscious rock of the 60s.

    Nonetheless. He makes some good salient points.
  3. wgbgator
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    wgbgator Sub-optimal Poster Premium Member

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    Hip-hop and country are basically pop music now, they've absorbed rock/electronic/every other major genre there is. Next it will be latin, but that's basically already absorbed American pop, country and hip-hop elements. Pop music is always a stew of sub-genres.
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  4. exiledgator
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    exiledgator Gruntled Premium Member

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    That's exactly the author's point. Hip-hop IS pop and along the way lost it's edge. Just like every other genre.

    It transcends music. Culture/Fashion in general has a strong tendency to adopt the fringe and claim it its own thus castrating the very quality that made that thing fringe to begin with. See: Hipsters for most current edition, though honestly, I don't know what was ever cool/fringe about them. Get off my lawn!

    There's nothing new under the sun.
  5. wgbgator
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    wgbgator Sub-optimal Poster Premium Member

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    Yup, its an age old debate in music, the more successful the product the less "authentic" the music seems. Perhaps the argument should be that "capitalism" or the record business failed black America, because what we're really talking about is the success of "hip-hop" as a commodity, perhaps not in a way that has empowered black America.
  6. exiledgator
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    exiledgator Gruntled Premium Member

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    Which is think is what he was driving at with "easily squelched". IOW, buy the message right out of it.

    It's what we do!
  7. channingcrowderhungry
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    channingcrowderhungry Well-Known Member

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    I almost posted this five part series a few weeks back. Its definitely a thought provoking read.
  8. wgbgator
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    wgbgator Sub-optimal Poster Premium Member

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    I think whats interesting (at least to me), is that hip-hop started as party music (like Rapper's Delight, or Fresh Prince), only in its maturity / "golden age" did it seem to be attached to some sort of social consciousness that got a wide audience. There are early exceptions to this of course, but by the late 80s early 90s its not like hip hop was underground. I mean, Mr. Wendell was a pop hit. Hip-hop certainly started as sort of a DIY genre, but it was MCing and dance music, not protest songs.
  9. Emmitto
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    I too graduated HS when hip-hop was in its prime. I was part of that first generation blasting NWA from the car although I was a little too young to join in the movement where white boys tried to join in the culture (thankfully, because those pictures would be awk-ward). Ghetto Boys, the D.O.C., Public Enemy, etc. I not only liked the new heavy bass and parent-infuriating profanity, but typically they all had something real to say. Even when Cube is talking about money and bitches, he simultaneously rails about the po-leece, other forms of institutionalized racism, and even taking blacks to task for buying into the "romanticism" of being ghetto (Ghetto Vet).

    Now it's hard to find hip-hop (or any successful music act) with anything meaningful to say. The machine is now primed to strike down any form of dissent, to be sure. Criticize the latest war, you're a traitor. Criticize an institution, you're a racist (regardless of color, howling about racism has been successfully co-opted by whites now). Muse about general inequality, you're a lazy whiner. Say something, work the corner bars on weekends. You're toxic to labels and despite the promise of online options, they largely operate on the exact same model. Apple doesn't exist to get your message out. They exist to get out dollars in. Beiber and Miley Cyrus and their vapid nothingness move the needle.

    It doesn't pay to make meaningful music anymore. So Lil' Wayne, with a distinctive sound and an indisputably elite style, pumps out an endless stream of auto-tuned dirtiness. Sure, I like the beat and think it sounds cool, but I would like it just as much if I didn't even understand English.

    You have to scour Spotify or iTunes radio to find any music that actually has something to say, and even those offerings are almost all non-hip-hop (indie, singer/songwriter, etc.) J. Cole is the last "new" act I can recall who was actually trying to deliver a message. And his success is limited, at best. I have personally never felt that Jay Z was all that, although I understand why I'm supposed to. I just don't agree.

    And now who is the best hip-hop artist going? Eminem. Ice Cube is a bad actor. Jay Z is a barely-owner of an NBA team. Dr. Dre endorses overpriced headphones. Snoop pops up high to be punchlines here and there. Wha happen??
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  10. reformedgator
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    From a culture that has spawned some of the best music of all time comes a genre that you don't have
    to be able carry a note & you're still considered a star & an artist.
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  11. 96Gatorcise
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    music today is a tree with very few branches. There is nothing new it is all just a rearrangement of the same sound.

    Personally I spend most of my time listening to the music I grew up with Late 70's, 80's, early 90's. The most recent CD I bought was in 2000.


    heck how can I listen to today's music when I am still discovering musicians and bands that slipped by me when I was younger.
  12. wgbgator
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    wgbgator Sub-optimal Poster Premium Member

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    The thing is, a lot of great music doesnt have anything to say at all. When the Strokes hit, I didnt get excited about what they were singing (mostly about getting drunk and hitting on girls). It just sounded so different from the other early 00s rock and pop. But now "indie" is the sound of rock (with some exceptions), and the Strokes dont really excite me anymore.
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  13. Emmitto
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    Agreed, and I don't expect all of hip-hop to be socially conscious. Some of the best is meaningless, and I love it. But there was a healthy strand of societal commentary in it, pretty consistently. In fact, Public Enemy was too focused on it. It becomes tedious pretty quickly if I have to contemplate my place in the world in every line. I like the Strokes too, and I agree, they are basically banging out catchy tunes that don't amount to anything other than three minutes of escapism. But they also occupy a genre that does still put a little meat on the bone from time to time.

    I just don't hear anything more than clever production in hip-hop now. Cookie-cutter has its place and occupies a lot of memory on my phone. But it just seems like that other era is gone and I miss those days. Like the article suggests, I don't see it as cycling back around.
  14. Spurffelbow833
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    Rap music is like beatnik poetry. It needs to say something or it's just a bunch of noise.
  15. wgbgator
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    wgbgator Sub-optimal Poster Premium Member

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    Nah. Rappers Delight its pretty amazing, and its pretty much just rhymming "hip hop" with "stop" and talking about eating food and getting indigestion over a really catchy sample.
  16. wgbgator
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    I think hip-hop is mostly really confessional and personal now. Sometimes it works for me (like much of Kanye's stuff, because hes such a weirdo), sometimes I just dont get it at all (Drake). Like everything its cyclical, so I can see a "back to basics" thing happening with hip hop like punk was in the 70s.
  17. fastsix
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    You're not seeing the forest for that tree.
  18. 108
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    90's rap still plays from time to time on my itunes, but since then, few good rappers have come out...it went from speaking to the struggle of life, trying to overcome odds, to bitches, money, fame, and power, often without really even attaining that, nor the struggle to get it if you do...

    Most of it is meaningless garbage, as Quest writes...

    But truth is, most genres are affected the same way.....in rock, who can compete with the greats like Zeppelin, The Beatles, Hendrix, Joplin?

    There are a few more underground Hip-Hop artists that I have been listening to lately, that have me feeling like there may be a resurgence...
  19. tim85
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    tim85 Well-Known Member

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    Kanye is just really living on a different level than most other musicians, in more than one way. His music is, even the newest stuff which is arguably his weakest, is still significantly better than 95% of hip-hop. Kendrick Lamar is the next best thing going, but I'm also a really infrequent hip-hop listener, hardly a fan really, so I'm not all that qualified to say I guess.
  20. channingcrowderhungry
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    channingcrowderhungry Well-Known Member

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    Who? I'd love to discover new good underground hip hop. I've been struggling since my days of listening to Hiero, The Living Legends, Aesop Rock, etc

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