Wednesday, December 28, 2005
Over the years hip-hop music has been effective in uncovering many truths. The L.A.-based group NWA shined a bright light on rampant police brutality in songs like "F_*ck the Police." Rapper-turned-actor Ice T practically predicted the L.A. riots that followed the Rodney King verdict on his sophomore album, "Rhyme Pays." Quite frankly, rap music has been, as Public Enemy front man Chuck-D once said, "the CNN of the streets."
As society has progressed, so has hip-hop. Now that billion-dollar industry is the straw that stirs the economic drink of America. It sells everything from fast food to SUVs. Once a genre relegated to neighborhood parks, hip-hop now is the music of the nation. Like it or not.
That's why it's so disheartening to see the controversy brewing over in Atlanta. If you haven't heard, Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin commissioned producer Dallas Austin to write an anthem for the city to attract tourists and business. However, as is to be expected, once the song debuted at an October Falcons game, some residents took issue to the song.
A few "suburban" (and I stress suburban) readers of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution complained that the song showed Atlanta was abandoning family values in favor of "gun-blazing, Ray Lewis-admiring thugs," one put it. HILARIOUS!
Not only is it funny, but it's sad that we still have such a long way to go to educate some of these old farts on how to close the gap between young and old, urban and suburban, black and white. So in continuing to beat this long-dead horse, the analogy still stands firm.
The ignorant see rap music as "black" music (even though the majority of its consumers are white). Black folks are criminals, thugs or lazy slackers. Consequently, most of the uninitiated see rap music as the music of ... you guessed it ... criminals, thugs and lazy slackers.
I guess Atlanta is not so "progressive" after all. In my opinion, you bite the hand that feeds you. Atlanta owes a huge debt of gratitude to its now dominant music industry. If it wasn't for the forethought of artists like Babyface and Bobby Brown moving their studios and businesses to Atlanta in the late '80s, Atlanta wouldn't be what it is today.
Last week more than six Atlanta artists dominated the Billboard charts, but yet some frown upon the city's turn toward hip-hop. Hell, more cities, Jackson included, should take a cue from the ATL. Hip-hop speaks to a much wider berth of people than most music. Playing to that strength could help to stimulate the arts all around. Of course, that will happen when folks open themselves up to positive dialogue and realize rap music is not the enemy. That city's decision to choose an up-tempo hip-hop anthem is not a black or white one, but it is a smart one. Those naysayers should wise up and join us in this new century!
And that's the truth...sho-nuff!
As a white suburbanite, I like rap and hip hop. To me it is the voice of the people in much the same way blues and country were to previous generations. However, I am a 30 year old white suburbanite who was introduced to Doug E. Fresh, N.W.A. and Public Enemy at a young age. Why does that matter? Because it has always been a part of my life, from my youngest and most impressionable beginnings. My Dad (48 year old white suburbanite), did not grow up with it. He was an adult when it began to come into the mainstream. His impressions and opinions were largely formed by this time. Though he loved(s) Motown, he cannot "get" Compton. I will admit to rap and hip hop turning my stomach at times. While I love Nas and Kanye West, I cannot stand lil Wayne or The Game. Why? Because what I hear in their music (Wayne and Game) is a glorification of the thug lifestyle/mentality (ho's, guns, drugs, paper, etc = happiness, success). Is that a reality in the world they come from? Maybe. But they do not present it as just reality, they promote it as a goal. When N.W.A. put out Straight Outta Compton I was blown away. They were truth tellers, by the time they put out niggaz4life, they had started to promote the very thing they had started out exposing (Find'em, F'em and Flee; I'd Rather F You; Just Don't Bite It). Eazy E was perhaps the most shameless about it. It does seem that both Dre and Ice Cube realized they could use their experiences to not only show the world what was really going on, but also do something about it. It seems to me that the majority of what is selling and promoted in hip hop is the thug life, which is why I think so many white suburbanites think of the entire genre in that respect. If all they know of hip hop is what is on mtv or the radio, no wonder they think of it this way. What I hate even more is when artists sell out to this highly marketable form of music. Case in point, if you could go back in time five to ten years ago, would you have believed the Black Eyed Peas would put out a song like "My Humps"? All of this beind said, I will confess to my hypocrisy. I hate the message sent by 50 Cent, Ludacris and Snoop, but the music is catchy, the rhymes are clever and the flow is hypnotic.
Exactly Brandon!!! IT's entertainment mostly at the end of the day. I never take what 50 Cent says literally but its like a movie on CD...Take it for what it is: Someone telling their story, what they've experienced, what they've been through. They can only speak to what they know...Even the sexually suggestive songs like My humps are fun. not anyone saying go out and have rampant reckless sex...Folks need to just be east!!!
I don’t have an issue with Atlanta’s use of hip hop to promote their city. I’m not sure if anyone else was featured on the track in question, but in hip hop you can’t get any less threatening than Dallas Austin. Now regarding the artists that are considered offensive or negative, I’d rather they simply say their objectives are to obtain wealth at any cost and that they stop relying on the excuse of being limited in terms of their lyrics by their respective environments. I also can’t understand the artists that say their forced by their labels to produce negative music contradictory to what they would otherwise release. My opinion is that you basically sell your soul to a controlling label for the lure of money…. hence accept the criticism, go the independent route…… where an artist has more creative freedom, or yet still join the common man and get a 9 to 5….who says you were destined to earn millions rapping! Snoop perhaps disgusts me the most. Mr. Snoop constantly promotes his former life as a crips street gang member, all the while living as a millionaire tucked away in the Hollywood hills. Not that status really matters in rather someone should be promoting gang culture, but it is especially vexing given Mr. Snoop’s disconnect from his former life!
- K RHODES
Yes, but I think the scam is part of Snoop's persona, isn't it? Like Jerry Springer? I will say nothing more lest I distract from the primary thread.
- Brian C Johnson