I didn't expect you to like Cream from past comments, but they
did dent the pop charts. I like that quite a few "classic rock" acts even
then weren't afraid of 45 rpm success. They are quite played out,
but what a trio they were. Jack Bruce was a hell of singer, too.
To these ears, they were a terrific hybrid of blues, jazz, rock,
and new and "Old Tyme" pop.
The attitude about youth seems to be a very American tendency, at that,
particularly when now coupled with demographic and market studies.
What a cocktail that is.
And given that it is a record exec, he's either a boomer riding the out
the extension of "Hope I Die Before I Get Old" credo or perhaps a later sort who came of age during punk or New Wave, and takes comfort in
seeing his "older brothers" age. Possibly, he's a true child of hip hop
(doubtful) but likewise, he's assuming Hip Hop is still "hip" by definition.
I'm hard on Hip Hop because I feel it still gets a critical free-ride. I'm
aware of some decent hip hop, but it seems to be the exception.
Like critic Stanley Crouch, I also can't get past the fact that it
seems to be a form of latter-day buffoonery, a minstrelsy
devoid of much in the way of musical talent. And one's that overly
hostile and negative, one that is one-noted in terms of it's emotional
He can say it because he's a noted jazz scholar and
African-American. You or I might be deemed "insensitive" or at least
"not getting it."
Sure, there's a racial dimension, too, one starkly different from prior
forms of black music that eventually won universal acclaim and fandom.
It seems white music lovers are either goaded into
respecting Hip Hop, or twist into pretzels convincing themselves they like it,-or are too cowered to criticize it publically. Even Spike Lee
has cricitized Hip Hop lately. He's (surprise!) the father of growing
children. The second article especially deserves your attention.
He's dead on.
Here's two recent Crouch articles on Hip Hop:
Hip hop takes a hit
Black women are starting to fight rap's degrading images
You never know in America. Just when you think something bad is going to go on far longer than it should, signs of its being brought to a sudden halt appear.
Nelly, a rapper from St. Louis who is notorious for his hedonistic rap videos and dehumanizing images of black women, has been stopped in his tracks by a group of concerned young women from Spelman College and young men from Morehouse College, two historically black schools in Atlanta.
The rapper chose not to appear at a recent fund-raiser in Atlanta for a bone marrow project to avoid being confronted by these students, who deem the images of women in his videos indefensible.
This was a first, and a long time coming - and it may be just the tip of a mountain that has been hidden from view by all the excuses made for rappers based purely on the big money they make.
A brother is just out there working hard to make some cash, say the apologists. All a rapper is telling us is what he is seeing. And nobody is forcing those women to roll their behinds at the video cameras. They are just trying to make a little money like everybody else.
The women at Spelman were not having it. They were tired of being referred to as bitches, as 'hos, as freaks. They demanded a change of direction and content. It is an issue of respect.
This should be a revolutionary moment in popular culture - the fire starting to get free. No group other than black women has sat in silence while being constantly dehumanized for so long a time.
That dehumanization has reached a level that makes the old-time movies full of giggling, handkerchief-headed black maids seem child's play.
How long could we expect women to turn a blind eye and a deaf ear to the obvious hatred of their sex expressed in rap videos? How long would it be before women grew angry at being perpetually depicted as hopped-up sluts willing to do anything for a chance to party next to young men with money?
I am seeing signs that what happened at Spelman and Morehouse colleges is far from an isolated reaction.
About a month ago, I was brought (coincidentally) to Atlanta by Leatrice Ellzy, a cultural producer who runs a lecture series called "The Intellectual Underground." One gives a talk and entertains questions from the audience. I made my usual attack on the new minstrelsy of rap and got a very good response.
Earlier, in February, I spoke in Minneapolis at the request of composer Bill Banfield, and got a similar response. Clearly, folks are getting sick of seeing women constantly insulted and degraded.
In the June issue of Essence
, Diane Weathers, editor in chief of the magazine, takes a very serious swing at this media monster. Essence is the oldest magazine for black women in this country, and it is exciting to think of its taking on something as injurious to civilized male attitudes as hip hop.
I also have heard from various sources that we may see conferences being held on women and the crisis in hip hop and that protests in a number of places are in the planning.
Oh, happy day! Black women have been so important to so many things that have bettered our nation. If they move on it, they will bring this monster down. -Stanley Crouch
Originally published on April 23, 2004
Hip hop's thugs hit new low
| Black popular culture continues to descend. The most recent and monstrous aspect of it comes, as usual, from the world of hip hop, where thugs and freelance prostitutes have been celebrated for a number of years.
This new development is observable in the work of Snoop Doggy Dog, Jay-Z and 50 Cent: the elevation of pimps as cultural heroes. That's beyond degraded.
A black executive in the world of popular music said to me a few years ago that the number of Negro performers who have actually become millionaires through hip hop sales is surely not even 100, but the price that their influence has extracted from black communities across this nation numbers in thousands upon thousands who have been murdered or beaten up or terrorized. After all, the celebration of thugs and thuggish behavior should not be expected to bring about any other results.
There are, of course, those who will say that all young people, not only in America but overseas, are in love with gangsters and thugs and the rebelliousness that thugs represent. That is why we find ourselves faced with white and Asian young people who suffer from the same abysmal taste and exhibit the same lack of social skills seen in the black and Latino gangster.
But it seems to me that if all those other people were serious about being thugs and gangsters, there would be an appreciable rise in their neighborhoods of the murder, gang violence and urban terrorism that so-called urban communities - code for black and Latino - are the victims of, day in and day out.
The truth is something else. When a small but extremely dangerous number of black and Latino young men imitate the behavior projected in gangster rap recordings and videos, they go far beyond the surface obnoxiousness that is common to most American young people.
This obnoxiousness has a strong tradition, coming from 50 years of rock 'n' roll in which adults and authority are looked upon as the ultimate enemies of teenage fun.
But with white kids, the point is irritating their parents, not becoming a member of a violent gang. Most of those parents are now Cher's age and are not at all bothered by noisy pop music turned up too loud. That is exactly what they grew up on, even if the style was different.
Those white parents can, however, be disturbed by racial epithets and the misogyny so rampant in gangster rap. Basically, that's enough for obnoxious white teenagers.
With black teenagers, we have another problem, which is that street behavior is defined these days as being "authentic" and "not trying to be white." Those who take that seriously have been committing intellectual suicide for years by aspiring downward.
No other ethnic group has ever judged its authenticity by the lowdown ways of its scum. But in the poisonous wing of gangster rap, anything is possible.
Stanley Crouch is a columnist for the New York Daily News, novelist, essayist, critic and television commentator. He has served since 1987 as an artistic consultant at Lincoln Center and is a co-founder of the department known as Jazz at Lincoln Center. In 1993, he received both the Jean Stein Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters and a MacArthur Foundation grant. He is now working on a biography of Charlie Parker.
As it turns out, the guy who wrote the article, "Thane Tierney" is (was?) an exec at Rhino
How 'bout that.