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Monday, October 16, 2006

Not this bullshit again

He's why black men can't find work

Why I Gave Up On Hip-Hop

By Lonnae O'Neal Parker
Sunday, October 15, 2006; B01

My 12-year-old daughter, Sydney, and I were in the car not long ago when she turned the radio to a popular urban contemporary station. An unapproved station. A station that might play rap music. "No way, Syd, you know better," I said, so Sydney changed the station, then pouted.

"Mommy, can I just say something?" she asked. "You think every time you hear a black guy's voice it's automatically going to be something bad. Are you against hip-hop?"

Her words slapped me in the face. In a sense, she was right. I haven't listened to radio hip-hop for years. I have no clue who is topping the charts and I can't name a single rap song in play.

But I swear it hasn't always been that way.

My daughter can't know that hip-hop and I have loved harder and fallen out further than I have with any man I've ever known.

That my decision to end our love affair had come only after years of disappointment and punishing abuse. After I could no longer nod my head to the misogyny or keep time to the vapid materialism of another rap song. After I could no longer sacrifice my self-esteem or that of my two daughters on an altar of dope beats and tight rhymes.

No, darling, I'm not anti-hip-hop, I told her. And it's true, I still love hip-hop. It's just that our relationship has gotten very complicated.

When those of us who grew up with rap saw signs that it was turning ugly, we turned away. We premised our denial on a sort of good-black-girl exceptionalism: They came for the skeezers but I didn't speak up because I'm no skeezer, they came for the freaks, but I said nothing because I'm not a freak. They came for the bitches and the hos and the tricks. And by the time we realized they were talking about bitches from 8 to 80, our daughters and our mommas and their own damn mommas, rap music had earned the imprimatur of MTV and Martha Stewart and even the Pillsbury Doughboy.

And sometimes it can seem like now, there is nobody left who is willing to speak up.

At the 2003 MTV Video Music Awards, rappers Snoop Doggy Dog and 50 Cent embellished their performance of the song "P.I.M.P." by featuring black women on leashes being walked onstage. This past August, MTV2 aired an episode of the cartoon "Where My Dogs At," which had Snoop again leading two black bikini-clad women around on leashes. They squatted on their hands and knees, scratched themselves and defecated.

The president of the network, a black woman, defended this as satire.

Hip-hop had long since gone mainstream and commercial. It was Diddy, white linen suits and Cristal champagne in the Hamptons. And it was for white suburban boys as well as black club kids. And it now promoted a sexual aesthetic, a certain body type, a certain look. Southern rappers had even popularized a kind of strip-club rap making black women indistinguishable from strippers.

I don't know the day things changed for me. When the music began to seem so obviously divorced from any truth and, just as unforgivably, devoid of most creativity. I don't know when my love turned to contempt and my contempt to fury. Maybe it happened as my children got older and I longed for music that would speak to them the way hip-hop had once spoken to me.

Maybe as the coolest black boys kept getting shot on the streets while the coolest rappers droned: AK-47 now nigga, stop that.

Maybe as the madness made me want to holler back: "Niggas" can't stop AK-47s , and damn you for saying so.

Last year, talk show host Kelly Ripa gushed to 50 Cent, a former drug dealer turned rapper, about how important his movie "Get Rich or Die Tryin' " was while black women around the country were left to explain to their own black sons, " Sometimes, darling, black boys get shot nine times and they don't live to brag about it on the mike . "

And a few weeks ago, watching the Disney Channel cartoon short "Fabulizer," I seethed when the little white character lamented that his "thug pose" wasn't working.

While the mainstream culture celebrates the pimped-out, thugged-up, cool-by-proxy mirage of commercial rap, those of us who just love black people have to be a little more discriminating. "Sometimes," writes sociologist Mary Pattillo-McCoy, "when you dress like a gangsta, talk like a gangsta and rap like a gangsta often enough, you are a gangsta."

My husband, Ralph, and I try to tell Sydney that rap music used to be fun. It used to call girls by prettier names. We were ladies and cuties, honeys and hotties, and we all just felt like one nation under the groove. Sydney, I tell her, I want you to have all the creativity, all the bite, all the rhythms of black rhyme, but I can't let you internalize toxic messages, no matter how cool some millionaire black rappers tell you they are.

Sydney nods, but I don't know if she fully understands.
Why do people bite on this bullshit?

Yes, I think most of the current hip-hop music is as deep and complex as a koi pond. Yes, I think there is a rather noxious mysogyny in hip-hop. And yes, I think the current music is a commercial product by unoriginal thinkers. Dancing with girls in oversized t-shirts is not a new or interesting fad.

But I have NEVER seen an article like this about rock, in any form. No, I gave up death metal, no I gave up Ozzy, nothing like this, ever. God forbid, I gave up lame Christian music.

Nope, the target of this is ALWAYS hip-hop, always. Ms. Parker would have been laughed out of her editor's office if she wrote a piece saying how shitty Christian music has become.

Watch BET on Sunday morning, and you'll see the Bobby Jones gospel hour. You will quickly find every failed secular artist grooving to Jesus, and singing about Jesus my boyfriend. If you compare it to gospel, it's the difference betwee Ornette Coleman and Kenny G.

And what you'll find out is the motherfuckers can't sing. I mean compared to what my grandmother listened to, and Mahalia Jackson was an amazing singer, it's audio shit. Hoping around on a stage and rapping to Jesus is hardly impressive.

Like with Juan Williams, this is half-baked sociology by someone who doesn't talk to sociologists. Oh, we don't listen to hip-hop put out by those low-rent negroes, not us.

The sad thing is, many of these same arguments were made about the blues and Jazz. Blues has boatloads of mysogyny, but that's OK.

This doesn't mean the music doesn't suck, much of it does. But as with everything, some sucks worse than others. But most importantly, people who say so, don't get to write articles about it in the WaPo. To many people, hip-hop artists simply have less rights to free expression than other people. I've never heard anyone object to the use of the word bitch in movies or TV, just hip-hop.

Or ever call the church on their own noxious mysogyny. Nope. You know, Tyler Perry is a man. Do women not have an opinion about religion?

So when I see this crap again, it's like shooting fish in a barrel. These are teenagers and young men with the power to buy rims, and little else. Challenging more entrenched biases in oh, the church, is a little too complicated and difficult, so we pick on the hip hop community.

posted by Steve @ 7:30:00 AM

7:30:00 AM

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