Combs Spouts Off

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Posts Tagged ‘hip hop’

Decline of hip-hop?

Posted by Richard on March 2, 2007

As regular readers know, I’m not religious. But this is the kind of story that makes even me whisper, "Please, God, let it be true":

Maybe it was the umpteenth coke-dealing anthem or soft-porn music video. Perhaps it was the preening antics that some call reminiscent of Stepin Fetchit.

The turning point is hard to pinpoint. But after 30 years of growing popularity, rap music is now struggling with an alarming sales decline and growing criticism from within about the culture’s negative effect on society.

Rap insider Chuck Creekmur, who runs the leading Web site, says he got a message from a friend recently "asking me to hook her up with some Red Hot Chili Peppers because she said she’s through with rap. A lot of people are sick of rap … the negativity is just over the top now."

The rapper Nas, considered one of the greats, challenged the condition of the art form when he titled his latest album "Hip-Hop is Dead." It’s at least ailing, according to recent statistics: Though music sales are down overall, rap sales slid a whopping 21 percent from 2005 to 2006, and for the first time in 12 years no rap album was among the top 10 sellers of the year. A recent study by the Black Youth Project showed a majority of youth think rap has too many violent images. In a poll of black Americans by The Associated Press and AOL-Black Voices last year, 50 percent of respondents said hip-hop was a negative force in American society.

Read the whole thing — it’s an interesting and multifaceted story.

For me, it’s not just the misogyny, glorification of violence, thuggishness, and nihilism that turn me off to hip-hop. Over the last 35 or 40 years, I’ve liked plenty of music that had a message I fundamentally disagreed with. But I’ve liked the music. Heck, there are rock and roll songs that I really like even though I have no idea what they’re about. They just sound nice.

I heard someone on the radio once discussing music, and he said music consisted of three elements: melody (which comes from the head), harmony (which comes from the heart), and rhythm (which comes from the groin).

I don’t know if that’s true or not, but if it is, it explains my dislike of hip-hop. Hip-hop discards the first two elements completely and presents only a vile message packaged in rhythm alone. To me, that’s not just anti-intellectual, but anti-human. It’s the glorification and celebration of the animalistic.

Melody matters a lot to me. Melody is what makes music music. The absence of melody — the rejection of melody — turns me off. Heck, it annoys me. Hell, it angers me. If you call yourself a "musician," but you can’t — or won’t — write a melody, I hope you, your do-rag, and your hate-filled doggerel go back to working at the Grease Monkey where you belong.

And did I mention that I have no use for "singers" who can merely chant?

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Perpetual adolescence

Posted by Richard on November 25, 2006

Stanley Crouch recently spent some time surrounded by young (18-35) black men and was appalled. So he wrote this column telling them to grow up. He acknowledged that the phenomenon isn’t restricted to the black community, but was quick to "disrespect" the hip hop culture with a particularly biting metaphor:

As a father with a daughter nearly 30 years old who has never been close to marrying anyone, I was once more struck by what my offspring describes as "a lack of suitable men." She has complained often about the adolescent tendencies of young black men, as will just about any young black woman when the subject comes up.

Those who believe that America is perpetually adolescent will point at the dominance of frat-boy attitudes among successful white men and will say of the black hip-hop generation, "So what? How could they not be adolescent? They are not surrounded by examples of celebrated maturity. The society worships movie stars, wealthy athletes and talk show hosts. These are not the wisest and most mature of people."

There is more than a little bit right about that. Our culture has been overwhelmed by the adolescent cult of rebellion that emerges in a particularly stunted way from the world of rock ‘n’ roll. That simpleminded sense of rebelling against authority descended even further when hip hop fell upon us from the bottom of the cultural slop bucket in which punk rock curdled.

Both Crouch and a woman writer with whom he discussed the phenomenon had thoughtful comments on the nature of the problem. Neither proposed a solution. Since I’m white, I can’t say much without being called ignorant and insensitive at best and racist at worst.

Crouch, being black, risks the same fate as Bill Cosby, Juan Williams, Ward Connerly, and others who dared challenge the orthodoxy about helplessness, oppression, and victimhood — being called an Uncle Tom, oreo, or traitor, being accused of "acting white," and being rejected, ridiculed, and reviled, instead of being praised as the examples and role models they should be.

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