The Latest Update On The State Of The State Of Hip-Hop

Apr 25th, 2007 // 8 Comments

timesphoto.jpgSo: Hip-hop. It’s having kind of a tough few weeks. First, Al Sharpton and Russell Simmons start talking about taking artists to task if they use objectionable words. Then conservative columnist Michelle Malkin weighs in, piecing together what she sees as the most misogynistic moments on the Billboard Hot Rap Tracks chart. Finally, a poorly sweatered Cam’ron gets grilled on 60 Minutes about his no-snitching policy. And so all of a sudden, three of the most hotly contested social issues are guns, abortion and rap music, meaning that the ’90s revival is really kicking into full gear. But Cam’ron can take com’fort in two pro-rap editorials that appeared today–one by Jim Farber in the the New York Daily News, and one by Kelefa Sanneh in the New York Times. So what are their main points?

Key points from the Daily News‘ “Doing hip hop dirty”:
- Pop music is currently experiencing its “most squeaky-clean phase…since Pat Boone came in to shoo away all the sex and cool from the likes of Little Richard in the ’50s,” as evidenced by the success of High School Musical, American Idol, a glut of inoffensive R&B heartthrobs (Ne-Yo, Mario) and a sales chart topped by the likes of Tim McGraw and Norah Jones.
- Mims’ “This Is Why I’m Hot” uses the word “bitch,” but it’s as a verb. Also, the “n word” ends with an -a, not an -er. Take that, Malkin!
- Older listeners are old, and have therefore forgotten that young people were put on earth to piss them off.
- Inquisitive concluding sentence: “Those who are young – either in their bodies or just in their minds – understand the nods and winks that inform the words, the camp and contexts that lie behind them. Such codes help define a vital youth culture. Has everyone else forgotten that? Or were they never young to begin with?”

Key points from the Times‘ “Don’t Blame Hip-Hop”:
- The 60 Minutes piece did little to address the sociological causes of the “stop snitching” movement.
- Simmons’ proposal that “ho,” “bitch” and the n-word be scrubbed from the airwaves is “modest” but “workable.”
- As sales for certain artists decline–Cam’ron, for example, hasn’t been doing so hot lately–it’s not inconceivable that labels would eventually drop controversial hip-hop artists altogether, choosing to “spend that extra money on a clean-cut R&B singer, or a kid-friendly pop group.”
- Hip-hop is nowhere as people make it out to be these days, thanks to dance hits from the likes of Huey, Swizz Beatz and Crime Mob. Plus, have you seen those kids on 106 & Park? They’re “fresh-faced,” while the show’s hosts are “relentlessly positive”!
- Inquisitive concluding sentence: “What if hip-hop’s lyrics shifted from tough talk and crude jokes to playful club exhortations — and it didn’t much matter? What if the controversial lyrics quieted down, but the problems didn’t? What if hip-hop didn’t matter that much, after all?”

As for our own inquisitive kickers, we must ask: Is this just another non-controversy that will fade away once Sharpton, Oprah and CNN find new targets? Does either writer really think that “but rap music is so nice this week!” argument is going to work? And who the hell approved that Times illo in which Cam’ron is haunted by the disembodied head of Anderson Cooper?

Doing hip hop dirty [NY Daily News]
Don’t Blame Hip-Hop [NY Times]

  1. Snowbrigadier

    You should look at the wonderful open letter to Oprah from Saul Williams here at his myspace. It’s tl;dr for most, but worth the read for sure.

  2. xtianrut

    With MC Karl Rove in on the Hip-Hop game, I think we can expect a shift away from misogyny, violence and hatred to… um…


  3. Brian Raftery

    @catdirt: I only saw a few moments of the CNN thing last night, and the footage I saw was appropriated from the 60 Minutes report.

  4. catdirt

    i saw a pensive anderson cooper talking to a community activist- the report had it’s own little icon/graphic. i didn’t see the 60 minute piece, so i suppose that’s plausible. acoop wasn’t on 60mins was he?

  5. Brian Raftery

    @catdirt: Yep. He does double-duty between the two outlets; I think he has some sort of agreement where he can repurpose the footage. He’s been doing pop-cultural stuff for 60, including the incredibly uncomfortable interview in which he rolled around in a wardrobe trunk with Kenny Chesney.

  6. xtianrut

    @Brian Raftery: I (sadly) missed out on the Chesney interview, but this could be a cool concept: Cooper trying on clothes and trading fashion advice with the pop-culture peeps of the moment. Kinda like “Anderson’s Eye For The Straight Guy.”

  7. herzog1

    The best part of the 60 Minutes piece . . . without a doubt that would be when they asked a 14yo kid what he’d learned about life growing up in the ghetto. His response: “Make Money, Stay Fresh, Don’t Snitch”. I suppose that I should be disturbed by this but all I can think about is what a great t-shirt it would make!

  8. Adam Bernard

    Kelefa needs his head examined if he really thinks 106 & Park is “one of hip-hop’s definitive television shows.”

    Also, Cam’s last two albums didn’t sell well? Last time I looked he did over 200,000 on labels that gave him $4 and $6 an album. He’s doing just fine.

    PS – Kelefa also needs to learn some of the meanings to the words used in songs like “rock yo hips” and “pop, lock it, drop it,” they’re not as innocent as he thinks.

    Just another case of Kelefa not knowing what he’s talking about. He should stick to writing about pop and rock because clearly he doesn’t know much about Hip-Hop. Then again I’ve been saying that for a while now:

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