File spoon-archives/postcolonial.archive/postcolonial_2003/postcolonial.0309, message 3

Date: Tue, 02 Sep 2003 12:45:31 +1200
Subject: Re: [Postcolonial] How Hip-Hop Holds Blacks Back

Dear Horn of Africa,

With all due respect, it seems to me that a food fight among
fourteen-year-old boys at a K-Y Fry is not something to be alarmed about.
Abundant evidence suggests that such food fights have been occurring among
people of this age group of all classes and colors for decades if not
centuries.  Similarly, verbal sass on the part of a young man in a car,
though it may be irritating, should not be cause for alarm.  Such behavior,
like food fights, has been observed among black and white adolescents since
at least the 1950's.  Therefore, one may reasonably conclude that hip-hop
music is not the cause of such behavior, nor even necessarily a contributing
factor.  Before hip-hop there was punk, and before that the Beatles, and
before that Elvis, and so on back, and all such popular singers who flouted
the values of middle-class elders provoked alarm on the part of those who
espoused such values.  For Elvis it was his open sexuality that got the
elders in a tiff, and for the Beatles it was their anti-authoritarian
stance, and for hip-hop it is the expression of violence in music.  But to
assume a particular voice in music is not necessarily to identify with the
words of the speaker, nor to agree with him.  It is only to say that this
voice is real.  Hip-hop takes many forms, including gentle ones (such as
Maori hip-hopper Che Fu), and as you and others have noted, the majority of
hip-hop fans are white and middle class.  I would bet my white ass that the
all of those who actually engage in criminal violence are subject to far
more pressing influences than hip-hop music, and would do what they do
regardless of what was playing on the radio.  Meanwhile, the musicians
themselves, at least some of them, get rescued from the hopeless world of
the ghetto and its violence precisely by their music and its popularity.
And once they are out, they do all they can never to have to go back.  It is
not the music that is adulated, I believe, so much as the singers
themselves, who through a combination of luck and talent have escaped the
life they describe. Finally, the message is, better to make music than to
deal drugs and get in barfights and pack a piece. So, what is the big deal,
really?  I think you should spend your energy as a writer opposing bad
government, the war against Iraq, environmental destruction, and things like
that.  As for hip-hop, just let it be.

(b. 1948)

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