Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Smack Talk

A few months ago, when Imus got knocked off the air because the man's penchant for obnoxiousness-over-talent schtick got him into more trouble than asshole radio could pay for, there was a large contingent of right wing punditry who were very angry because of what had happened.

Boortz in Atlanta, another of the asshat radio brigade, claimed that people going after Imus were really out to shut all right wing radio down. The ubiquitous 'they' were going after Imus so they would have enough street cred to take out knuckleheads of the not-really-conservative conservative radio. This circular logic was roundly met with nods of agreement by paranoid ditto-heads everywhere, even though right wing radio was never the target; asshole radio was.

Then came another kind of backlash: why weren't the 'they' who were going after Imus going after gangsta-rappers as well? This was a much more logical argument, though not to those of us who have been fans of popular music for the last 15 to 20 years.

You see, back in the day when rap was known as "hip-hop" and could be defended on an intellectual level, there weren't nearly as many nasty lyrics as there was in popular 'rap music' today. I'm not going to say nastiness didn't exist (we've always had Miami, after all), but it was never as prevalent as in current popular culture. At the same time, back in the day, there were far more haters of hip-hop trying to get the music banned and equating 2 Live Crew (nasty) with Tribe Called Quest, Leaders of the New School and Arrested Development (some of the most positive music you could hear of any genre in any timeframe).

So haters of hip-hop music lost credibility because they overreacted to something they did not understand. Therefore, the genre was allowed to use that lack of credibility against almost all critics, and rap was allowed to take an awful turn to the nasty side of the semantical street. Hip-hop as a positive was dropped into the underground, where it started, and the rap you know as pervasive in the popular culture emerged. The nastier the lyrics became, the more records got sold, because the same paranoia of them-against-us that fuels right wing radio fuels rap record sales.

If someone hates you = more money for you, or (H = ez$).

To relate this to the present day, the right-wingers use rappers as an example of the 'they,' and love to point out that folks like Al Sharpton only go after white people who say bad things. "A Double Standard (tm)!" they cry; "Liberal Hypocricy!" they call back. "They see me broadcastin,' they hatin'," rhymes Boortz in Atlanta. And conflict is manufactured and record sales...sorry...ratings go up.

Until they realize the reality of the situation, that it is black people, Al Sharpton too, who are leading the charge to change the culture of popular music. So sorry, y'all. The black community has had far more to complain about rap music in the long run than they ever had to beef with Imus, and they've been fighting this fight for longer than you can imagine. That's why there has been a division forever about what constitutes good hip-hop vs rap. Positivity vs Negativity. Duality. Elevation vs Degredation. U.N.I.T.Y. vs Bangin'.

Sorry y'all ain't been paying attention to the last 15 - 20 years of popular culture, or what your kids have been listening to.

It had nothing to do with Imus, he was just the biggest fish taken down in the larger war, and that takedown is having a huge affect, culturally, in the right direction. And as I said before, I will never complain when part of the problem falls for any reason, and Imus was definitely part of the problem.

We got a long way to go, but this is a step in the positive direction.


RightOnPeachtree said...

So your point is that blacks have been fighting this fight for a long time -- and your proof is the article about Sharpton? Did you notice when this "initiative" started? It started in April -- AFTER the Imus mess. Sharpton took tons of heat for going after Imus and NOT going after rap. Only after that did he start trying to do the non-hypocritical thing.

If Sharpton had been fighting this fight for a long time, we would've known. The media worships at his feet, for Pete's sake. They would have been tripping over themselves to cover Al Sharpton leading marches and preaching sermons in front of the offices of rap artists and music companies. No, he got shamed into doing this.

I do think that some voices in the wilderness have decried the lyrics in rap music for a long time, but not the Al Sharpton's of the world. From what I've read, it has been mostly young female college students who are fed up with being called b****es and h*'s. Sharpton is a poverty pimp and a disgrace. He only started doing the right thing after making a mockery of himself.

So I agree that Imus was a nimrod who deserved what he got. And I agree that the direction things are going now is good. And I agree with you that some have been fighting this for a while. However, Al Sharpton is a joke and he deserved the verbal lashing he got.

Cousin Pat from Georgia said...

My proof isn't the article on Sharpton - that article is the latest article on a not-very-covered-in-the-MSM subject.

I remember back in the days that black preachers and white activists were crushing hip-hop CD's in the streets with steam rollers. I remember how angry I used to get seeing them do that, and thinking "they just don't understand Ice-T, NWA, Public Enemy lyrics" (as if I did from my middle school perch on Island City). But hating on the genre made me a life long fan. It was only years later, when the genre started going through its "glam" phase (where it is stuck today) that I started to enunciate a distinct schism between two sides.

We've already got the textbook equivalent of this, and it came out in 2006, quoting sources from as far back as the 80's. That's just the tip of the iceberg.

And Sharpton might be the only way we can get white folks on a large scale to pay attention. Look at how you react to my bringing up his name, and how you missed all the other names mentioned in both articles I linked to. Did you ever wonder that the media loves him so much because mentioning him drives ratings?

The NAACP buried the n-word recently. Sharpton was not on site, but he was mentioned in the article. I found out about the burial several days after it had happened, but I think if Sharpton had been there, it would have been front page on every news program, as well as every right wing radio show - just so folks could complain about his lateness to the party!

H = ez$ The media uses it, too.

This same sort of thing went on once already back in 2005, and the same questions about Sharpton's involvement were raised.

So what if he's coming to the debate late? So what if he's being an opportunist? Politicians always are, and not to excuse him, but it isn't the easiest subject to pick a side on, for reasons I've already mentioned.

So instead of letting Al use us (and by us I mean the folks who want to see the culture as a whole evolve beyond degredation of the female and the use of the nword in such a pervasive mode of pop culture transmittal), I have no problem with the movement using his name for a while.

We're trying to get the revolution televised, after all.

Dante said...

"Look at how you react to my bringing up his name, and how you missed all the other names mentioned in both articles I linked to."

Pat, after you mentioned all those other people it was really silly of rightonpeachtree to neglect them. Oh wait a minute... You ignored them, too. Given that he was responding to your post, it's not that surprising that he glossed over people you also glossed over.

Also, how is Imus part of the problem given that he indirectly pushed Sharpton into action? Seems to me by your logic, if Sharpton's opportunism is ok because the ends are justifying his means, then Imus would be in the same camp. Imus is ultimately part of the solution from that perspective. So is the rest of the "asshat radio brigade." So what if right wing radio is being opportunistic? Everyone in radio is. So instead of letting talk radio use us, I have no problem with the movement goading Sharpton into action for a while.

Cousin Pat from Georgia said...

This is like a Sharpton threadjack, since music and culture are the main ideas here. I mentioned Sharpton as many times as I mentioned Boortz, and the second link provided doesn't mention Sharpton at all. I even made distinctions - Sharpton-as-right-wing-target and Sharpton-as-even-invovled-here. Then I go on to provide a link where the positive hip-hop community criticizes Sharpton's lateness to the party.

I don't like a lot of what Sharpton does. I've never made that a secret.

But I can't help the fact that Sharpton is a cult of personality that gets big TV ratings. I can't help the fact that the mere mention of his name sets folks off. I can't help that on this issue, he's putting his network into play on a side that is an overall positive for the solution of a huge cultural problem.

But the mention of his name is the main sticking point for this post.

As far as Imus and Boortz and asshat radio getting a pass, that's apples and oranges. They use the same social vehicle that the worst rap does in order to justify their shenanigans (50 Cent and Limbaugh, when 'hated on' by someone outside, insist they are just 'keepin' it real'), so they are fruit of the same poison tree. They are all pervasive, all on the air, somewhere, all the time, with people who listen to that nonsense and think that behavior or talk in such ways is acceptable in public. You want to know why so few people have manners and there is so much disrespect in the world, popular music culture and asshat radio should be evidence introduced early in the court of public opinion.

Sharpton is also part of a problem, but he is part of a different problem. Asshat radio is a part of this problem.

Leigh C. said...

A waaay better couple of textbooks are Jeff Chang's "Can't Stop Won't Stop" and the book put out by an Experience Music Project exhibit on early hip-hop, "Yes Yes Y'all". One of the things I still miss about New York is the late night channel 25 early hip-hop videos they've got. It just shows how far the whole thing has come - and, at the same time, how much of it has been co-opted by the music industry as a whole.

I'm not saying some of these artists shouldn't be getting what they get. I'm saying something was there in most of the early hip-hop that one can only catch glimpses of today. Maybe the DIY aspect. Maybe the fact that it sells more music to have these people referring to women in derogatory terms. To be rapping and/or singing about life on the streets and having loads of people buy into that and into a created persona as though it were authentic.

And Sharpton IS an opportunist. From Tawana Brawley to Crown Heights to Howard Beach to this. The stands he has taken aren't necessarily wrong, but he gives the impression of having arrived to the protests late...VERY late...and he must feel that the sound, fury, and media he brings with him will make up for all that. There needs to be something much stronger and more meaningful than just shame and media ops to bring someone to that protest table, and Al's act has been old for quite a while.

Dante said...

"This is like a Sharpton threadjack, since music and culture are the main ideas here."

If you want people to pay attention to the message, then you need a credible messenger. He might be generating press but he's not being taken seriously by many and in the process the message is getting totally ignored by the "white folks" who are now paying attention.

The problem is otherwise being ignored due to lack of interest. I don't know if you noticed this, but by and large the "white folks" who you want to pay attention don't listen to rap music all that much. The Imus argument is nothing more than a scapegoat. I doubt many of the people taking the side of Imus can name a single offending rap song that has any radio play.

So now opponents of dirty rap music have gotten some press? Good for them. Maybe they can find a messenger who can successfully convey a message and gain some real traction.

Cousin Pat from Georgia said...

Positive hip-hop has had credible messengers since the 70's, mostly in the forms of the artists themselves. That's kind of the point. Those messengers were ignored in the mainstream, because negativity and controversy sells records as well as news shows.

Leigh C. points this out: old School Hip-Hop was not like pop rap is today. (And that we have had other textbooks and mediums for this that I neglected to mention!!) But it got the same bad press from the censorship folks you libertarians claim to worry so much about. That's one of the reasons the nasty stuff has been so difficult to combat in a cultural sense.

The "white folks" who didn't listen to rap very much are the same ones who defended Imus by calling out gangsta rappers, never realizing that there had been almost two decades of debate against the gutterization of the artform.

They are generally the ones who don't pay attention anyway, because defending anyone by saying "but gangsta rappers do it" is about the weakest free-speech argument there is.

The white folks and black folks and brown folks and purple folks we are trying to get to pay attention are the millions of kids who buy the albums and listen to the music. It is that population that is important for cultural movement and social change.

If Sharpton can help reach them, or his network can help reach them, or his network can provide a vehicle for those young people's involvement, then his involvement is a net positive for this fight in American culture, as infuriating as that might be.

I think that his involvement signals a larger movement: a cultural movement away from where we are currently standing. Which means that this is much larger than the man himself, and that more credible messengers will emerge, having been strengthened by what is going on now.

The hope is that those messengers will not be ignored, as they have so far.

RightOnPeachtree said...

If Sharpton's involvement can drive rap and hip hop to clean up their acts, then that can be a good thing. However, Sharpton is a first-class hypocrite -- and others being hypocrites doesn't mean that Sharpton gets a pass for his hypocrisy.

Honestly, I don't care that much about the degrading lyrics. I think society would be better off without them, but it still screams "PC Police" to me. What I am fed up with, however, is the rest of the world having to walk on eggshells for fear of offending someone when similar statements in rap music is okay. That's a ridiculous double standard and that's what Sharpton and the music industry has been vilified for.

Corwyn said...

Remember: to those nefarious nameless hordes of 'them' and 'they' that are attacking asshole radio=conservative radio and vice versa.

(not that said asshats are not overreacting...not that 'they' and 'them' aren't overreacting.

Although I would like some examples of so-called "asshat radio" that are more on the left-leaning side of the spectrum.

Oh, and speaking of...

The Corwyn's World Radio Hour

Every Thursday at 8pm EST, live from Dar Interwebs!


Cousin Pat from Georgia said...

For me, asshat radio on the left can be examples like Randi Rhodes, who I couldn't stand, and talk show nonsense like Rosie O'Donnell. I'm sure there are others, but I try not to listen (and by virtue, support, that kind of nonsense).