Masochistic Perceptions, Trials and Truths

These are my cyberfied cerebral synapses ricocheting off reality as I perceive it: thoughts, opinions, passions, rants, art and poetry...

Friday, November 25, 2005

Has Hip Hop Gone Too Far?

The last thing an old punk rocker like my self wants is censorship. At the end of the day, who decides what you should listen to, read or see can be more dangerous than the things themselves. I grew up at a time when Heavy Metal bands such as Black Sabbath and Iron Maiden were slapped with the labels of being "Satanic" and accused of inciting teenagers to commit suicide. True, the music in that genre did make great use of decayed ghouls such as Crazy Eddie and the like (and a few rubber bat's heads fell victim to my Ozzy phase), but, when you listen to the actual words and music, though perhaps frightening to those reared on Lawrence Welk and the Everly Brothers, it was really quite harmless.

Enter Hip Hop or Rap. Rap music in its roots was basically the punk rock of African Americans who were tired of living like second class citizens and the racisim that still permeates in many socities including both Canada and the U.S. In my opinion, what individuals like Chuck-D and his group Public Enemy created was both an articulate and intelligent commentary on the problems and issues plaguing Blacks in the U.S., fused with the music and rhythms of their culture. I have since heard Chuck-D do some of his spoken word performances and respect his intellect and praise his commentary, feeling it is a message that really needs to get out.

Sadly, just as the skaters destroyed punk rock, giving way to overproduced fluff like Blink 182 and Green Day (though the latter do deserve cudos for "American Idiot"), Gangsta Rap has destroyed that which the pioneers of Hip Hop had established and has become downright dangerous.

Enter my thoughts on censorship. We live in a society of sheep who buy whatever the marketing gurus that head up the big movie corporations and major record labels want us to buy - there is even documented evidence of how these marketers use psychology to make you want their product, irregardless of their shoddiness. There's a whole lot of subliminal stuff too. For example, can you explain to me how I know almost all the words to popular songs of the 1980's when I didn't own any of it and was listening to Black Flag, SNFU, DOA, Husker Du, etc.??? So this stuff gets bought or ingrained one way or another.

So now we have celebreties like 50 Cent, Jay-Z, DMX, etc. Some are ex-cons and proud of it, rapping about their "experience" which does have some validity, just as one's re-counting of anything. The problem is the message and the subsequent glorification of this lifestyle, coupled with incredibly degrading portrayals of women. In regards to the latter, some will argue that the portrayal of women may appear degrading but is actually, in some convoluted way, empowering. I just don't get that.

One can not deny that Hip Hop fashion is all the rage found in both the low income neighbourhoods up through to the children of white collar families out in the suburbs. Now just because Johnny is wearing baggy trousers that are a size 46" when he takes a 28", is wearing his hat at an awkward angle and walks like someone gave him a wedgie until his leg went numb, doesn't mean he's going to become a "gang-banger". But the sad reality is that many of these kids will. And that's the scarry thing. Look at fights in the schoolyard these days. When I was of that age, fights were with fists and it was over when one of the combatants went down. In my city this weekend alone there were two 17 year olds killed at house parties, one stabbed, the other piped. What further eveidence do you need than "artists" like 50 Cent who have to wear bulletproof vests on stage and the stabbings that have occurred at the last couple of Hip Hop Award Ceremonies in the U.S.? I work in a maximum security prison and can tell you first hand the brutality these gang bangers live by, and it's not too often that you see the gang members dressed like Goths (though I will concede that the Aryan gangs do resemble punk's, though ironically listen to stuff like Rage Against the Machine which is kind of like the white man's rap).

I think what really bugs me is how the establishment (which I've always rejected) has allowed the current state of Hip Hop popularise and go mainstream; that never would've happened with Metal, and Punk, well they gave that to the skaters who bought into all the corporately flogged gear, sold out and formed Sum 41. Perhaps the aim is to make it main stream so that they can water it down and make it tame. Whatever. I think it's dangerous and needs to be laid out for the violence endorsing bullshit that it is. To quote Chuck-D: "Don't believe the hype". If I was Black and allowed these clowns to degrade my culture the way pissheads like Fat Joe does, I think I'd want to "Fight the Power" and "Shut 'em Down". Black music has a soul that no one can ever touch and their contribution to music is perhaps beyond that of any other culture. Men like Malcom X and Martin Luther King are just two examples of brilliant Black minds and ideas, and Mohammud Ali and example of their heros who people of any race can hold in the highest esteem, so why do they let the likes of Outkast and LudaKris represent them now and not just damage the image of Blacks, but destroy the fabric of our society?

Fight it or ban it!


  • At 3:12 p.m. , Anonymous Dave said...

    I agree, the mindless drones eat this trash up. If you want to chalk violence up to media(tv, movies, etc)one must look at rap.


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