Monday, April 16

Hyping the Hip Hop Hate Myth

Ever since Imus laid down the Hip-Hop Card as a defense for his silly-ass statements about the Rutger's Basketball team - I've been hoping that people would know better than to pick it up.

Unfortunately I hoped in vain.

Michelle Malkin on O'Reilly April 12th:

"Whose mouths are the words coming out of? So, Snoop Dogg doesn't bear any responsibility for spreading this filth? And Young Jeezy, and Crime Mob and all these people, they don't bear responsibility? It's all whitey's fault?"

Color me surprised and skeptical that Malkin even knows who Young Jeezy is. I'm even more skeptical that she could acually name specifric song or lyric by these artists that matches the comments made by Imus.

But here's the thing: We've already been down this road before and the artists always win.

Malkin was essentially using this arguement to bash Al Sharpton of course...

"When was the last time Al Sharpton or Jesse Jackson looked at the top of the Billboard hot rap tracks charts? Just look at it this week. Every single one of the top six songs has the N-word, the H-word, the B-word. When was the last time that Al Sharpton said anything about it? Was it two or three or four years ago?"

And here I thought conservatives just got all weak in the knees over the magic of the marketplace - but as it turns out both Sharpton and Jackson have been arguing against vulgarity in popular music, particularly black music, quite recently. Sharpton brought it up as he eulogized James Brown and recounted their final conversation.

SHARPTON: It was the last conversation we had. He said to me, "Reverend," he said, "I've been watching you on the news. I want you to keep fighting for justice. But I want you to tell people to love one another. I want you to fight to lift the standards back." He said, "What happened to us that we are now celebrating from being down? What happened we went from saying I'm black and I'm proud to calling each other niggers and hos and bitches?" He said, "I sung people up and now they're singing people down, and we need to change the music."

So much for those "Why doesn't Sharpton try to clean up his own house" claims.

Oh and as a matter of fact, Billboard doesn't have a "Hot Rap Tracks" chart, it's actually called "Hot R&B/Hip-Hip" and the top six songs are as follows (link goes to lyrics):

  1. Robin Thick - Lost Without You
  1. Musiq Soulchild - Buddy
  1. R. Kelly or Bow Wow Featuring T.I. and T. Pain - I'm a Flirt
  1. T. Pain Featuring Yung Joc - Buy U A Drank (Shawty Snappin')
  1. Akon - Don't Matter
  1. Mims - This is Why I'm Hot

Contrary to Malkin's claim none of these songs say anything about "Bytches" or "Ho's" - although besides being fairly trite and vapid most of them are sexual. Only two songs - "I'm a flirt" and "This is why I'm hot" - actually do say "Nigga" several times, but it's not used in a negative or derogatory context.

I'm not surprised that the actual filth content is so low, we all know that if it were the FCC would have put most Hip-Hop radio stations in the "Po House" or else their broadcasts would be one long Beeep!

Snoop Dogg and Young Jeezy aren't even in the top ten right now - but Crime Mob (featuring Lil Scrappy) with "Rock Your Hips" is at number 8 and in the interest of being "fair and balanced" here's a lyrical sample:

Lil' Jay, on the track,nigga, aye & you already know, its ya boi lil scrappy
we finna have the whole M-F world, rockin'in dis bitch,
look at shawty check her out. southern smokin

That's just in the intro but the point that is obvious, if you're paying attention, is that this isn't aimed at anyone specific - it's not even intended as an insult. "Bitch" is talking about the song itself, not a person.

I'll speak more about N-words, B-words and context later - but right now I want to note that unfortunately Malkin wasn't alone in her commnents. During ABC's This Week with George Stephanopolous one of the roundtable panelists, Torie Clark, made the exact same claim - that Rap Artists are the source of this language.

Oi Vey!

And then George Will got into the act..

What are we not talking about when we talk about Imus? We're not talking about what everyone knows is the biggest problem in the African-American community - the high percentage of their children born to unmarried women

It's at this point where I have forcefully apply the emergency brake and pull this "bytch" over to the side of the road...

Unweb mother's are the biggest problem in the African-American community? Really now? Where do you think all those absent fathers might be - could it possibly be - JAIL

As of right now the Bureau of Justice Statistics indicates that...

The prevalence of imprisonment in 2001 was higher for
-- black males (16.6%) and Hispanic males (7.7%) than for white males (2.6%)
-- black females (1.7%) and Hispanic females (0.7%) than white females (0.3%)

This is the source of the stat the black men are 8 times more likely to be involvement in the criminal justice system than white males. This stat drives forward the perception by law enforcement that greater scrutiny of these individuals is warranted, which in turn means that their rate of being stopped, questioned and searched without justification is also higher as studies by the ACLU have shown.

In one study involving New Jersey State Troopers the percentage of stops and searches for minorities was found to be significantly higher, but the rate of finding illegal contraband such as drugs was the same between White, Black and Hispanic drivers. In the end the fact that their pulling over and searching far more black drivers leads directly to more being incarcerated, couple that with the 100 to 1 disparity in sentencing on drugs that blacks frequently have (crack) vs those that whites might have (cocain, ectasy or crystal meth) and the chasm only widens from there.

Just like Malkin's mistaken and dangerous presumption that "Every single one of the top six songs has the N-word, the H-word, the B-word." the mistaken impression that Black Males have to be guilty of something continues to drive police, courts and even juries to convict them at rates far higher than others. How do you respect the law when the law clearly doesn't respect you?

But the criminal injustice system isn't the only issue:

• In 2004, half of African-American men in their 20s were without work. Among high school dropouts, it was 72 percent. The dropout classification is relevant, because in inner cities more than half of all black men do not finish high school.

• By their late 20s, more African-American male dropouts are behind bars than behind a desk or otherwise legally earning a paycheck. By their mid-30s, 6 in 10 black men who had quit high school had done time in prison - a record that compounds the challenge of finding work.

Programs such a "No Child Left Behind" rather than helping the most vulnerable to improve and be the best they can be instead coerce school administrators into shoving marginal children out the back door to keep their overall testing scores high and the federal money flowing.

This has occured in Houston:

Robert Kimball, an assistant principal at Sharpstown High School, sat smack in the middle of the "Texas miracle." His poor, mostly minority high school of 1,650 students had a freshman class of 1,000 that dwindled to fewer than 300 students by senior year. And yet — and this is the miracle — not one dropout to report!

Nor was zero an unusual dropout rate in this school district that both President Bush and Secretary of Education Rod Paige have held up as the national showcase for accountability and the model for the federal No Child Left Behind law. Westside High here had 2,308 students and no reported dropouts; Wheatley High 731 students, no dropouts. A dozen of the city's poorest schools reported dropout rates under one percent.

And this scenario as been repeated all over the country while at the same time we have these "Abstinence Only" requirements in place, which have been shown to be a complete and abject failure.

The latest federal report on abstinence-only programs shows that they have had "no impacts on rates of sexual abstinence."

Actually it's much worse than that, because these programs specifically teach disinformation on the effectiveness of condoms they've been shown to actually increase the risk of sexual disease as well as high-risk practices such as anal and oral sex.

But of course, the Real Problem in the Black Community is all that Nasty Rap Music!

Whatta crock of Shit!

Look, I find a lot of modern music uninspiring and banal, but it's not the source of our problems - it's a symptom. All of these issues, an unbalanced justice system, inadequate schools and joblessness all add to the lack of hope in these communities which in my view is the true source of all these problems.

Without Hope - you have nothing, literally.

Rapper and Air America Radio Host Chuck D of Public Enemy once said that "Rap Music was the Black CNN." He has long argued that they're simply reporting what it is that they see in the world around them - what the regularly CNN can't - or won't - report.

How many times in the last week and half have reporters on CNN, CBS, NBC, ABC, MSNBC and FOX repeated what Imus said?

It's become the age of the "Nappy-Headed HO", but everyone understands the context in which they using the word don't they? (Told you I'd get back to context...)

We accept that usage because we realize these people don't mean it literally, yet when a rapper does it we presume that it could only mean one thing? Well, that's just patently ridiculous. I understand those that feel offended anytime certain words are used - but I we can also recognize the fact that some people like to t alk trash harmlessly, others actually DO trash to people.

Context and intent matters.

<>There are those who argue that any and all uses of the N, H, and B-words are always wrong, except of course when they're complaining about someone using those words. But as I pointed out in my last Dkos diary, we shouldn't fear words - we need to fear actions that people take using the hate these words describe. The true haters do everything they can to hide it because real discrimination is against the law unless you catch them in an unguarded moment as Imus was caught last night on 60 minutes stating to a producer off camera that...
<> "McGuirk is there to provide the all nigger jokes".

Yikes!

Again, the word itself isn't the issue to me, the issue I feel is the sentiment and his actions. He could have said "darkie" and it would mean the same thing, he could have said "mud-duck" - in fact if he were in mixed company he just might have used a code word like Maccaca as Sen George Allen tried to do, but that doesn't change McGuirk mandate to stir the shit-pot.

Banning words doesn't change how someone feels, thinks or behaves.

And it's not like we haven't had these battles over language and lyrics before - when Tipper Gore and the PMRC went after the music industry in the 80's they faced direct opposition from Frank Zappa, Dee Snider and even Bob Denver.

Dee pointed out that they had mis-interpreted the Twisted Sister song "Under the Blade" to be some kind of advocacy of torture when in fact it was about undergoing surgery. Tipper had been set off on her crusade by the song "Darling Nikki" after she'd bought the Purple Rain soundtrack for her daughter. I always found this highly ironic since Purple Rain was an "R" Rated Movie - and that song was part of the plot. Like a musical, that movie used the music to tell the story including the Up's (The title track) and the Downs (Nikki).

She already had her warning sticker on the back of the album, but failed to pay attention - just like so many other self-appointed moral watchdogs who can't seem to do their own homework and try to foist it off on everyone else.

Fortunately the PMRC failed to implment a movie-like rating system for music and were forced to accept a deal from the record industry for simple "Parental Advisory" stickers.

Following that a Florida judge declared 2 Live Crew's "As Nasty as they wanna be" (WHICH WAS STICKERED) to be obscene and had it banned. This dispite the fact that they had already released an alternate version of the album - "As Clean as they Wanna be" (No Sticker Needed). The gropu was actually arrested for a music performance, as if they were in soviet russia or china. Respected artists such as Bruce Springsteen lept to their defense, and they were eventually aquited.

In 1991 we had the "Cop Killer" Controversy which gave Rap it's most serious black-eye yet - even though it wasn't even a rap song. It was the result of a Rock Band ("look a Black Guy with a Microphone - it's gotta be a Rap Band!" No, it doesn't!) side project by rapper Ice-T called Bodycount. The name of the group came from the "If it bleeds, it leads" doctrine of local news programs.

Ten people killed in drive by shooting - Now Sports!

It was a comment on how callously the lives of those living in poverty were (and are) treated. Gang violence in L.A. had raged thruout the 80's, but it didn't become "News" until a innocent asian UCLA student was accidentally shot in Westwood. That's when it became a problem, and that's when LAPD began to go on a serious warpath, and the backlash against their brutal and oppressive tactics began to grow. There were many unjustified shootings over the years such as Yula Love, and citizens who were mauled by police dogs or killed by the choke hold (Ron Settles). The was even an LAPD Home Invasion on Dalton Ave where the cops broke through the walls, smashed the bathroom fixtures, scrawled their own tags on the wall (LAPD Rules!), then tried to hide the evidence when they found out - it was the wrong house! LA is the home of the battering ram and the city that invented S.W.A.T., the use of paramilitary tactics and weapons against civilians. (Tactics which work oh-so-well against the S.L.A. that they were adopted by the H.R.T. - the FBI's version of S.W.A.T. - and produced the exact same results at Waco, not to mention Ruby Ridge)

Bodycount was simply documenting the growing resentment and essentially predicted the Rodney King Riots which broke out just one year later. People should have been listening to them not criticizing.

At the time though, every politician available jumped on the anti-Ice-T bandwagon including Vice President Dan Quayle and President G.H.W. Bush. Too bad they, like Malkin, got their facts completely wrong in the interest of political expediency as shown by this BBC documentary on the Cop-Killer Controversy


In the wake of the bruhah and death threats being issued against the employees at Time Warner, Ice (Tracey Morrow) T relented and pulled the track off his album. He and Time later parted company, but this hasn't shut him down - he and Bodycount are about to release their fourth album "Murder 4 Hire".

It may be fair to say that much of this music is exploitative, even if it is "reporting" the state of life in the ghetto accurately. But it's not like we haven't seen the news industry salivate at the prospect of milking every second out of a sensationalistic stories like say - Natalie Holloway, Terri Schiavo, Jennifer Wilbanks, Scott Peterson and The Astronaut in Diapers - while ignoring poverty, onging war crimes, torture and our crumbing national infrastructure.

It would be nice if more people strove to lift us up, and give us more hope as James Brown did almost 40 years ago when he single handedly ended the violent outbursts which erupted after the murder of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr - but that was a long time ago.

Anti-Rap comments by him or Al Sharpton, Jessie Jackson and the late C. Deloris Tucker all have the about as much sting as the bitter old fogey on the corner screaming at the kids "Get Off My Lawn!!"

Sorry, but the kids aren't listening to Al or Jessie because for starters they've failed to recognize who the kids truly are - not to mention the tide of history. Long before 2 Live Crew and Ice T the kids have been making noise. Ever since Chuck Berry did the first duck-walk, Little Richard screamed "Tutti Fruity" with all his fey fabulousity, Elvis twitched his hips on Ed Sullivan and Jim Morrison played with his wango-tango popular music has pushed hard at the boundaries of what is "acceptable" and shocked the living daylights out of all the crusty old codgers.

Guess what - "The Kids Are Alright!" and given time they'll figure it all out.

There are already some artists - even in Rap - who actually are making positive statements. Artists such as Queen Latifah who long ago stated "I aint a bitch or Ho", Will Smith and Kanye West who won a grammy for his song "Jesus Walks".

These days though if your truly trying to say something that hasn't been Hanitized and Dizneyfied for your protection - you just might run into another solid stone wall as Pink has discovered when she wrote and released "Dear Mr President" a song which sharply criticizes the Bush Adminstration.

Pink on Jimmy Kimmel Last Week where she explained that she's been essentially black-balled from Radio.

If this Rap-Lash begins to stick, although I doubt it will, how much chance will people who have say anything controversal via music? I don't think anyone wants to see the music world filled with nothing but American Idol wannabe's, but if we allow fear-mongers like Malkin to have their way - that's exactly where we're headed.

------

In the interest of full disclosure I am a long-time rock musician, I am black, I live and work in South Central L.A. and I happen to have my own Live365 Radio Station which focuses primary on protest music including uncensored songs by Bodycount and Suicidal Tendencies.

I have tracks by System of a Down (B.Y.O.B. and Boom!)
As well as Disturbed's cover of Genesis's "Land of Confusion" (which can be heard during the promos for the new Sci-Fi channel show "Painkiller Jane") and a song they directed straight at Bush called "Deity".

The video for "Everybodies Fool" by Evanescence makes a great point about consumerism and dehumanization - which is pretty topical these days.

Other notable examples although not as recent and on point would be Tupac's Letter to the President", BodyCount's "Born Dead", Extreme's "Warheads", "Peacemaker Die", "Rest in Peace" and "Cynical Fuck".

There are a lot of people out their besides Pink who are making some noise, but not necesarily exploiting or demeaning anyone.

Vyan

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