Wednesday, 1 January 2014

"Why do black people have to be the only ones that can't evolve…” – the righteous anger of US rapper Hopsin

You won’t be surprised to learn that I’m not a great fan of rap “music” – I doubt that many 61-year old white people are (I doubt if many 61-year old black people are, either). Some of the early stuff (e.g. Grandmaster Flash, Fab 5 Freddy, West Street Mob, Gangstarr) was fun, mainly because it was about having fun. Then most rap became violent, brutal, antisocial and obscene – ugly music representing an utterly repellent, trashy, moronic, joyless, bestial culture fuelled by resentment, hatred and an overwhelming sense of entitlement.

Why anyone over the age of 14 would derive pleasure from listening to grumpy-looking black men in silly clothes threatening violence against women, gays, policemen and other grumpy-looking black men in silly clothes is anyone’s guess. (Just the other day I passed a white boy from a local private school who couldn’t have been more than 11, listening to a “song” on his mobile in which every other word appeared to be either “motherfucker” or “bitch”.)

I’ve tried not to get into too much of a tizz about all this over the years. Many members of my parents’ generation were horrified by rock ‘n’ roll music, which to their ears no doubt sounded just as morally insane as rap does to people like me (although my Glaswegian grandmother was a fan of Little Richard and I can’t remember my mother raising any objections to the kind of music my brother and I listened to). But while rock ‘n’ roll no doubt sounded like the battle cry of educationally-subnormal, culturally-deprived juvenile delinquents back in the late ‘50s, and while many of the lyrics undoubtedly involved fast cars, parties and sex, it now mainly just sounds horny and exuberant and, given what’s followed, touchingly innocent. The (mercifully) precious little modern rap music I’ve heard is certainly horny, but exuberance and innocence seem to be in short supply. Punk was certainly less innocent than rock 'n' roll, but it was mainly fuelled by white middle-class schoolkids acting out rebellious fantasies, it didn't last very long, its appeal was always extremely limited, and its influence quickly evaporated. By contrast, rap appears to have flourished for over 30 years, and its adverse effects (on black youths, at least) appears to be long-lasting and wholly unwelcome.

My son sent me a link to two rap songs (they probably belong to some sub-genre whose name I’m never going to know) as examples of a potentially heartening trend, whereby rappers have begun attacking the thoroughly rebarbative messages embedded in much of the rest of their musically and morally-impoverished genre. I doubt if the language and the “music” of these two tracks (one American, one British) will hold any appeal for you, but I find both artists' contempt for the horrible, life-destroying attitudes being peddled to young blacks by fellow-rappers enormously heartening. The fact that the American track has been been viewed over 30 million times on YouTube would suggest that - to quote Joe Strummer - "there's many black ears here to listen". Let's hope so.

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