Thursday, March 12, 2009

Troubled Rap Relief Program

“Elvis, was a hero to most, but he never meant shit to me you see”
–Public Enemy

Brushing the divisive politics of Chuck D aside, my mind reverts to its happy corner of audiophile amusement. And in this dusty rec room of preamps and pirated mp3 files, graver concerns materialize. The Obama administration and its messages of hope and change will annihilate the remnants of hip-hop, a once pioneering voice of the underprivileged, reduced to an Auto-Tune anthem for phony gangsters. Contentment breeds commercially derivative junk. And as politics turns a corner, racially and radically, so does the rage of inner city thugs deaden.
 
The presidency of Bush II, while a desultory experience for poor city dwellers (and those on the Louisiana bayou), did nothing to deter urban radio’s focus from connotations of women as submissive accessories; where sliding a credit card through the buttocks of a “ho” was a means to rack up frequent flyer miles, concurrent with preying on the insecurities of fatherless adolescents. Images of iced up pimps flashing diamond studded dental grills and slugging malt liquor – virtual how-to videos on profligate excess – were seared into our sockets by the media machine. Underprivileged ghetto youth idolized and aspired to the lifestyle, while their suburban peers accepted it as dystopian normality. Likewise, those who couldn’t keep a beat or dunk a basketball remained stuck in the morass, aspirations crushed and role models limited, perpetuating the business of hustling to desperate cohorts. Where future generations should advance, the sickness of the street bred stagnancy and reinforced defeat. Yet over the past decade, record companies did little to promote this yawning frustration on Billboard charts or MTV. Noticeably absent from the mainstream record bins were tirades on FEMA’s hurricane response, police brutality, or gang violence. And with the buoyancy related to our (half) black president leaking into every tumbledown tenement, these chest-thumping pimps are drinking 'Tron on ice and debating Tootsie Roll licks. What happened to fighting the power?

Give me the trickle-down economics of Reagan or Bush #1 when crack rock snowblinded neighborhoods like a assault virus and violent crime murdered the dignity of the underclass; not this Timbaland produced popcorn that plays in junior high gymnasiums. Years ago, for every hydraulic baller untying bikini knots there was a vengeful cop killer like Ice T ready to crush your skull with his lawless fist. Behind every Luke Campbell scoring cheap controversy was a lurking predator with an AK sidearm like Ice Cube. Every minstrel-like MC Hammer in parachute pants shared the block with an unapologetic Chuck D, scaring the crap out of white people while rearranging the status quo with the heft of a freight train. Politics, foreign affairs, even the daily grind of flipping burgers once occupied a place in the rap canon.
 
Sadly, an entire genre of music is becoming the laughable equivalent to over-produced 1980’s hair metal, a parody of its gritty past with lesser artists and copycat medium-talents. Just as the flannel layering, two shower-a-week crowd of early 1990s grunge extinguished the ozone hazard of tired Aqua Net axe men – backstage beer guts gushing over their leather pants – a similar revolution is inevitable as hip-hop swaggers toward its saturation point. It happened before, and will happen with increased speed in deference to our Ritalin-pumped culture. The young pelvis swinging Elvis of our grandparent’s ire became the rhinestone felled King of mom and dad's memory; the peanut-butter-and-banana-sandwich one, who refused to deviate from an outmoded formula, watching his audience age-out of desirable demos as he slurred through tired jukebox hits.

Four more years of George W. might be the prescription to flush out the stupor and slam back the soul. Can we find Barry O some communities to organize while Bush II stokes the vitriol and stuffs my iPod? Can we rattle a bunch of sleepwalking zombies into the studio without a chokehold of fashion glitz? Can we chase this genre out of the soccer mom minivan? Can everybody put their dicks in their pants for one goddamn second and revalue the urban music terrain before the last ghetto blaster goes dark?
 
“Yes we can.”

4 comments:

lsbb said...

Sigh. Ever since Julian Bond went on SNL in '77 and explained that light skinned blacks were smarter than dark skinned blacks, you knew that it was only a matter of time before Caucasians would walk to the edge of political relevance, and plunge into the abyss. The fault line today is the gay/black fight, where our newly dominant minority chose to crush equal rights in California with respect to sexual preference. Now it's a fact, you can look it up, that a gay friendly environment is tied to prosperity and well being, to say nothing of real estate values:

http://rawstory.com/news/2007/Study_Gayfriendly_cities_enjoy_more_economic_0623.html

And our new president seems most uncomfortable with "Don't Ask Don't Tell", much less federal benefits for same sex partners. So maybe out of all this there is hope for artistic resurgence, just not in the tired rap format.

Watch out where those credit cards end up, though.

The Logistician said...

Saw your invitation in the Coffee Shop feature of Google Groups Help Group, and decided to visit. Nice work; definitely unique, and definitely stimulates the thought process. I was entertained. Thanks for sharing.

We could use your unique perspective on our blog.

Jen said...

Excess and extremism do generate better quality tunes. It's all I can bear to have to listen to the watered down rap in a spinning class. It's just painful.

MVD said...

Agreed. I'll take my rappers wielding side arms, my rockers strung on heroin, and the young upcomers full of angst. Complacency breeds Air Supply. And I don't want to get my ass kicked for blaring "Here I Am."

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