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Beware of the Hand When It’s Comin’ From The Left

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Kanye West Week begins on Graduation day, so tomorrow! Tonight, you get this-

Woooo! Have you seen this shit? A few weeks ago I tried to peep readers to a Democratic City Councilmen wannabe, trying to make his name by opposing a rap concert held in Baltimore. Well, today, thanks to Oh Word’s ever-dependable ‘Around the Horn’, there’s ‘Offended? The Rap’s On Me.’, an article in the Washington Post by Justin D. Ross, a (gasp!) aspiring Democratic politician! If Sach. O’s article didn’t prove to you why Public Enemy is still relevant, I’ll refer to my favorite piece of Chuck D. knowledge: “Beware of the hand when it’s coming from the left.”

The discussion of rap found in Councilmen Ross’s article is the new wave of opportunistic rap criticism. At this point, nearly everybody under forty years old is at least desensitized if not fairly familiar rap and in due time, O’Reilly-esque scare-mongering isn’t going to fly. Rap’s opposition will increasingly come from people like Ross, who will claim an interest or allegiance and preface their played-out, ill-informed criticisms with stuff like “So I’m not just sounding off when I say this”; please, please don’t buy into it.

I’ll begin with Ross’s stance of implicating his own whiteness. If Ross were the hip-hop insider he claims to be, he’d be aware of how the whole “white people buy most rap music” thing is a myth. Hell, you’d think he’d have even read about it Bakarai Kitwana’s wonderful ‘Why White Kids Love Hip-Hop’. There’s an entire chapter called ‘Erasing Blackness: Are White Suburban Kids Really Hip-Hop’s Primary Audience?’! For a politician so concerned with what is “harmful to race relations”, you’d think he’d be aware that communal aspects of the African-American community allow bootlegs, mixtapes, etc. to be easily available or you know, the way most malls and major entertainment stores are located in white areas and on the statistic tip, black people going to those stores would have those purchases chalked-up to the white side. Sure, strictly going on “sales” white people buy the most rap albums but any actual research shows that they are not the primary consumers.

I also want to know why he assumes every white person buying rap (or just every white person?) comes from “comfortable suburban neighborhoods”. Plenty of low-income white people purchase and embrace rap music too. Sure, the music does not “degrade” them but as MC One Man Gangler pointed out in the comments section of this entry…if you’re going to use white people’s supposed majority purchasing of rap music to argue your political points, you cannot also assume that the music does not negatively affect those same white people. At least be consistent.

The only consistency is Ross’s towing of an outdated liberal party-line that still perceives white people as oppressors and black people as helpless victims. It isn’t a surprise, that at least according to the music cited in his article, he listens to overtly political rap (Public Enemy, the Roots, Talib Kweli) and dumbed-down coke rap (Rick Ross, Young Jeezy); the two most grotesque clichés of the black experience. Of course, citing the artists he does may just be further evidence that he isn’t that big of a hip-hop head and just listens to the popular stuff. In 2007, it’s Jeezy, in 1989 it was Public Enemy.

Ross simply adopts that outdated “white people are the primary consumers of rap” argument among a few similarly disingenuous arguments because they fit. You’d think he’d be above such a purposefully simple-minded understanding of a word like “nigga” and of course, how it is indeed, quite different from “nigger”. The O’Reilly-like move of referring to rap’s complex use of the word “nigga” as simply a “racial epithet” is a cheap shock strategy and pretty offensive from a supposed lover of hip-hop. To bolster his argument and to get some additional hip-hop head “cred”, Ross cites his early embrace of Public Enemy. He has a good point in subtly contrasting their 1989 popularity with 2007’s significantly less-refined rappers, but he dismisses it all with safe jokes about his embrace of the group: “Before I graduated from Kenmoor Middle School, I was ready to “Fight the Power” because Public Enemy told me to (even though I didn’t really know what that meant).” Ross doesn’t want to take Public Enemy’s revolutionary raps too seriously because it would make him look absurd and bring up images of “co-opting”, so he laughs it off, which totally messes up his thesis. So, as long as people mindlessly follow “positive” rap and not “negative” rap, it’s all okay? Spoken like a true, Puritanical liberal…

Will you be removing those hateful songs from your iPod, Mr. Ross? When did it suddenly hit you that some of the rap you were listening to was “degrading”? I have a feeling it was pretty recently, you know, when every other no-name politician, pundit, and talking-head, decided to use rap music as a springboard for mild political fame.

Written by Brandon

September 10th, 2007 at 4:15 am