I was doing that random thinking stuff I do which I attribute to 4 cups of coffee this morning, a very unusual way to start my day. I was amped to say the least. And as my mind rambled it rambled into the importance of some of the popular music of the day and how it would be weighed by the winds and sands of time.
First let me qualify that I love some hip-hop, especially real hip-hop and do make a distinction between it and rap. To me there is a difference and while I am no expert I am not close minded about the genre and here is where I am with a great deal of it.
A Pimp is a person who makes profit by sexually exploiting women, most of the time women who have been abused, sexually, physically, emotionally and about any other way you can imagine, for most, if not all their lives. To call oneself a Pimp is akin to calling oneself an A$$hole. Think how cool it sounds to say that you exploit weak people at their weakest. And that is cool why? When I hear kids say “I’m a pimp” I immediately shake my head then say, which I hate these words and try to keep them out of my mouth, “SHUT UP!”
A Hustler is a male prostitute historically. They are also usually people who make it by selling themselves in some way. Again this is not a position to be glorified. I am not judging but again the young men I have worked with in the past, who were hustlers, were very troubled and had more than a few issues to deal with in their very tenuous and tough lives.
OK, I understand the points of distinction and that words can mean different things at different times. What is bothersome is that the “rap” culture is constantly changing and morphing their dialogue with each new Pimp and Hustler “flavor” of the month. I do not call names because I do not want to anger anyone, because after all, many artist profess that they also dig shooting people. I am not cribbing here because we have seen rappers words cause the death of 2 of Hip Hop’s most brilliant. At what point in our culture do we say enough with enough?
I get that art is a reflection of the artist and their environment. I remember when Chuck D, a hip-hop godfather, said that Hip-Hop was the black man’s CNN. I agree with that but Rap is not. It seems to me to be either dance floor, booty shaking, drivel, or flash in the pan violence by someone we will not even remember in 6-10 months out.
The point of this being that if the art is a reflection of the culture then what the heck are we doing that is so wrong? I also wonder if artists are not immediately reaching for the basest of human emotions or issues, instead of CNN we get WWE but even more violent. Granted if you are talking about the violence of your area and it is graphic by all means, but do not glorify something one minute and then talk about how bad it is the next.
I am no one to judge just observe. I love great music and that includes hip hop, R&B, Soul, Blues, Rock, Country, Bluegrass, and a bunch of other things. To me that is the issue. Great music is great music. It speaks to a timeless thing, lyrically, socially, rhythmically, melodically, and any other “ally” you can think of that applies to music, great songs have that, no matter the genre or the era. This will always be the case as long as humans feel pain and need to invoke to others or maybe just themselves, how the experience is at that moment.
Were their lurid songs which talked about base, bawdy subjects? Of course. Lucille Bogan, in the 1930’s, wrote lyrics that would make the nastiest Rapper shake his or her head. I am not condemning anyone’s experience as being disingenuous. As an artist myself I would fight tooth and nail to protect their right to say whatever they want within the confines of freedom of speech. All I would suggest, with the intent of this blog, is that any artist, not just a rapper, but anyone, think about the vibe you are putting out there. Is it adding to the world something good or something that has never been written or sung in such way before? Is it promoting violence or the exploitation of someone in a mean way? Does it promote truth, whatever that truth may be? Is it genuine or just something you are saying to get noticed?
At the end of the day, I would hope, all things being at least fair but not necessarily equal, people could look outside themselves as artists and work towards projecting the real and not just camp or aiming for the obvious hot buttons inside all of us. An artist not only reflects their environment but has the power to uplift it, even in the direst of circumstances.
Example and then off my soap box:
James Brown stopped a riot with a performance. James Brown stopped a riot caused directly by the assassination of a great man. James Brown stopped a riot due to the assassination of not just a great man but one of greatest leaders the planet has ever known to this point. Imagine, for a second, the positive implications of a city on fire, people dying, and an artist, so positively powerful, that he could move his concert up a couple of hours and it cause a riot to cease. And at that concert James Brown could have churned the riot back up, told everyone to get back to rioting, and made that crowd completely finish destroying the city. Of course he did not. He also did not say he loved exploiting people, shooting or hurting them. James Brown was no angel as a person but given the opportunity he immediately,when asked for his help, without hesitation, did what Abe Lincoln asked all of America to do in his first inaugural address, looked to the angels of his better nature and saved a city. This should be in every history book about America and in every school in America.
It was “I’m black and I’m proud” not “I love destroying all those around me and making sure that children get damaged in the process” Let’s get it together.