Monday, April 04, 2005


Do you know anyone who likes rap? Or, to be more precise, do you know anyone who's NOT between the ages of 14 and 17 who likes rap?

The only person I've ever come across personally who likes rap was the loser kid across the street who moved away from home only after he impregnated a pastor's daughter, dropped out of high school, and lost his driver's license for getting pulled over all the time. I describe this kid because the only kids I've seen who like rap are all badasses in the making, too.

I have never met an adult who likes rap. Ever. I've read some music critics who do, but almost to a one they're enthralled with the Identity Politics of rap so much that you can't tell if they honestly like the sound, or if they just like the fact that black kids from the street are the artists. Yes, these critics talk about how much they like a cut or two, but to a person they always wax on about how cool it is authentic black people from the street are expressing themselves, how it's the poetry of the urban experience and white man just better bend an ear or else. (Which is rich because all of these critics are white guys.) It's as if Prince, In Living Color, Boys II Men, Fishbone, or (heaven forbid) Hootie and the Blowfish (Darius Rucker) don't count as black artists with an authentic voice.

There was a point in American history where rock and roll was actively suppressed by some parts of the establishment, because of racism and because some thought it was just too sexual. But, for the most part, people of all ages embraced rock and roll, and eventually all resistance faded entirely. By the time the Beatles came to America, rock was THE music of the mainstream.

Rap is now, what, 20 years old? And still, I meet NO ONE who likes it. Only dubious-looking, pissed off kids blast the stuff from their cars.

TLD: Let me drop aside here and say I've met people who like Will Smith's stuff, but they'll always chime in and say that's because it's musical - it has a tune, and his delivery is more melodic than the pissed off, about to pop a cap in yo' ass barrage that most rappers put out there. In short, they don't think of it as rap. Of course, "real" rappers constantly dismiss him as a rap artist and say he's not "black enough," whatever the hell that means. Again, Prince anyone? Stevie Wonder? Marvin Gaye? Seal? Lenny Kravitz? Hello?

So here's the primary mystery to me: Who listens to this stuff? And if it's no one you know, how come it's so pervasive in the movies, TV, and popular music?



Outer Life said...

My fuddy-duddy credentials are impeccable yet I have room in my music collection for A Tribe Called Quest, the Beastie Boys, De La Soul, Schooly-D and Outkast, mostly old school, not to mention that seminal slice of Ur-rapping: Bob Dylan's "Subterranean Homesick Blues," the oldest school of them all.

About 99% of rap is crap, but then that's true for all pop (and un-pop) music. The best can be breathtaking, melding well-arranged words with sparse melodies and compelling rhythms.

Yahmdallah said...

Yes, there is the cream of any and every genre that's listenable. (Even opera, which usually fills me with intertia.) I liked the Beastie Boys "Intergalactic" (so annoyingly funny), De La Soul, and parts of the last Outkast CD - the non-rap parts mostly.

So maybe I shoulda qualified it down to gansta rap. ?

sharon said...

Surely we can get older-school than Dylan. I've got a falling-apart Smithsonian recording--the old vinyl super-thick dinner-plate kind--of "Talking Blues" from the '40's and '50's. Love "Talking Union Blues" and "Talking Subway Blues." Anyway I'd bet talking blues has as much parentage credit for rap as Dylan does.