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Lauren founded this blog in 2001.
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77 Responses

  1. Jamelle
    Jamelle May 16, 2009 at 5:25 pm |

    Although I don’t have much to say with regards to the topic of the post, I do have a suggestion as to how you could introduce hip-hop to your son in a sneaky fashion; the Beastie Boys! Especially Check Your Head/Ill Communication era Beastie Boys. I mean, it might blow his mind – white guys who play instruments and rap! – but it could convince him that there’s more to hip-hop than what he hears on the radio.

  2. Greg
    Greg May 16, 2009 at 5:51 pm |

    I get that alot from people who are really into punk and or metal. They just refuse to give hip hop a chance, because all they hear is from the radio. If your only exposure is from the radio, then yeah, hip hop sucks. Halle Berry and Ricky Bobby make my ears bleed, but once you leave the realm of radio, you find amazing artists like UGK, Stetsasonic, and so many others. It is racism to just dismiss an entire genre made up of primarily blacks and latinos. As if rock is an entirely white genre. It was co-opted by white mainstream society, hell, the Beatles, Zeppelin, or the ROlling Stones would have never gone anywhere if they didn’t rip off black musicians and make it palatable for a white audience.
    But then again, kids usually have bad taste in music, so many in a few years they will learn, but it is disheartening that they only listen to music by white men. I agree with Jamelle, get them into the Beastie Boys, they will dig it, and then maybe something like Talib or the Roots. And also get them into blues and jazz, open their eyes to something other than my-daddy-didn’t-love-me style of rock that makes up so much of the crap we hear every day.

  3. Lauren
    Lauren May 16, 2009 at 5:53 pm |

    Jamelle, I haven’t gone that route yet, but I might. There was that time I tried to convince him to listen to this, because he’s usually pretty convinced by clever wordplay, but no.

    Maybe this is the beginning of his teen rebellion, where he becomes a Christian Dave Matthews-loving Republican to piss me off.

  4. Greg
    Greg May 16, 2009 at 5:57 pm |

    Blackalicious, always a good choice!
    I always thought it was really interesting when liberal parents get right winger kids, god, if my kids end up like that, i’d loose my mind. keep them away from ted nugent, because even though his music is good, he is just about as dumb as they come.

  5. M
    M May 16, 2009 at 6:18 pm |

    I think you’ve set yourself up to fail; what non-gangsta hip-hop are you promoting? Though I don’t like hip-hop, I recognize it’s not owned entirely by black urban crime rap, but when I come up with examples — “OutKast and the Roots and Mos Def and the Beastie Boys” — your / Sanneh’s argument is apparently that those exact artists are ‘too white,’ or as Sanneh terms it, “impersonating rock n’ roll bands.”

    Well, then, what do you want? Apparently the only “real” hip-hop is the exact black urban crime rap you’re claiming isn’t the only force in hip-hop.

  6. Lauren
    Lauren May 16, 2009 at 6:39 pm |

    Apparently the only “real” hip-hop is the exact black urban crime rap you’re claiming isn’t the only force in hip-hop.

    Mmmm, no. Sanneh is making a related but different point. Sanneh is arguing why some groups have critical acclaim and others don’t, but ultimately she is revealing how critics set up a hierarchy through this music nerd phenomenon called rockism, and rockism is a guitar-driven, mostly white, and nostalgia-based, good ol’ days POV. It also sets up rock music as the norm, with all other forms of music being outside of the norm — and if rock music is the norm (and it isn’t), artists like the ones she mentions will get critical acclaim because they’re experimenting with the norm in their respective genres. My advice is to read the whole article, remembering that it’s about five years old.

    My argument: I get tired of the kinds of arguments that set up a kind of art as the one true authentic thing, regardless of whether we’re talking about Van Gogh or Public Enemy, which is why I’m impatient with the kids setting up a musical dichotomy that may be race-based.

    It’s odd to me, considering the range of artists we listen to at home and in the car, that the kid will write off, say, Q-Tip, but not Leonard Cohen. I mean, which seems more palatable to a kid’s ear?

  7. Mireille
    Mireille May 16, 2009 at 6:43 pm |

    Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy. I like some hip-hop and some has a really great beat, but the misogyny chases me away from a lot of it. I listen to black metal with awful lyrics, but usually I can’t understand what they’re saying anyway. But, the antenna broke off my car about 18 months ago, so the only music I listen to is on my iPod. I have particular songs by Snoop, Ice Cube, and some others, but I can’t say I’m a devotee of any particular hip hop artists.

  8. Mireille
    Mireille May 16, 2009 at 6:44 pm |

    Oh, and just to be clear, I mean the genre “black metal” which is mostly pasty white guys from Norway trying to sound evil.

  9. chava
    chava May 16, 2009 at 7:08 pm |

    Erm, rock and roll was invented by black people and wasn’t at all seen as the “good old boys” music. Just sayin.’ I know it got co-opted, but still.

    Also…
    Ever wonder why OutKast and the Roots and Mos Def and the Beastie Boys get taken so much more seriously than other rappers? Maybe because rockist critics love it when hip-hop acts impersonate rock ‘n’ roll bands. (A recent Rolling Stone review praised the Beastie Boys for scruffily resisting “the gold-plated phooey currently passing for gangsta.”)

    I thought we were over calling people out for acting “white”?

  10. Lauren
    Lauren May 16, 2009 at 7:45 pm |

    I thought we were over calling people out for acting “white”?

    Eh, I think it’s a little more complicated than that, in that Sanneh is positioning this kind of critical favortism as racism, but I’m willing to be convinced otherwise.

  11. Helen
    Helen May 16, 2009 at 7:56 pm |

    But what these kids are essentially saying, and what breaks my heart, is that “white music” is art and “black music” is not only not-art, but not even worthy of critical consideration. Or, when white artists are derivative it’s genius, and when black artists are derivative it’s illegitimate. Or, black artists aren’t auteurs.

    Wow. Gobsmacked. These kids obviously have never been taught where their “white” Rock music comes from! Eric Clapton, Stones and most of the seminal bands of the 60s, which has very much fed into the music styles you hear today, were derivative and what they were derivative OF was the music of Delta blues and memphis soul, ie. black artists. And they were conscious of this, too.

    Has this story been completely forgotten in the US?

  12. Jamelle
    Jamelle May 16, 2009 at 11:22 pm |

    On a more substantive note, part of my problem with these discussions of hip-hop is that they set up this silly dichotomy between “socially conscious” hip-hop and “gangsta rap.” While this divide exists, it isn’t as black and white as we’d like to think. Illmatic for instance is technically “gangsta rap,” but it’s also tackles themes and ideas which, broadly speaking, are “socially conscious.”

  13. Jeremy
    Jeremy May 16, 2009 at 11:51 pm |

    @Jamelle (comment 12)

    That’s a great point – I taught a course on a critical reading of hip-hop last year when I was at the University of Michigan. It was a freshman seminar, and at one point students kept using these labels like “socially conscious” etc…

    So I did a little impromptu exercise on the board, where we created a little matrix with gradients of style – like placing socially conscious as opposite of mainstream, or fresh (read: Kanye) opposite of grimy (read: Lox) and on and on and on. Then we started to plot rappers, and realized that different aspects of all of our favorite rappers fit on different parts of the plane. The labels proved useless when we actually applied them to individual artists.

    Anyway, including the links to the Racialicious and Post Bourgie posts, I think I got linked to three times in this post. Much love.

  14. smadin
    smadin May 17, 2009 at 12:09 am |

    Ever wonder why OutKast and the Roots and Mos Def and the Beastie Boys get taken so much more seriously than other rappers? Maybe because rockist critics love it when hip-hop acts impersonate rock ‘n’ roll bands.

    Hm, that’s troubling to me — not that Sanneh points it out, but the thing itself — given that to the best of my understanding Mos Def’s forays into rock in particular (e.g. “Rock ‘N Roll”, the Black Jack Johnson project) are explicitly about (among other things, of course) making the point that rock was Black music to start with and that the ground need not be ceded to whiteness.

  15. Banisteriopsis
    Banisteriopsis May 17, 2009 at 2:24 am |

    Who you like musically changes over time too. Maybe that’s just whose music most aligns with their current state of mind. When I was 15 I listened to mostly NIN, White Zombie, and Tool. Now I can’t remember the last time I listened to a nine inch nails song on purpose. It’s just not where my head’s at.

  16. queen emily
    queen emily May 17, 2009 at 2:51 am |

    Urgh, I’ve had this argument a lot myself. There’s a few things worth noting.

    First, that “rock as art” can be traced to the turn away from the dancefloor in the 60s and 70s – and that the Romantic ideal of the auteur became specifically enshrined in the rock with the later Beatles, Dylan etc, specifically grounded in the appeal to *lyrics* (eg with Dylan, the idea that he’s a poet).

    So rock-as-art was *already* a backlash. Rock became “art” and hence not commercial (despite its general cultural hegemony and uh being sold), other forms not so much.

    Second, that technological mediation is foregrounded as inauthentic. So, the sampler, or keyboards or the Autotune of T-Pain or whatever is what designates hip-hop as fake, inauthentic etc. Hip-hop has always been a technological form, indeed that’s precisely what’s made it so much more interesting than most rock for a very long time.

    But, for all the criticism of technology, what gets lost by rockists is the actual process of making a modern rock record. Most artists *do* use Autotune, just for naturalistic effect. Similarly, everything’s cut up into Pro Tools and quantitised into time, and edited to the nth degree. String samples to beef up sounds. etc etc.

    The technological mediation of rock music is continously elided in the negation of other forms of music… again, a repetition of earlier battles that rock itself fought, electric guitar (fake) versus acoustic (real)..

    So I disagree with that the counter to rockism is conscious hip-hop, that simply reinscribes the idea of lyrics over music, mind over body. As much as anything, the real innovations of hiphop have been sonic, the continual and rapid evolution in sound. There’s a continual push-pull between what Simon Reynolds called “scenius” – the movement of a scene to progress hot, new sounds and auteurs. Scenes push sound on, one new musical meme at a time..

    But if you want to look at auteurs, think about Timbaland. In 96, he was doing Pony, a record that’s really sui generis, not to mention the tripped out sparse halfstep drum n bass of Aaliyah’s One In A Million. 2000 the 303 acid rnb of Try Again. 2001 the sitar and tabla sound of Get Your Freak On. 2006-present the Eurosynth sound of Maneater.

    There’s a continuous evolution of sound. In contrast, rock dinosaurs like Coldplay roll out the same piano/guitar epic stadium sound year after year. The difference in sound between albums is miniscule comparatively.

    My point is, rockism puts innovation in lyrics not sound, and after 60 years of rock n roll, has itself been essentially treading water musically for quite some time.

  17. queen emily
    queen emily May 17, 2009 at 2:52 am |

    Sorry bout the TLDR comment, I get fired up about music.

  18. boreds
    boreds May 17, 2009 at 4:03 am |

    It’s a shame that anyone has to choose between Q-tip and Leonard Cohen. Both are awesome. Rapping inferior to singing? Oh my. They need to check out Illmatic. I would find it hard to argue the point when faced with that album.

    But…

    “what these kids are essentially saying, and what breaks my heart, is that “white music” is art and “black music” is not only not-art, but not even worthy of critical consideration. Or, when white artists are derivative it’s genius, and when black artists are derivative it’s illegitimate. Or, black artists aren’t auteurs.”

    Is that really what they are saying, or are you putting words in their mouths? When does their preference become racism?

  19. Lauren O
    Lauren O May 17, 2009 at 4:05 am |

    They just refuse to give hip hop a chance, because all they hear is from the radio. If your only exposure is from the radio, then yeah, hip hop sucks.

    This is why I don’t listen to any hip-hop. I know there’s tons and tons of good stuff out there, but I don’t have the energy to search it out. I can barely keep up with the basics of the types of rock I enjoy. The radio tends to be a black hole of quality in all genres. It’s rare that I can turn on the radio in my car and listen for more than ten minutes without turning it off in repulsion. And any songs I do like while listening are usually guilty pleasures rather than actual good songs. I define my “favorite radio station” as “might play a song that I don’t hate once in a while.”

    Anyway, the point I think I’m trying to make is that even if you don’t get your kid (or any given person) to start actively listening to and enjoying hip-hop, you can hopefully get them to realize that there’s just as much high-quality hip-hop as there is high-quality rock (and most of any genre of music is not that great). You don’t have to go crazy for hip-hop, you just have to acknowledge that all the racist/classist excuses that have been listed in this post aren’t legitimate.

  20. Hank
    Hank May 17, 2009 at 4:42 am |

    Hip-hop is hard for me. I guess I haven’t been properly introduced to it or something. I love jazz and I love blues, but hip-hop isn’t something I have really been able to get into. I downloaded an album by Public Enemy and one by The Roots—I guess I should try some more—and I just haven’t been able to *get* it. I feel like I understand the blues, I understand jazz, and I am very aware of the derivative nature of rock, since that is largely how I discovered the blues. Guess I’ll just have to try more.

    After reading the article, though, I was happy to find out I’m not a rockist. Can’t say I have any desire to listen to Mariah Carey or Ashley Simpson or Christina Aguilera. I’ll stick with Cat Power or St. Vincent or Feist or Regina Spektor.

  21. Helen
    Helen May 17, 2009 at 7:48 am |

    That’s sad, Lauren O. Here in Melbourne (Australia) we have a few public radio stations on which you can listen to a wide array of genres presented by enthusiasts.

  22. ElleDee
    ElleDee May 17, 2009 at 9:32 am |

    Well, it’s not like rap and hip hop are the only kinds of music that black people make. When I was younger I really enjoyed all the oldies my parents jammed on and they included a ton of black artists. So it’s not like your son has to dig hip hop to be able to enjoy black artists as a whole. You might not be able to get him to like hip hop though if he doesn’t feel it in his bones though. Maybe you can win him over a little bit with some kind of hybrid? I know my dad made an exception for “Feel Good Inc.” and embraced the De La Soul when that normally isn’t his thing, but cushioned in the rock it was more accessible for him. Hell, even for myself I judge hip hop mostly by the production because I just don’t really care about the lyrics as much, but am a total sucker for hot beats.

    Conversely, I didn’t realize that Aesop Rock and El-P (and others like then I’m sure) are both super white (or white-looking at least) until recently, so sometimes it’s hard to guess the race of the person you are listening to without knowing anything about them.

  23. Lauren
    Lauren May 17, 2009 at 9:57 am |

    ElleDee: Oh totally, I’m talking about modern music here. I guess I should make that more clear.

    Boreds: Is that really what they are saying, or are you putting words in their mouths? When does their preference become racism?

    I’m hesitant to label the kids racist — they’re kids, a lot of this is evolving taste that will definitely change as they get older, and I am paraphrasing their arguments — but their reasoning still bothers me.

    Queen Emily: The Timbaland/Coldplay comparison is exactly along the lines of what I was thinking, re: auteurs.

    And my bringing up sampling should tell you what a dinosaur I am — Autotune is more controversial now.

    What surprises me about all of it is how my son responds to hip hop. I listen to a lot of it around the house, in the car, when I’m getting ready for work, and I can’t quite peg his discomfort with it. I don’t know if it’s because it’s so different than from what he prefers now, or something else, or because he associates it with his silly mother.

  24. The Opoponax
    The Opoponax May 17, 2009 at 11:40 am |

    Above all, they insist, it can’t be derivative. Which kills me, and breaks my heart a little — most all music, art, literature, whatever, is derivative, socially and artistically, and a big part of what makes engaging with and critiquing all kinds of art forms fun.

    I think a certain part of this comes out of youth, plain and simple, somewhat divorced from racism (though it’s interesting how a somewhat universal phenomenon is used to prop up racism in this particular case).

    I, too, thought that good art couldn’t be derivative, when I was first old enough to engage with art in a meaningful way. I was able to have this opinion because I was wet behind the ears and I just hadn’t been exposed to that much stuff yet. Especially so with music – I think it’s really only in my 20’s that I’ve come to understand that there’s nothing new under the sun, and that a huge chunk of the music I cut my teeth on was derivative, and that’s OK.

    I’m curious about how some of the strains you talk about in the original post seep into kids’ understanding of the arts, and especially how they mesh so well with bigotry and seek to hold up a very conservative view of the world (and from personal experience, the somewhat radical me is kind of ashamed to remember my own stick-up-the-ass bunhead view of what art is supposed to be). Does it come from what we teach kids about what art is supposed to be? Does it come from the media? Does it come from school? Is it just a natural outpouring of raising kids in a bigoted world?

  25. queen emily
    queen emily May 17, 2009 at 11:44 am |

    Oh yeah, Autotune’s way more controversial. I read this really great analysis of it that pointed out that it’s actually changed the way some singers sing – and that Lil Wayne never records without it already on.

    http://www.frieze.com/issue/article/pitch_perfect/

    I quite like it, though I’m not sure how much further it can be pushed after Kanye. Who knows.

    Re: samples.. I think because samples are mostly out of fashion with mainstream hip-hop that maybe keyboards would take their place in the rockist argument. I’m not sure why a keyboard is more fake than an electric guitar (both are simulacra with a range of processing effects, no?) but that always seems to come up in rockist debates about electronic music.

    I do wonder if part of your son’s discomfort is with bass – hiphop records and rock records are mixed so differently, for different purposes. Hating records that make you feel your body, that are designed for dancing, could be partly about not wanting to be bodily, or feeling conflicted about it.. I dunno, could be talking bollocks.

  26. The Opoponax
    The Opoponax May 17, 2009 at 11:53 am |

    Oh, and Lauren, if your kid likes rock, why not expose him to the origins of rock in blues and r&b? That was really where I started to realize that the music I’d grown up with wasn’t the Firstest And Bestest Most Authentic And Real Music Ever. Especially the idea, which has died out probably due to rockism and auteurism, that a song is just a song, and can be done in different renditions by different people, and that’s OK.

    I think it was looking at the evolution of the song “House of the Rising Sun” that opened everything up for me. Play him one of the old folk versions from the ’30s, Lead Belly’s take, the Nina Simone rendition, Joan Baez or Miriam Makeba, Los Speakers, and then give him the more popular version by The Animals. You could even throw in The Be Good Tanya’s recent bluegrass reinterpretation. Whose version is “authentic”?

    An especially interesting experiment with him might be to play him The Chiffon’s “He’s So Fine” and then follow it with George Harrison’s “My Sweet Lord”. Which is “better”? Which is more “original” or “authentic”? Which is more like the kind of music your son prefers? What matters, here?

  27. William
    William May 17, 2009 at 12:26 pm |

    I really hate the term rockism for a couple of reasons. The first is that “rock” as a genre, don’t really exist anymore. If you’ve got a term that can put Coldplay, Reverend Horton Heat, Vreid, and Nine Inch Nails in the same general category you’ve really got a term thats too broad to mean anything. The second reason is that a lot of the discussion about rockism comes down to music critics, and really I can’t think of a lower form of life than the music critic (maybe right-wing radio caller, maybe).

    Personally I grew up listening to classic rock, blues, jazz, and heavy metal. I went through high school hating pretty much any hip hop post-NWA, and really I only liked that because it was transgressive. I couldn’t stand music with artificial drums, I didn’t want to hear anything “without a melody,” and to me rapping was just talking about shit I wasn’t interested in over a stolen beat. It wasn’t really about racism or a resistance to black music (the first tape I ever owned was a Muddy Waters/Howlin’ Wolf/Robert Johnson best of my dad made for me) but about a resistance to the music everyone else I knew listened to. Nirvana and The Smashing Pumpkins were huge when I was growing up and I hated them with a passion as well (though I’ve come around on the Pumpkins).

    I’d be careful about ascribing too much to what kids are listening to. Music is part of how kids define themselves. If you want to be one of the cool kids you get whatever your friends are listening to, if you want to be a unique snowflake you run from that and get something else, if you want to be brooding and mysterious you listen to something others actively dislike (yeah, I still listen to a lot of black metal…). Most people grow out of it and expand their horizons or their tastes change as they begin to listen to music less for social reasons and more for personal ones. Those who don’t become music critics.

  28. Lauren
    Lauren May 17, 2009 at 12:28 pm |

    I’m curious about how some of the strains you talk about in the original post seep into kids’ understanding of the arts, and especially how they mesh so well with bigotry and seek to hold up a very conservative view of the world

    Exactly. I mean, I’m kind of making things too specific by talking about gangsta rap, when what I should be talking about is why white guys with guitars always seem to end up somewhere on top of the critical best-of lists, and why the kids mimic this mindset. Somebody smarter than me wrote me with a story about this kind of argument, wherein somebody cracks that women artists are always whiny and shrieky but think “The Great Gig in the Sky” is THE BEST SONG EVER, and it cracked me up so much because I’ve had this very argument with at least a dozen dudes.

    You know, just for some reason female artists, artists of color, and female artists of color, just for whatever reason don’t get the same kind of god-like status that Clapton or Barrett get. It’s really curious — if you ignore the obvious.

    (and from personal experience, the somewhat radical me is kind of ashamed to remember my own stick-up-the-ass bunhead view of what art is supposed to be).

    Ditto.

    Hating records that make you feel your body, that are designed for dancing, could be partly about not wanting to be bodily, or feeling conflicted about it.

    Actually, I think that’s a really astute observation especially when it comes to the kids. And now that I think of it, the adult men I’ve known who are really averse to funky, dancing-esque music also have a ridiculous aversion to dancing (unless you count head banging as dancing). Somebody smarter than me could probably flesh this out.

  29. The Opoponax
    The Opoponax May 17, 2009 at 1:44 pm |

    to me rapping was just talking about shit I wasn’t interested in over a stolen beat. It wasn’t really about racism or a resistance to black music (the first tape I ever owned was a Muddy Waters/Howlin’ Wolf/Robert Johnson best of my dad made for me)

    This is easily deconstructed, along the same lines of the way that very few people proudly wear their racism on their sleeve anymore, and yet it’s still possible to be racist despite that. I mean, how many people rationalize fucked up ideas about The Other by pretending it’s not that they don’t want blacks in their nightclub, it’s just that they have A Very Strict Dress Code which bans all clothing currently popular in black culture. Which they have in place because it keeps out A Certain Element which is prone to fighting and generally lowering the class-level of the whole experience. But it’s not racism, you know?

    I remember when it dawned on me that “black music” not currently popular amongst actual real-life black people is considered perfectly acceptable for white people to enjoy (in fact there are tons of white people clamoring to expound on their love of Jazz, Blues, etc). But if the actual living breathing black community is into a certain kind of music, if said kind of music is heard thumping out of car stereos rather than classily snoozing out of a discreet Bose setup, then zomg That Music Is Just A Bunch Of Violent Noise!

    In 50 years there will probably be snooty pasty-faced white intellectuals putting on Lil Wayne records at their cocktail parties and talking about how, well, they don’t like current “black music”, but for totally non-racist reasons of course, it’s just not as good as “black music” from back before they were born.

  30. Faith
    Faith May 17, 2009 at 1:51 pm |

    Your relatives have a lot of racist thoughts and are woefully ignorant. You’re missing the point as well. To assume that rock is white and the fact THAT hasn’t been corrected is a symptom of the larger problem. Black people created rock music. Cultural appropriation abounds.

    You should also be aware of the larger racial discrimination and gender oppression that has occurred by the white male executives and their supporters who intentionally promote the most depraved acts to maintain white supremacy. Hence the focus on skin shade racism and criminality. It should be a turn-off but go to the source not the puppets.

    African-Americans have also abdicated the best parts of their culture to either “assimilation” which I’d refer to as annihilation and have stood idly by due to some misguided race loyalty while the idiots have taken over because they are sometimes entertained by the foolishness.

    These “rap artists” are (sometimes highly) paid slaves, spreading mental enslavement and a lot of filth. It has been pushed as the normative. I’ve written a series of essays about racism, appropriation and the underlying shame that has fueled this. If you click on my blog and search under “Deploying A Little Negro Spirit” I have three essays so far. I’ll ad the links below but didn’t want this to sit in moderation.

  31. Faith
    Faith May 17, 2009 at 2:00 pm |

    Here are the links and I’ve put these up here during Promo Sundays and they’re in those archives as well. This isn’t about tooting my own horn, this is about addressing numerous ills that have so far gone unchallenged by a majority. There’s an important aspect of this conversation that’s been missing and need to be had.

    http://actsoffaithinloveandlife.blogspot.com/2009/04/deploying-little-negro-spirit-gotta.html

    http://actsoffaithinloveandlife.blogspot.com/2009/05/deploying-little-negro-spirit-when.html

    http://actsoffaithinloveandlife.blogspot.com/2009/05/deploying-little-negro-spirit-when_12.html

  32. The Opoponax
    The Opoponax May 17, 2009 at 2:05 pm |

    To assume that rock is white and the fact THAT hasn’t been corrected is a symptom of the larger problem. Black people created rock music. Cultural appropriation abounds.

    People keep popping into this thread to say this, and I think it kind of misses the point.

    Yes, black people created rock. As they did with at least 4-5 other musical genres it is now perfectly fine for white people to profess their love for. But, for the most part, when whites co-opted those forms, the black community had to leave them behind. Probably by force, if we’re honest with ourselves.

    At this point the fact that black people created rock is just a historical footnote, because aside from a few experiments and exceptions, rock is now the music we associate with whiteness. Yes, Chuck Berry and Little Richard and James Brown existed. As did Jimi Hendrix and as does TV On The Radio. But to pretend that this is the bulk of rock history, and the rest of it doesn’t really exist or isn’t really significant, is a very convenient lie about how race and culture work. It’s, like, the “I don’t see race” of the arts.

  33. Lauren
    Lauren May 17, 2009 at 2:09 pm |

    Ooh, great links, Faith, especially the second one about Justin Timberlake and Any Winehouse.

    You should also be aware of the larger racial discrimination and gender oppression that has occurred by the white male executives and their supporters …

    Oh totally. I didn’t want to go there because I don’t know enough about the workings of the music industry so say anything new or intelligent about it (I’m just shooting off the hip), but “follow the money” definitely applies here.

  34. Lauren
    Lauren May 17, 2009 at 2:12 pm |

    Any = Amy.

  35. Faith
    Faith May 17, 2009 at 2:25 pm |

    Opoponax,

    African Americans have ABANDONED their cultural heritage which included the music. Historically there was also a LOT of theft going on where white artists were directly stealing music. The artists also signed piss-poor contracts where they had to sign over the rights to their music to their white oppressors. Yes I said oppressors. Today…there is NO EXCUSE for what happened but as I’ve been writing we have a core group of people who are ashamed of who and what they are and they’ve left the door wide open to the thieves to take everything that wasn’t nailed down.

    Lauren: Thanks for your feedback. And as for your relatives attitudes, it’s never too young to start addressing those thought patterns that lead to racist/sexist perspectives. Of course if the mind of the adult isn’t correct, you can’t teach the child anything. Start with the adults first. Monitor the kids. Have someone else address it in the meantime before it takes root.

  36. KMTBerry
    KMTBerry May 17, 2009 at 4:20 pm |

    What surprises me about all of it is how my son responds to hip hop. I listen to a lot of it around the house, in the car, when I’m getting ready for work, and I can’t quite peg his discomfort with it.

    Lauren, Lauren, Lauren. You are missing the POINT!

    WHAT YOUR PARENTS LISTEN TO CANNOT, IN ANY KNOWN UNIVERSE, BE COOL. Duh!

  37. The Opoponax
    The Opoponax May 17, 2009 at 5:02 pm |

    Faith, just FYI I agree with everything you said in your first paragraph above. I’m absolutely not disagreeing with any of it, let alone trying to sweep it under the rug. I just don’t know how worthwhile it is for folks to deny that, today, 50+ years after that history, rock tends to be seen as part of white culture. Welcome to the reality of whiteness — very few of the things we’ve co-opted as part of our cultural identity were ours to take in the first place. Which doesn’t make them any less part of our identity, like it or not.

    I also should say that, prior to reading the blog entries you linked (which were awesome, thanks!), I really misunderstood what you were trying to say – I thought that, like others who’ve already chimed in, you were trying to say that rock music can’t be lumped in as part of white culture today because of its history.

    Just wanted to clarify, sorry if there was any confusion.

  38. Lirpa
    Lirpa May 17, 2009 at 5:03 pm |

    Some people just don’t like every kind of music. His reasons, from what you’ve surmised, are problematic. But if/when he grows out of/unlearns his racist thought patterns, he still may not like hip hop. And even if I stop hating the Tall Boy-drinking hipsters that convene at the local dive bar for the sake of irony, I will probably never develop an affection for any kind of old-school punk rock. Ever.

  39. Faith
    Faith May 17, 2009 at 5:27 pm |

    Opoponax: Thanks for continuing the discussion. I’m also saying that despite the fact rock, jazz and blues have been co-opted I lay just as much if not more blame on the Black people that abdicated it. It’s part of my heritage and legacy as an African-American woman in the United States. The Negro Spiritual, gospel music, the original R&B – these are all distinctly American and distinctly BLACK.

    So for me it’s important that AAs reclaim the (artistic) things that belong to us, were created by us that we made legit. It’s just as important to remind other Blacks of that as it is for whites. That’s what I’m saying. Part of the Black Power movement of the ’60’s was the Black Arts Movement – specifically African-American Art (I’m making a distinction between Blacks & AAs as well which you can read on my blog if you or anyone else wants to) that influenced MANY OTHERS as well. Like everything AAs do (good or bad). Here’s a primer for those not aware of it: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_Arts_Movement

  40. shah8
    shah8 May 17, 2009 at 5:39 pm |

    for Lauren,

    This is from a book by Thomas de Zengotita titled Mediated: How the Media Shapes Your World And The Way You Live In It.

    Chapter 3 Twilight of the Heroes: Attitude pgs 95-97

    Why are musical preferences so intensely important to kids? You can disagree with friends about movie stars(do we still call them that? If it’s beginning to sound quaint, see “Virtual Revolution,” below) and about TV shows and even humor (though this last is a close call, for essentially musical reasons> and you can still be friends. But you can’t be friends with someone who loves the latest boy band, in a totally unironic way, if you are into Ani Difranco or Gillian Welch. It’s not that there’s a rule that says you can’t. It just wouldn’t happen. Tastes in popular music go deep.
    Why music especially?
    Well, it’s no accident that certain ancient Greeks, suspicious of representation, linked music and morals so closely, no accident at all. They were already thinking about the psychological consequences of mediation, even back when media were pretty basic, long before the fabulous representations we take for granted today could even be imagined. Given their interest (not to mention genius), it was only natural for them to ask which among the forms of media was most powerful. Unlilke McLuhan, they did not conflate practical tools with media; they drew the line around arts and artifacts whose essential purpose was to communicate through representations of some kind. So it was that, when they asked their question, they found one modality that obviously belonged with communicating arts like writing and painting–yet could not quite be contained by the representational criterion.
    Music.
    Because music doesn’t represent anything else, does it? It’s there, humanly crafted, yet given, more like the wind itself than a description of the wind or a picture of trees swaying? It moves out of us and into us immediately. It blends with emotions, it becomes emotion–or “passion,” as they used to say.
    Well, this leads into a thicket of distinctions: We could wonder about modern art, abstract art, which doesn’t represent anything either–or ancient decorative arts, for that matter, designs on porticos and pottery, designs that flow and twine, sort of like music, and they don’t represent anything; they’re more like the ripples in the stream than a description of the stream. On the other hand, such patters are static, whereas music, like the stream, like time, like life itself, will not stand still no matter what, no matter how artfully the silent beat is heald aloft to seem to last forever before the final crescendo brings out sweet suspense to its conclusion–it will not last, it cannot last, it is music, it is mortal.
    No need to press for conceptual perfection. The consensus of the wise has been that music is unique among the arts because it operates on the same plane as the unmediated, the given. It belongs to sensation itself, to bodily existence and, for that very reason, it elevates that existence in a way no other art can match. Music takes hold of you on levels of your being that precede intentional articulation, levels of being that contain what you can put into words.
    And that is why words, when they are sustainted by the immediacy of music, have a unique power. They represent, they articulate–and they prenetrate, they fill dumb bodies with meaning.
    There is nothing like a song.
    And that is why no committee of commissars or mullahs can compete with pop music. It shapes way-of-life values at levels that transcend any ideology. The commissars and mullahs know this, so they ban the music, just as Plato proposed to ban dramatic poetry (think Homeric rap) in The Republic.
    That’s where the morals part comes in. Those ancient Greeks–and Romantics like Rousseau, most ardent of their modern heirs–thought of music and morals as inseparable because they understood that values adhere first of all in postures, in rhythms of speech and gesture, prior to semantics, deeper than any code. That’s why a code that is anchored in music has the power to “form character,” as Aristotle put it. And mediated teenagers understand this too, precisely because they are engaged in constructing themselves from the gound up. They are deciding on more than fashion accessories. They are learning the fundamentals–how to stand, how to sit, how to wave, how to look eager, how to register perplexity, ow to high-five and bump chests, how to intone sorrow, how to say “like”–in a nutshell, how to perform the fine-grained details of being a self over time, from moment to moment, which is, as just noted, the way music works too.

  41. shah8
    shah8 May 17, 2009 at 5:53 pm |

    As per that superlong quote…

    I wouldn’t do anything much different to the spud. Most of what his preferences could be used for is just an indication that the kid’s social environment sucks. If you can, find an activity he enjoys, then find a summer camp filled with the wierdest kids possible and still sane, and dump him there for awhile.

    Tho’ for real, thinking about Lauren’s child looking askance at Lauren’s musical preferences is no small bit of amusement to me…

    Finally, I do want to reiterate something I’ve said before, which is that the RIAA’s primary objection (if unstated) to Napster and its heirs is the potential of a Universal Jukebox. The social control that music affords, through radio and tv, is more valuable than direct sales of hits. In fact, hits on the scale that media companies want are only possible in a musical/cultural landscape that is sparse and accomodating. In a lush landscape adopted by not just the musically interested, but joe 6-s, new hits face a tower of babel effect and dissipates before having enough of an effect on enough people. There are political dimensions to this as well, but that’s a real thicket.

  42. The Opoponax
    The Opoponax May 17, 2009 at 5:54 pm |

    And even if I stop hating the Tall Boy-drinking hipsters that convene at the local dive bar for the sake of irony, I will probably never develop an affection for any kind of old-school punk rock. Ever.

    Of course, the hipsters you hate probably aren’t listening to much “old school punk”, anyway, so…?

    I agree, btw, that some people just don’t like some genres of music, and it has nothing to do with bigotry or prejudice or anything like that. I really dislike ‘jamband’ music. I’m just not into it. Long and aimless tunes with no lyrics, nothing to grab my interest, you can’t really dance to it… Why bother?

    The problem comes with folks who are very quick to vociferously hate on rap and hip-hop, usually for no particular reason or for reasons that are also true of a kind of music they like (f’rinstance the “it’s so misogynist!” cliche). It’s kind of amazing the number of (white) people I know who will loudly state, point blank, “I hate rap,” and recoil at any vaguely hiphop-oriented sound, even for casual listening. I remember one of my coworkers loudly VETO!!!!-ing a Beyonce track, because “rap, ewwww!” On a slow Friday afternoon in the office, when we were listening to all kinds of music, from opera to the Beegees to current indie rock stuff.

  43. Femmostroppo Reader - May 18, 2009 — Hoyden About Town

    [...] Asher Roth, Hip Hop, and Rockism, Or Why Doesn’t My Kid Like Hip Hop? [...]

  44. The Opoponax
    The Opoponax May 17, 2009 at 6:08 pm |

    Oh, and re what you should actually do with your kid, aside from exposing him to all sorts of music and the occasional thought experiment of having his listen to something you think might blow his mind. At a certain level you have to just let him be and figure this stuff out for himself. I would really only be concerned to the extent that you think his tastes are informed by racism, and I think that sort of thing should inspire some good discussions between the two of you.

    Ultimately, if you let him feel like he is free to explore music in his own way, he’ll figure this stuff out for himself. As a kid I went from stuck up ballerina priss listening to classical and musical theatre to ska and punk within just a couple or three years. The one thing I really credit my parents with, though, is exposing me to a lot of different stuff and taking me to concerts (both the stuff I wanted to see and dragging me to stuff they wanted to see or thought I should see). Then again, I grew up in New Orleans, so YMMV.

  45. shah8
    shah8 May 17, 2009 at 6:15 pm |

    Opoponax,

    The issue is that she can’t really talk to him about that (there is a very long quote-post in moderation). Music at his age is fundamentally about his peers. For a parent to give a Very Important Lecture “discussion” is to invite an in-one-ear, out-the-other response.

    Therefore, the only real solution is to wait it out, as his friends matrix changes over time, or push him to having a wider circle of people as friends and aquaintances.

  46. The Opoponax
    The Opoponax May 17, 2009 at 6:40 pm |

    Music at his age is fundamentally about his peers. For a parent to give a Very Important Lecture “discussion” is to invite an in-one-ear, out-the-other response.

    I feel like a lecture and a discussion are two extremely different things. Especially considering that Lauren’s son is 9, I believe? I remember that age actually being extremely fruitful for me in terms of talking to my parents about stuff like this. Did I have my tastes, and my peer-informed aesthetic ideas (uhhh, hello New Kids On The Block…)? Sure. But at the same time I was totally receptive to listen to Senegalese folk music or The White Album in the car with my dad and talk about what I liked or didn’t like about it.

    Now, wait 3 or 4 more years and that kid isn’t even going to want to sit down and talk about George Harrison vs. The Chiffons, you’re right. But if we’re talking teenage churlishness and outright rebellion at 9? Maybe I really don’t want kids…

    I also remember mocking a lot of my parents’ music back then, but then coming back to it years later and totally getting it.

  47. chava
    chava May 17, 2009 at 7:41 pm |

    I do think the “Rap! Ewwwww!” thing people are likely to spout IS rooted in more than a little racism–as are the accusations that it just “isn’t music,” etc. Most of the time its bourgie white folks who say “I only dislike two kinds of music: country and rap.” So you’ve got your class privelege and your race privelege, all wrapped up in a bow.

  48. chava
    chava May 17, 2009 at 7:41 pm |

    Also, I can’t spell “privilege,” clearly. Sigh.

  49. Lauren
    Lauren May 17, 2009 at 7:56 pm |

    Most of the time its bourgie white folks who say “I only dislike two kinds of music: country and rap.” So you’ve got your class privelege and your race privelege, all wrapped up in a bow.

    Oh my god, I cannot tell you how many times I’ve heard this and how it makes me recoil.

  50. shah8
    shah8 May 17, 2009 at 8:33 pm |

    Same here, though the last time I did probe some…At least for country, it was because he’s from Nashville and couldn’t take another note of country if he could help it.

  51. Roxie
    Roxie May 17, 2009 at 9:03 pm |

    This reminds me of all the kids who would say “You can’t spell crap without rap!” And even though I recognized that I detested most of the things I heard on mainstream rap radio, I could never feel comfortable with that statement. I always cringed when I heard it.

    It tells me a lot more about the person than just their musical interests

  52. Makh
    Makh May 17, 2009 at 10:06 pm |

    Personally, I find putting anything in any genre is rather childish. Sure, a white guy singing with guitars is different than a black man rapping with drums, but what is the point of separating the two? It makes it sound like preferring “rock” over “rap” is always going to be a racist decision. And because rock was founded by black musicians doesn’t make much of a difference. By today’s standards, they would be two totally different genres anyway (probably “oldies” and “rock”). Anyone who bars a whole genre off is still an idiot in my book, though I don’t blame people who hear rap stations and don’t bother searching for anything better. I wouldn’t want to hang around with people who thought some of that stuff was good enough to be played over and over on the radio.

    Long live the power of a song and an artist, and down with these segregated musical “genres”!

  53. Alexis
    Alexis May 17, 2009 at 11:19 pm |

    <blockquote cite=”
    Most of the time its bourgie white folks who say “I only dislike two kinds of music: country and rap.”

    I always hear that as “I have no taste in music and listen exclusively to {Coldplay/ Nickleback/ Jack Johnson}.” Hearing problems, you see. It works very well as a benchmark as to when I have to stop taking someone I’ve just met seriously.

  54. LilithianNun
    LilithianNun May 17, 2009 at 11:54 pm |

    I can (unfortunately) see some validity in this post but I think it is a over-simplified.
    I am a white (female) who recently became an adult and I have loved heavy metal and death metal since I was 11 or 12 years old. I growl and scream in a band and adore moshing in mosh pits. I have never liked hip hop, I have nothing against it I just can’t get into it. I mean, I would say the music I perform is fairly derivative so its not that I don’t like things that are different. Its just that hip hop and rap don’t give me the same emotional rush that metal does.
    However, I have been a member of a member of the metal community for years and I unfortunately have to say that yes, there IS some racism in the metal community. A lot of metalheads who listen to European metal become obsessed with “being european” and they judge things based on “how european” they are. I also will admit that some metal music is extremely sexist.
    But on another note, there are some notable african-american metal (and hardcore) musicians. What about Rocky George, the guitarist of the Suicidal Tendencies? What about Bad Brains? They practically invented hardcore as it is today! Fishbone is not exactly metal, but they have some heavier songs.
    What’s weird is that I really love reggaeton music. Its my secret musical pleasure. Not that it is a lesser genre of music, but I would look so weird listening to it in public. A metal kid all dressed in black and baggy jeans listening to reggaeton music? But I listen to Hector y Tito, Don Omar, Daddy Yankee and many other reggaeton artists a lot when I am in my room alone.
    So yeah, I agree with your main point that for most people rock=white people music therefore rock=the status quo for music. I think it reflects the larger problem of what white people do=the status quo for almost everything else in this world.

  55. William
    William May 18, 2009 at 12:19 am |

    This is easily deconstructed, along the same lines of the way that very few people proudly wear their racism on their sleeve anymore, and yet it’s still possible to be racist despite that.

    Interesting how you went right past the context and point of my comment and right towards an interpretation that was a bit more comfortable to your previous arguments. Thanks for letting me know what my lived experience really was though ;)

    The thing for me was that growing up music was largely an act of rebellion and social opposition. Rap wasn’t “black music” in my little cultural experience. My high school was so cliquish and racially segregated that I only had a vague notion of what the black kids listened to. To be perfectly honest, they were at best background and at worst nonexistent in my narcissistic high school experience. For me, rap was what the white kids that called me a faggot listened to between telling me about Jesus and trying to start fights. The black people who I knew on a personal level growing up were mostly my dad’s friends and, being musicians like him, they mostly listened to the same blues and jazz he did. Hating rap for me was about hating something loved by a group of white people I had a conflict with (the same reason I hated Dave Matthews).

    It would have been culturally OK for me to listen to rap, rap was what the cool kids who couldn’t tell you what corpse paint was listened to. Hip hop was on MTV, it dominated the media, it was the sound track to every school dance I could remember (with the one exception of paying a DJ a 20 to play a Cradle of Filth disk I brought). Rap might have pissed off a lot of parents when I was growing up, but as far as culture went it was as white as a popped collar on a polo shirt from Abercrombie.

  56. Auguste
    Auguste May 18, 2009 at 1:17 am |

    To be fair, and I’m only sort of being tongue in cheek here, use of Autotune was pioneered by a white woman, gained popularity among white country musicians, and then co-opted, de- then re-constructed by African-Americans.

    So maybe when they’re hating T-Pain, they’re really saying that Cher sucks.

  57. William
    William May 18, 2009 at 10:20 am |

    Personally, I find putting anything in any genre is rather childish. Sure, a white guy singing with guitars is different than a black man rapping with drums, but what is the point of separating the two?

    Heh, you should see the labels that get fought over out at the extremes of the metal community.

  58. Evan
    Evan May 18, 2009 at 11:33 am |

    I find this post rather funny. “My son hates the music I like, which is rap. Rap is black music, so he must hate black people.” Some people just don’t like rap music. Some people just don’t like country music. For these people it has nothing to do with race or class. I hate black metal. Do I therefore hate Norwegians? I hate speed brass. Does that mean I must harbor ill will towards Romanian Gypsies? At a certain point this reasoning becomes ridiculous.

    At age nine and into about my mid-teens, I hated rap too. I felt this way because I did not recognize the skill required to create a rap song. Yes, sampling was a big problem for me. The rap played on MTV and the radio was (and remains) uncreative and simplistic. But then, the same was true of the rock, which I also disliked as pop. It took me a while to find hip-hop I could enjoy, MF Doom, Madlib, Shadow, De La, Quest. Some the complaints of your relatives are not illegitimate. Studio recordings, whether rock or rap, feel extremely contrived and can be simply terrible to listen to. This is because your moving away from the artist’s performance and towards a machine’s impersonal, cold product. This is the problem with Kanye’s latest. However, hip-hop can have some the most amazing performances by artists. I love listening to the Invisibl Skratch Piklz because it’s essentially a live performance devoid of after the fact correction.

    Have you considered leaving your son alone? He’s nine, right? He has all of high school and college to be exposed to new music.

    @ queen emily: Listen to Parachutes and then X&Y and try say, with a straight face, the Coldplay hasn’t drastically changed their sound.

  59. Evan
    Evan May 18, 2009 at 12:22 pm |

    Typos: “try saying” and “that Coldplay”.

  60. Carpenter
    Carpenter May 18, 2009 at 2:06 pm |

    I had never heard of this guy until I read this post. Then I checked out a bunch of his videos. One thing that stuck me is the general misogyny of his lyrics. I think it is a good illustration about how people are quick to jump on the misogyny of black hip-hop artists while ignoring it in the general culture. This guy seems not to have been called out on his at all. He even seems to have some date rapey-lyrics.

    Also I am very amused that he missed the irony of his song glorifying wasting your parents money on college by drinking yourself stupid and waking up at 10(Some of us had real majors and had to go to class at 8), but then takes black rappers to task by about wasting money buying jewelry.

  61. ben
    ben May 18, 2009 at 11:04 pm |

    “music not made by straight white men”? So Freddy Mercury and Elton John are what?
    Or it has something to do with the VASTLY superior musicality of musicians who recognize the value of chord changes, vocal melodies, and immediately intelligible lyrics. Did it ever occur to you that us “rockists” might just LIKE rock music instead of hating black people?
    p.s. ask your son what he thinks of Jimi Hendrix

  62. queen emily
    queen emily May 19, 2009 at 1:15 am |

    Evan, I have. It’s a game of increments, and while there’s nothing very wrong with that, there’s nothing worth lauding either.

    Compare the example of Kanye which you raised – 808s and Heartbreak is a complete departure, a rupture in his body of work.. It’s not that historically major rock artists haven’t done that, but that it rarely happens now. I think it’s a lack of new technology, there really does need to be a new thing like the electric guitar to shake things up, cos a lot of the computer innovations are just models of older technologies.

    Besides, I disagree with the notion that 1. records are contrived (no, they’re a different medium), and 2. machinic necessarily equals inhuman (Kanye’s new record was paradoxically *more* human, all the distortion and Autotune on the vocals made his heartbreak rather more real) and 3. that there’s necessarily anything wrong with coldness, contrivedness and machines.

    Very few people say ooh films and tv are so shit cos they’re contrived, they’re all edited and fake compared to the magical realness of a play. All is art is artifice, that’s the point.

    And so the idea that the “artificiality” selectively embodied in pop forms historically associated with PoC (hip-hop), gays (disco and house), women (pop) and any combination thereof is just exempt from other kinds of values is ludicrous. Aesthetics do contain values, cos any time we open our mouths about music, the biases become crystal clear.

    I think that values based on an unmarked humanist subject (presence, authenticity, auteurship, poetic lyrics etc) in practice end up extolling the virtues of the Enlightenment subject of straight white masculinity, or a person’s ability to measure up to that gold standard, because that is where our culture places value. Vicious cycle innit.

    Some of us make music with more complicated relationships to technology and to the human, and though that often gets labeled “disposable” “fake” and “garbage” in the end I think there’s just as much value or interest in that as anything other way of making music.

  63. William
    William May 19, 2009 at 10:01 am |

    Some the complaints of your relatives are not illegitimate. Studio recordings, whether rock or rap, feel extremely contrived and can be simply terrible to listen to. This is because your moving away from the artist’s performance and towards a machine’s impersonal, cold product. This is the problem with Kanye’s latest. However, hip-hop can have some the most amazing performances by artists. I

    Evan, you’re pining for an illusion. The “cold, impersonality” you’re calling out is something you’re experiencing because of you, not because of the music because Kanye isn’t really doing anything original, groundbreaking, or even extreme. No one records dry and virtually no one performs dry. Even at a fairly modest live show you’re dealing with amplification, layers of special effects, drum mics (which are often triggered) and a mixing board. For a lot of bands you’re also going to see synths and DAT support. Once you move into the studio the range of effects increase, tracks are isolated and recorded separately to get the best possible performance, little mistakes are touched up with punch ins, layer after layer of backing tracks are added, the music is mixed, then sent out for mastery. At each step of the process, ideally, you have an artist making a decision that taking advantage of these various technologies will better allow them to express what they’re trying to express. In that respect the only difference between the early work of Coldplay and the late work of Kanye is that Kanye had opted not to pretend that he was simply reporting a live event.

    Also, don’t call music impersonal. All music is personal, but not all music will resonate with you. Expecting an artist to produce something as a personal communication to you borders on clinical narcissism.

  64. Lauren
    Lauren May 19, 2009 at 10:50 am |

    So Freddy Mercury and Elton John are what?

    Outliers.

  65. Evan
    Evan May 19, 2009 at 11:44 am |

    queen emily, I did not mean to imply that studio recordings are without merit. What I was attempting to say, perhaps without clarity, is the fixing of an artist’s work is what I find detestable. You hear it in rock as much as you do in rap. There’s few things I hate listening to more than an impossibly precise drum track. That is what I meant by contrived. The imperfections of an artist are what make that artist unique. Blues artists have been performing the same songs for decades and yet the artistry is not in the song but the performance. It’s an honest expression of that artist. I also did not mean to imply that technology is necessarily the enemy. Some of the best hip-hop artists, Madlib, Dilla, Prince Paul, are production artists out of Left-Field. But their artistry is in the perfection of their sound; their instrument is the technology.

    I understand art is artifice. Your movie and television comparison is perfect. Using CGI you can make a character out of thin air and put him or her in a live action movie with real life actors, and that character would precisely express the desired emotions of the director. But, why would you when you can have an a live actor, with all his or her failings, play that character? George Lucas and Martin Scorsese reportedly disagreed over digitally creating an entire set of Gangs of New York. Is there artistry in the CGI? Yeah, but I don’t watch movies for special effects. I do watch movies to see the artistry of the actors.

    I completely disagree with the notion that “artificiality,” as you put it, is selectively embodied by the pop forms of music associated blacks, gays, or women. Mostly I disagree because I don’t associate the forms of music you name with and of the groups you associate them with. Hip-hop is something that black and white people, Japanese and French people contribute to. To limit it to its black artists is to deny its universality. And, beyond that, you’ll find just as much artificiality in rock as you do in hip-hop, most often in their pop forms.

    Frankly, you and I are never going to agree about 808 and Coldplay. I hear a world’s worth of difference in Coldplay’s sound, which still remains true to their earliest work. (Although, I think we may both agree that Viva La Vida is a terrible, terrible album). 808, on the other hand, is an album that displays why an artist, not as a rule but as a principle, shouldn’t leave his art form. College Dropout is vastly superior to 808. And, West could have created for us another album with clever rhymes and awesome beats, but instead we got lyrics we could’ve gotten from any emo pop-rocker sung to us using the same autotune that every other pop-rapper is using by a guy who couldn’t sing in the first place. Worst of all the beats underneath the lyrics are just plain boring.

  66. William
    William May 19, 2009 at 2:35 pm |

    There’s few things I hate listening to more than an impossibly precise drum track

    What about music built around impossibly precise drums? What about musical ideas which require rhythms that would be physically impossible for a human behind a drum kit produce? What about drummers who are actually able to manage beats with a precision that makes it very difficult to tell the difference between their live work and a drum machine even to a trained ear?

    You keep grasping at reasons you don’t like “inauthentic” or overproduced music, but your criticisms keep coming down to the same thing. You have a certain set of expectations about music, a certain cluster of subjective tastes (which it appears you might have forgotten are subjected), and you don’t like music which fails to live up to those standards. What you seem to be missing is that those standards of authenticity, of seeing the flaws, are deeply rooted in a specific set of cultural values. The blues example your brought up is illuminating.

    Yes, blues artists have been playing the same basic songs for going on a century now, but it isn’t their mistakes that make them interesting or unique but rather their innovation and vision. Robert Johnson’s compelling sound doesn’t come from mistakes but from an almost inhuman emotional involvement in the music he played. Howlin’ Wolf wasn’t notable for a charming set of errors but for being a showman who could pull an audience in, who did things with his voice that no one else was doing. Electric blues was a leap forward because someone, somewhere, figured out that you could push a note further through a distorted speaker than through the resonator of an old National steel guitar. What you’re criticizing is the same thing, but it fails to conform to your values and expectations. The use of autotune and impossibly precise drum tracks isn’t incidental or accidental, its a conscious choice on the part of artists. These artists have decided that these particular techniques best express what they’re trying to express. Remember, Gibson execs laughed Les Paul out of a meeting for suggesting that there might be a market for a pick-up nailed to a solid piece of wood and everyone said he was mad for stringing a bunch of 4 tracks together to create a 64 track recording. Not too much later live recording all but died out and those same execs were begging Les to sign a deal out in his cabin in the mountains.

    Art doesn’t grow from blindly repeating the techniques of your predecessors. It certainly doesn’t grow from respecting the conventions and expectations of white music experts. Thats why Elvis and Pat Boone are almost universally boring. Art comes from taking chances, from breaking rules, from pissing people off.

    Finally: the fact that Coldplay couldn’t think of anyone better to steal a melody from than Joe Satriani ought to tell you everything you need to know about their caliber as artists, regardless of what changes they might have made to their recording style.

  67. William
    William May 19, 2009 at 2:39 pm |

    Erm…subjective, not subjected.

  68. Kathy
    Kathy May 19, 2009 at 4:42 pm |

    Lauren,

    By developing lesson plans on Arab American and Arab hip hop for students, I developed a much greater appreciation of hip hop in general, and what a revolutionary force (yes, even gangsta rap) it has been for young people throughout the world, and how they have adopted it as the medium to express opposition to injustice, war, corruption, American imperialism, racism, misogyny, etc. (I have since introduced myself to rappers in Africa and Asia, and rappers of color in Europe. Too. fucking. awesome.).

    Perhaps if your son has an interest in a particular part of the world (ex. – thinks mummies are “cool”), you could intro him to some of these amazing artists. Great music AND great lyrics. And all of these artists will state up front their American influences (Tupac is especially influential), will sample them (and their own indigenous music) in their rap, and some have performed with American artists, or count them as friends. Amazing, amazing stuff.

    For everyone who doesn’t particularly like American hip hop (those who don’t for non-racist reasons), don’t write it off until you have explored the international roots it has spawned among the youth all over the world. Their concerns were always there, but hip hop gave them the musical tools to express it in new and powerful ways. So yes, hip hop IS music and it is universal, and it sucks that so many white people don’t get it, or don’t want to get it, because of their own racist baggage, and that people like Asher are exploiting this baggage for $$$.

  69. Ace
    Ace May 19, 2009 at 6:17 pm |

    You know, maybe I’m just overreacting to this or something, but it seems to me as if what you are saying is that those of us who don’t like rap and prefer rock must be racist, and that’s simply not true. There are a lot of reasons why I don’t like rap, none of them related to the race of the person making the music:

    1. I don’t like electronic music, and most rap tends to be on the electronic side

    2. I prefer singing

    3. I like guitars

    I don’t understand why these preferences makes racist. True, I’m white, and most rock musicians tend to be white, and I’ll admit this is at least partially due to privilege. But I never really see any black people auditioning for rock bands, because they’d rather be apart of rap groups, there’s nothing really wrong with this but it certainly isn’t the rock group’s fault that no black person really wanted to audition.

    Also, I know a lot of rockers who enjoy other forms of black music. I personally like a lot of blues and funk.

    So maybe I’m just misunderstanding this, which happens a lot, still I thought I may as well get my opinion across.

  70. jed
    jed May 19, 2009 at 10:45 pm |

    The time has come for kids to wipe both rock and rap off the table and come up with their own damn music.

  71. Ferawle
    Ferawle May 20, 2009 at 2:12 am |

    alright, do correct me if I’m wrong.. but your kid obviously has a very feminist mother, and this is bound to be reflected in his stance towards women’s oppressions and objectification of female bodies. If the only hiphop he encounters (which is highly likely)is the kind of hiphop that is accompanied by videos with half naked female bodies crawling around a few guys, well, that might put him off, right? (of course, this isn’t in any way related to the questions why ‘rockism’ is so prevalent. But it might contribute to your kid’s hesitance to listen or appreciate hiphop. and, rock videos can be like that as well. but personally, I know that that type of hiphop has, for a long time, made me want to stay away from the genre altogether.)

  72. stomper
    stomper May 20, 2009 at 4:22 am |

    like william and ace, i think that your son’s lack of appreciation for rap is necessarily due to racism.at the moment, i like to mix a bit of rap in with my usual metal and harsh dance music, when i was aged 11-13, i hated it with a passion because:

    a)it was what the meat-headed ‘gangstas’ who mocked my clothes, talked about beating up ‘bloods’ (dispite being in central auckland, not south-central LA, i went to a ‘crip’ school) and hated ‘homos’ listened to.

    b)the only rap i’d been exposed to was top 40 bullshit (i hate most top 40 music, rap, rock and pop).c)it lacked the drama and theatricality of metal (hair-sweat and vikings..mmm…)d)as a middleclass, bisexual white/asian girl, i didn’t identify with the mostly lowerclass, heterosexual black men who make rap – it wasn’t music made for me or about me or by people like me (the same could be said of a great deal of metal, but 13 was a very angry age for me, i loved the aggression and  the drumming too much to care).

  73. stomper
    stomper May 20, 2009 at 5:07 am |

    like ace and william, i think that there could be plenty of reasons asides from racism why your son dislikes rap.

    at the moment, i like to mix in a bit of immortal technique in with the usual burzum and angelspit, but when i was 11-13, i hated rap because:

    a) it was what the meat-head ‘gangstas’ who mocked my clothes, hated ‘homos’ and wanted to beat up ‘bloods’ (despite living in central auckland, new zealand, not south-central LA, i went to a ‘crip’ school) listened to.

    b) the only rap i’d been exposed to was top 40 bullshit.

    c) i preffered metal’s more theatrical style and subject matter                                    

    d) as a middleclass, bisexual white/asian girl, i didn’t identify with the lowerclass, heterosexual black men who made rap – it wasn’t music made for, by or about people like me (the same could be said about most metal, but 13 was a very angry age for me, i loved the aggression and the drumming too much to care about the rest).

    now, i enjoy rap for the sound and the opportunity to hear the perspectives of people who come from a radically different background to me, but i still don’t feel as emotionally invested in rap and the culture surrounding it as i do with many of the other genres i listen to. the rappers i like sound intelligent, articulate and passionate, but the pasty norwegian satanists sound the way i feel.

    critisizing your son’s taste in music will probably make him hate rap more, especially as he approaches the teen years. many people (especially young ones) see the  music they listen to as representing who they are – their values and beliefs – in a symbolic, coded form that isn’t necessarily easy for outsiders to ‘read’. telling him to change his taste in music will probably make him pretty defensive, especially if he thinks you’re accusing him of being racist. try finding musicians from other genres who project a strong   black identity: bob marley, bad  brains and saul williams come to mind.                                                                                                                                                                         

  74. Straight Male Lurker
    Straight Male Lurker May 20, 2009 at 11:18 am |

    If the issue is straight white men, and the concern is race rather than hip hop specifically, why not introduce him to rock acts that aren’t by white males like Jenny Lewis or Mars Volta? And it is worth repeating that Freddie Mercury and Elton John are not straight.

  75. Straight Male Lurker
    Straight Male Lurker May 20, 2009 at 11:22 am |

    I realize that my comment was a little weird.

    Jenny Lewis is white. Just not male. Mars Volta on the other hand is very diverse, though admittedly an acquired taste.

  76. Know your craft
    Know your craft May 31, 2009 at 6:17 pm |

    HipHop needs to evolve more. Why is it that The Roots and The Beastie Boys are the only Rap or HipHop bands that are popularly known for playing live instruments? I’m not saying that all rappers need to know how to play an instrument but imagine what would happen if they all did. There just needs to be a balance. Why hasn’t there ever been a rapper who was incredible at playing guitar like Jimi Hendrix, Steve Vai, Malmsteen,etc. and could also rock the mic like Nas or Biggie or Tupac? Wyclef Jean is trying but he is underappreciated and underated. I was raised on R&B,Soul,Funk,& HipHop, but I am very eclectic. I am a musician who plays Neo-Classical and Prog-Metal and I have met many rappers. Most rappers don’t even know the history of rap and it’s founders beyond the obvious. Most rappers are just entrepreneurs who are just trying to make a hit(not classic) album or make millions of dollars and really are not artists who do it for the love of hiphop as an artform and or culture. Rappers approach me all the time to collaberate but I don’t do it anymore because most are’nt doing anything other than just rapping and not realy doing anything ground breaking or different. And most of the time they try to use you. Lauren Hill became a HipHop Goddess because she could rap well, sing well and play guitar, we need more of that. It would be nice to see and hear a bad ass rapper who could play the sax with an effects pedal during a break,bridge or crescendo of their song. How about a rapper who actually composes music and with an orchestra!!!!!!?? Comon Rappers stop limiting yourselves and take it to the next level.

  77. Adam
    Adam June 13, 2009 at 5:08 pm |

    “turns his nose up to most music that is not made by straight white men, and that raises all kinds of questions for me that I don’t know how to handle.”

    What the heck? That sounded racist to me. I’m black and I say music has no color. Who cares if he likes mostly white musicians? The music is important, not the color of the musicans. And the word rockism is a dumbass word. Its music, people have different likes of music, dislikes of music and have the right to express them. I use to listen to Hip-hop/rap. Now I don’t like it. My taste in music have changed. Now I mostly like old rock and blues. I hate it when people make shit bigger than it seems. Oh he doesn’t like rap so hes a racist. Oh he doesn’t like Disco so hes a homophobic. Shut the fuck up with the judgment, and see that people are not going to like the same shit as you. And race doesn’t even exist, move forward from the 19 century. The true defiention of rockism is an opinion about music that doesn’t match up with mine.

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