Tuesday, June 27, 2006

The Violent Darkness

I dig rap music. I don't exactly know why, being as I'm a white working class kid from the suburbs who really can't relate to most of the shit they talk about in the songs, but there's certain stuff that I like. It seems that rap today is the music of the streets, the music of rebellion, and the music of the masses. Rock N' Roll used to have that title, but it lost itself in the ridiculous excesses that it indulged in during the past twenty or thirty years. Now, rap is the music that anyone can make, that kids do on the streetcorners, that everyone aspires to. People like Kanye West have made it into a street poet's outlet, making songs that not only address the black community, but also that alert the whites to how blacks really feel about certain things (which we'd never know otherwise); these guys are like the Langston Hughes' and Ralph Ellison's of this generation.

Unfotunately, rap seems to be losing its way as well. The popularity has soared so high that it is in the stratosphere of not only the money, but power in the pop world, and it is inheriting the misgivings that Rock N' Roll already had. I'm always a day late and a dollar short as far as pop music goes, and I never watch MTV anymore. I was messing around on Youtube.com and I found a video from last year with 50 Cent and G-Unit's performance on the MTV Video Music Awards, and what I saw was indicitive of the dark path rap is following.

The performance wasn't bad- some of 50's more famous songs made into a collage of sorts. He was as good as he can be live...which isn't really that good, but at least he didn't suck like he normally does. Anyway, at the end, he and Tony Yayo started mouthing off about how Fat Joe was "fuckin' pussy", and yelled some other shit that ended up getting censored in the clip that I saw. I've seen a few interviews with Fat Joe, and he seemed pretty disinterested in feuding with 50 about anything, so I don't exactly know where this newer round of shit talking came from, but 50 was pretty adamant about calling him out for whatever happened.

Rap is a thing different than any other kind of music that has risen to prominence, mostly because it is made mostly by blacks from the cities. The Blues was made by blacks, of course, but they were doing just that- singing the blues. They were a visibly oppressed people with no other way to express themselves, and that's what they sang about (albeit indirectly). Rap is different than this.

In rap music we don't have the lamentations of older blacks who are tired of the life they were forced to lead, no, that's long gone. In it's stead we have young blacks who don't know shit about life and what's really important in it. They talk about murdering each other, they talk about stabbings, jail, shootings, gangs, and whatever else they think is going to prove them as men. I'm not going to lie, I dig this music. It's also more than just music to lift too; it's one of the few kinds of music left that is truly ragingly angry, and being what some people would call an angry guy myself, I can see where they're coming from. If I was a young black kid raised in the city, my outlook on life would be drastically different on the world itself. If I was still as smart, I would realize that American history has really been aimed at keeping blacks down for the last three hundred years, and that only in the last thirty years has any real progress been made at all. That anger that these men have has been fed like a fire tearing through a drought ridden forest, and it shows no signs of being extinguished.

A lot of what rappers do to each other seems to stem from shit that happened back in the day on the streets of Brooklyn or Queens or Compton. Some of it is because someone was in the wrong video at the wrong time, or rapped with someone they shouldn't have; other stuff is just ridiculous bullshit that goes on among the upper echelons of the rich and famous. They've brought that street mentality to the top

What's cool to me is that the rapping "community" is now the outlaw culture that rock n' roll once was. Older people hate rap music nearly unamimously, and if you pull up beside them on the street blaring a rap song, their windows go up immediately. They ask how we can listen to this shit, and that it's not music. Politicians whine about how rappers address women (even though they're cheating on their own wives) or how violent the songs are (just like they did about Judas Priest so many years ago).

The difference, of course, and that it's not only the songs that are violent, it's the guys making them. They're not like Lemmy Kilmister getting into a brawl at the end of a show, or Vince Neil challenging Axl Rose to a fight- it's LA gangs shooting rappers through the windows of their limos with AK-47s because they belong to a different gang. They attack each other in songs, and then, when they see meet, pistol whip or shoot someone. Redneck comedians will ask why Toby Keith doesn't roll up on...ahh whoever the fuck sings country music, and shoot them. Well, if Toby Keith came up in the North Ward in Newark, he'd be a lot less happy; if he was black, he'd be a lot more pissed.

The violence that is inherent in rap music is a sympthom of societal ills, not of stupid ghetto trash murdering each other and thinking it's cool. The music is the result of three hundred years of oppression, and these guys don't even know where to take their anger out, so they murder each other. Eminem's buddy got shot a couple months ago, and it always seems like 50 is one second away from getting killed too. I wonder how much more talent needs to be extinguished for these guys to realize that they're not helping their cause, and that Martin Luther King, Marvin Gaye, and all the others they idolized are rolling over in their graves everytime another talented black man is added to the ever increasing ranks of martyrs.

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