Hip-Hop Is Giving Me A Rash
October 1, 2007
Why these hip-hop debates always make me queasy.
Posted by jsmooth995 at October 1, 2007 11:04 AM
J, once again congratulations on an amusing and insightful post.
The trouble is, it's not just Hip-Hop... far too often the most the public ever gets to see of ANY issue is the wildly polar opposing views. Any sense of nuance just doesn't make for good TV, apparently.
Anyway, like I said, respect...
Posted by: Analogue at October 1, 2007 11:32 AM
Actually, Penicillin is not used to treat viruses but your analysis is still quite valid.
Posted by: Submariner at October 1, 2007 11:33 AM
I agree with your point about responsibility and people avoiding taken on personal responsibility.
I heard a great analogy on it once. Five people come upon spilt milk on the floor. Not one person admits to spilling it, and they just all sit there and stare at it. Well after about a half hour of staring, there comes a time when some action needs to be taken but if none is taken, then all five become responsible for the spill.
Responsibility comes from the word respond and all the talk in the world isn't action or responding so issues never gets resolved until someone steps up to the plate and responds.
Posted by: Lea at October 1, 2007 11:56 AM
I think the problem is that people are looking for a black and white answer to the problem when there isnt one...there is a grey area that can probably only be met with compromise
Posted by: Detroit P at October 1, 2007 1:25 PM
Great take, nice nuggets of wisdom. Did you seen the C-Span coverage of last weeks House Hearing on Stereotypes and Degrading Images - "From Imus to Industry: The Business of Stereotypes and Degrading Images." Witnesses discuss the impact of racist and sexist language and images, how best to protect consumers from the increasingly coarse and vulgar language. Rep. Bobby Rush (D-IL) chairs.
Good stuff, eye openers sprinkled throughout, some funny moments in a twisted way. Informative. Maddening.
Lots of truths, a few moments of pure self promotion, and just enough real, to keep you watching the entire (almost) 5 hours.
Biggest thing I found fault with was the lack of preparation and understanding/familiarity of the material/lyrics some committee members exhibited during questioning. I did not expect them to listen to every song ever released, I did expect them to at least stay away from repeating the rhetoric of a Limbaugh or O'Reily and their audience.
You'll need Realplayer installed to use the links below or if viewing from C-Span http://c-span.org you may be able to use windows player.
Witnesses (Philipe Dauman, Viacom Inc., President and CEO; Edgar Bronfman, Warner Music Group, Inc., President and CEO; and others)
9/25/2007: WASHINGTON, DC: 2 hr. 57 min.
Witnesses (Percy Miller, No Limit Records, Founder and CEO; David Banner, Rap Artist; Tracy Denean Sharpley-Whiting, Professor, Vanderbilt University and others)
9/25/2007: WASHINGTON, DC: 2 hr. 57 min.
This link may not work after today 10/1/07
Posted by: DS at October 1, 2007 2:26 PM
Is "everyone else does it" really the equivalent of "larger historical context"?
Is the trash that popular culture embraces really the person to ask? If it's the same answer Britney would give, does it count?
Posted by: gwen at October 1, 2007 4:22 PM
it may look like shamless self promotion, but the following link is actually relevant to this conversation. hip hop panels suffer from a multitude of...viruses (ha). this is yet another great e-blog, as they all have been so far, from jay smooth, but it addresses a particular KIND of hip hop panel. there are many others, and each has its own infuriating quirks. check this out-- it's a fictionalized account of a hip hop panel:
great site, by the way, been linking here since the jump, and it's one of a very, very few sites i can link to guilt-free-- i always know the content will be on point.
Posted by: el guante at October 1, 2007 6:11 PM
Could someone tell me what the question is?
Posted by: eric at October 1, 2007 6:49 PM
Is "everyone else does it" really the equivalent of "larger historical context"?
I don't think anyone's position is that simple, but even so the answer is yes! :) That would certainly be part of the larger context, how could it not be?
If a problem you're addressing has long been ubiquitous elsewhere, that'll always place it in a different context than if it were previously unheard of and could not be traced back to any root. Wouldn't make it more or less problematic, but absolutely would give it a different context.. and necessitate a different approach to seeking solutions.
Anytime you're trying to figure out why something is happening and prevent it from recurring, you'll generally start by asking where, when and why it happens elsewhere, then work towards a solution from there.. That's just as true here as with any other problem, and it's a mistake to automatically dismiss those common-sense, necessary questions as evasion or obfuscation (even if they are sometimes used that way! they still do need to be asked.)
Is the trash that popular culture embraces really the person to ask?
Not sure what you mean..
If it's the same answer Britney would give, does it count?
That would prove nothing either way :)
Posted by: Jay Smooth at October 1, 2007 6:51 PM
What is "the problem" in question?
Posted by: eric at October 1, 2007 8:22 PM
Forget lotion, what happened to your hair. Looks like you got a relaxer. LOL!! I'm joking
And while I'm being a prankster, what ever happened to the cat. I miss that cat. LOL!
What bothers me most about Hip Hop Debates is the tendency overgeneralize and not recgonize the diversity of artists and critics.
Posted by: Rachel S. at October 1, 2007 8:41 PM
dam man , u are a brilliant man too bad you died by the life saber of just, but freal i been hooked on the blog since i found it about the same time you changed the name
u have a very unique way of puttin things man and i just wanna say i give u props and only if you really could make a vid each day
or have radio show where i live
ill spread the word to others man, good luck
Posted by: j at October 2, 2007 3:12 AM
I'm not a religious person by any means, but I will occasionally read or read about religious texts to draw upon the historical wisdom of Man. And what you seem to be saying, about avoiding the trappings of extremism, reminds me of Buddhism's "Middle Path". This branches out from simply a Hip-Hop issue (which only holds importance to a few, including myself) and applies to the broader and more important social and political front (which is important to us all, whether we acknowledge it or not) where bi-partisanism, like gravity, draws the majority to extremes at the opposite ends of the spectrum. I love the gray area. I swim in it. Nice post.
Posted by: crjacobsen at October 2, 2007 5:44 AM
This is my favorite blog.
Posted by: Gudo at October 2, 2007 9:38 AM
I watched the show on the bet web page cause we don't have bet over here in the Uk. I thought it was an interesting debate but it was a bit one sided as you correctly pointed out with the lotion metaphor.How ever it was nice to see that a rapper can actually defend his corner and sound intelligent at the same time trust me its very rare that this happens,so my props go out to Nelly and I am not even a fun of his. The only thing about the show that I had a problem with was that none of the other rappers on the show except for Nelly and Master P had anything of importance or value to add which was a shame this includes Chuck d.You had T.I pulling face at Stanley Crouch Mike jones jus kept talking about Nelly.I remind you that T.I was the biggest selling hip hop artist of last year so how dum are we. As for Superhead or Karrine as she would like us to call her wtf was she doing on there, she could not answer any of the questions that she was asked all she could say was "they are high" "i know them these men are high" well excuse me i think she was probably high on sperm or something, I think America need to stop putting these fools on a pedal stool cause as long as they are at the top nothing is gonna change and the kids will carry on the same way. Teaching/manners starts at home peace so you cant blame hip hop for all the problems of the world.
Posted by: reason at October 2, 2007 11:42 AM
"I think America need to stop putting these fools on a pedal stool cause as long as they are at the top nothing is gonna change and the kids will carry on the same way."
What's interesting here is the phrase 'pedal stool' Brilliant. I've seen and used one of them, and they actually create the effect of what the term pedestal means.
The bottom line is that in America, mass media has been infiltrated by overt sexual content and sexuality. Everybody knows this. There is no proper way to teach a child how to process or deal with that. You could only block channels. Now if that's right to stop the main commercial influences on your child is subjective and personal to each of us. The puzzles of the pieces can be looked at to see if they fit but there is another puzzle with pieces not separated out of the box yet.
Posted by: Jay B at October 2, 2007 1:03 PM
It looks like I was not clear with my "Shameless Self Promotion" remark. I may fail here too.
Both sides (lawmakers/artists) were doing it. Some of it was expected. Everyone in that hearing knew people are watching. Artists want to sell albums. Politicians want (to keep) that vote (or contribution).
Watch C-Span's coverage of the House or Senate and you will see Congress(wo)men or Senators working the room for support or to derail a law/ regulation (product/project). 50 vs West , no different in the sense that there is please/pander, winner/loser. In broad terms, the artists Unlike lawmakers are working for not with the corporations.
Fight the Power and Bust a Move
by Kevin Gosztola
"...Really what this is about is satisfying two crowds. One crowd is the PC liberal crowd and the evangelicals who unite under an umbrella here to cry out against offensive, violent, and misogynistic lyrics; the second crowd is the corporations, who want to make money and understand they must get the nod of approval from the PC liberals and evangelicals in order to continue to reap profits.
Many fans of hip-hop like myself do not like the mainstream music that was the subject of this examination at all because it has no soul and much of the music is largely uniform or to put it simply, every song says the same thing. ..."
Blogger Polar Levine gives his opinion in...
"THE MESSAGE: IS HIP HOP THE NEW APPLE PIE?"
"...The few pockets of brilliance and relevance that remain -- mostly underground -- prove the rule that hip hop has become as blandly American as mass-produced, lab-processed apple pie. The most threatening cultural force mainstream America has faced since Jack Johnson has become so non-threatening to power, so predictable and so darned cute that any middle and upper class suburban sixth-grader can accurately mimic every gesture in the lexicon and be ghetto for Halloween. Even Karl Rove finds it cute...."
Variety dialed in,
Congress addresses hip-hop lyrics
'Degrading' songs, videos under scrutiny
By WILLIAM TRIPLETT
"....Members of the House Subcommittee on Commerce and Trade initially zeroed in on the graphic nature of hip-hop content. In her opening remarks, Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) posed a rhetorical question to all hip-hop artists: "Where and how did society fail you that you would choose to write such filth?"..."
"...Michael Eric Dyson of Georgetown U. said, "America is built upon degrading images of black men and women. So any discussion of misogyny or homophobia or sexism has got to dig deep into America, including Congress and corporate and religious institutions."..."
From Fox (Network & News) to Comedy Central to the Three major broadcasters. Language (bleeped or implied, the word and the meaning are understood) and sex (double entendre) I get it, so does most kids. Violence (simulated rape, autopsy, gun battles) are Primetime daily. War is glorified ....
Coverage of the war and the consequences to life ... non existent or watered down. That is obscene.
Anyway ... as much as these hearings held potential, they distracted from the bigger issues. Human, Civil, and Privacy Rights, to name only three, and distorted the whole focusing on the few.
Like most things, it is guys like Jay that I tune-in to for a real opinion. No agenda and no one pulling (his) strings to shape that opinion.
Posted by: ds at October 2, 2007 1:12 PM
I think you're giving some of the "larger context" arguers too much credit, Jay. Many of them want to dodge the issue in order to maintain their wealth, not because they're interested in their shred of truth.
Most of the panel on the other side, like Nelson George did acknowledge the larger issue, while trying to hold the artist to their own responsibility. I think they spoke with courage, and their views respect the nuances of the argument.
However, I clap it up for BET for being able to book Nelly and TI, two huge artists who have nothing to gain from being on that hotseat.
By the way, I love how Stanley Crouch has called rappers buffoons both on BET and Oprah, and how offended the hip-hoppers get.
The same guys who are selling and making music that disses women throw a fit when they're dissed!
Posted by: Hashim Warren at October 2, 2007 2:47 PM
Jay, I think that the problem is that debates aren't about finding the middle ground and moving forward. They're about presenting opinions and justifications for those opinions. What you're talking about is really a summit or strategy meeting. Debates are pointless because they never lead to next steps or action items. They're a great place to give voice to the voiceless, but that seems to be irrelevant for both sides here, doesn't it?
And a summit or strategy meeting has to have a goal for them to achieve what you suggest. These kinds of meetings are harder and almost always take longer than a hour. But it's what hip hop needs at this point, because there's very little quality in what's being pushed to the consumer.
Posted by: Jason B at October 2, 2007 3:31 PM
CAN WE START A PETITION OR SOMETHIN TO GET JAY ON ONE OF THESE PANELS?
Posted by: colin at October 2, 2007 3:53 PM
You can't have an effective discussion without clearly defining the issue/problem.
I still haven't heard a clear articulation of the issue or problem.
Posted by: eric at October 2, 2007 4:48 PM
Within BET's presentation the problem/issue was hip-hop's treatment/portrayal of women in its lyrics/videos
Posted by: Jay Smooth at October 2, 2007 4:55 PM
No more Hip Hop panels without Killer Mike, Mos Def, Bun B or Cynthia McKinney.
Posted by: Maurice Garland at October 2, 2007 10:52 PM
Posted by: muhd izwan bin dol bahrin at October 2, 2007 10:55 PM
Why did I listen to that. Pretty annoying how this guy talks like there's such an obvious solution to it and that he sees it all, and how it all can be put together and solved. His tone is the same for the whole video; fairly condescending if you ask me. Saying "O.k. Nelly yessss you have some point", with this patronizing tone. You might not have all the answers and be right on point either guy. What think you just throw in the word 'ubiquity' and everyone is going to bow down to your intelligence. Maybe you have some points yourself, but definitely presented in a weak manner.
Posted by: MK Dempsey at October 2, 2007 11:12 PM
Haha, didn't even realize that this was this guy's page. Just found my way here from nahright. Still my first impression though from that 1 vid.
Posted by: MK Dempsey at October 2, 2007 11:15 PM
1. How do we get men to treat women better?
2. How do we get BET to stop objectifying women?
The first question is simple: empower women by get ting them into positions of power. In many ways, better treatment of women is a practically a foregone conclusion. Considering the fact that women under 30 have essentially closed the gender gap in education and employment, we might want to acknowledge that "treatment of women" is a somewhat outmoded phrase in the context of a world where, yes women are "mistreated", but are generally living the same general quality of life as their male counterparts. I am not exactly crying for the state of womenkind. In fact, I would guess that women will begin to surpass men in both education and employment. And, as a result, objectification and sexism will probably decline, naturally, without any assistance from Viacom. It's just the way of things.
The 2nd question, imo, is one of those classic "liberal" outlooks/issues where instead of putting the onus on personal responsibility, we cry for boycotts or censorship. Viacom may be part of the problem, but why should they be the ones to change first? Who else shares responsibility? Who else should we ask to change? Is it simply the fact that it is more CONVENIENT to ask Viacom, than deal with people face-to-face? I would say activists are as much victims of a convenience/impatience mentality as the consumers we blame for mindless bowing to the convenience of corporate America.
Posted by: eric at October 3, 2007 12:24 AM
Posted by: Coco at October 3, 2007 1:09 PM
"The first question is simple: empower women by get ting them into positions of power. In many ways, better treatment of women is a practically a foregone conclusion. Considering the fact that women under 30 have essentially closed the gender gap in education and employment, we might want to acknowledge that "treatment of women" is a somewhat outmoded phrase in the context of a world where, yes women are "mistreated", but are generally living the same general quality of life as their male counterparts. I am not exactly crying for the state of womenkind. In fact, I would guess that women will begin to surpass men in both education and employment."
Eric, did you hop into the Doc's DeLorean to write this?
This solution is "outmoded" itself. There have been a few female Supreme Court Justices. The current dem forerunner has spent the last decade in the NY senate. Shit, the principal of my junior high, Dr. Roche got the job done.
"The 2nd question, imo, is one of those classic "liberal" outlooks/issues where instead of putting the onus on personal responsibility, we cry for boycotts or censorship. Viacom may be part of the problem, but why should they be the ones to change first? Who else shares responsibility? Who else should we ask to change? Is it simply the fact that it is more CONVENIENT to ask Viacom, than deal with people face-to-face? I would say activists are as much victims of a convenience/impatience mentality as the consumers we blame for mindless bowing to the convenience of corporate America."
Posted by: Jay B at October 3, 2007 9:11 PM
Yes, Doc is a friend of mine. we travel through time in a stainless steel history book.
A delorean trip back to the 1930s would highlight just how much things have changed. and my impression is that these changes were as much a result of talk and debate, as they were a result of women simply occupying positions of power.
i think the reason why we clamor so much is that it is easy to clamor. It is difficult to get into a position of power. It takes a lifelong commitment. My advice, if you want to improve the lot of women?... be a woman and get into a position of power.
Posted by: eric at October 4, 2007 3:25 PM
You must realize that these artists know how the game go,homie. the whole premise of hip hop from the start has been to posture as cool and or rebellious. I saw a commercial where someone off camera asked Fabolous "what are you willing to fight for the most in life?" I was incredulous upon hearing "for mah onez, mah hustle". It's obvious the answer to that question for almost EVERYONE would be; my family. So you have to ask why would Fabolous retort with some dumb shit like that?
I think the answer is Fabolous understands his precarious star status and it would be a big gamble to let on any sign of softness. You HAVE to be hard, or "real" (oh the irony).This is what sells.and the artist are loath to do anything about it lest they lose their wealth.
America NEEDS hip hop like it needs oil. It needs a scapegoat to point its finger at for it's societal ills (funnily enough, America is pointing at a mirror that reminds it of it's ugliness [GZA] ). Should hip hop finish the transition to mass produced pop, the teens will find another outlet for their frustration and need to be heard. This is the way it's always been.
One last issue I can't get past is the Ignorance of some folks (mostly mif\ddle aged, white) who maintain that rap is something they "simply cannot stand to hear". I often wonder how its possible that I can listen to and eventually learn to like what they like but they simply have no tolerance for what I grew up on? kind of like how Country would get a bad rap. "i listen to evrything but country and rap" have you ever heard that? but more importantly the detractors of rap act like its not a valid form of artistic expression.
Posted by: RedgyDazz at October 5, 2007 2:55 AM
The great thing about this video is, it can be applied to pretty much anything. I mean that in a good way. Any time I see debates on TV, the Internet, where ever, it's always this group versus that group and both don't care about the other and it's up to the people that are neutral and have some common sense to pick out the truth and combine the facts to see how things correlate to one another.
I've just been pointed to this blog and am happy I was. Finally a bit of smart on the web.
Not sure if you have or if you do it, but I was wondering what your opinion on the new Lupe Fiasco video to Dumb It Down is.
Posted by: MJ at October 7, 2007 9:24 AM
I thought the BET forum thing was decent. The rappers had to keep defending a subject that was undefendable. I just found that to be so hilarious. It was also funny that BET had a hip hop awareness forum, when they are the ones that help "kill" hip hop, by showing BS 24/7. It all makes no sense. But noone knows the secret of hip-hop. Its to seperate the idiots and the intellectuals. Like the person before me quoted the lupe song. They're gonna dumb it down for the idiots
Posted by: DJ Dru at October 7, 2007 1:55 PM
Ahhh...yet another funny and insighful video. I can't tell you how much I get out of these. I'm not even a fan of hip-hop but I always come away with something super-interesting to think about.
Posted by: missb at October 8, 2007 2:05 AM
I thought your commentary on the panel was great. I think the internet is extraordinary in how it allows people to express critique and insight through video blogging. Keep spreading insight!
I thought you might find my most recent short film amusing. Its about a white German hip hop artist named "D. Mark" who is helplessly misunderstood.
greetings from Germany!
Posted by: Gabe at October 8, 2007 9:43 AM
I checked out some the bet panel. I agree that both sides had valid points, but TI AND P was absurd. He should have been excused from the panel. I too lived on the Wstside of ATL, and I would never mention to anyone to keep on slangin or whatever means of surviving they have to continue doing so, TI and myself were fortunate to see the world outside of where we grew up in and for him to glorify what he raping about and to boast of what he could be doing instead of raping was downright COON-ISH!
Posted by: Badrebel at October 10, 2007 12:58 AM
I agree with the "get Jay on one of these panel" ideas. And I agree with Mr. Smooth overall categorization of the issues addressed in the video. However I disagree with the implication made by "looking at our personal responsibilities." Who exactly is this "we" that needs to look at "our" responsibilities?
This isn't about equal opportunity exploitation. This is mainly about (mostly black) men in the hip hop community degrading and humiliating (mostly black) women. The people (men) who are perpetrating these actions, even as they know they are so wrong, need to stop. I don't care if such-and-such is degrading women too. That doesn't make your actions right, Nelly. You know it's wrong. Don't do it.
I'm all for examining misogyny in its larger context. I do it regularly on my blog. But there is no excuse for treating women like animals, in a hip hop video or in porn.
Posted by: Bianca Reagan at October 14, 2007 11:18 PM
Hold Up! I've gotta say this cuz I think we've really lost our way somewhere in this language in Hip Hop debate. Why is it that we've fallen victim to this simplistic explanation of word usage in rhymescapes and meaning in rap lyrics? Hip Hop music and it's layers of meaning and storytelling has always been much more complicated than that. This argument has become so oversimplified and we're slowly drinking the Civil Right Generation's Kool Aid. Because you use those words does not by default make you a misogynist! And cuz you say those words are talking about womankind collectively? Are you saying that the words "Bitch" and "Ho" are synonymous with the word 'Woman"? At an early age I could discern that the word Bitch and Ho spit by any given rapper didn't mean they were talking about the women in my hood, tmy girl or the women in my family. When a rapper rapped about bitches and hos in their stories... they were talking about REAL Bitches and Hos. Do Bitches and Hos not exist in our world anymore is there a shortage... or have they escaped to another planet? There here too! So whay can't we talk about them? The Prostitute, the Groupie or the Gold Digger... so drunk off of the culture of materialism (Superhead anyone?) they'll do WHATEVER it takes to be with a man cuz of his power or fame? And these same words and/or meanings can be attributed to men too... who behave like bitches or hos. Come On People! Let's not oversimplify this shit and throw the complexity of Hip Hop... the truth and/or simile out with the bath water!
Posted by: kevski at October 20, 2007 6:47 PM
"A great celebration of American freedom." That's classic. Can I borrow that? Peace!
Posted by: FranSky at November 18, 2007 9:52 PM
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