Kanye, Others Lead Hip Hop Away From
Just when you thought it was safe to
not think about Kanye West or 50 Cent, John H. McWhorter—who
penned an editorial titled “How Hip Hop Holds Back Blacks” —arrives
on the scene a day late and several dollars short with Hip Hop Graduates
From Thuggery (which appears on the City Journal web page).
McWhorter lauds the success of Kanye’s latest effort, Graduation,
taking the sales victory over 50 Cent’s latest opus, Curtis, as a
sign that America is moving away from the ultra violent imagery that Hip Hop
has become known for.
“Fans’ embrace of West is an
indication that hip-hop is growing up—at least somewhat,” he writes.
McWhorter also uses Curtis to take David Banner to task
for comments about explicit rap lyrics being the inner city’s cry for help to
the rest of America.
“Curtis rather conclusively
reveals the hollowness of such claims. If 50 Cent wants any help in response
to the maiming and killing that so many of the tracks describe—the first three
raps are titled “My Gun Go Off,” “Man Down,” and “I’ll
Still Kill”—he keeps it pretty quiet. Besides, legislators and
social-service workers aren’t usually able to provide much assistance for the
scenarios 50 Cent describes, such as the tearing of flesh and the
shattering of vertebrae.”
On the other hand McWhorter—typically
an outspoken critic of Hip Hop—praises West for his word play and choice
of samples for Graduation.
“He builds a rap on, of all
things, ‘Kid Charlemagne,’ from one of Steely Dan’s early albums. One
doubts 50 Cent listens to much Steely Dan, while West, as
always, samples from high and low. West also has more fun with words
than 50 Cent does, if you can get used to rap’s rather permissive notion
of assonance: for example, he makes ‘Appollonia,’ ‘on ya’,’ ‘Isotoner,’
and ‘tol’ ya’; rhyme. All of this is emblematic of the greater humanity of
West’s rap persona—he’s not afraid to smile about more than just being rich or
smoking something. No guns, no vertebrae.”
Talib Kweli, dead prez, and Common are also name checked by McWhorter—who
discloses that he’s a middle aged man—and respect is given because these
artists don’t cater to the stereotype of what rap is “supposed” to
be: drugs, guns and women.
At the end of the day, McWhorter
ponders something that many of us here at DX have thought for quite some
time: “it is unclear to me why anybody over 15 would listen to an album
like Curtis, except to review it.”
Well done Mr. McWhorter, some
things are better late than never said at all.
Hip Hop Not Fit to Judge the Dog?
Duane “Dog” Chapman’s racially charged rant has kept the fires burning on the
discussion of all things N word related, but one columnist does not believe Hip
Hop has a place at the table of this debate.
In a commentary by Gregory Kane
appearing on Black America Web titled “The Only Surprise About
Chapman’s Rant Was Black Folks’ Reaction to It,” Kane invites the
Hip Hop generation to have a seat—in the corner.
Kane asserts that Hip Hop radio is the “last place that
should be discussing Dog’s comments.”
He goes on to recount a story of his
answer when asked about Dog’s rant to a young student saying,
“Those members of black America’s generation Hip Hop who’ve been saying
that the n-word is just a word, that it’s harmless and that we make too much of
it should excuse themselves from this conversation.”
Citing Hip Hop’s response to the Jena
6, Kane goes on the offensive again, pointing out the almost
hypocritical nature of many within Hip Hop for giving black rappers a pass for
pervasive use of the word, while jumping Dog for using it in a private
“Black America’s generation Hip Hop responded quickly and effectively to
the case of the Jena Six. Many of them seemed especially incensed that
nooses — a symbol of lynching — were hung from a tree at Jena High
School. Well now what in the world do they think white racists said to
black folks when they put those nooses around their necks? ‘We love ya, boo?’
No, it was probably something more like, ‘Die, nigger, die!’ You can’t defend
the use of the n-word and then claim to get upset by a display of hung
Whether you agree or disagree, Kane gives us plenty of food for thought.
Get a plate.