Re: Hip Hop (a work in progress)

Gibo (
Wed, 23 Aug 1995 03:17:30 -0500 (CDT)

> Giles Bowkett wrote:
> "I think the degree to which white people co-opt hip-hop will determine
> how quickly rap fades from importance in the lives of black people, who
> historically have created new musical genres more or less every decade."
> First of all, a quick glance at popular music of the last few years shows
> that hip hop has very little left that has not been co-opted. If its cross
> genre usages of late aren't indications of that I don't know what is.
> By trying to be egalitarian in your statment, you only succeed in once
> more relegating black folks to the role of acting in reaction to white
> culture. I highly doubt that hip hop will cease to be important to the
> current generation of blacks simply as an act of spite on their
> part towards whites. If anything the embracing of all that declairs
> itself "true" or "rule" no matter how flimsy and uninspired the content,
> will do much more to disconnect the black community from hip hop's creative
> center. This can be contributed to a self imposed ignorance on the part of
> the community, a process which at its core has little to do with whites.

what? I realize what you're objecting to, but it has little to do with
what I said. think about the economic realities of white people
co-opting rap music. it means that a market is developed for stuff which
is pure shit, because of the dynamics of corporate mass-media record
distribution. not because white people don't know what good music is,
but because "white people co-opting" includes and implies "big business

I had no intention to imply that today's hip-hop is any less real than
last year's, or whenever's, because it uses different instrumentation or
styles. but I think that every year we see more and more rap acts
succeeding which don't really say anything, because there exists a
growing market for meaningless rap. big business uses hype to create
markets where none existed and to fill those markets with worthless
shit. look at the Top Forty.

look at alternative. the music increased in popularity, going from a
fringe thing to a mainstream media thing. the level of quality in
alternative music plummeted as a result, and for this reason most people
with taste got very sick of alternative (IMHO - sorry if I offend anyone).

I don't think any more than you do that black people will drop rap
because white people like it. frankly, that interpretation assumes such
stupidity on my part that I'm insulted. but if white people create
demand for shit rap, which then because of the high demand floods the
market, I wouldn't be at all surprised if the overall quality of rap
declines drastically as a result, and if a new form of music is created in
response to this. would you want to be known as a rapper if most rap was

> Second, Hip hop was never a jazzy redress of disco. Groups like the
> Sugarhill Gang existed as record labels marketable version of what was going
> on in
> the street. Hip Hop music was born of the cut & mix culture pioneered
> by the likes of Bambatta, Kool Herc, etc., and If anything is a dscendant
> of Jamacia's sound system phenomenon.
pardon me for stating colloquially what you state here more
specifically. I didn't mean they made disco like jazz. I said they jazzed
it up, which is the same thing as funking it up. a non-colloquial way of
saying this is that they took a whole lot of shit from the disco (place,
not sound) and turned it into "the cut & mix culture pioneered...etc." in
other words, I said exactly what you said, I just said it differently.

> Lastly, hip hop music was never made of fixed parts and could be said to
> be the only music form able to boast such a claim. Its evolution has
> grown to
> encompass live instruments as well as the producer/DJ medium. It, by
> nature cannibalizes sounds and makes them it's own. For many the term hip
> hop has lost its esoteric value, hence using it no longer separates them
> from the overground masses. However, I feel that hip hop as an art form
> still has validity and in fact never lost it. Due to over application of
> the term in the popular context some may feel that many of the artists in
> the various new "experimental" genres are not making hip hop. If this
> the case, so be it. Then, let it be said that by this definition these
> artist not making hip hop, but, what hip hop used to be!
I can't make sense of this. of course hip hop as an art form still has
validity. painting as an art form still has validity. ballet as an art
form still has validity; doesn't mean it's exactly the pulse of our
culture, does it?

my prob with hip-hop is not that it's no longer esoteric; it's that it
doesn't seem as brave as it used to. it doesn't stretch or violate
boundaries as much as operate comfortably within them. nowadays
everybody "knows" what a rap song sounds like, and they're too rarely
surprised. what's music if it doesn't bring you something new?

one reason I think people get nostalgic for Public Enemy is that they
emobodied the courage of rap, and the sense that this new form of music
enabled more political consciousness than ever before, that it would
change the world, to an extent. a lot of rap today sounds complacent and
cliched by comparison.

all, of course, imho.

giles bowkett -
"May the four winds blow you safely home"
Writing and music samples available