Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Pass the Smelling Salts

Kansas City Star sports columnist Jason Whitlock gets down on the Sean Taylor shooting in ways that hitherto only Bill Cosby has done, referring to the hip-hop culture as the "black KKK."

I’m guessing he’ll get attacked for blaming the victim.

Discussions - 5 Comments

Wow! Can I get an "amen, brother!"?

Not quite as spicy, but Wynton Marsalis expresses similar sentiments:

Jason Whitlock wrote: "Our new millennium strategy is to pray the Black KKK goes away or ignores us. How's that working?"

Interesting how that applies to other things in our broken world.

Overall, a strikingly refreshing article. I wonder ... might there truly be a turning of the tide? We can only hope.

Amen, brother. And to Mr. Whitlock, pleas to not give an inch, with the simple exception that you might want to mention that hip-hop didn't start this way, beholden to the gangsta idenity-scam. As a music, it had and has it's value. A kind of reaction to disco's smoothness and repetitive beat, and initially, an embracing of having to work with very limited resources. Remember great songs like "White Lines"? Hip-hop the music might have had a nice little ten-year pop career had hip-hop the youth culture not taken over the whole shebang.

Here's a few paragraphs from and about the man who oughta know best, James Brown, as told by the woman who knows best about American pop music, Martha Bayles: "Disco is a simplification of a lot of what I was doing, of what they thought I was doing. Disco is a very small part of funk. It's the end of the song, the repetitious part, like a vamp. The difference is that in funk you dig into a groove, you don't stay on the surface. Disco stayed on the surface. See, I taught 'em everything they know but not everything I know." After the disco craze imploded in 1979, the name was dropped but the method remained. Brown adds: "It was all done with machines. [The artists] thought they could dress up in a Superfly outfit, play one note, and that would make them a star.... The record companies loved disco because ... machines can't talk back and, unlike artists, they don't have to be paid." Computerized rhythms still dominate popular music. Why struggle to record live drummers, bassists, and other percussionists, when the majority of listeners don't notice the difference? ...people who grew up in the 1980s will associate Brown not with soul or disco but with rap--because when rap first emerged from uptown New York dance clubs, its foundation was funk, especially James Brown funk. But rap did not grow directly out of the musical tradition that produced James Brown. Instead, it grew out of a spoken tradition with roots in both North America and the Caribbean. In the West Indies historically, the popular music of blacks was not played on the government-controlled radio. Nor was it played in people's homes, because most blacks were too poor to own record players. Instead, it was provided by mobile DJs with large record collections and powerful "sound systems," who specialized in "toasting," or delivering a steady patter over instrumental remixes of popular records. The creator of rap is said to be Kool DJ Herc (Clive Campbell), a Jamaican immigrant who introduced toasting to the Bronx. He was quickly followed by Grandmaster Flash (Joseph Saddler), the son of Barbadian immigrants who devised a way to switch back and forth between two turntables. Atop his "wheels of steel," Grandmaster Flash was a true percussionist, weaving together the "breaks," or most heavily rhythmic sections, of two different funk records. Early rap was thus an improvised art requiring a ready wit, a sharp ear, and quick hands. But the 1970s were a time of swift technological change, so it was not long before rap went high tech. All it took were a few chart hits. Once rap entered the studio, it no longer depended on the skills of live performers, either record spinners (DJs) or rappers (MCs). Instead, it became a sound collage, assembled on tape by a producer adept at "sampling" all sorts of recorded sounds--not just voices and rhythms but everything from sirens and gunshots to political speeches and jazz solos. (Today, of course, sampling is even easier, because it is done digitally.) Because the funky rhythm remained essential, the single most sampled source in rap is James Brown. That's why he commented to Spin magazine in 1991 that rap "is the next thing, but it's all from me."

Here's the Bayles article.

Bayles in her essential book tells quite deftly the sad story of N.W.A., and how they started as run-of-the-mill joke-telling wanna-be MC Hammer types, but how they hit upon the gangsta formula and oh-so-quickly transformed themselves as purveyors of "reality," Compton-style. Ice Cube, Dr. Dre, these guys contributed to the corruption of millions of souls, not to mention the untimely deaths of tens of thousands. Their success made the gangsta style's ascendance unstoppable, and for the past twenty years, CRIMINALITY has been thus sold as the authentic black idenity.

I do think, however, that something was quite seriously amiss w/ hip-hop's development even prior to the explicit gangsta style--pre-NWA, there already was the example of certain Philadelphia rappers, who were bragging about their murderous reputations. There's a strange tale to tell of how hip-hop rhythmn techniques got quickly linked in everyone's minds to the figure of the rep-obsessed RAPPER, and how that figure's reputation for HUMOR was soon eclipsed by the expectation of a debased, more cold-than-cool, offense-taking MANLINESS. And woven into to this was a debasement of (really a con-job version of) REALISM and an identification of the whole thing as the sort of non-integratable, non-Cosby-izable BLACK IDENTITY.

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