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August 18, 2003

Everybody's a Critic

John McWhorter fights language with language and places himself squarely in the camp of postmodern deconstructionist mumbo jumbo. I have one word for McWhorter, and it is Economics.

Many writers and thinkers see a kind of informed political engagement, even a revolutionary potential, in rap and hip-hop. They couldnt be more wrong. By reinforcing the stereotypes that long hindered blacks, and by teaching young blacks that a thuggish adversarial stance is the properly authentic response to a presumptively racist society, rap retards black success.

McWhorter wastes bits and breath in his diatribe against the most impoverished imaginations of rap, identifying them disgusting phrase by idiotic phrase. It's almost as if he gets a vicarious thrill in quoting the doggerel, like the stereotypical spinster that Airplane movie who says 'I speak jive'.

In this exercise McWhorter doesn't even bother to give the capitalist system a half-hearted kick in the shins. It's not airheaded rap stars who extended this gangsta madness to an embarrassment of international proportions, it's the businesses who bankrolled the production. If McWhorter would spend some of his considerable intellect doing a bit of research behind the cults of personality he demonizes, he'll find quite a few more people making quite a bit more money than Rush and Michael Dyson. Poor John has really swallowed more than he can chew, in his rather pathetic attempt to dismiss the entire hiphop nation in under 3500 words. That might have worked in the days of Schooly D, but why on earth would BMW use hiphop music to sell their automobiles? It is a mystery unfit for consideration in his black playa hatin' essay.

I find much to admire in McWhorter, although it's mostly his upitty attitude. I've more than five minutes of funk in my collection so I know how to separate the good stuff from the junk. McWhorter tries to slam multiple genres of rap into one hiphop whole and toss the whole schmere. Anyone who would lump Busta Rhymes and Lil Kim into the same bucket.. Well that's like putting Stanley Jordan into the same bucket as Stanley Clarke and saying all Jazz is worthless. Perhaps McWhorter wants to be in the same bucket as Stanley Crouch.

Ahh. He's just a fad.

I myself have got beef with pop music and pop culture. Most of it is porno anyway. But hey I'm Old School, I've got a right to be curmudeonly. But since I'm conservative, I also know what to conserve and there is plenty in hiphop that not only transcends the boundaries of pop, but lands squarely in the realm of art. Maybe not highbrow, but as good as film. Trainspotting, for example.

So what do I like in hiphop? I don't have the time nor the inclination to go into detail. I'll only leave you with some verbiage from one of my favorite raps from my favorite groups, recorded at least 5 years before today.

I'm sick of bitches shakin' asses
I'm sick of talkin' about blunts,
Sick of Versace glasses,
Sick of slang,
Sick of half-ass awards shows,
Sick of name brand clothes.
Sick of R&B bitches over bullshit tracks,
Cocaine and crack
Which brings sickness to blacks,
Sick of swoll' head rappers
With their sickening raps
Clappers and gats
Makin' the whole sick world collapse
The facts are gettin' sick
Even sicker perhaps
Stickabush to make a bundle to escape this synapse

I don't suspect that anyone can show, for every knuckhead with his knucklehead soundtrack of anti-social noize, there is another Ivy League graduate who swings to the flow of an inspirationanl hiphop track. It's probably more like 40 to 1. McWhorter and everyone else who would be a proper critic needs to decide on their focus.

Posted by mbowen at August 18, 2003 11:27 PM

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Anybody can quote anything to dismiss whatever they feel like dismissing. Why, I could easily quote our commander-in-chief along with Karl Rove and several others to "prove" what degenerate nonsense American politics is.

Posted by: don at August 19, 2003 04:20 PM

Glad to see someone responding to this silly article. I was really amazed at just how big his bucket was. Oh well, he's got to make a living too right? Don't blame John McWhorter, blame the publishers who bankroll...

And since you mention Stanley Clarke, I can't help but add that a few years ago I went to see McCoy Tyner and wound up awestruck as the bassist I'd never heard of plucked and whapped his stand-up bass. Amazing. (Those names, by the way, exhaust my knowledge of jazz.)

Posted by: ogged at August 20, 2003 12:05 AM