Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The Problem with These Kids Rap Critics Today, Part 2

The central claim in Part 1 was that mainstream rap critics fail to take seriously the gripes that disenchanted golden era fans have with the current rap landscape. Instead, these fans are reduced to bitter old grouch stereotypes, while their legitimate concerns about the overall quality of today’s rap, especially in comparison to 80s and 90s rap, are dismissed or ignored.

I’m working from the premise that today’s rap landscape is better in some ways (inclusiveness, access), but worse in more ways (everything else). And in my view, the ways in which the landscape is better don’t lead to better music. As I wrote in Part 1, there is no shortage of critics who scoff at the idea that the music is in decline; I haven’t found any credible critic, though, who can say with a straight face that the quality of albums hasn’t dropped off (at least at the top).[6]

Disenchanted golden age fans who try to pinpoint why the music has fallen off often cite commercial pressures, the broadening of the fanbase[7], the decline of sampling, the consolidation of corporate media, and the internet-fueled democratization of the means of music production and consumption. Yet there’s no inherent reason why these things, even when taken together, had to diminish the quality of the music.

When we set aside the changing cast of characters, the expansion of audiences and styles, and the (d)evolution of the sound, what distinguishes today’s rap landscape from that of the golden era are the norms by which fans police the quality of the music. I will argue that these norms have been weakened substantially since the mid ‘90s. The resulting social anomie that characterizes the current rap landscape has fueled the personal anomie of the average disenchanted golden era fan.

What defined these golden era norms?

Golden era norms of rap criticism[8] were shaped by four main principles:

Principle 1: Reward originality and creativity; punish biting.

Principle 2: Treat technical skill as necessary, but not sufficient.

Principle 3: Shun crossover acts that bypassed the normal channels (i.e. did not receive widespread sanctioning/vetting from rap heads)

Principle 4: Regard it as a duty to criticize substandard music, even when it comes from favored artists.

These principles are hardly unique to rap, but the ways in which they played out in practice and the ways they played off of black critical traditions gave rap’s critical norms a character all their own. Though image and symbolism certainly played a role (Principle 3 is a prime example), these norms were mostly about aesthetics.

Because these four principles are often misunderstood, I’d like to say a little more about each one.

Let’s get this out of the way: there is original rap being produced now, and there was an endless parade of biters during the golden era. What Principle 1 meant in practice was that blatantly jacking styles was generally frowned upon and was seen as beneath any rapper who wanted respect. The anti-biting principle represented a recurring thread in black music criticism only more intense.

The golden era emphasis on technique has been caricatured as some sort of preference for clinical, Joe Satriani-style masturbatory excess (either in a vocal sense, or a “conceptual" sense). In reality, the point of Principle 2 was to establish that all things being equal, skilled vocalism and lyricism matter and should be encouraged and that greatness is impossible without a baseline level of technical ability.

Principle 3 concerned how rap fans wanted the genre to be represented in the mainstream. If a wack or manufactured-for-pop rapper blew up, there was a collective effort among rap fans to actively spurn this rapper. This effort was dependent on the fact that black youth tastes determine what rap is considered cool—not only to rap fans, but to sympathetic outsiders as well.[9] Rap fans, then, had the temerity to say, “Enough. Let's shun this wack shit" and the sway to actually do it.

Principle 4 was the defining principle of the golden era. It fostered a willingness to call out wackness, wherever it surfaced. Even respected artists LL, Kane, Tribe, Dre, Jay Z and Nas felt the sting of Principle 4 in action. At its best, Principle 4 cultivated neither blanket negativity nor an inclination to hate anything “different.” Most golden era fans understood that the habit of crying wolf about how rap sucks now and the fixation on “sucka MCs,” “wack DJs,” and “biters” were tropes that reflected rap’s competitive spirit and inclination toward improvement.

Why were these norms so effective?

These four principles combined to foster a ruthlessly competitive creative environment that simultaneously promoted quality and actively sought to expose and shun wackness. If your records sucked, they weren’t going to be played for that long. If you couldn’t rap live, you got booed (and in rare instances, you got your monkey ass whooped). To varying degrees, vaudeville, metal, punk, and country audiences were known for their rowdy audiences and rigid norms. In rap, though, the critical norms typical of male-dominated, aggressive youth music and the critical norms of black music[10] coalesced. The pervasive air of critical (and sometimes physical) menace surrounding the reception of the music distinguished rap’s critical norms from those of jazz, blues, and rock, or any previous form of black music. Part of the appeal of golden era rap was the edge that this critical menace gave the music.

I feel obligated to state that these norms were problematic in a number of ways. Chauncey teaches classes on hip hop and pop culture. His students are often dumbfounded and even angry that hip hop’s critical norms were so harsh. Although I grew up in this critical environment, I can appreciate these students’ perspective. While effective in certain contexts, fear is not exactly an ideal motivation for creating art. Golden era critical norms were not very welcoming to many groups and certain forms of expression (though this point has been overstated).

Worse, however, was that the merciless nature of golden era rap norms cultivated an uncritical element among some fans. These fans, emboldened by the norms’ harshness and spoiled by the abundance of quality mainstream rap, dismissed good music for superficial, nitpicky reasons (e.g. the artists’ image/production changed from rugged and grimy to glossy; the lead singles were blatant crossover attempts, the music appeals to women).

What happened to these norms?

In hindsight, it should have been obvious that golden era norms were unsustainable—they were based on historically contingent factors and a whole lot of luck. These norms were ultimately gutted by a series of overlapping trends in rap fandom, black culture, and the broader culture.

Golden era rap norms operated alongside (and occasionally within) the contentious debates black folks have always had about the roles and implications of their art and culture. These debates have always revolved around a series of tensions (e.g. masses vs. elites, folk culture vs. high culture, black folks vs. outsiders, authenticity/artistic freedom vs. political art).[11] Though always heated, these debates have ultimately been a healthy example of the black public sphere’s depth and vitality. However, these debates and all four of the golden era critical principles have been crippled by the overwhelming influence of two (quasi)arguments: the hustler ethic and the hater defense.

The hustler ethic, summarized brilliantly by Rafi Kam, leads its proponents to counter any criticism with the inane response “I’m tryin to get my paper.” An earlier version of the hustler ethic used to be offered reluctantly against the backdrop of widespread racial discrimination in the entertainment industry (“There isn’t much space for complex black expression, but I’m an entertainer and I want to work;” “I’m employing black people; doesn’t that count for something?”). In the hustler ethic’s current expression, the fact that craft is an afterthought compared to the naked profit motive is no longer shameful; amazingly, it’s become a source of pride.

Unlike the hustler ethic, the hater defense doesn’t even require those who use it to offer up any justification. When artists use the hater defense, they don’t need to defend their creative output or acknowledge potential areas for improvement; the hater defense serves as a blanket condemnation of any and all criticism.

The increasing shamelessness of the hustler ethic and the triumph of the hater defense are both general cultural trends, of course, but they have hit black culture especially hard.The ultimate goal of both the hustler ethic and the hater defense is to silence substantive criticism and marginalize aesthetic judgment. That’s precisely what they’ve done to black cultural criticism in general, and rap criticism specifically.

The splintering of the rap audience has also weakened golden era critical norms by intensifying the polarization and politicization of taste. Fans now ride for their preferred faction over everything else, severely hampering Principles 1, 2, and especially 4 in the process. Because of perceived threats from “the other side” (think again of the NYstalgist-revanchist feud), factions of fans heap ridiculous superlatives on their favorite artists until the praise becomes something like consensus.

For a perfect example of how this polarization has diminished aesthetic standards, consider the increasingly political and unwarranted late-era 5 Mic album ratings of the now defunct(?) Source Magazine. The external political pressures on this one limited yet influential publication typifies the deterioration of the overall critical landscape of the last decade or so.[12]
Five of the last six albums to which The Source issued its perfect 5-Mic album rating are listed below:

Life After Death (1997)—This album contained some incredible songs by a rapper who died at the top of his game, but there’s never been a classic hip hop double album. Life After Death is no exception. Because BIG had just died, there was significant pressure. The 5 Mic rating was questionable, but The Source should get a pass for this one given the circumstances.

Blueprint (2001)—More cohesive than several of Jay Z’s previous albums, but not classic. Jay started getting a bit lazy with his lyrics here, and he coasted largely on personality. This one was problematic because The Source seemed to be swayed more by the album’s event-like hype, by Jay’s s feud with Nas, and by the album’s manufactured gravitas and self-conscious classic status-seeking than by the music itself.

Stillmatic (2001)—This review, not the reviews for The Minstrel Show and The Naked Truth, put the final nail in the coffin of The Source's critical relevance. The Source had long been criticized (justly) for its heavy NY bias, but once the magazine lost the ability to credibly assess NY rap (pretty much the only music it knew how to assess), it served no purpose at all. The classic status bestowed upon this Nas album was indefensible from an aesthetic standpoint—the album contained a handful of stellar tracks surrounded by overrated garbage. The only way to explain it was that there was immense pressure to 1) avoid the appearance of siding with Nas’ then-nemesis Jay Z and 2) herald Nas’ return to form, especially given all of the hype surrounding the album. It’s no coincidence that albums by Biggie, Jay Z, and Nas, NY’s biggest and most respected solo acts, received classic ratings because The Source was, in essence, an exercise in NY rap mythmaking. But the pressure to bend the rules of criticism for reasons outside of the music extended beyond the borders of New York.

The Fix (2002)—This was a nice album, to be sure, but it didn’t even come close to Face’s best albums. What happened here was likely The Source realizing that, after heaping classic status on the albums of three New York rap giants, the magazine had to bestow the same honor on an album of a Southern rap giant.

The Naked Truth (2005)— The less said about this Lil Kim “classic” the better, but aside from the conflict of interest shadiness, I think there was a gender quota thing going on.
The Source wasn’t alone in lowering critical standards. This general relaxing of aesthetic standards has benefited older favorites and younger favorites alike.

What does this mean for mainstream rap criticism?

The point of all of this isn’t to blame the mainstream rap critics I referenced in Part 1 for the decline of golden era critical norms—they aren’t responsible for this decline; these critics are merely responding to the new climate in a way that makes sense to them and their audiences. This is also not about challenging critics to “take rap [norms] back” to ‘88 or ‘94 or any other year. It’s neither possible nor desirable to try to recreate the critical environment of the golden era. What critics can and should do, however, is learn from past critical environments to improve upon the current one. Critics are actually doing this in some respects. For example, they have looked back to rap’s pre-album era to help flesh out what a rap landscape divorced from the album as the primary artistic vehicle could look like given today’s technology (how critics have responded to the deluge of mixtape releases and the lack of quality control is an entirely different matter).

Moreover, critics have a duty provide context and history, not only for the music they critique but also for the history of music criticism on the ground and in print. This is especially important given that history-challenged rap outsiders are and will continue to be the primary consumers of rap criticism.

Critics can render the landscape in nuanced ways—ways that don’t reflect tired frames (NYstalgist vs. revanchist, NY vs. everywhere else). Specifically, they can address the legitimate concerns that many disenchanted golden era fans have with current musical and critical environment; they can consider the negative effects cultural and ideological pressures have had on aesthetic norms.

It’s not only in critics’ interests to do these things; it’s in the interest of the music.


[6]Ironically, my attachment to the album form can be critiqued as informed by a rockist bias.

[7] This is, I think, supposed to refer to the growing influence of women, white folks, non-Americans, and non-rap heads.

[8] I’m talking about a combination of norms on the ground, as experienced by the average rap head, and those held by tastemakers and rap critics.

[9]Which is why it’s so strange to hear academic types, hip hop feminists, and other hip hop “activists” talk in conspiratorial terms about white audiences driving the direction of the music.

[10] My dad fronted a few bands in the South and in L.A.in the 60s and 70s. According to him and his former bandmates, the climate of some of the surviving chitlin circuit venues (even with the South’s renowned cordiality) made the Apollo Theatre seem like a tea party.

[11] Those interested in black music and black politics should check out studies on the racial uplift ideology literature of the late 19th Century through 1950s, which reveals, among other things, “New Negro” discomfort with black folk culture (demonstrative church music, blues, jazz, narratives depicting uneducated black folk.). This literature features recurring questions such as “How does popular black art affect the moral training of black children?” and “How will this art make us look to white people?” If you replace all of the “negro”s with “black”s or “African American”s,” you’d swear that these things were written today.

[12] There was also a palpable pressure on the magazine to award Illmatic (1994), and Aquemeni (1998) high scores. The former album because Nas was hailed as the 2nd coming of Rakim, the latter album because The Source’s credibility had been pushed to the limit by its extreme bias toward NY artists when it came to granting albums classic status. But because these two albums actually deserved their 5 Mic ratings, the pressure was overshadowed by the music.


David said...

i dont even know what to say about this except that I think you've got an imaginary history of rap 'when it mattered' that shows a huge bias towards canonical artists, and that your understanding of the last decade of rap is mired in biases & respect to a very boring received wisdom. Who is still talking about that Kim album? What rap fans in their right minds really think blueprint, stillmatic & the fix are the main rap albums that matter from the past decade? Have you ever talked to an actual fan of southern rap? i dunno. there is so much framing in your argument that I reject outright that it's hard to know where to begin.

gordon gartrelle said...


Owing to its biases, The Source was not "The Bible," but it did set some pretty high standards for NY stuff until this decade.

The whole point of the Source stuff is not that the magazine defined universal rap wisdom for this decade; it's that lowered standards are par for the course. It wasn't just The Source doing it; it was everybody.

You mean to tell me that fans don't let rappers get away with releasing 20 half assed mixtapes and 1 subpar studio album a year?

Fans don't let repetitive, mediocre lyrics slide?

Fans don't make excuses for rappers who can't rap?

Fans don't treat casio setting sub-Swizz production like its creative?

Fans don't let their regional and generational cheerleading blind them to their favorite artists' music?

This obviously didn't start this decade, but can you honestly say that this stuff hasn't gotten worse?

David said...

how are they 'letting things slide'? like always, they're listening to what they like & rejecting what they dont. what are you talking about 'making excuses'?? why is casio inherently less creative than sampling? how is 'regional' & 'generational' cheerleading any different than it was when folks were saying "this new g-funk is just ripping off my favorite george clinton songs" (actually butchered quote from my 7th grade jr. high language arts teacher!)

has stuff gotten worse? Maybe in some ways. but i think what you value about rap is probably very different than what i do, & its very blinkered by received wisdom.

I mean, who are you talking about that fans are 'letting get away with' things? Isnt it a lot more likely that maybe your memories of a time when fans didnt let rappers get away with releasing subpar studio albums just might be total fiction?

I mean, i just straight up disagree that there aren't good rap albums any more. Straight up. I don't think standards are slipping. I think that you simply misunderstand both the past & the present, and just dont like new rap. or southern rap, maybe. which is fine. but stop trying to fit your personal beefs w/ anyone who might think gucci's doing something new & great into some grander narrative about fans not giving artists a hard enough time. its not just that i dont buy the "rap music has fallen off!!!" narrative; its that i dont buy that there was ever a time when lots of subpar shitty rap wasnt being released. you have this imaginary vision of some flawless past where everyone was more disciplined & (somehow!!) fans drove artists to only release good music. i think you misunderstand both the present and the past

edub said...

Hip-Hop lost it's foundation when it became profitable.

Once major labels got involved it was only a matter of time before it's origins rooted in expressing the frustrations of inner city youth gave way to the monetary concerns of shareholders.

Who could have guessed that sex, drugs and violence sells?

Oh, that's right, the same people that have taken an art form and reduced it to somehow presenting Gucci Mane as an "outsider".

There just wasn't as much money invested in an artist in the "Golden Age" as compared to now. Therefore, false equivalencies abound.

Gucci Mane is no more a grassroots "come up" story than the Tea Bagger's are. He's been Major Label for years.

He's popular because millions of dollars says he is. And for the record he's nothing special. Wow, rapping mush-mouth about drug selling and spending money. Never heard that before. How ground-breaking, yawn.

It's not about "Hating the South" as some people seem to ignore given evidence to the contrary. Mediocre music is just that, regardless of who (NYstalgists or Revanchists, whomever) makes the observation.

20 something white dudes yammering on defending their fascination with lousy souther-rap artists is not a pretty thing. See Part 1.


I've got to say, the page that came up when I visited your sight was full of Southern Hip-Hop. Are you biased any way towards that genre? From your comments on this sight and as evidenced by your own sight one would have to conclude, that yes, yes you are. Especially troubling, since Chi has such a diverse pool of talent to post about. Why do you hate The Chi?

And you like screwed chorus's? Still? In 2009?
Did you also like Kanye's never-before-heard-of use of Auto-Tune?

If you were ten years old when the era you're saying wasn't that special was occurring you
should STFU.

Jonah Goldberg appears frequently on NPR.


brandon said...

Gordon, leading, leading, leading questions.

Swizz has some dope shit. "The Fix" IS A GREAT SCARFACE ALBUM. What's the problem with "The Blueprint"?

Rap Albums I really enjoy from this year: Quik/Kurupt, Unladylike, DOOM, UGK, Mos Def, all the Three-6 projects, Diamond District, Superbad, Ghostface, Blueprint 3, Gucci's Murder was the Case, Willie Isz,

The Source never meant anything to me and most of the people I talked rap with.

David Drake isn't Southern-rap biased, unless "biased" means, "not rejecting most of it outright". If you call a site "So Many Shrimp" it's probably gonna be Southern rap oriented. Though the site put up that dope Red Cafe/Pete Rock song awhile back too.

This is the joke of this argument. Everyone involved has tastes that cross together, it's just Gordon and others' tastes hit a wall and it's at that point that he/they get all empirical.

Also, in terms of this narrative where Southern-rap loving crackers with phds took over rap...what happened to that?

Also also in terms of that...I don't know David or other more successful writers than I who write on Southern rap but it's a very hard sell in print to this day. No one is accepting pitches or thinkpieces on this stuff with these open arms. I've spent a lot of time convincing editors as to the worth of this or that artist/album.

David said...

yah i gotta say, for all this "white boys always loving that ignorant southern rap" narrative shit i keep hearing, u guys would not believe the amount of work & effort that goes in to getting publications to write about this shit. gucci in particular. for every time i convince a publication that an oj album deserves a 7.0/10 review, there's a hundred nathan rabin's posting pictures of gucci's bart chain & calling him an ignorant moron. this notion that this guy is being elevated primarily by clueless white dudes is the most bizzaro inversion of what the fuck is actually going on in rap discourse. who are these super-authentic rap artists w/out white fans? i hate to break it to you guys, but basically all rap out there, from x-clan to will smith, has white fans. there is no artist in rap that we could discuss who doesnt have white 20 somethings elevating them. ive avoided even addressing the race thing bcause its like, what is there to say? white ppl fuck up the narratives of rap all the time. its not 'our' music & at some level we're totally separate from it. ok. i dont disagree. but when i focus on what you're actually arguing, i find it vague, misguided & not based in reasonable evidence, but some weird emotional disgust at someone taking a specific artist seriously. you're furthering an argument based on a discursive fiction of some past fan consensus that never existed.

gordon gartrelle said...


You're making a bunch of faulty assumptions here.

1.) I thought I made it clear that I don't believe that there was some magical time in rap when mediocrity and wackness didn't exist (nor do I think there was ever unchallenged consensus about the music). I participated in enough heated arguments and bought enough weak albums in the 80s and 90s to know that was never the case.

I'm saying that, in general, fans used to have stricter (at times impossible) standards for quality, and this was true across subgenres. These stricter standards (in addition to the pre-internet labels-as-gatekeepers model of making and marketing music) pushed artists to put out better music on the whole.

Fans (unfortunately) used to completely reject decent to good music from their favorite artists because it wasn't mind-blowingly perfect. How often does that happen today?

2.) I don't base artists' authenticity on the race and education level of their fanbases. I'm not sure where you guys are getting this from. Part 1 was about what the profession of mainstream rap criticism looks like today. And it is most defnitely whiter and more educated than the fanbase at large, but 1) that's true of all mainstream criticism and 2) that wasn't even the point. Part 2 is about the changes in the critical environment in which these critics operate. These changes have very little to do with white people.

Now, I do think that problematic notions of black authenticity are bound up in a lot of people's support of for certain rap (as has always been the case with rap fandom).

The faux-populist, liberal defense of the black underclass and its tastes isn't a white thing; it's actually even more acute in insecure bougie black folks (the ones who regard Bill Cosby as a huge threat to black youth).

3.) My issue is not with people who don't sample. There is a lot of great non-sample-based production, and most sample-based beats suck. My issue is with people who make lazy casio beats that all sound the same. Brandon, I don't hate every single thing Swizz has done. I give people credit where it's due. The beat on "Memph Bleek Is" was very well done. He had a handful of others too. Overall, though?

Anonymous said...


very good writing. Very good! And I think you've dropped more clues in this post about who you are and what you do than at any other time.

In my limited understanding, your defining of 'golden era' standards is spot on. Self-regulation of quality standards was ALWAYS one of the two or three marks of 'authenticism' in hip-hop. When the economics of the scene was solely at the club and out-of-the-trunk level, this made complete sense. As another writer pointed out in Part I, though, once it 'hit' on an industry level...it started disappering. Even then, though, 'remember that one video which spoofed the record company hiring some stereotypical dude off the street? Ha ha ha.

The other two marks which I think were normative for 'golden era' music were 2) (technical) lyrical and/or vocal skill, as you said, and 3) commentary on reality beyond what would be considered today as 'bling.' Where are the artists today who are doing songs like "The Message" or even "911 is a Joke"? And if there are, why aren't those songs hitting? ('Course, maybe they are, but I'm too old to notice. Hmmmm.... ;) )

Anonymous said...

^^^^this kind of argument is exactly what i mean about it being a fiction ... 'the message' was a crossover track that is the exact opposite of the types of rap that ppl were bumping at the time, that grandmaster flash was spinning, and was an attempt at a broader audience by the furious five's label ... and 911 is a joke got attention because it was the only song out there dealing with this issue - it wasnt typical of the time, it was a rare exception

i agreee with this:
"Now, I do think that problematic notions of black authenticity are bound up in a lot of people's support of for certain rap (as has always been the case with rap fandom)."

but i disagree with your inference that you have somehow moved beyond that because you speak purely about skills & standards of quality, issues that are so much more complicated, and always have been, than simple "this is good enough" / "this is not up to code." I'm not posting about this again because its obvious we're going in circles, but purely from a personal perspective, what a truly unbearable way to go about experiencing music in the real world, constantly wondering if its up to 'code,' if it meets some rigid standards & expectations. I truly think you are projecting this kind of thinking on a past audience that never thought about rap this way in any real meaningful sense.


gordon gartrelle said...

That's the thing, David. I don't think I've moved beyond it. Notions of black "authenticity," representation, stereotypes, etc. are always present for me, no matter how good the music is.

When I talk about standards, I'm not envisioning some cold calculus of syllable counts. I just think that critically-acclaimed artists big and small exist in a climate in which they are not being pushed to deliver their best.

Diedre said...

Hi- Long time listener, first time caller.

I love this post and the comments that ensued. I plan to have my 10-12th grade reading class analyze your arguments (and David's as well).

Best piece I've read here. While I have the mike let me urge you to reconsider your position on Tyler Perry, I saw him at the New Yorker Festival. He knows what he's doing, simple and straight to the point.

brandon said...

Gordon, so much of your argument in part one--and especially in the comments fray of my blog and others (which is fair game in this discussion as you quoted comments of mine)--was about white critics, progressives, "Fetishism", etc. How can you sorta toss that to the side now?

There are plenty of political songs still. Lil Wayne performed one at the Grammy's. Kanye West has some too. Jeezy had the one that got O'Reilly all mad. Umm, check out Gucci's "Timothy" for a commentary on reality.

TKG said...

More important than hustler ethic, and “stop hating” ideology is that rap has grown up some (and rap critics have grown up some).

Yes I remember the criticism that LL’s “ I need love” or Cool C’s “Glamorous Life” got at the time. It was still a young art form in the late 80s.

But I’m 20 years older. And if I put either of those songs on during a party, they will probably get the most positive response from the people who loathed them twenty years earlier.

Why do they resonate with me now more than they did when I was younger? Maybe the story of Cool C makes the song more poignant. Maybe I’m just older and smarter than I was twenty years ago. Able to recognize that 20 years ago my critique was shallow.

My youthful orthodoxy is kind of embarasing and I'm not going to make the same mistakes when listening to current rap.

gordon gartrelle said...


I am not trying to paint white critics as evil, scheming colonists. However, even the most well-intentioned, enlightened critics aren't immune to the social, political, and historical implications of writing about black culture.

Moreover, I continue to point out that I have similar issues with how certain educated black people fetishize the black underclass. It may not be driven by the same factors as when white people do it, but the effect is the same.


Thanks for the comments. I know that Tyler Perry's work isn't made for me, so I just don't watch it. And my problem isn't with the man; it's with the push to invalidate aesthetic and social criticism of his work because he's making money, employing black actors, and tailoring his work to an underrepresented audience (black church going women).


Great point.

I do remember going through an embarrassing phase in college in which I dismissed anything that wasn't "positive" enough. That phase didn't last very long -- this philosophy was crushed under the weight of its own contradictions.

But I always liked the stuff by LL, Kane, Nas, Tribe, etc. that youthful orthodoxy said I shouldn't have liked.

R-SON said...


Thanks man. Finally some clear, thought out perspective. It's good to see that someone has made the point that it's not that the quality of the music has gotten better/worse, rather that the focus has gotten so much more narrow that what is selected to be The representation of the ENTIRE Hip Hop music genre is limited in its ability to do so. And since so many of those outside of the culture use the music as their lens into it ( and by extension, blackness as a whole), both wind up getting viewed in an astoundingly skewed manner.