Sunday, 8 August 2010

Rap Rapped

Hmmm. A New Republic cover story, "The Real Face of Rap" (Nov. 11), makes the plausible case that rap is not a ghetto phenomenon at all, but the well-engineered product of middle-class blacks and their equally non-underclass intrepid white collaborateurs. Long Island and Cambridge, Mass., are more the provenance of this palpating din than Harlem and Bed/Sty.

David Samuels, a Mellon Fellow at Princeton, further explains that "the ways in which rap has been consumed and popularized speak not of cross-cultural understanding, musical or otherwise, but of a voyeurism and tolerance of racism in which black and white are both complicit." No less a witness than Harvard's W.E.B. DuBois Professor of African-American Studies, Henry Louis Gates Jr., argues that both the rappers and their white fans "affect and commodify their own visions of street culture."

"It's like buying Navajo blankets at a reservation roadstop. A lot of what you see in rap is the guilt of the black middle class about its economic success, its inability to put forth a culture of its own. Instead they do the worst possible thing, falling back on fantasies of street life. In turn, white college students with impeccable gender credentials buy nasty sex lyrics under the cover of getting at some kinds of authentic black experience."

Wheeee. Does that mean it's P.C. to despise the shit now?

Reprinted from Welcomat-After Dark, Hazard at Large, November 13, 1991

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