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Josh Hurst

Hip-hop (Is rap crap?)

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The question is, is it morally reasonable to conclude that I am not likely to be corrupted by morally abhorrent art and thus there is no reason not to make it a staple of my aesthetic diet?

The mere question of whether you are likely to be corrupted is insufficient of itself. Even if you are not likely to be corrupted, there are additional questions to ask.

Rather, "Is this art something I want to support? Is it intrinsically worthy of my time, attention, and money?"

I dunno, that seems awfully, what, pragmatic or something. I would rather ask questions like these: "Does this art speak to me of the true, the good, the beautiful? Is it wholesome or abhorrent? Does it ennoble and elevate me, make me more human, or at least restore and rejuvenate me? If it subjects me to what is dehumanizing, degrading or otherwise objectionable, does it put this in its proper moral light and give me sufficient reason to explore such ugliness?"

Which is what I mean by "intrinsically worthy," but thanks for fleshing it out.

listening to music is something a great many people do while they're doing something else (driving, jogging, working).

I suppose I'm unusual, but I really find it difficult to pay attention to something else while I'm listening to music (if it has lyrics, anyway). But I like working while listening to baseball games.

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The mere question of whether you are likely to be corrupted is insufficient of itself. Even if you are not likely to be corrupted, there are additional questions to ask.

Thank you. Just the point I've been trying to make.

Which is what I mean by "intrinsically worthy," but thanks for fleshing it out.

Ah. I was thrown off by "Do I want to support this?" Seems like we're probably closer than initially seemed.

I suppose I'm unusual, but I really find it difficult to pay attention to something else while I'm listening to music (if it has lyrics, anyway).

I suspect that is unusual.

All to say, if you fill your life with music with abhorrent lyrics, don't tell me about your critical skills and how it doesn't affect you. You have a moral problem.

Oh brother... :blink:

:blink: back atcha. I can understand disagreeing, maybe, kinda. But eye-rolling dismissiveness gives me serious pause at the communication/worldview chasm that likely separates us.

Then again, I've a glimmer of an idea that you and I have been down roads like this before, and your eye-rolling might in fact have less to do with me than, well. Someone or something else.

Edited by SDG

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In fact, I find the content of some old blues songs to equal or even rival modern rap in terms of brutality, anger and raw sexuality.

Do you know of any older blues artists who agree with that? The two I cited above, B.B. King and Gatemouth Brown, both made unequivocal moral distinctions between their own music and hip-hop. (Of course, B.B. is usually regarded as rather "sanitized" as blues artists go, Gate perhaps less so.)

It doesn't take a musicologist to understand that such mythology was borne of oppression and feelings of powerlessness and hopelessness . The content of most rap songs today simply carries on this rich tradition, in my view.

Are artists and their work exempt from moral considerations because they or their ancestors have been oppressed?

But only the most prejudiced, (like Walker, apparently) could miss the entire component of hiphop that's rooted in this conscious, positive tradition.

Oh, please. Walker hasn't attempted nor professed to be attempting a genre-wide survey of hip-hop culture. Rather, he's reacting to some Lil Wayne lyrics.

P.S. Did incarceration do anything to alter Lil Wayne's self-concept? I'd like to hear how serving 8 months in jail fits in with the idea of doing what he wants, going where he wants, and not taking orders from anyone. Heck, I'd like to know how his professed belief in Jesus fits in with his lyrics and the rest of his life.

Edited by mrmando

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Can I just point out how awesome I think it is that Josh "I Love the Roots and Big Boi" Hurst is the one who started this thread, seven years ago? Josh, you've come a long way, baby!

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Can I just point out how awesome I think it is that Josh "I Love the Roots and Big Boi" Hurst is the one who started this thread, seven years ago? Josh, you've come a long way, baby!

Ha! Was thinking the same thing, Joel... and yes, I dare say I have.

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As much as I agree that a lot of popular music espouses questionable morality (maybe even in more ways than Walker argues), I think he's gone too far when he says "I am concerned about the culture of rap music, including the music and the lyrics, because it is fundamentally opposed to the Biblical picture of a Christian life." I'm not a huge hip-hop head, but even when I was a kid I'm pretty sure I could tell the difference between rap songs that say drugs and murder are good vs. rap songs that say love and truth are good.

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Oh, please. Walker hasn't attempted nor professed to be attempting a genre-wide survey of hip-hop culture. Rather, he's reacting to some Lil Wayne lyrics.

And yet he says "rap". Not "some rap". Not "gangsta rap". Not "mainstream rap". but "the culture of rap music."

Token gesture towards "subgenres" aside, he's making sweeping generalizations without any evidence of sustained critical inquiry.

Again, this is an attitude I see all the time at the local level, when kids trying to start community hiphop programs face civic officials whose conception of hiphop is completely shallow, based on stereotypes and fearmongering. And yes, usually there's a degree of racism involved.

Edited by Holy Moly!

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I'm not a huge hip-hop head, but even when I was a kid I'm pretty sure I could tell the difference between rap songs that say drugs and murder are good vs. rap songs that say love and truth are good.

Just so we have everything on the table, what are some rap songs -- even better, albums -- that say that love and truth are good? (I would like to think it could go without saying that that's a straightforward question that expects an answer, not a rhetorical challenge.)

Edited by SDG

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:blink: back atcha. I can understand disagreeing, maybe, kinda. But eye-rolling dismissiveness gives me serious pause at the communication/worldview chasm that likely separates us.

Then again, I've a glimmer of an idea that you and I have been down roads like this before, and your eye-rolling might in fact have more to do with something or someone other than me.

More dizzy than dismissive. I question whether you are familiar enough with the music you refer to as "abhorrent", to make such a judgment. For the sake of this discussion it might be helpful to cite a specific song you find spiritually repugnant.

Do you know of any older blues artists who agree with that? The two I cited above, B.B. King and Gatemouth Brown, both made unequivocal moral distinctions between their own music and hip-hop. (Of course, B.B. is usually regarded as rather "sanitized" as blues artists go, Gate perhaps less so.)

Yeah Mando-- BB is fairly milquetoast as far as blues music goes, imo. I know that Skip James, who wrote some fairly dark music in his day, had issues with his own music at the end of his life. I think most of this had to do with his superstitious beliefs about all non-church music, rather than specific moral objections to the content of his tunes. Most of the guys like Skip, who penned the darker-themed blues tunes, died long before the arrival of hip hop. Skip, Robert Johnson, Leadbelly, Lightnin' Hopkins, Muddy, Howlin Wolf, etc... had tunes that contained lyrics:

1) threatening extreme physical violence to the whorish, two-timing Bad Woman (Skip went so far as to say if he got his hands on her, there wouldn't be a hospital in town that would be able to save her)

2) about being high/drunk

3) about murder

4) about sex with a woman and/or

5) bragging about personal sexual prowess in a most arrogant, exaggerated fashion

Understanding why blacks sang about these themes in blues-- and some jazz-- music and what unique cultural conditions existed at that time, is essential in appreciating this art form.

Are artists and their work exempt from moral considerations because they or their ancestors have been oppressed?
No, but these considerations do give context to certain words or ideas that white people might find objectionable. The average white middle-american has no clue-- and I mean NONE-- what it's like to live in the world that most blacks face, day in and day out. And the language or ideas we might find vulgar, distasteful or coarse might be acceptable-- or at worst simply snarky-- in that cultural sphere.

The nearly universal hatred for cops in rap lyrics, is one such theme that can only properly be judged in the context of the cultural climate of the ghetto. Whites often react to these lyrics from the context of their Officer Friendly culture, where cops are our buddies sent to protect us and always to be trusted. Most blacks live in an alternate universe where reality is altogether different.

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I'm not a huge hip-hop head, but even when I was a kid I'm pretty sure I could tell the difference between rap songs that say drugs and murder are good vs. rap songs that say love and truth are good.

Just so we have everything on the table, what are some rap songs -- even better, albums -- that say that love and truth are good? (I would like to think it could go without saying that that's a straightforward question that expects an answer, not a rhetorical challenge.)

Fair question! Here are some artists that I have liked, just off the top of my head: Blackalicious, Jurassic Five, Arrested Development, Soul-Junk, LA Symphony, Lauryn Hill, Blue Scholars. Like I said, I'm not an expert, but in my experience -- partly because I am disposed to seek out music that I find to be ultimately uplifting, I suppose -- these groups seem have an ethos that values things like faith, community, love, justice, etc.

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Talib Kweli and DJ Hi-Tek (Reflection Eternal)—Train of Thought

Mos Def -- Black On Both Sides

Arrested Development -- 3 Years 5 months and 2 days in the life of...

Public Enemy -- It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back

Lupe Fiasco -- Food & Liquor

Queen Latifah -- Black Reign

Boogie Down Productions --Ghetto Music

Common -- Be

Blue Scholars -- Bayani

Sage Francis -- Li(f)e

Source of Labor -- Stolen Lives

Roots -- How I Got Over

Africa Baambaata -- Planet Rock

D. Black - Ali'yah

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I'm not a huge hip-hop head, but even when I was a kid I'm pretty sure I could tell the difference between rap songs that say drugs and murder are good vs. rap songs that say love and truth are good.

Just so we have everything on the table, what are some rap songs -- even better, albums -- that say that love and truth are good? (I would like to think it could go without saying that that's a straightforward question that expects an answer, not a rhetorical challenge.)

Outkast - The Love Below

Jurassic Five - Power in Numbers

Edited by Cunningham

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Greg P wrote:

: The nearly universal hatred for cops in rap lyrics, is one such theme that can only properly be judged in the context of the cultural climate of the ghetto. Whites often react to these lyrics from the context of their Officer Friendly culture, where cops are our buddies sent to protect us and always to be trusted. Most blacks live in an alternate universe where reality is altogether different.

This feels like a dispatch from another era. Are there no black cops? Are whites really so untouched by all the stories of police corruption out there that they still assume the cops are always on their side?

As for songs that threaten violence to wayward women, my mind often turns to the Beatles in these discussions. If memory serves: "You better run for your life if you can little girl / Hide your head in the sand little girl / Catch you with another man, that's the end, little girl . . . I'd rather see you dead than with another man" and so on. Although I think they might have borrowed that last line from Elvis.

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And yet he says "rap". Not "some rap". Not "gangsta rap". Not "mainstream rap". but "the culture of rap music."

Token gesture towards "subgenres" aside, he's making sweeping generalizations without any evidence of sustained critical inquiry.

Which is indicative of ignorance or lack of research, certainly, but to automatically attribute it to racial prejudice is rather a reach on your part. And a knee-jerk one at that.

Edited by mrmando

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No, but these considerations do give context to certain words or ideas that white people might find objectionable. The average white middle-american has no clue-- and I mean NONE-- what it's like to live in the world that most blacks face, day in and day out. And the language or ideas we might find vulgar, distasteful or coarse might be acceptable-- or at worst simply snarky-- in that cultural sphere.

The nearly universal hatred for cops in rap lyrics, is one such theme that can only properly be judged in the context of the cultural climate of the ghetto. Whites often react to these lyrics from the context of their Officer Friendly culture, where cops are our buddies sent to protect us and always to be trusted. Most blacks live in an alternate universe where reality is altogether different.

How does this account for the popularity of hip-hop among white Catholic high-school kids, then?

And, are there rap artists who don't extol violence, substance abuse, rape, and other crimes, but still express hatred for cops?

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More dizzy than dismissive. I question whether you are familiar enough with the music you refer to as "abhorrent", to make such a judgment.

See, there's your mistake: I didn't refer to any music or lyrics in particular as abhorrent. What I said was: "if you fill your life with music with abhorrent lyrics, don't tell me about your critical skills and how it doesn't affect you. You have a moral problem." What lyrics those might be, I didn't specify.

For the sake of this discussion it might be helpful to cite a specific song you find spiritually repugnant.

It might. But it might be even more illuminating to know whether there are any songs or lyrics that you find morally repugnant. Presumably we could find songs that I would classify as such; it might not even be hard. Can we find any that you would?

And, are there rap artists who don't extol violence, substance abuse, rape, and other crimes, but still express hatred for cops?

Oh, good question.

Edited by SDG

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Which is indicative of ignorance or lack of research, certainly, but to automatically attribute it to racial prejudice is rather a reach on your part. And a knee-jerk one at that.

Alas, my knee-jerk response is based on both lived experience and textual clues. I could go into more detail unpacking the racist undertones in his attempt at musicology, and how it echoes back to longer narratives of how whites feared black music was corrupting their teens back in the 50s. Others have written about this history better than I could, though.

And, are there rap artists who don't extol violence, substance abuse, rape, and other crimes, but still express hatred for cops?

Most conscious/positive/pro-social rap artists tend to treat cops with suspicion and fear. Which is frankly pretty sensible. One of the kids I work with had a brother murdered by police. We had a bunch of major police brutality scandals in Seattle this year. It's an enduring systemic problem.

Edited by Holy Moly!

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Alas, my knee-jerk response is based on both lived experience and textual clues.

It's still knee-jerk. Rather than sorting out Walker's legitimate concerns from his musicological missteps, you're just dismissing him as a racist. Pretty effective way of not having to engage with your opponent.

Most conscious/positive/pro-social rap artists tend to treat cops with suspicion and fear.

Ah, but I asked about hatred, which is different. And no one here is trying to pretend that Lil Wayne is a conscious/positive/pro-social rap artist. Or are they?

Which is frankly pretty sensible. One of the kids I work with had a brother murdered by police.

That simple, eh? This kid's brother was entirely innocent and was targeted for a hit by the cops? Or is there more to the tale?

We had a bunch of major police brutality scandals in Seattle this year. It's an enduring systemic problem.

I guess you could classify the "Mexican piss" incident as a major police brutality scandal. The first case that comes to mind involving a black person, however, is the Franklin High School jaywalking case, which is rather less clear-cut. The young lady took the first swing at the cop in that instance. Or are you talking about the spate of police shootings in September, some of which appear to have involved trigger-happy cops? Of course, one can't overlook the late-2009 contributions of Maurice Clemmons and Christopher John Monfort to Puget Sound police/civilian relationships.

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It's still knee-jerk. Rather than sorting out Walker's legitimate concerns from his musicological missteps, you're just dismissing him as a racist. Pretty effective way of not having to engage with your opponent.

I'm not sure what you mean by "opponent." I also don't think noting that a line of argument is racist carries a dialogue-stopping stigma. I mean, I'm pretty racist. I don't consciously want to be, but it's hard not to be being raised in America, where racism is so prevalent. I just try to make myself aware of when my own racist beliefs and stereotypes pop up and stamp them out one at a time.

Ah, but I asked about hatred, which is different. And no one here is trying to pretend that Lil Wayne is a conscious/positive/pro-social rap artist. Or are they?

There's a line from a punk song about a police instigated riot that I think sums up the attitude well. "The police will not be excused. The police will not behave". First priority is holding police accountable, secondly, warning kids that they shouldn't expect police to play by the rules. Sometimes anger and disgust is expressed forcefully.

That simple, eh? This kid's brother was entirely innocent and was targeted for a hit by the cops? Or is there more to the tale?

You know, this is a really emotional story, and I'd rather not get into the details out of respect. Suffice to say, I have a lot of sympathy for young people, especially young people of color who don't view the police as their allies, even though most of my personal interactions with police have been positive.

Edited by Holy Moly!

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Anybody want to discuss rap music?

What of the rapping done by CCM artists -- I wonder if Walker would suggest that is also not worthwhile listening?

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I dunno ... has there been a CCM rap artist who could lay down a decent rhyme?

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I dunno ... has there been a CCM rap artist who could lay down a decent rhyme?

I don't know. Does LA Symphony count? They had some good MCs.

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Just put on the first DC Talk album. It is not worthwhile listening!

I kind of love the way "Heavenbound" begins with "Rue Britannia" for no reason.

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