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Josh Hurst

Hip-hop (Is rap crap?)

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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.
I just don't think it's productive to talk in generalities-- in a hip hop thread, no less-- when you make those kinds of judgments. The phrase "music with abhorrent lyrics" might just as easily be in the "CCM Guilty Pleasure" or "Modern Worship Music" threads. If there are rap lyrics you find particularly abhorrent, let's talk specifics and we'll go from there.

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?
See, i disagree. Since you are a movie critic and spend a great deal of time at A&F contributing to our amazing film forum and not so much time in the music corner, it would be much more interesting to find out which specific rap lyrics you find so morally troublesome. And let's be frank-- you're also blasting those who might enjoy this "abhorrent" stuff as moral half-steppers. So, bring the ruckus.

I have stated my views on this in other music threads over the years. In the process of evaluating the merits of popular music for myself, I find lyrics to be the least important consideration. As a matter of fact, in the case of rock music, I find "good" lyrics are often an obstruction that betrays and detracts from the form. So my objections to lyrics are rarely of a moral nature. I get irked by lyrics when they vaunt their literary sensibilities, are overtly clever, preachy or self-conscious. In popular music--especially rock n roll-- this oversight is a big fly in the ointment. Great rock n' roll CAN feature great lyrics, but such a marriage is rare.

Having said that, some of the best lyricists in modern music are rappers. The best ones have a dynamic instinct for fitting subject matter, phrasing, narrative, humor and the "shape" and impact of certain words at specific moments inside the song. In this sense, the best ones operate on a discipline that has more in common with a gospel singer or jazz musician, than a pop star.

Because you haven't been specific about the rap content you find so abhorrent, i can only assume you're referring to lyrics that speak at all of murder, sexuality, violence against women or smoking weed. In which case I guess it's safe to assume you probably don't have many jazz or blues albums in your possession either.

Edited by Greg P

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Because you haven't been specific about the rap content you find so abhorrent, i can only assume you're referring to lyrics that speak at all of murder, sexuality, violence against women or smoking weed. In which case I guess it's safe to assume you probably don't have many jazz or blues albums in your possession either.

It's possible to assemble a pretty healthy jazz collection without including any objectionable lyrics. Heck, you could pile up thousands of jazz albums that have no lyrics at all. As for blues, so what? Very few people have a ton of blues records, and if Steven is among them, that hardly refutes his arguments.

While it's true that hip-hop can be better understood in the context of a specific subculture, the fact is that unlike blues or jazz, hip-hop has gone mainstream, to the point where subcultural explanations fail to address the entire phenomenon.

Edited by mrmando

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So my objections to lyrics are rarely of a moral nature.

Are your objections ever of a moral nature? This is what I'm trying to figure out. I understand your wish to pin me down on what I find objectionable, but I'm more interested in figuring out whether we can agree on whether there is such a thing as morally objectionable lyrics, and for that it would be helpful if you would play. Are lyrics ever morally repellent or not?

Because you haven't been specific about the rap content you find so abhorrent, i can only assume you're referring to lyrics that speak at all of murder, sexuality, violence against women or smoking weed.

Why must you assume that? You can't think of any other possibilities? Do you also think that I object to all movies that "speak of" murder, sexuality, violence against women or smoking weed? Did you miss my earlier post above in which I posed the critical question "If [art] 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?" Does that make it sound as if I object to "speaking of" immoral things?

P.S. I'll name some names in my next post -- but not necessarily the names you're expecting. :) Late for church.

Edited by SDG

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So my objections to lyrics are rarely of a moral nature.

Are your objections ever of a moral nature? This is what I'm trying to figure out. I understand your wish to pin me down on what I find objectionable, but I'm more interested in figuring out whether we can agree on whether there is such a thing as morally objectionable lyrics, and for that it would be helpful if you would play. Are lyrics ever morally repellent or not?

Heh. You're skirting the direct challenge for the third time. ;)

It's a fair proposal and I'll play.

The folks here who huddle at the music water cooler know that I don't pay much attention to lyrics in modern music. This has nothing to do with moral considerations-- or lack of-- and has to do mainly with the way I respond emotionally to music. I love music and in the case of songs that contain singing and actual words, I respond first and foremost to the singers delivery, melodic choices, his ownership of a style or specific performance and the juxtaposition of the word-shapes against the backdrop of the instruments. If those all connect, I may dig deeper to hear what the singer is actually saying, but it is a tertiary consideration. Frequently, as is the case with singers like Thom Yorke or Ben Bridwell, I am surprised at how mundane some of their lyrical passages are. Sometimes even after reading the lyrics, I have no clue what they're about and it frankly does not matter ONE BIT to me, so far as the efficacy of the music is concerned. This says nothing about my moral convictions and everything about how I interact with sounds, textures and compositions. Those primal components create certain transporting visual and emotional images for me, and I respond to them and enjoy the ride. If the sonic "ride" turns out to have poignant or meaningful lyrics that speak to my current frame of mind, then that's an unexpected bonus. If the vehicle has striking lyrical profundity and yet doesn't take me anywhere emotionally via the MUSIC, it's of all things most worthless to me. For words alone, there are books. And I love those too.

We had a small debate about this when Blood From Stars came out, and it seemed to me that many were in awe of Henry's lyrical depth and some of the spiritual themes he was addressing. This made absolutely no difference to me whatsoever-- he could've easily been singing about pimping and smacking his bitch around-- and my response would've been the same. I was bored. The music made no connection with me, the compositions weren't memorable and I found his "soulful" vocal delivery heavily affected and false. Did he sing of brokenness and redemption and love? That's what everyone said, but I couldn't care less-- a CD is ultimately MUSIC and the music on Blood From Stars did nothing for me. If he ever releases a book of poetry, I'll buy it. I believe in all the things he writes about, so chances are good that I'll find it enjoyable on some level.

Are there lyrics that I've scrutinized enough to find morally objectionable?

Not many.

I love early KISS (73-77)and can defend their trashy, blatantly-stolen three chord rock from a critical and historical perspective. But Christine Sixteen-- while representing one of their very best 3-minute compositions-- involves a narrative featuring a promiscuous under-age school girl and I find that morally repugnant. However, to be fair, times were different in 1977, there was not the same sensitivity to issues of child abuse and the narrative could be sung from the perspective of another 16-year old boy to a peer, you know "first crush" kinda thing... in which case, I wouldn't really have a moral objection. Knowing Gene Simmons, my guess is he intended the former. No need to give that avowed hedonist the benefit of the doubt. He is a devoted father now of a teenage girl, and I'd be curious to know what he thinks of those lyrics at this stage of his life. Whatever the case, I tend to forward through that tune, on the rare occasions I spin Lovegun.

Ditto with Muddy Waters' "Good Morning Little School Girl", which covers pretty much the same subject matter. Muddy was even older when he recorded that ditty, so the creep factor is high. Again, in leveling a moral objection to such lyrics, it's vital to consider historical context. Under that criteria, Muddy and even Gene may get a temporary pass from me, where Flo Rida rapping the same kind of lyrics today would not.

Are there rap songs that promote rape and cop-killing? I've heard very, very few that could critically be viewed as "promoting" such activities. And in finding moral objections to that type of content, I think you would need to find grounds that an artist is propagandizing such behavior, as opposed to a narrative that includes characters behaving in objectionable ways.

This topic brings to mind the evangelist i heard in the mind 80's who was blasting rock music and it's insidious influence on the minds of teenagers. One of his most vehement rants, oddly, was against the The Police's B-side ditty "Murder By Numbers". The satirical narrative of the song, mentioning "bumping off" members of your family as "easy as 1-2-3"-- had that rigid moralist in an absolute fit. The song was clearly promoting mass murder.

There are underground artists who use lyrical shock tactics to make a name for themselves, but these are not mainstream artists in any sense and it's doubtful that anyone here has been listening to them lately or that they represent a realistic "danger" to 14-year old "Heather" or "Ryan".

Edited by Greg P

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

The first couple of albums by the Gospel Gangstaz had some pretty decent stuff. For example...

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Anybody want to discuss rap music?

I'm no rap guru, but I find the album BLAZING ARROW by Blackalicious to be jaw-droppingly awesome.

My favorite summer soundtrack, actually-- I associate that record with the season in the same way that many do the Beach Boys. Any crew that can enlist Gil Scott-Heron to provide the hook is okay in my book.

Thinking the Big Boi might be my new go-to summer jam, though-- not that it's any more "summery," just that it's so totally bangin'.

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Heh. You're skirting the direct challenge for the third time. ;)

No, I'm not. I said I was late for church and I'd name names when I could. A rain check isn't skirting.

FWIW, let me highlight the fact that I said "If you fill your life with abhorrent lyrics." I am not necessarily talking about one song on a mix CD or a few songs in a basically decent library. I'm saying if you make as a staple of your aesthetic diet lyrics that are contrary to the good, the true and the beautiful -- and yes, I will name names as to what is contrary to the good, the true and the beautiful -- you have a problem.

It sounds to me as if your lengthy caveat about not caring about lyrics might amount to the musical equivalent of "But I don't inhale." Well, maybe. I've heard that people read Playboy for the articles, and I suppose some would claim to do the same with Hustler and Barely Legal. (Disclaimer: I had to Google to find a third title for rhetorical purposes.) Perhaps if you don't inhale then you don't "fill your life" with lyrics at all.

At any rate, you seem hard pressed to come up with any song lyrics you actually consider repellent, full stop. Even when you cough up a couple of examples, you immediately hedge your disapproval with historical contextualization (though note I wasn't judging the artists, only saying that making a diet of the music represents a moral problem). In short, it almost seems you don't so much disagree with my statement that "if you fill your life with music with abhorrent lyrics ... you have a moral problem" as disagree, very nearly, with my premise that there are abhorrent lyrics.

I wonder whether you would be equally hard pressed to name movies, books or TV shows you consider abhorrent? Somehow I doubt you would find it hard to name names regarding, say, Christian evangelists or celebrity personalities whose overall outlook you find abhorrent. Clearly there are abhorrent ideas out there; is artistic expression a moral disinfectant?

Enough cross-examination. What do I consider contrary to the good, the true and the beautiful? I'm no music junkie and I'm sure others could easily do better, but here are a few titles that I dug up (with some help). Just to make my point, I'm deliberately not going for the worst of the worst with most of these examples. Even so, don't fill your life with this stuff, or make it a staple of your aesthetic diet.

  • Let's start with the 19th-century Irish ditty "Rosin the Beau." Here's a song about saluting and burying a drunk old fiddler serenely on his way to hell. (Bet you weren't expecting that!)
  • Songs that embrace or romanticize adultery and infidelity: "High Steppin' Daddy" (Kentucky Headhunters); "Me and Mrs. Jones" (Billy Paul); "Love the One You're With" (Stephen Stills, good God, I've heard this at more than one wedding reception); "Torn Between Two Lovers" (Mary MacGregor, ugh ugh ugh, heard this a lot growing up).
  • Other sexually ugly songs: The unexpurgated "Tutti Frutti" (Little Richard) doo-wops about the mechanics of buggery; "Tube Snake Boogie" (ZZ Top) embraces promiscuity, with an obscene metaphor right in the title; "Only the Good Die Young" (Billy Joel), in the artist's words "not so much anti-Catholic as pro-lust" (like that's better).
  • Songs that embrace drunkenness or substance abuse: I know some songs in this genre may be ironic or cautionary -- "Take My Drunk Ass Home" (Luke Bryan) strikes me as an example -- but I think "Family Tradition" (Hank Williams Jr., another wedding reception favorite) and "Heroin" (The Velvet Underground) mean it.
  • Some songs qualify in more than one category, like "Why Don't We Get Drunk (and Screw)" (Jimmy Buffet) and the similarly themed "Let's Get Drunk and Fight" (Joe Nichols).
  • Oh, I almost forgot: White supremacy anyone? How about Johnny Rebel, who's down with the KKK and segregation, and uses the n-word as much as any rapper, but, you know, in a Jim Crow kind of way? Or how about Prussian Blue, the Aryan twins, with their "white pride" songs? There's also some of that stuff in Johnny Legend & His Rockabilly Bastards, but I'm told they may at least somewhat kidding, whereas it looks like Johnny Rebel and Prussian Blue are totally serious.

I dunno, maybe a defense could be made for some of these songs. Maybe I'm missing the cultural context or something. Maybe someone would argue that these artists (or some of them) are merely attesting the human condition, or something of the sort. I say some of the uglier aspects of the human condition, especially when presented without adequate moral light, or in a false moral light, are not a place anyone would want to make a habit of frequenting, if they wish to be conformed to the good, the beautiful and the true.

Anyway, since the topic is rap and hip-hop, here are a few more (and yeah, I had to use Google here too): "Bitches Ain't Shit" (Dr. Dre); "Hit 'Em Up" (Tupac Shakur); "Return Of Da Baby Killa" (Brotha Lynch Hung); "Big Booty Hoes" (Notorious B.I.G.); "Getting Some Head" and "Wait Till You See My D*ck" (found the titles in an article and figured I probably didn't need to look up the lyrics or the artists). I dunno if anyone here wants to defend any of those. I'm sure there's quite a bit more where those came from, but my head hurts already.

Edited by SDG

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"Only the Good Die Young" (Billy Joel), in the artist's words "not so much anti-Catholic as pro-lust" (like that's better).

Every time I hear this song at work (one of my client's love's Billy Joel) my blood boils BIGTIME.

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"Only the Good Die Young" (Billy Joel), in the artist's words "not so much anti-Catholic as pro-lust" (like that's better).

Every time I hear this song at work (one of my client's love's Billy Joel) my blood boils BIGTIME.

Suz is the longtime Billy Joel fan in our household. This song was her contribution to my list (although my Calvinist brother independently suggested the same song).

Confidential to Andy Whitman: I hope my explosion of lyrical rigor hasn't made you regret/rethink any of your musicological selections on my behalf. ::blushing::

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Well, I can clearly disagree with "Heroin" being contrary to the beautiful. My perception of what is beautiful isn't tied to moral principles, since I perceive and feel things before I ever reflect about them (or moralize them). I may judge them "bad" after, but I would be dead wrong of finding them ugly for that matter.

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My perception of what is beautiful isn't tied to moral principles

This is where we disagree absolutely. At least, I disagree absolutely with what this statement seems to mean, if I'm reading it rightly.

The good, the true and the beautiful are inseparable. All are modes under which we experience echoes of the Divine Nature, the ground and source of all goodness and truth and beauty. Through the good, the true and the beautiful God calls us to Himself.

I don't deny that we can experience fragments of goodness, truth or beauty in highly problematic contexts, including songs like the ones I mentioned. I am saying that to make a habit of frequenting such contexts for the sake of those fragments is to miss the larger reality, to our own detriment.

To be clear, I should also explicitly articulate my commitment to the "absolute primacy of the objective moral order" which "surpasses and fittingly coordinates all other spheres of human affairs -- the arts not excepted -- even though they be endowed with notable dignity" (Inter Mirifica 6).

Edited by SDG

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It sounds to me as if your lengthy caveat about not caring about lyrics might amount to the musical equivalent of "But I don't inhale." Well, maybe. I've heard that people read Playboy for the articles, and I suppose some would claim to do the same with Hustler and Barely Legal. (Disclaimer: I had to Google to find a third title for rhetorical purposes.) Perhaps if you don't inhale then you don't "fill your life" with lyrics at all.

Lyrical content is never the main criteria for me in judging the value of a particular piece of music. That is all. Why you choose to read something else into that is your own critical shortcoming, not mine. This standard is not some foreign concept in popular music criticism, nor is it a cloaking device for the morally dubious. Some of us just have really high standards for composition, musicianship and artistic/stylistic merit.

I would never "feed on" "Tube Snake Boogie", "Take My Drunk Ass Home" or "Let's Get Drunk and Screw" because that music represents the lowest-common denominator pap-- just from a compositional and technical standpoint. If those tunes were titled "Jesus, Lover of My Soul", "Save Yourself For True Love" or "I Sacrifice For my Family" they would still suck... and in my book, might actually suck worse for their faux nobility. The point is, as pieces of music, they contain no artistic merit to me whatsoever. Anyone who feeds on that stuff all day long is a Philistine right out of the gate. (On second thought, early ZZ Top does have some artistic merit-- those first few albums contained some excellent playing, great grooves and a represented a unique twist on the electric blues trio format)

I wonder whether you would be equally hard pressed to name movies, books or TV shows you consider abhorrent? Somehow I doubt you would find it hard to name names regarding, say, Christian evangelists or celebrity personalities whose overall outlook you find abhorrent. Clearly there are abhorrent ideas out there; is artistic expression a moral disinfectant?
No. There are many ideas in art that I find abhorrent. A musician playing in a covers band is abhorrent to me. Certain styles and production techniques are abhorrent to me, as are crappy guitar solos, horribly cliched lyrics, self-consciousness, preachiness, hackneyed chord progressions and so on. Lyrics? I just don't seem to hear them that well-- even in my favorite tunes. I remember looking up the lyrics to "Jigsaw Falling Into Place" and being utterly surprised at what was actually being said. Not that I found the words distasteful, but because of his trademark delivery it was difficult to discern the lines clearly. I had actually invented my own lyrics, which i sang whenever i listened to the tune. For the record, I think my version was much better! Did this revelation change anything about what I liked artistically or about what I felt when i heard the song? ABSOLUTELY NOT.

The same could be said of just about every Led Zeppelin song ever written. Bad lyrics, crude lyrics, NO lyrics (howls, grunts, squeals) -- as an appreciator of music, it doesn't matter to me. The music, the performances and creativity trump any bone-headed lyrics Plant may --or may not!-- be saying.

Also any song ever recorded by the Swedish band Soundtrack of Our Lives. On paper, their lyrics are an abomination-- written by guys who obviously don't have the benefit of english being their first language. Their lyrics are what would happen if my seven year old son fronted a band. They aren't abhorrent-- they're just very second grade in their rhyming scheme and contain a most convoluted sense of narrative. And you know what? It really doesn't effect my listening experience at all. This is rock n' roll, brother and garage rock isn't primarily cerebral-- it's felt in the gut. And with TSOOL, the gut just happens to win out (they also happen to write decent tunes with odd but memorable melodies)

But regardless, I don't turn to art to find moral answers for my life-- be it movies, music, painting or literature. One can always find some moral considerations there, in varying degrees, but that's not the pursuit for me.

To flip it around for a moment, I don't look for artistic content in sermons either. That doesn't mean a pastoral exposition can't have some creative structure or artistic flourishes, but that's not the point of a sermon.

Need more abhorrent lyrics? How about this one: "Blessed is he who dashes thy little ones skulls against the rocks" ? Sounds like the darkest line of Norwegian Death Metal to me. Want to be blessed by your deity? Grab the infants of your enemy by the heels and swing them into the jagged cliffs until their brains burst out! Lovely. On the surface, THAT is repugnant. And please, no need to get into a exegetical discussion on the imprecatory passages in the Psalms- I understand those arguments. My point merely is, that such a lyric would probably be judged as abhorrent by 99% of the population. But the reality is, there are textual and historic considerations that MUST be applied if one is to reach an intelligent conclusion about what is really being said in that "song". Skeptics are always going to find such reasoning suspect.

Edited by Greg P

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Lyrical content is never the main criteria for me in judging the value of a particular piece of music. That is all. Why you choose to read something else into that is your own critical shortcoming, not mine.

Then lyrical content is something of a criterion? Is it an aesthetic criterion only, or do moral questions play any role? Does this question "Is this good, is this beautiful, is this true?" come into play at all when you do evaluate lyrics?

As for my "reading into" your comments -- hey, don't forget, a few posts ago you were willing to "assume [that I was] referring to lyrics that speak at all of murder, sexuality, violence against women or smoking weed." Here I've been trying for some time, at some length, to see if you can unambiguously say "Here is a song with morally reprehensible lyrics that I would not want as a staple in my diet because of the lyrics," full stop. So far it's almost like you're only willing to go squarely to bat against a lyric if it's in the Bible.

I would never "feed on" "Tube Snake Boogie", "Take My Drunk Ass Home" or "Let's Get Drunk and Screw" because that music represents the lowest-common denominator pap-- just from a compositional and technical standpoint. If those tunes were titled "Jesus, Lover of My Soul", "Save Yourself For True Love" or "I Sacrifice For my Family" they would still suck... and in my book, might actually suck worse for their faux nobility.

Why do you dodge the issue by hiding behind a musical critique of those songs I cited that hold no musical interest for you? We're discussing lyrics. Reverse your thought experiment: What if the lyrics of these songs were put to fantastic music? Would it make a difference to you?

And what about all the songs I mentioned that you don't list here? Are all the songs I listed musically crap?

Clearly there are abhorrent ideas out there; is artistic expression a moral disinfectant?

No. There are many ideas in art that I find abhorrent. A musician playing in a covers band is abhorrent to me. Certain styles and production techniques are abhorrent to me, as are crappy guitar solos, horribly cliched lyrics, self-consciousness, preachiness, hackneyed chord progressions and so on.

More dodging. I asked is it a moral disinfectant. We're talking about moral abhorrence, not aesthetic abhorrence. [Edit: I also asked about abhorrent ideas, not abhorrent behavior. We're talking about what art expresses, in particular via lyrics, not how it expresses it, by musical excellence or lack thereof.]

Lyrics? I just don't seem to hear them that well-- even in my favorite tunes.

In other words, you don't inhale? How was I being unfair to you earlier?

But regardless, I don't turn to art to find moral answers for my life-- be it movies, music, painting or literature. One can always find some moral considerations there, in varying degrees, but that's not the pursuit for me.

I'm not talking about "turning to art to find moral answers for your life," I'm talking about applying whatever answers you have found to everything in your life, including art. You can't bracket "art" in one bucket and "answers for my life" in another bucket and keep them separate from each other. If the answers matter, they matter all the time. If the question of the good, the true and the beautiful don't matter when it comes to art, then when would it matter?

Edited by SDG

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I actually agree with SDG to some extent. It's naive to think we can consume art and not be affected by the values it communicates. This is where discernment comes into the picture. I don't think the channels through which most people consume media lend themselves to discernment.

At this same time, I often find " horribly cliched lyrics, self-consciousness, preachiness, hackneyed chord progressions and so on" morally objectionable, and I'm not being funny.

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I actually agree with SDG to some extent. It's naive to think we can consume art and not be affected by the values it communicates. This is where discernment comes into the picture. I don't think the channels through which most people consume media lend themselves to discernment.

At this same time, I often find " horribly cliched lyrics, self-consciousness, preachiness, hackneyed chord progressions and so on" morally objectionable, and I'm not being funny.

Thanks. I actually agree with your last comment to some extent, and I'm not being funny either. It goes to the interrelatedness of the good, the true and the beautiful.

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The good, the true and the beautiful are inseparable. All are modes under which we experience echoes of the Divine Nature, the ground and source of all goodness and truth and beauty. Through the good, the true and the beautiful God calls us to Himself.

I confirm: we disagree completely. I guess that explains why I'm not Christian.

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Eh? So you're not Christian because you think God calls us to himself through the bad, the false and the ugly?

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Here I've been trying for some time, at some length, to see if you can unambiguously say "Here is a song with morally reprehensible lyrics that I would not want as a staple in my diet because of the lyrics," full stop. So far it's almost like you're only willing to go squarely to bat against a lyric if it's in the Bible.
And if you read my comments carefully, you'll see that I'm not batting against that verse at all. I do find the imagery it conveys to be pretty disgusting, but it's A SONG LYRIC that expresses certain EMOTIONS in rather extravagant poetic language. It is not doctrine. It certainly is an ugly line and very easy to misread. To properly understand the writer of the song, in this case, requires some effort on the part of the audience. So, we do this as a matter of course when seeking to understand ancient Hebraic art, but not modern music?

Art conveys these sort of fragments and glimpses into our humanity. Those distorted, often harsh, fragments represent the wonder of art to me-- whether in a rap song, a Psalm or a folk ballad. Larger, more homogeneous realities exist elsewhere in life thankfully.

Context is vital and there are historical and cultural considerations that need to be extended to much of rap music to properly understand what these artists are saying.

I wouldn't morally defend "Bitches Ain't Shit". It's so over-the-top in its vulgarity and blatant misogyny as to be almost comical. I'm not even sure finding a cultural context would help Dre out here, even though he is sorta right.

That tune, took obscene disregard for women to another level and to this day represents a rather extreme example of content in rap songs. However, I have chuckled many times while listening to it, and laughter counts for something worthwhile in my book.

More dodging. I asked is it a moral disinfectant. We're talking about moral abhorrence, not aesthetic abhorrence. [Edit: I also asked about abhorrent ideas, not abhorrent behavior. We're talking about what art expresses, in particular via lyrics, not how it expresses it, by musical excellence or lack thereof.]
Well if you're primarily concerned with over-arching IDEAS that are being conveyed in music-- as opposed to just objecting to a rap tune because it uses the word c*nt or talks about shaving c**ch-- how else can you do that without engaging certain cultural considerations?

If the answers matter, they matter all the time.

Agreed.

However I don't believe art is about "answers" or any other pragmatic, efficiency-minded compartmentalization.

This is where you and I will always disagree. I listen to good music, be it rap or otherwise, because it speaks to me in the moment and reminds me that I'm still alive... in all my tumbledown glory. It delivers pangs of regret, joy, fear, love and wistful longings for things I can't put into words.It pisses me off, allows me to vent rage, helps me rest and make me pine for hot monkey sex.

Music can most certainly affirm the absolute truths we hold dear-- and when it does I can appreciate it-- but that's not the reason I enjoy music.

Edited by Greg P

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It's naive to think we can consume art and not be affected by the values it communicates.

Isn't that a personal experience? I mean, to keep the example of "Heroin", it's a fascinating piece of beauty to me, but I've never needed to become a junkie. I'm not sure art communicates values. It's the way art affects you and the way you deal with it that is important. Personally, I've always enjoyed any art for what it is: art. If the art is secondary to any other kind of subject, I'm less interested.

Eh? So you're not Christian because you think God calls us to himself through the bad, the false and the ugly?

No, because I think these three things aren't inseparable.

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I'm not sure art communicates values. It's the way art affects you and the way you deal with it that is important. Personally, I've always enjoyed any art for what it is: art. If the art is secondary to any other kind of subject, I'm less interested.

So you're of the persuasion that art is a completely subjective experience which only has the meaning that the individual engaging with it gives it?

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And if you read my comments carefully, you'll see that I'm not batting against that verse at all.

I knew that. I was poking you. My point was that it was the one lyric you dramatically cited as abhorrent, which makes it seem as if your main interest is undermining the idea of moral abhorrence as a basis of objecting to anything.

Context is vital and there are historical and cultural considerations that need to be extended to much of rap music to properly understand what these artists are saying. I wouldn't morally defend "Bitches Ain't Shit"... I mean, who would? It's so over-the-top in its vulgarity and blatant misogyny as to be almost comical.

It may be just my perception, but it's beginning to look to me as if you are downright eager to embrace or assume any attitude or stance rather than express offense or moral disapproval. Disparage the music; contextualize the lyrics; if all else fails, call it over-the-top and comical. Anything not to be found saying "This is just plain wrong." It's almost comical, the sense I have of you (true or false) twisting to avoid the posture of moral censure at any cost.

It makes me wonder whether the whole idea of moral disapproval, certainly morally disapproving of song lyrics, might not carry for you associations of a style of Christianity you've turned away from, a style of thinking from which you need to affirm your independence.

I apologize if I'm off the mark; I don't claim I'm right, but that's the vibe I'm getting.

I'm not even sure finding a cultural context would help Dre out here, even though he is sorta right.

I have No Idea what this might mean.

That tune, took obscene disregard for women to another level and to this day represents a rather extreme example of content in rap songs. However, I have chuckled many times while listening to it, and laughter counts for something good, no matter how small, in my book. Right?

Even if this were true, as I wrote to Hughes: "I don't deny that we can experience fragments of goodness, truth or beauty in highly problematic contexts, including songs like the ones I mentioned. I am saying that to make a habit of frequenting such contexts for the sake of those fragments is to miss the larger reality, to our own detriment."

I don't believe art is about "answers" or any other pragmatic, efficiency-minded compartmentalization.

I repeat: If the question of the good, the true and the beautiful doesn't matter when it comes to art, then when would it matter?

This is where you and I will always disagree. I listen to good music, be it rap or otherwise, because it speaks to me in the moment and reminds me that I'm still alive... in all my tumbledown glory. It delivers pangs of regret, joy, fear, love and wistful longings for things I can't put into words.

I bet adultery does that too.

Edited by SDG

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I repeat: If the question of the good, the true and the beautiful doesn't matter when it comes to art, then when would it matter?

Oh it matters, it's just that the "good, the true and beautiful" in art are not objective realities.

This is where you and I will always disagree. I listen to good music, be it rap or otherwise, because it speaks to me in the moment and reminds me that I'm still alive... in all my tumbledown glory. It delivers pangs of regret, joy, fear, love and wistful longings for things I can't put into words.

I bet adultery does that too.

I wouldn't know. But if you've never experienced any of those while listening to music, you're really missing something, man.

It makes me wonder whether the whole idea of moral disapproval, certainly morally disapproving of song lyrics, might not carry for you associations of a style of Christianity you've turned away from, a style of thinking from which you need to affirm your independence.
I've cited a few examples of songs I morally disapprove of and even described skipping the tune in my playlist for that reason. For some reason I did not show sufficient outrage for you. Here: "Christine Sixteen is FILTH and NO ONE OF ANY MORAL CHARACTER HAS A REASON TO EVER TAP THEIR FOOT OR HUM ALONG TO IT. EVER!"

Maybe I'm not as incensed by such lyrics as you because... uh, i dont know... they're pop songs, Steven and not many people take them seriously. Including Dre's tune.

And btw-- I'm not the only one who's ever found humor in that Dr. Dre tune... Check out Ben Folds' piano ballad cover on YouTube for a good laugh. It's one of his most requested live tunes.

Edited by Greg P

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Oh it matters, it's just that the "good, the true and beautiful" in art are not objective realities.

Then why do you object to crappy guitar solos, horribly cliched lyrics, self-consciousness, preachiness, hackneyed chord progressions and so on? I guess you were only kidding when you said they were abhorrent. All you really meant was not your taste?

I wouldn't know. But if you've never experienced any of those while listening to music, you're really missing something, man.

Of course I have. What is more, I take such experiences as echoes of the Divine Nature, the ground and source of all goodness and truth and beauty, very much objective realities.

Edited by SDG

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