27 March 2011

Not in defense of Hip-Hop but common sense.

Photo: Just press the button and music will come out.

There’s many versions, but I guess the dominant one is that Hip-Hop culture – a subculture of Black Culture as Chuck D would point out – has four elements that are not generally disputed by anyone. These elements are the art of emceeing (rapping), deejaying, break dancing and graffiti. There are others that have been suggested from knowledge of self to beer, and while other ideas have been more widely accepted than others, I suppose the only real consensus remains exclusively around these four.

I have been recently thinking a lot about these things, because I have been reading a lot – well, at least a bit – about the art form and it is curious how all four elements have been widely discredited.

I guess everything has its objectors, and I admit I am biased, but the attack on Hip-Hop has been more consistent than the military one to oil producing Moslem countries.

Rappers rap because they cannot sing. This is a common one to discredit often the most visible aspect of Hip-Hop. As if it was easy to rhyme. And I guess all of us can come up with something simle like cat and hat but many of us can play football in the park and not all of us can do it on a level of the top players in the stadiums. It seems to be assumed, as with everything that is Hip-Hop that everyone could do it if only they could be bothered. Granted I am not a big fan of all rappers. Rappers don’t get any unconditional stamp of approval from me and I think I am relatively picky – actually – but as an art form, a vocal application and a form of expression rapping is very powerful and I have always found it to have more impact than just poetry although I have nothing against poetry either. The way to articulate sometimes simple and sometimes complex matters to wide audiences to me is nearly magical. There are many topics that would have never featured broadly on any public platforms should emcees not have had that power in their words. There’s a lot of nothingy and many objectionable raps out there – sometimes it feels like they’re the majority – but the truth remains that if you think being a great rapper is easy, you are an idiot.

It’s not real music; pressing a button is not real musicianship. Well, it is perhaps true that the producers and deejays of Hip-Hop aren’t exactly the same as traditional musicians. Of course we could say that playing piano is also just pressing a ‘buttons’ but no one would ever suggest that in which order is irrelevant. Rap is not music, but it is a specific type of vocal style over music and sonically its tradition is defined by deejays. It’s is therefore different, but even if you don’t like it, it is not wrong and most of all, to make a really good Hip-Hop instrumental is a little bit more than just pressing a button or at least I don't know where the magic button is, if there is one.

Break dancing is not real dancing. Again, break dancing is different and perhaps often closer to acrobatics than waltz, and while to an untrained eye it appears like someone is electrocuted, this really is one of the most amazing skills that is associated with any culture. While I don’t spend anywhere near as much time and effort to witness it as I do with some other elements, break dancing, perhaps together with beatboxing which I don’t talk much about is one of those things that most leave me just staring with my mouth open and baffled – how is one able do this?

Graffiti is an act of vandalism. Graffiti artists are criminals with no artistic merit. Some small time taggers like to leave their poor handwriting for us to see with their black markers, but graffiti art is something else and I must say that the proper graffiti art rarely defaces any particularly beautiful and new buildings. We can simplify – my goodness that seems to be what people want – but I for one could not do graffiti. That is actually an extension of me not being able to practice any of the four elements.

While all of these four elements have been good enough to be used to generate money for various corporations and sell almost any product imaginable, there seems to be a widespread need to discredit this art form on some pseudo-intellectual level. People make all kinds of statement and back them up very poorly. Music is a question of taste and while one can criticise and make their opinion heard, there is no need for an all out attack on something you don’t like. I hate to sound like I am simplifying, but I don’t think I am; if Hip-Hop was White culture it would have been left alone. That is not to say that it is racist to not like Hip-Hop, but that a lot of racist like to let their racist steam out by attacking this art form. Nothing new here really, but worth remembering especially for us of the fairer hue.

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