Anyway, I just wanted to ramble at length a little bit about the development of my own personal music tastes, and just some thoughts I've had about hip hop as a genre and even as a movement. I will admit that I didn't have much respect for MCs in the past- especially around the time I started developing a taste for music and popular culture (around high school) because, though the tracks were always danceable, I just didn't feel like the artists themselves were really saying anything that I wanted to hear. I couldn't relate. I could sit and chill with Rob Thomas as he and MB20 cranked out tunes about the anxiety of getting older and starting a new life or the thrill and simultaneous terror that comes with finding someone to love. The Backstreet Boys represented everything about youth to me and even Blink 182 made me laugh about the awkwardness that is adolescence and young adulthood. But Juvenile? Puff Daddy? Foxy Brown? As much as I knew I should have been close to them, should have supported, defended and enjoyed their music I couldn't. Even though there were people like Nas, Outkast and countless other underground/not as mainstream artists that I didn't know about, they weren't the ones really in the forefront, they weren't the ones that I, as a young girl living in Central Ohio, could really have exposure to.
And then Ludacris came along.
Okay, so yeah, maybe he isn't the long ago foreseen prophet of hip hop, but you have to admit dude is nice on the mic. The summer that Southern Hospitality came out I began to actually see rap for the amazing and diverse genre that it is. It's like when you grow up next to some gangly looking kid who you're pretty sure has never even seen a noxema (yeah, throwback to the 90's!) commercial let alone ever been acquainted with their product. But then you graduate high school, and you see him in that cap and gown, smiling, coming into the man that he really is and has always been and you notice that his skin is more clear, his shoulders are more broad, and his smile is captivating- and you fall in love. Well yeah, it wasn't all of that at once for me, but he definitely opened the door. What hooked me on Luda wasn't necessarily what he was saying, but the wit that he used and the clever way that he laced his lines together (hand-me-down socks then hand-me-down rocks? Come on, y'all know that is hilarious and hot).
So I got into mainstream rap and started to like artists not just for the tracks that their producers created but for the lyrical skill that they employed. Ludacris remained my favorite, but then I started to be a little more impressed with Fabolous, a little bit of Li'l Wayne and Jay-Z. And it was cool, it was real cool. I found that rap had a pretty warm home and it invited me in to stay a while, so I did. Rap became my connection to the world, whenever an MC called out the midwest they were calling out my city, my home, my name. But for some reason I just couldn't fight the feeling that something was just slightly amiss.
It's pretty obvious that Black people, and in my case Black Americans, are a small, very marginalized and often invisible community in the racially stratified society that makes up the U.S.A. But here were these MCs, these men and sometimes women who were placed at the forefront of popular culture- they transcended the barriers that keep so many Black people hidden and became visible and vocal. But damn, the messages that some of them were putting out there weren't always so hot, you know? Even though they try to escape it, however much they scream "I am not a role model!" it can't be denied that the nature of their status in American society makes their success a double-edged sword; they can have all the things that they probably never thought could possibly be available to them, but being forced into the limelight makes them a part of a very small amount of representations of Black people. And they need to do a good job, right?
Yeah, so therein lies the rub. And again, that all-consuming blackness. Just when you think you may have escaped it, there it is, smothering everything you touch and coating all of your accomplishments with its pain, its joy and the implications that those things have for you and your people.
After I started realizing this it was just like.. well damn. How can I enjoy this track now that I know that it creates a negative image of Black people, of me? How can I dance to a song that, on the surface level subjugates Black women? Having these questions made me angry, but they also made me thoughtful. I began to do more research on hip hop- its beginnings, its founders, all that stuff. I had to figure out where it went wrong (and shit, if it was wrong) and why...
Okay, so this is really long. I'm going to finish it later on today or tomorrow since it got so rambly. But until then I'll leave you with a few songs/videos that I particularly enjoy from the kind of hip hop that I began to enjoy and will talk about in my next blog post...
This video is hilarious..
So yeah, I'll be back soon!