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February 20, 2007

You know what...

I wish I had thought of this last week...

In regard to authorial intent, specifically - why is it that academia always beats it into our heads that we have understand the author, the author's life, their society, etc....but when it comes to other art forms, we are told to separate the artist from the art? Something, once again, like Rap music we are told about how the lyrics and the rhymes are misogynistic, sexist, racist, etc...but can't one critically look into these as products of the artist's life?

Eminem is a decent example of this. A lot of people tend to immediately tear him down because he does say some inflammatory things. Partly, I will admit, was to keep his name out there at the tip of everyone's tongues, but at the same time, he was speaking from his life. How can old, pasty white men (read: congress) sit there and tell us how nobody should listen to this trash and garbage...when, ultimately, its a product of society and lifestyle, which is precisely what these people were elected to enhance.

When an elected official condemns something like rap music, as a blanket statement, they are proving how truly out of touch with their electorate and the mainstream they are. Like I said in that previous entry, I will be the first to admit that there is a lot of junk rap music that is hard to defend; it has grown from a culture of oppression, poverty, prejudice, limited resources and has now begotten its own culture, and not necessarily for the better.

The new hip hop has gone from Public Enemy's "Fight The Power" to the likes (oh jeez, this takes me back to 9th grade) Sisqo's "The Thong Song." Worst. Socio-Poilitcal. Movement. Ever. And Sisqo wasn't even the pinnacle of all things wrong with rap.

That then leads into the question - do you need strong lyrics to have a successful rap song? Well, I would say that's a subjective matter. If you want to make a song for the club that's got a killer beat, then no, not so much. And that is, unfortunately, where a lot of rap music has gone in recent years.

I have a sneaking suspicion, in my lifetime, I will never see a great renaissance of Motown or soul music. There will never be another Commodores. Marvin Gaye's spirit will not live on again in future generations. The same goes for rap. I don't see a great reformation of rap any time soon, as it has long since begun the downward slide into money, drugs, sex...

Rap has always had a slight hedonistic twinge to it, which is why I feel so many are turned away from it. And now the hip hop culture has all become about the money and the glamor and moved away from its core - an alternative to rock and country, but still drawing from its roots in blues.

I think Chris Rock said it best, though, about the artistry of rap
"White man makes guns, kills (expletive deleted) dead everyday. Nothing happens. White man makes guns, nothing. Black rapper says 'gun'...Congressional Hearing! 'He said gun...and he rhymed it with fun!'"

But we're always told that we must consider the author when reading a poem or story, but told to keep the artist away from their art when it comes to something such as rap. The people who write the rhymes have stories to tell, too. They, too, are results of a growing and diverse culture and an evolving attitude. Why isn't their background as important as, say, Shakespeare? You might think that an odd comparison, but both are poets and had the ability to appeal to everyone - intellectuals and groundlings alike.

Posted by KevinMcGinnis at February 20, 2007 10:48 AM

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