Thursday, March 01, 2007

Part III: There should be more Black C&W Singers

Okay, I don't get rap or hip-hop, and yet I have no problem with that. I like that there is some experimentation going on with the music itself, but it just seems that they have hit the limit with the vocals. Worse, I don't see any changes involving the themes of the music since over twenty years ago. Just how many songs can you make about bad things, quick women, and the need to shoot cops? Would it hurt rap to be fun?

At the same time, rap is some emblematic of the problem blacks have with society in general. Your music tends to reflect who you want to be, and what kind of dreams you have. You seek out music that represents what you want to be, and listen to it, sometimes exclusively. Usually, this isn't a bad thing, as most genres seek to encapsulate life itself, attempting to explore every aspect of reality. You can usually find some song for any emotion or experience.

However, rap limits itself to a very select group of experiences. Rap rebels solely against those with authority. Women either are exploited, or use their bodies to purchase what they can. Celebrations are in the mode that Vikings would understand: Celebrate now, because you never know what tomorrow brings. And the world is a dark place, especially if you don't have light skin. When was the last time that you heard a rap song that celebrated life itself? How often does rap look to the light side? Why does it seem that supportive families, heroes, and just hanging out (without sex or violence) just aren't part of the rap repertoire?

It's been long argued that rock music is responsible for many of the problem of today's youth. Although I don't think rock is to blame, just as I don't think rap is to blame in and of itself. I do, however, think that rap acts as a medium, that kids are listening to it, that the attitudes of those that do rap music needs to change. Rap is being used to reinforce attitudes, wrong attitudes, and that needs to change. I appreciate that adolescents, and especially males, will always be entranced by violence; however, there is an attitude that rap represents reality. Rap singers are ranked by what they have done, and so there is a reason for kids to commit violent crimes in order to not just emulate their heroes, but to also gain cred should they ever decide to try rapping themselves.

Unlike rock music, where having fun is encouraged, rap encourages violence in order to get cred. Although a lot of rappers eat Thanksgiving at home and have great family lives, they tend to sing about the negative aspects of life and touch even innocent, fun moments with some corruption. The problem is that it reinforces stereotypes, and assumes that society in general looks on them like they did in the 1950's and 1960's, when blacks were oppressed. Now, when there are virtually unlimited opportunity for blacks is the norm, it's odd that such an attitude would be prevalent. You honestly have scholarships that aren't being applied to, grant money going unclaimed, and companies that are looking for talented blacks to fill spaces. At the same time, you have black leaders decrying that there aren't people claiming the money, filling the positions, and trying to escape poverty.

Rather than blaming some mythical institutionalized racism, why not look to your communities for a cause? Rap is spreading a poison that will kill the black community, by telling them not to succeed when they can, that drugs are the only acceptable business and pleasure, and that they will never be good enough to get out of the ghetto.

Is that really something that you want? Rap needs to change. It doesn't need to change into the mind-numbing pablum of bubble-gum rock, but it does need to borrow more from gospel and rhythm and blues. In a way, it needs to reach a balance, as country has, between the need to shock and the need to be the voice of the black community, and become something that fights for the uplifting of the black community, rather than keeping it back.

Seriously...there needs to be more blacks in country music. Toby Keith has tried rap; why should 50 Cent be afraid of a steel guitar?