13Mar/1113

Blog Watch Edition 7 – Are You Serious?

This week the bloggasfear/internets produced some great articles on rap, just as many that were less than great, and a few that inspired me to respond. Details after the jump.

Dr. Seuss, Rap, and Racism – g already spotlightesd some of the absurd claims in this article, but I wanted to point out that not only is Run DMC’s mention of Dr. Seuss not an acknowledgement of influence, it isn’t even a wholly reverent allusion. “Now Dr. Seuss and Mother Goose both did their thing / But Jam Master’s getting loose and D.M.C.’s the king” is probably polite shorthand for “our rhymes are cooler and better and the kids will dig them even more, step aside.” Polite, but not admiring, and certainly not praising Seuss as a model rhymer. Plus, Dr. Seuss is more frequently mentioned in a disparaging manner in rap lyrics, either as the author of unchallenging, childish, soft rhymes or as X-Clan flips it on “Ooh Baby,” a symbol of homogenized white American banality: “I read Scott-Heron, FUCK Dr. Seuss.” I’m not anti-Seuss but he’s not a direct influence on rapping. Neither is Bob Dylan, btw.

Rappers And Firearms: Self-Defense Or Ticket To Jail? – Alvin Blanco fosters alarm over trends and connections that do not exist in a reality that is external to the one he conjures for the sake of writing his article. If I had to make a guess about his methodology, I’d say that he compiled every possible reactionary critique of rap music ever spewed in the last thirty years, e.g. the idea that rap lyrics are to be interpreted as literally as possible or that rap lyrics about violence beget real violence,  and shoehorned them into an anti-gun invective specifically aimed at rappers.

The result? He argues that simply being a rapper and owning a gun is inherently problematic. He interprets a string of rappers getting arrested for gun violations as indicative of a larger trend, something more insidious and far-reaching than just the carelessness and ignorance of a few knuckleheads.  He might have entertained the idea that these incidents have no real connection, or that a very large number of non-rappers are arrested for gun charges in the U.S. every year. But such thought and preparation would not have allowed for the crafting of  an ominous rhetorical question headline or a convincing case for immediate alarm. There would be no story here, unless Blanco wished to argue that everyone from every walk of life is a potential violator of gun laws, and that everybody should be wary of purchasing firearms. But that would have nothing to with rap music, now would it?

Blanco implores us to “Name one rapper that can say their firearm actually protected them from harm.” Putting aside the fact that the burden of proof in this instance logically falls on Blanco, his implicit claims could be easily refuted with a list of gun-owning rappers who have never been arrested for gun-related crimes. Since his arguments are too speculative and his conclusions too spurious to fill out a whole article, he grasps for straws wherever he can find them.

He even has the gall to mention rappers who were slain by gunfire in a random aside, for no good or logical reason other to stir up an emotional response to a non-issue. “Too many times the line between reality and fantasy are getting crossed which can lead to tragedy,” writes Blanco, ignoring that rappers getting arrested for violating gun laws is merely a case of reality intersecting with legality. The fantasy of rap lyrics has nothing whatsoever to do with it, which means that Blanco’s plea for popular rappers to write anti-gun lyrics as a form of community service is silly and misguided. Unless of course, he thinks that writing about gun crime is akin to committing gun crime, which is only one inductive leap and a sprint back to Tipper Gore’s 1989 away from his current stance.

Lupe Fiasco – Lasers [Review] – In response to Lupe Fiasco’s “Words I Never Said” DuB writes “Political rap at its best. The first line really catches your attention,  ‘I really think the war on terror is a bunch of bullshit.’ ”  DuB adds “I respect the fact he decided to speak on his political views.” Wait, this is political rap at its best? Put aside the problems that are inherent in defining “political rap” and concentrate on the line in question, which is cited as an adequate representation of the depth of the song’s political commentary (this is correct on closer inspection of the song). “I really think the war on terror is a bunch of bullshit'” – this is what passes for profundity in rap (or any medium) in 2011? Is this a holy nugget of insight that the world has been blind to for the past decade?

As fans, are we so cynical that we feel compelled to give a rapper props for merely expressing an opinion, even if the opinion is trite and the execution is shaky? Is Lupe’s condemnation of the “war on terror” a more salient or expertly delivered observation than  Chuck D’s “Most of my heroes don’t appear on no stamps,” or Sadat X’s “The welfare state can’t create a black father,” or Cee-Lo’s “Your hesitation to learn the truth will be your extermination”? If we restrict the discussion to the most recent music (the mark of a true phillistine, but I’ll play along), is “Words I Never Said” really more compelling, inspiring, or thought provoking than Pacewon’s examination of the uprising in Tunisia on “Can you Hear Me,”, Malcolm and Martin’s plea for Black and Latino solidarity on “Heritage,” Toki Wright’s condemnation of anti-immigrant fervor in Arizona on “By The Time I Get To Arizona 2010,” or any number of anti-establishment songs recorded by Skip Coon? Just stop.

EXCERPT FROM NAS INTERVIEW (1999) – Since the author of realniggatumblr occasionally writes like someone who wants his work to be perceived as something more substantive than a gimmick,1 it’s only fair that I respond to his latest outburst the same way I would for anyone else. Citing an interview from 1999 in which Nas throws a  characteristically inarticulate, humorless jab at A Tribe Called Quest, realniggatumblr feels compelled to describe his own longstanding displeasure with Tribe. Employing about 10% of the cleverness displayed by whoever writes that fake Ghostface blog, he explains in so many ways that Tribe is just too corny for him, and that he is resentful of their “sneak dissin’ West Coast rappers at Hip Hop forums and conventions.”

There’s no evidence offered for this secret campaign of discrediting West Coast rappers, though. Perhaps he’s referring to the by now debunked myth that Q-Tip once dissed “West Coast niggas” on a mixtape, when he was in fact dissing “West Coast haters.” Or maybe he is referring to comments Q-Tip made in magazines about his displeasure with certain kinds of violent content, which were never coastally-specific. It doesn’t matter anyway; these claims are just baseless extensions of ill-informed message board gossip. Calling Tribe “soft” but forever extolling the virtues of Mobb Deep and Nas is a losing endeavor considering that the most critically acclaimed work of these artists, i.e. the songs and albums that are almost always considered to be their “hardest” material, were accomplished in direct collaboration with Q-Tip.

I’m not opposed to lightheartedly talking shit about rappers. They aren’t above it all. But at least do your homework and make sense if you’re going to be lazy about being funny. And just in case anyone is misled, let’s be clear: none of Tribe’s albums, including their much maligned The Love Movement, contain songs anywhere near as cheesy, soft, or ill-conceived as the worst Nas tracks of the last decade. Not even close.  — Thun

— Thun

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  1. I have praised him the past on the rare occasions when he has dropped his juvenile shtick in favor of a more readable style. []

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13 Responses to “Blog Watch Edition 7 – Are You Serious?”

  1. done says:

    ooh you went in on rnt. id find all those things you mentioned problematic if he presented his writing as anything other than opinions but man hes so self-referential plus even when he does make these big defnitive statements, like the one about tribe, he nearly always clearly phrases it that its rumoured/spoken about not fact. this alone is something most self-important writers never do enough .

    i disagree completely with his stance in the tribe post and countless others but it doesnt matter to me, he always has great writing, (however devoid of grammar, research etc) thats nearly always hilarious, has great taste and also has really strong convictions – which is something most writers either lack or display enough in their writing in my opinion. even when he does “drop the juvenile shtick” and drop gems he gives clear indication that hes doing so and that its a deviation from the regular programming- hes honest too, that lack of filter creates way more insight than most traditionally structured writing. saying that, im sure his shits carefully considered and well thought out too.

    hes probably in my top 3 bloggers and is a great source of entertainment, new music/perspectives on music i hadnt previously considered and a personal inspiration in how to blog better. i wish more bloggers would take after his example. im not going to say no homo.

    otherwise, great post and that last comment about love movement etc is spot on

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    • Thun says:

      Well, he’s usually funnier and has more of a point I can get behind (nullus). This particular post is something that Byron Crawford could pull off much better, and as I’ve mentioned his stylized attacks on Tribe for their supposed softness is something that the fake Ghostface blog does infinitely better. Plus, the gossipy tone puts the tough talk in an unflattering light, to say the least.

      There’s a thin line between cleverly sending up industry figures who probably take themselves too seriously and just acting like a twentysomething kid talking out the side of his mouth, as you note without a filter. With RNT, I guess with RNT your interpretation might depend on how much of the lattter you find tolerable. Most of the time I find his style entertaining, but since I’m a thirtysomething who finds a total lack of reverence for anything very annoying, so you can imagine why I’m ultimately less sympathetic than others. Maybe I’m overreacting, and the joke is still on me, even more so for writing about his post. But I think I responded to his piece in a way that is fitting, and acceptable according to the rules he has implicitly established.

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      • done says:

        its defintly no excuse or disclaimer but i was still kinda drunk from the night before when i wrote that this morning, but yeah i should really quit drunk posting asap before i clown myself any further. i stand by what i said but might have gone a bit too stanboyish.

        i dont just tolerate, i love talkin out the side your mouth irreverant shit if its funny and original enough, which rnts posts are and then some. its funny you mentioned byron cos while im a fan and think he can be hilarious, too often his posts arent all that funny to me which takes away from their appeal, same as rnt does you. suppose it must just be a generational/sense of humour thing like you said. its could be worth noting that ghostfaces attitudes probably way easier to accept cos hes a fictional parody type thing. i hate sayin shit like that though, kinda ruins it

        and yeah man i dunno if the tone was that appropriate, especially considering his response post quoted below. fuck maybe i have a juvenile sense of humour or something but hes the funniest dude on the internet in my opinion. big ghostface and byron are great too though.

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  2. done says:

    sorry again for hoggin the comment box on these posts, i keep sayin to myself il stay out of it ha i will next time

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  3. esso says:

    someone questioned that post and rnt responded

    “don’t take shit so literal brah but cmon like be real serious aint no choppas being thorougly cleaned to find a way or electronic relaxation thats pure turtle neck music that tribe shit for the funboys c’mon ya man q-tip was in prison song bout to spread that butter so big homie could hold him down in the yard you think killa would participate in a role like that hell no doggiez dipset forever”

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  4. verge says:

    Lol at that Lupe line being “political rap at it’s best!”.. Gotta be fucking kiddin me.

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  5. done says:

    oh and if i hear one more person who doesnt ven really like rap anyway say that bob dylan shit they getting slap without hesitation. last poets too, but at least thats kinda believable. there is no year dot but if there was – dancehall music, fucking cab calloway, anything other than fucking bob dylan you chumps

    do none of them feel funny saying a white man invented rap, especially considering the whitewashing of rock musics history?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

    • Teddy C.D. says:

      Shit, I didn’t mean to thumb your comment down. Sorry done. I wasn’t going to thumb it up either (to be honest), but I definitely mis-clicked.

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      • done says:

        ha! nah its all gravy. i find the whole thumb thing a bit weird in general to be honest

        bob dylan, sheesh. im just startin to realise comments like that are what twitters for

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        • Thun says:

          We’re low and high brow at the same time here. I just voted you down, btw.

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        • Teddy C.D. says:

          Your comments are appreciated though, done, and are always welcome.
          btw I’m also a pretty huge Bob Dylan fan. 😉

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          • done says:

            now i didnt mean it was low brow, if siskel and ebert did it your good

            ah bob dylans great, just dont hink he was the first rapper, that would be the count off sesame street. bob was on that one kurtis blow album that time though, so he musnt have thought they were biting his flow.

            i predict a bob/yelawolf and juelz beef though

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