Does Hating Hip-Hop Mean You're A Racist?

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Over at Slate, John Cook wonders why the New York Times's Sasha Frere-Jones seems to think so, as Cook lashes back against the critical backlash against gay singer-songwriter Stephin Merritt of the Magnetic Fields for his expressed dislike of most rap and dance-pop and expressed affection for "Zip a Dee Doo Dah."

[Hat tip to Jim Doherty.]

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  1. Count me in with Sasha. I just don’t get rap or hip-hop. Why, when you can have Duke Ellington, Nat King Cole, ella Fitzgerald, Ray Charles, or James Brown, would anyone listen to someone chant cuss words while scratching vinyl? It’s purely a matter of taste, but I still don’t see the point. (For what it’s worth, I don’t get punk or heavy metal, either.) Oh, well, I suppose it means my kids will not be denied that essential experience of American adolescence: having to listen to Mom and Dad rant about how bad their music is.

  2. I remember Michael Moore making the same claim in a rant on his “Awful Truth” show back in 2000 or so. That’s when I pretty much wrote him off as an idiot, however good he might be at amusingly harassing millionaires.

  3. Karen,

    Not that I’m trying to convince you to enjoy rap, but I can’t help but point out that a good portion of hip-hop and rap is absolutely nothing like that.

    * As an aside, I hate it when people try to convince others to enjoy music on message boards. I mean, no amount of arguing is going to convince me to enjoy most country, why should I expect anyone to start loving hip-hop? Boggles the mind.

  4. Merritt is a musical genius. He has more talent and realness in his left nut than an Escalade full of poseur gangsta rappers and they hos.

  5. Actually, Duncan, your efforts are rather nice. My principal exposure to hip-hop until very recently was through the open windows of vehicles driven by teenage boys at stoplights or the bass line blasting at weapons-grade volume from cars driven past my house at 10 p.m. That isn’t perhaps the best forum to change the opinion of a musical fogey. If a rapper has a band with any skill backing up the singing, I might change my opinion. Also, I did sort of like Will Smith’s rap about his mom denying him money for expensive shoes, but then Will Smith is just cute. I’ll make an effort to listen to some of the stuff Andy (8 years old) will start bringing home in the next couple of years.

  6. Rap music is an oxymoron. Like political science. Or government worker. hahahaha

  7. I’m the kind of the person who listens to NPR in my car and Dvorak or Tchaikovsky on my CD player at home. So when I complain about other drivers/my neighbors playing that awful rap or hip hop, and mention my musical preferences, I tend to be called a stuffy, racist WASP. However, I see some geographical differences here: it’s been happening to me much more often here in Atlanta than it did in New Jersey, regardless of the color of my accuser.

  8. Depends on the reason why you dislike hip-hop.

  9. Sasha Frere-Jones is a white moron.*

    The end.

    *Oops, am I a racist now?

  10. The whole thing is somewhat amusing. One white male telling another white male that he is a “racist” because of his musical taste. In fact, I think Merritt’s point about current rap artists as negative cultural caricatures are right on. But rather then discuss that point, which I’m sure many black intellectuals would agree with, SFJ takes the easy road.

    Does being called a racist even have meaning anymore?

  11. Depends on the reason why you dislike hip-hop.

    What, you idiot? Christ, that would be logical and sensible? I mean, DON’T YOU SEE? If you don’t like rap you DESPISE black people. If you hate country then you want to KILL KILL KILL white people and if you don’t like listening to children singing in musicals then you like drowning babies!!!!!

  12. Mark,

    Heh.

  13. do you also drive a Toyota Pius?

    (i keed I keed!)

  14. Try gargling with oven cleaner. That might change your mind. Not only that, they stiffed me.

  15. i like a lot of (probably bad) music, but i’m all for wishing cancer on the loved ones of everyone who drives around playing music so loudly i can hear it three blocks away.

    that said, magnetic fields suck ass. and no, i’m not being homophobic.

  16. I find Goth Rock to be the best baby drowning music. That or ABBA.

  17. I think this says more about the New Yorker than anything else. That is one wierd magazine. This Sasha creep hasn’t just complained about Merritt, he’s also accused Nick Hornby of being a bald racist type for not liking crunk (or whatever other ridiculous moniker these rapping twits come up with every other day).

    I bet Sasha is one of those irritating white guys who says ‘waddup bredren’ whenever he meets a black person. What a knobjockey.

  18. but i’m all for wishing cancer on the loved ones of everyone who drives around playing music so loudly i can hear it three blocks away.

    Hear Hear.

    Unless the tune blurting out is ‘You?re the Best’ by Joe Esposito.

    You might remember this anthem from such montages as Daniel Laruso?s early kung-fu improvement, and the inconsequential preliminary tournament fights in Karate Kid.

  19. Sturgeon’s Law – originally coined for SciFi – applies doubly for popular music. 90% of everything is crap. Now, with classical music, it’s been heavily vetted over the centuries.

    Even with Big Band or classic rock, we’ve let a LOT of chaff fall by the wayside. So it is with rap. What’s popular for 20 minutes isn’t necessarily what we’ll hear in 20 years.

    Frankly I see rap as no more offensive to my ears than most pop-country. There have been few auditory crimes as great as Achy Brakey Heart. Or if you really want to see me squirm, put me in a restaurant which has ‘fun’ disco playing. I keep being tempted to stab my own eardrums out, then think better of it and decide to tear the speakers out, then think better of that and just try to keep the hate to a minimum.

    And Mark, You don’t have to hate children singing to enjoy a good babydrowning.

    Now, let’s all go back to the age old fight between prog and punk.

  20. You are all racists for calling people who call white people racists, racists themselves. As with nixon’s, “if the president does it, it’s legal”… you utterly fail to understand that no one can be *racist* against white people because white people are not in fact a race. They are the anti-race. Hence, racism is when white people voice any opion whatsoever about other, real races. ‘White people’ is what happens when real cultures dissolve. Havent you seen the Cosby Show? Thats stage one of de-racification. Round 2 is when they start playing hockey. It’s already begun.

    And if you fail to appreciate the music of Dvorak, Rakim, Edgard Varese, Coil, Big Daddy Kane, the great Caruso, Grand Wizard Theodore, Wagner, and of course, Grand Puba & Big L, – then you are all helpless philistines to boot.

    Also – remember the golden rule =

    Don’t hate the player – hate the game.

    I highly recommend the raps of Kool Keith of Ultramagnetic MC’s, circa Critical Beatdown era.

    http://www.pitchforkmedia.com/record-reviews/u/ultramagnetic-mcs/critical-beatdown.shtml

    Philistines!

    JG

  21. lunchstealer, I’ll agree that ‘Achy Breaky Heart’ is a third-degree audio felony, but for my money the worst song ever recorded was “I’ve Never Been to Me,” followed closely by “Seasons in the Sun.” “Maresy Doats” comes it at number 3.

    You’re also right about the fact that much of the real dreck that was big band and early rock and roll has been forgotten. I have XM Radio, which, by the way, I heartily endorse and encourage. XM has assigned channels 4 through 9 to the corresponding decades of the 20th C. I generally listen to 4, the 30’s and 40’s channel, and believe me, there was a lot of crap produced alongside Glenn Miller and Benny Goodman. I thought all of it was great, because by the time I was growing up in the 70’s almost all copies of “Maresy Doats” were moldering in landfills. Perhaps rap will be the same way; once time has winnowed the chaff away, we will all be humming along with the good stuff left.

  22. would anyone listen to someone chant cuss words while scratching vinyl?

    The “cuss word chant” is when hip hop and rap took a bad turn, IMO. The original artists were fantastic and this is coming from a guy that rarely ever leaves the confines of the blues.

  23. “not liking crunk (or whatever other ridiculous moniker these rapping twits come up with every other day).”

    “Merritt is a musical genius. He has more talent and realness in his left nut than an Escalade full of poseur gangsta rappers and they hos.”

    Are we in high school again? Its OK to admit you know nothing about Hip Hop. It’d make you folks look smarter than making these generalizations that just discredit everything else you have to say.

    What bums me out about this is that Sasha Frere-Jones is actually one of the finest music writers we have in this country. He’s usually got a great sense of humor, an artful sense of prose, and an encyclopedic knowledge of music spanning countless genres. And yet for some reason he’s gone and gotten caught up in some crappy PC posturing, and who knows to what end?

    I’m unbelievably disappointed in him.

  24. For a second there, I thought it was Sasha of Sasha & Digweed fame who had an opinion about music that actually matters.

  25. By the way, for all my railing against intellectual property abuse, it is my life’s goal to acquire the rights to YMCA and somehow revoke all licenses for performance of that song.

  26. As a teenager I used to drive around blasting Marylin Manson and similar music out my windows? Why? Because I knew people didn’t like it. If they did, I wouldn’t have wanted a bunch of freeloaders mooching my music.

  27. “I’ve Never Been to Me”

    agreed. awful. terrible. terminally putrid.

    is the 80s analogue to this:
    does hating pudding pops mean you don’t like Bill Cosby?

  28. I don’t believe people these days can write at such length about whether or not another person is “racist” in some inherent metaphysical sense. Has Stephin Merritt ever beaten a guy for being black? Denied him business? Put a burning cross in his yard or otherwise threatened him? If not, what exactly are we talking about again?

    It is interesting that he’s a gay guy. Homosexuality and racism are two topics where the inner workings of one’s mind become worthy of national debate. It’s what you do that matters.

    That said, I’m sure Mr. Merritt has done his share of men.

  29. lunchstealer, I’ll agree that ‘Achy Breaky Heart’ is a third-degree audio felony, but for my money the worst song ever recorded was “I’ve Never Been to Me,” followed closely by “Seasons in the Sun.” “Maresy Doats” comes it at number 3.

    You left out “Billy, Don’t Be a Hero” and “The Night Chicago Died.”

  30. the worst song ever recorded was “I’ve Never Been to Me,”

    We built this city…we built this city on rock and roll

    das da craps

  31. The key line from the Slate piece:

    What Frere-Jones and Hopper…require is…that we bend our intuitive aesthetic judgments about music to a political will.

    Shall we bring up Russian Futurism, the famous Che photo of T-shirt fame, and the crumbling aesthetic of Havana?

  32. “What about “Season’s In The Sun” or “These Boots Are Made For Walkin’?” (Either version.)

  33. dat’s a good call, Akira.

    gaijin: hai. velly bad.

    this citizen would add the entire collection of U2 to that group, however….

  34. dammit. premature posting. i apologize.

    Do Wah Diddy. shudder.

  35. On 69 Love Songs, Merrit has a tribute to Billie Holiday (“My Only Friend”), and gives props to Holland-Dozier-Holland in another song (I can’t remember which one).
    I dig the Magnetic Fields and a lot of hip-hop, but it doesn’t surprise me too much that Merrit’s not a big fan of rap.

  36. Isn’t Merritt’s real crime that he’s a heterophobe? He hates “guy rock”, and a lot of rap is very macho, posturing “guy music.” There seems to be a lot of guy hating and heterophobia in the music crit world these days if Slate’s other article on “poptimism” and the linked NYT article on “rockists” are anything to go by.

  37. …Sasha Frere-Jones is actually one of the finest music writers we have in this country. He’s…

    Whoa! Whoa! Sasha is a man?!

    Great, now I’m sexist, too.

  38. Gaijin, when that song was popular, I kept asking my friends, “What city was built on rock and roll?” I never got an answer.

    Bad song, very bad.

  39. One white male telling another white male that he is a “racist” because of his musical taste.

    Welcome to what happens when you get a bunch of white liberals in the same room.

  40. Whoa! Whoa! Sasha is a man?!

    Sasha is a very common male name in Russian. It’s the short version of Alexander, just like Dick is Richard and Bill is William.

  41. white people and if you don’t like listening to children singing in musicals then you like drowning babies!!!!!

    Or what about white children singing in musicals which have been sampled into rap music? Huhhh? Yeah, thought that would throw ya.

    For those of you ‘racist’ rap haters not hip to what I’m talking about, check out Jay-Z’s, Hard Knock Life (Ghetto Anthem).

  42. “the worst song ever recorded was “I’ve Never Been to Me,”

    How about anything by the Counting Crowes.

  43. You left out “Billy, Don’t Be a Hero” and “The Night Chicago Died.”

    You left out “Mama Will Bark”. Frank Sinatra vs. Dagmar, as the kids today would put it. Oh my Christ, what a musical pantsload.

  44. I don’t hate anyone because of their race. I hate all people equally.

    Musically, I love hip-hop, but lyrically, it’s crap.

  45. The fact is, there are too many “worst songs” to pin it down to one or two. But let me add another to the list: “Having My Baby,” by Paul Anka. It is gross and contains what is, in my opinion, a very tasteless reference to abortion –a second reason the song belongs in a category with “I’ve Never Been to Me.”

    Regarding the story — I find it disturbing that two journalists feel “empowered” to label Merritt a racist based on such flimsy, speculative evidence. But it doesn’t surprise me.

  46. Never heard of this “Magnetic Fields” or whatever.

    Hiphop is most of what I listen to, and has been for pretty much all my life. I even happen to be running a low-budget studio for some at the moment. So take my opinion with a grain of salt, but I think people who characterize all hiphop as being “guns, hoes, & bling” are making an outrageous logical error. Judging rap music based off of 50 Cent would be like me judging punk based off of Green Day.

  47. Vanya, the simple fact (read: my opinion) is that most “guy rock” is just crap. There are exceptions, but the best rock musicians have been androgynous types. Reed, Bowie, the list goes on. (Disclosure, I’m a straight drummer in a rock band.)

  48. And, the Magnetic Fields have some catchy tunes, but for the most part are terribly boring.

  49. JG – your list of good hip-hop was, well, good.

    I like most all kinds of music, except the pop-country crap that I hear and some of the really hard-core metal stuff.

  50. My four year old has a Barbie radio (given by g-parents) and today she discovered that it has a button for playing music (damn). So she’s blasting this pre-recorded Barbie “rock” music and this morning in the car, I hear her singing “who let the dogs out…who, who…who let the dogs out…who…who” – of course, this is Barbie radio, being sung in a bland, Muzak kind of way, so Baby Bear is singing it in the same manner and tone that she sings Twinkle Twinkle Little Star or something like that.

    It was torture. But she thought it was a “rockin song, huh Mama?” and what could I say…

  51. “No, and if you ever say that again, you’re out of the house.”

    I guess it’s good I’m not a parent.

  52. For that list of good hip-hop, how could you leave out
    A Tribe Called Quest
    De La Soul
    Mr Lif
    MF Doom
    Jungle Brothers
    Gang Starr
    The Pharcyde

    ?

  53. Why do blacks hate Garth Brooks?

    Because he sucks.

  54. (Disclosure, I’m a straight[emphasis mine] drummer in a rock band.)

    So you say…

  55. A friend of mine tried to explain the difference between Rap and Hip Hop. Rap is a lot of the gangsta hoes and bitches thing, and Hip Hop is more real live experience and viewpoints. I don’t know if this is correct, but after about a year, I’m beginning to see a difference. My favorites right now are:

    Atmosphere
    Sage Francis
    Deltron 3030
    The Streets
    Lifesava’s

  56. Who the F is Magnetic Fields?

    That said, I listen to about 90% rap. I don’t really listen to the “hos and bling” stuff. Whenever anyone criticizes hip-hop based on that..it’s just foreign to me. Mostly they are critcizing the POP music aspect of the rap that is heavily promoted ( and often has that “Minstrel” feel- ask Little Brother). So basically this guy said he likes one “minstrel” song but doesn’t like a million others. So the other white guy who dislikes one “minstrel” song but loves a million modern ones is the authority on who is racist?

    For example, I didn’t like “Hey Ya” either. But not because it was “black” or “rap” because to me it was neither. But I have no big problem with it other than beng overplayed.

    And people are supposed to like Justin Timberlake because he “loves black people” or does “black music”..Huh? Am I required to like Pat Boone? Or other “crackers” who do “rap” or “r&b”? Am I racist because I dont like Necro?

    Some of the points this Fields guy has are somewhat valid. At least when it comes to “pop” music. If all the rap he knows is Pop/Rap, then I feel kinda bad for the guy. Considering I have never heard of him, I would have to assume his status is underground- much like my taste in hip-hop.

  57. And I just noticed that 3 outta 5 of the above are white. I must be racist.

  58. Vantigan, you must be a racist too because everything you listed is white-nerd rap ( I kid, because I like it myself). The artists you listed are about 80% white.

  59. I will help you find a balance. For every Sage Francis or Aesop Rock, you have to add 3 Mr. Lifs, Murs, Cannibal Ox, or something like that. Atmophere counts as about 1/8-1/4 black and Deltron is almost perfectly diverse

  60. The Magnetic Fields are great, and anyone who hasn’t heard of them must be a homophobe.

  61. Did I mention the nerdiest (?) of all of my faves:

    MC Chris.

    Fett’s Vette is the shit.

    Heh.

  62. Does being called a racist even have meaning anymore?

    At this point, it’s pretty much like calling someone a poopyhead.

    My principal exposure to hip-hop until very recently was through the open windows of vehicles driven by teenage boys at stoplights or the bass line blasting at weapons-grade volume from cars driven past my house at 10 p.m.

    Yah, it’s also really annoying when I can’t hear the music on my own car radio — with my windows rolled up — because the guy driving alongside me on the highway has his bass pumped up to ludicrous levels.

    I hope and I pray every day that scientists will release a study — one that will become highly publicized — that exposing yourself to extremely high decibel bass notes while in the confines of your car as a young man will make your dick fall off by the time you reach age 30. I don’t even care whether it’s true. Just make it up and publicize the shit out of it.

    I actually like a number of Eminem songs, specifically my The Eminem Show CD. I also like the soundtrack to 8 Mile, which features a number of other good rappers besides Eminem. Although the black rappers on it all use the N-word a lot, which Eminem doesn’t. I do most of my music listening while driving, and as a white guy, I’m not all that comfortable driving around broadcasting the N-word out my windows, no matter who’s saying it.

    I also rather like Will Smith’s Homebase CD, although it’s so mellow and jazzy and good-humored, it’s hardly the same genre as Eminem or 50 Cent, etc. Although Homebase includes a pretty parody of misogynist hardcore rap, “You Saw My Blinker (Bitch).”

  63. … pretty good parody …
    ——————————

    Also, though, onthe last time I heard rap music in public, somebody was sitting in a parking lot at a McDonald’s — where families bring their kids — and they were blasting something that consisted entirely of the words, “Getta fuck outta my face! (thump) Getta fuck outta my face! (thump) Getta fuck outta my face! (thump)” over and over again. That’s just annoying.

  64. The Magnetic Fields are great, and anyone who hasn’t heard of them must be a homophobe.

    The Magnetic Fields are great. In fact they’re probably my second-favorite Jean-Michel Jarre album, right after The Concerts In China.

    Vantigan, if you like nerdcore check out Phil Crumar.

  65. Rap “music” is mostly just rhytmic shit. Actually, that would make a good name for a band, “Rhythmic Shit”. Heavy metal is unrhythmic shit.

    I love the old Mo Town stuff. I love Ray Charles, and Louie Armstrong. I love classical music, although it gets monotonous. I love a lot of the bluesey stuff too.

    I am a racist poopey head because of my tastes in music, but so fucking what?

  66. What a silly thread.

    Listen to what you like and ignore what you don’t. Who cares what anyone else thinks of it?

  67. erp. no one seemed to have found my joke funny.

    JG

  68. Personally the M.F. and rap music I find equally unworthy

    Dance-pop, however… now that is an acquired taste…

  69. Musically, I love hip-hop, but lyrically, it’s crap.

    Now.

    In the beginning, it was lyrically stunning.

  70. Hating rap and hip-hop simply means you have good taste. I will, however, make an exception for the stylings of MC Chris and his hip-hop ode to Boba Fett.

  71. John Cook… Sasha Frere-Jones… Stephin Merritt
    Never heard of ’em. And apparently I’m not missing out on anything.

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