Hip-hop has been making enemies for as long as it has been winning fans. It has been dismissed as noise, blamed for concert riots, accused of glorifying crime and sexism and greed and Ebonics. From Run-D.M.C. to Sister Souljah to Tupac Shakur to Young Jeezy, the story of hip-hop is partly the story of those who have been irritated, even horrified, by it.
Even so, the anti-hip-hop fervor of the last few weeks has been extraordinary, if not quite unprecedented. Somehow Don Imus’s ill-considered characterization of the Rutgers women’s basketball team — “some nappy-headed hos” — led not only to his firing but also to a discussion of the crude language some rappers use. Mr. Imus and the Rev. Al Sharpton traded words on Mr. Sharpton’s radio show and on “Today,” and soon the hip-hop industry had been pulled into the fray.
Unlike previous hip-hop controversies, this one doesn’t have a villain, or even a villainous song. The current state of hip-hop seems almost irrelevant to the current discussion. The genre has already acquired (and it’s fair to say earned) a reputation for bad language and bad behavior. Soon after Mr. Imus’s firing, The Daily News had Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, Democrat of New York, splashed on its cover alongside the hip-hop producer Timbaland, whose oeuvre includes some Imusian language. He had helped arrange a fund-raiser for her and apparently was now a liability. Oprah Winfrey organized a two-show “town meeting” on what’s wrong with hip-hop — starting with the ubiquity of the word “ho” and its slipperier cousin, “bitch” — and how to fix it. The hip-hop impresario Russell Simmons, who appeared on the show, promised to take action, but last Thursday a planned press conference with hip-hop record label executives was canceled at the last minute, with scant explanation.
Wednesday, April 25, 2007
Don’t Blame Hip-Hop
Interesting commentary by New York Times writer Kelefa Sanneh.