(This is a reply I did in an online forum in a post about black urban culture being more violent than mainstream white culture.)
A lot of the criticism that’s levelled at black culture and its music is from a white media perspective. I’ll use Noam Chomsky’s method and give you a paired example.
1. Professor Griff is alleged to make anti-Semitic statements. Huge furore, articles in NME, much hand-wringing etc… these terrible racist black hip hoppers – they’re all in the Nation of Islam and hate all Jews!
2. David Bowie arrives back in Britain and does a Nazi salute… white rock press mumbles a bit but then everyone forgets. He was probably on drugs so let’s let him off.
Do you see the difference? I won’t even repeat the racist stuff Shane McGowan, Eric Clapton and Elvis Costello said, it’s all known and forgiven by the white media and rock press.
Here’s another one:
1. NWA release ‘A Bitch Iz A Bitch.’ Again, much outrage and censure from feminist groups but NWA claim they’re writing from the point of cold-hearted gangsters, in character. Still, they’re widely labelled as sexist forever.
2. Mark E. Smith, indie icon, physically attacks his girlfriend in a New York hotel, punching her to such an extent that the police are called in. It’s a news item, sure… but Mark E. Smith – he’s an icon! The Fall are cool… so.. let’s forget about it all. NWA are labelled as misogynists just for using some bad words whereas Mark E. Smith beats his gf up and no-one gives a shit!
And another popular wifebeater, beloved of the great British public: step forward Gazza!
I know I’ve gone all round the houses in this post but can you see what I’m getting at? British culture and its media is normalised to white values. Therefore black culture and its music is always demonised, always over-represented in bad ways whilst white musical cultures/artists being equally evil get away with it. How about these Guns & Roses’ lyrics:
“Immigrants and faggots
They make no sense to me
They come to our country
And think they’ll do as they please
Like start some mini Iran,
Or spread some fuckin’ disease
They talk so many goddamn ways
It’s all Greek to me”
And yet, where was the widespread censure for G’n’R? They’re now re-habilitated and played at every rock/indie night in Britain. But all those nasty garage MCs and rappers – ooooh, they’re all sexist and homophobic! As a sidepoint, I always find it hilarious when white Americans complain about “immigrants” cos this translates as “you got off the boat the day after I did.”
Perhaps the sad part of this discussion is that I’m not so much arguing that the periphery of the current urban music scene is peaceful and loving but that it’s no different from the extremes of a lot of other youth-based musical scenes
It’s not even to do with drugs. There was a right old hoo-haa in the US last year cos a bunch of twats who happened to be straight-edgers beat up some kids in Salt Lake city. See, you can even be drug-free and act like total dicks.
Another thing I’d like to throw in is that maybe something like contemporary indie rock doesn’t have as much trouble because the scene is overwhelmingly middle-class. Whether indie kids are black, Asian or white, they’re probably from nice areas and have safe homes. Their neighbourhoods are policed and cared for, their educational opportunities are greater.
The same can’t be said for a lot of the kids who get into extreme ragga and hip hop, including plenty of roughneck white kids. The same as any dis-enfranchised group, they may feel they have nowt to lose from criminal behaviour. Or, as Cabaret Voltaire more succintly put it, “In hard times, hard thrills.”
love and kisses,