I came across this missive from Questlove of the Roots today on twitter… I read it, then peeped the video he linked to and my mind went racing in a few directions all at once. First, I looked at the video from the perspective of the disgruntled fan. In today’s society so many of us attach ourselves to celebrity so much, that our identity gets caught up in what they do or don’t do. This is especially true if that celebrity fills an important void that society refuses or doesn’t seem to have the capacity to fill.When this happens we don’t want our celebrities to change. When they fall short we take it personal. I seen this happen with everyone from Public Enemy to Jesse Jackson.
The second angle I explored was how so many of us are allowed space to grow and evolve. Sometimes it’s our own fault. We don’t wanna take responsibility. We don’t want to endure the pain that comes with growth so we get caught up in what has often been described as the Peter Pan syndrome.
On the other hand , we live in a society that often doesn’t want us to grow. We’re to forever be child-like in our thinking and entertainment minded versus business minded. We’re to forever be the buffoon and never the scholar. When we stray away we get smacked down into place and severely criticized even from our own. So in this case ice Cube at age 40 is still supposed to be a hardcore gangsta riding around with an AK versus maybe be a family guy…For him to grow, he’s considered a sellout.. and not a fully well-rounded thinking man.
Third and most disturbing, is something that author/scholar Adam Mansbach often talks about. He describes the proverbial suburban white Hip Hop fan who grew up fascinated and intimated by Hip Hop which they fully equated with the totality of Black culture. He talks about how many would live vicariously through the words and videos of street oriented rap groups to the point that they would start mimicking them and adapt a worldview that would be warped to the point that anything not falling into the mold was somehow out-of-pocket.
Mansbach describes how those suburban white kids would listen to these records, watch those videos and not ever have to full experience the realities depicted in the songs. This would lead them to feel comfortable and believing that they were not only part of but definers of the culture. They would become embolden and ‘no longer afraid of the ghettos they vicariously visited..
Here’s what Questlove had to say…
tryna tell yall: this is why i cry out against the press/blogger minstrelsy embrace of hip hop (if its “scary” or “bright” “clownish”/”funny” or “oversexed” or “watered down apolitically” (no balls/opinion/position/eager to pleaseisms) its minstrel!!!! read this http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Minstrel_show
point is: this song is cute http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-cjx8wg0hmY&feature=player_embedded#
but TRULY it is the answer to all the questions we had about hip hop’s demise.
it would be nice to say “oh…its an art form and treated as such” (remember that@harryallen quote about “hip hop is treated like its disposable. its not even considered ‘art’” on our Things Fall Apart intro?–well this is the dangers of embracing something for the wrong reasons:
hip hop’s MASSIVE success was running on the fumes of the “horror flick/roller coaster” syndrome: something scary and exciting you are curious about…but something you don’t take all that serious.
in other words: lets look at sting and lil wayne:
if both figures (both are massive sales figures in pop music)—if both made announcements that they were quitting music for a career in politics: and them in office position effected your life and you had to chose one—who would you be more inclined to take seriously to run your government?
(ill leave it up to you to get my point….but for those who say wayne, i can pretty much also guess that you too dont take life all that seriously or being contrary is how you differentiate yourself from others)
anywho….watch that clip.