Its third sin is featuring a rap artist. Many elitists hate rap as much as they hate country, though they don’t like to admit it for fear of appearing racially insensitive. Those who do like rap, like Ta-Nehisi Coates, say Brad Paisley teamed with the wrong rapper, as if only certain black artists deserve to have opinions about white folks who wear the Confederate flag.
I admit up front that this is nothing more than anecdotal evidence and speculation, and that it’s nothing anyone would candidly admit to in any event, but I’ve always suspected that much of the visceral loathing you see expressed on pop-culture snob havens like the Onion’s A.V. Club or Pitchfork toward the musical genre popularly known and reviled as nü-metal was a pure example of scapegoating. What I mean is: one of the defining characteristics of that genre, the thing that made it more than a simple continuation of late-80s, early-90s heavy metal, was the overt influence of rap and hip-hop. These were the kids who grew up seeing the collaborations between Aerosmith and Run-DMC, Anthrax and Public Enemy, and the Judgment Night soundtrack, and turned them into entire signature styles, rather than just novelty songs.
For a while there, I recall a lot of people saying it outright: bands like Limp Bizkit, Crazy Town and Korn, whatever else could be fairly said about them, were objectionable in large part for being wiggers. White boys who acted black, adopting the slang, clothing and mannerisms (to wit). The high-minded interpretation that sociology students and social justice warriors would likely offer is that they were simply offended by the “cultural appropriation” of privileged honkies getting rich and famous by making black styles more palatable to the mainstream. (Of course, if Elvis, Led Zeppelin and the Rolling Stones can be respected as artists having done the same thing, Fred Durst can probably feel at least a little justifiably aggrieved at his lack of critical acclaim.) But it always seemed to me that your typical discerning, progressive music fan would usually acknowledge the misogyny and other, uh, regressive attitudes prominent in some rap with a squirming awkwardness, whereas they had no problem coming down like a ton of bricks on nü-metal musicians for the same things.
Again, it’s just my (possibly limited) perception. But I used to read a lot of popular music press, and it wasn’t difficult to find attacks on those bands for their dick-swinging macho lyrics about bitches and fags, for their unashamed, un-indie commercial striving, and for their lack of musical creativity, expressed with rabid hatred in a way that I seriously doubt any of those critics would have felt comfortable criticizing black artists.
April 15, 2013 @ 10:56 am
I think this is quite perceptive, but its quite a complex issue.
A lot of those groups were(are?) dismissed wholesale on purely aesthetic grounds often – they are wiggers etc. so nothing else needs to be said of them.
At the moment, Tyler the Creator and his OddFuture collective are extremely trendy amongst the hipster music journo crowd, yet whilst it is acknowledged, they essentially get a free pass on what is pretty extreme misogyny and homophobia. Eminem got the same.
I think its a fear of seeming 'uncool'. Limp Bizkit et al were quickly categorized as the music of spotty maladjusted teens so could be laughed off (as those teens themselves were laughed at) but to question 'pure' hip-hop leaves you open to criticisms of being out of touch and past it.
April 15, 2013 @ 12:13 pm
That's interesting, because I might have suggested Eminem as another example of what I'm talking about. I wasn't a fan of his music, so I didn't necessarily follow him too closely, but I do remember the press devoting a lot of attention to his lyrics. I think it may have been Cracked magazine that accused Elton John of cynically seeking attention for doing a duet with Eminem at some award show — they seemed to feel that Eminem's homophobic image was bad enough that all right-thinking people should denounce him. My impression was that their reaction wasn't all that uncommon.
The mainstream attention may have been because he was widely perceived to be the best rapper around at the time, but as is often the case, superstars are rarely anointed on pure merit alone. I suspect he may have been the lightning rod the mainstream was looking for to allow them to acknowledge the problematic side of rap culture without coming across as obviously racist.
April 15, 2013 @ 10:39 pm
Of course, the BEST solution is to follow musical sub genres that are so beyond the pale (in their ridiculousness, I will admit) that one can scan the depths of popular music criticism AND hipster cool-seeking with an ever-present sneer of disdain!
April 17, 2013 @ 12:20 pm
Funny you should mention that…
April 17, 2013 @ 4:48 pm
Thanks for tha6t, Damian.
One comment struck me (among many)
genres and subcultures defined largely by alienation must exist in a state of alienation, or else they lose their vitality, and become mere fossilized artifacts of a bygone era to be viewed through museum glass.
bang your head, and hope to hell some fucking investment banker doesn't ever understand why you're doing that.