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Sunday, March 28, 2004



Clarence Page has picked up on the study:
(I like to leave links in the open in posts like this):

Black teen girls don't get much respect, not even from each other. That's just one of the startling findings of a recent study of the sex and gender attitudes of low-income black teenagers. It offers new evidence, as if we needed it, to me and to other parents of black teenagers that the standards of "black authenticity" promulgated in hip-hop culture are not only too narrow but downright dangerous.


There's more:
How Hip-Hop Holds Blacks Back
John H. McWhorter

What struck me most, though, was how fully the boys’ music—hard-edged rap, preaching bone-deep dislike of authority—provided them with a continuing soundtrack to their antisocial behavior. So completely was rap ingrained in their consciousness that every so often, one or another of them would break into cocky, expletive-laden rap lyrics, accompanied by the angular, bellicose gestures typical of rap performance. A couple of his buddies would then join him. Rap was a running decoration in their conversation.

Many writers and thinkers see a kind of informed political engagement, even a revolutionary potential, in rap and hip-hop. They couldn’t be more wrong. By reinforcing the stereotypes that long hindered blacks, and by teaching young blacks that a thuggish adversarial stance is the properly “authentic” response to a presumptively racist society, rap retards black success.


And another:

The appeal of the gangsta life, and its accompanying rap, manufactures feelings of euphoria and power in its adolescent listeners. It tantalizes kids through a “bling, bling” future that they will never attain.
Jay Smooth

I found some of McWhorter's analysis kinda shaky, grounded in lots of shaky assumptions and broad generalizations.. that piece was amply dissected at the time it came out, wish I had saved some of those discussions now.

His assessment of Grandmaster Flash's "The Message," for example, is wildly off the mark. That song, with it's refrain "don't push me cuz I'm close to the edge, I'm trying not to lose my head" simply expresses frustration at the hard times we live in, and does so quite eloquently, much like Marvin Gaye "Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler)." McWhorter's attempt to paint it as some sinister threat of violence is downright bizarre.

Suggsting that Sean "Puffy/P-Diddy" Combs portrays himself as a "gangsta" is also laughable to anyone remotely familiar with the public image Combs has cultivated for himself.

McWhorter's notion that hip-hop encourages its listeners to be anti-social and reject authority strikes me as outdated, if anything I can only wish that were still the case. Far from encouraging rebellion, much of the most popular hip-hop nowadays (see P-Diddy) encourages its listeners to do little more than obediently assume their assigned role in this society as passive, uncritical and voracious brand-name consumers.

Also, it should go without saying that mainstream commercial hip-hop is far more diverse in its content than critics like McWhorter would have you believe, and of course the few artists allowed into the mainstream only represent one small corner of hip-hop's vast landscape.

Turning "gangsta tribalism to healthy ends" is in large part how hip-hop culture was born, as founding father Afrika Bambaataa used it to steer NY's gang members towards a peaceful and positive path, using hip-hop to bring them together and provide outlets for their creativity in his organization known as the Zulu Nation (he had been leader of the Black Spades gang).

Jay Smooth

Pardon the improper apostrophe in my first "its" :)


I'd like to point out that while certainly there are negative views of females in hip-hop, to suggest that these views originated in hip-hop is disingenous. It is ALSO important to note that perhaps the biggest female musical figure of the past ten years is Missy Elliott - a rapper, and one with positive self-image who works with MANY famous male-rappers yet refuses to be placed into any sort of stereotypical structure, musically or socio-politically. There IS no equivelent figure for Missy Elliott in rock music, and her importance to my generation of kids is far ahead of slick (read: uninteresting) musicians like Norah Jones.


I'll go by "DavidD" so as not to be confused w/the David you quoted from now on....

There was a discussion on the blog Chicagomuzik about Clarence Page's article.

I agree with the fellow who writes for that blog (he and Clarence Page have also been corresponding) that while certainly those findings aren't a nice thing to see, coming towards hip-hop with the condescending tone of "WE'LL show THEM what's wrong with THEIR culture" is demeaning and never gets to the root of the issue - that to communicate with the youth today you CANNOT approach them with this mindset of telling them what's wrong with what they enjoy. Missy Elliott has PROVEN that one does not have to fall into stereotypes about women and still communicate with the hip-hop generation.


Hello, I just wanted to fill everyone in on this site that is working to help save Music Education in our schools. provides great online coupons and promotions to popular online stores while donating a portion of their proceeds to music education.

When you do your online shopping through you save money and help save the arts in schools around the country. For example, may be offering free shipping on orders over $20. The site makes these promotions available to the general public. When someone clicks through from the page to one of the retailers, a portion of your purchase gets donated to The Mr. Hollands Opus Foundation


i thought your website was very interesting especially the bit about how those women tended to describe their own gender. it is very sad!!!!!!!!!

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