the only easy day was yesterday

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Goin' Dumb Like The Ringer

Man, the bay is desperate to be ghetto - but hey, at least they're honest about being morons. My car got broken into last night, the first night we were here, and 15 dollars got stolen. Our 49ers tickets (4 of them) for the monday night opener in september were lying on the floor. So earlier thismorning my mom went to the grocery store and some guy was next to her when she was parking and he was like "someone took some stuff, huh?" and she was like "no, they left everything valuble and took a few bucks" and he was like "they musta saw the new york plates and just felt like breakin in for fun." It's just so sad, not about the car, but that hip-hop and rap culture have made society stoop to the kind of level where violence and unfriendly behavior is promoted; if you are living and you grew up in San Francisco you have some money, if you wanted to live comfortably you could probably move somewhere much cheaper and do so, but these people chose to stay in the city and act like idiots because the 'culture' which they ascribe themselves to says that that is the right thing to do.

This is a question that was first brought to me by the play Heights, which portrays a positive environment for a human being in a seemingly typical 'hood' in Washington Heights. The play gave me temporary hope that the culture that we call american culture today can be preserved while humanity can still be promoted, but when I get back into a real city I see that people are so bound by their fear of social norms that they become slaves to those norms and cease to live an independent and free life - the basis of the american 'dream' which has been taken so far out of context. So my question to you is: (goin acs on you here, sorry) To what extent is the capitalistic pseudo hip-hop culture, or any other niche american culture, a plausible environment for the intellectually independent human being? It seems that if one exists the other has no chance.

10 comments:

Nielsen said...

I don't see why you assumed those who broke into your car were influenced to do so by hip-hop. Breaking into a car and taking money seems like something either a group of teenagers (of any ethnicity or social class) or somebody really desperate for cash would do. It's certainly not something I've heard encouraged in a rap song. I also feel it is incorrect when you write "that hip-hop and rap culture have made society stoop to the kind of level where violence and unfriendly behavior is promoted". The inherent appeal of violence is evident in movies (since their inception) and in television. Characters in Clint Eastwood and Charles Bronson movies are seen universally as heroic and hugely masculine when they use violence to uphold what they believe in or to avenge a wrongdoing. What rap does with it's violence is eliminate two rather absurd pretenses in those movies and other movies, TV and video games; that violence is only exhilarating and sexy when it is done for sound moral reasons, and that violence is something exciting and fun to watch but it is not to be done in reality. An infatuation with violence isn't a sickness borne out of rap, rap reflects the American culture's infatuation with violence (the same goes with the objectification of women, but that's a different convo). Violence was common in ghetto areas long before rap glamorized it, gang violence in LA and the Bronx peaked before Run DMC made it onto MTV. Crack had entered and devastated most ghettos before any rapper mentioned slanging himself. What rap mainly, and most poignantly, reflects is the nihilism and anger of youths born into a replicating poverty cycle, institutionalized racism and few glimpsed avenues for success. I'm not saying that rap is morally excused for these reasons or that it isn't part of the problem, what I'm saying is that it is wrong to finger it as THE problem. I just mostly listen for the beats though.

The W said...

Thanks Mike, I was gonna give you a call bout this one if you didnt post.

Jasper Yate said...

Haha yea I knew you'd want in on this one...

I agree that it doesn't deserve all the blame and that everything you mentioned is entirely valid and part of the overall problem. The point I was trying to make, though, was that in making themselves more accessible than some movie and video game violence-icons hip-hop artists provide the audience which they target with a sense of cultural identity; the problem is that this identity that they create is centered around violence. I can see that some artists attempt to discourage gang-banging or whatever, but they still have the violent and masoginistic lyrics in their raps and it seems that those words are the only ones to get through.

It's not hard to imagine that the violence and misoginy of hip-hop culture is the foremost reason for the conditions and the attitudes of poor urban areas today, and that furthermore if they are so attached to their hip-hop identities that they might feel proud to disrespect another competeing (rap is a commercial culture, after all) cultures property - someones car with New York plates. In this instance, I can only see the blame landing on rap influence, although it is always the persons choice, of course.

I would like to add in support of this thought that they took out about $400 worth of 49ers tickets that they could've sold and then left them on the floor, but the thought of this rivalry brought up the bigger question in my head. I did not mean to target rap as the main violent influence in American culture, although it is a considerable part of the problem along with violence and misoginy in television, movies, and video games...

The W said...

"It's not hard to imagine that the violence and misoginy of hip-hop culture is the foremost reason for the conditions and the attitudes of poor urban areas today"
->
"What rap mainly, and most poignantly, reflects is the nihilism and anger of youths born into a replicating poverty cycle, institutionalized racism and few glimpsed avenues for success."

I imagine that to say that rap is the "foremost reason" is a little extreme. Surely the foremost reason is the poverty cycle (what poverty does to people) and the institutionalized racism (what it prevents people from achieving). The conditions themselves are the result of failed public policy and, in the end, capitalism. Rap music isnt responcible for shitty schools (which good teachers dont want to even work at because they're so shitty), no healthcare, and cramped living conditions.

Modern commercial rap music is, though, an important link in American culture's backwards feedback loop (like...um...every other aspect of American culture...), for what Mike pointed out as "few glimpsed avenues for success"...aka the poor rap fan's lotto. I think all of us can agree that a bunch of poor (and possibly unemployed) people driving around blasting "I get money" on loop is sad and helping no one. In a lot of cases, following rapper's debut album, the rapper becomes nothing but another stuck up member of the bourgeious exploiting the proletariat (and unemployed). ...Thats why it was nice in the old school when youd have a couple songs and that was it, no ten album porfolio... They buy a bunch of guns and rap about violence not for any other reason, but to stay relevant stay rich and, whether they like it or not, keep the proletariat whose dumb enough (or too poor to own a computer) not to just download their cd online impoverished.

Rap was (prior to the gangsta era) and sill is in many cases an authentic and healthy cultural form of expression. From when "they used to do it out in the park" even todays freestyle battles and even some new official label shit its real. As with every form of expression it can easily be misguided (and currupted by money/misinterpretation...cough cough... "Stop Snitching"). I hate when crappy studio gangster comercial dudes whine about how rap aint doing good and sales are slumping. Rap's always going to be doing good, it is an amazing form of self expression, its just the content that aint going to be doing well and slumping. A big problem is when a bunch of middle class white kids run out a buy garbage rap CDs, thus pumping up sales and thus getting the shitty singles more spins on the radio than ever necessary. If you want to listen to shit just steal it and let the content die and rise up again at a later date in a better form.

Jasper, be careful not to mix up "hip-hop identities" with "gangster identities", the two cannot be synonimous as long as there is more than just gangster rap out there.

Also, before i end this rant, i find it upsetting when people (in general) indentify too strongly with their ghetto. I understand that it is where they are from and there is thus a feeling of pride, however there is enough things shitty about the ghetto that i believe outweighs the good. One could take pride in his or her community (of people) while rising up against the wretched conditions of which society restricts them to.

Madeline Mindich said...

"few glimpsed avenues for success"...aka the poor rap fan's lotto.

I don't know if you intended to open this up but I think the "rap fan's lotto", along with any other lotto is a severely addicting drug of American culture. I recently read a science article about the power of maybe and anticipation. According to the article in a book called Monkeyluv (can't remember the author), if an animal anticipates a reward, and the chances of receiving the award is around 50-50 with not recieving the award, the animal will become hyped in the anticipation and actually release dopamine. The anticipation complemented by the "few occurences of success" is what thrills an animal. Not the event of say getting food after hitting a lever when a light goes off (for rats) or buying/ selling stock in a euphoric frenzy at a stock market (for all those wall street hipsters/ addicts) or mimicking a rap/ hip hop/ punk/ country/ whatever genre musician in hopes of going from "rags to riches", as being famous/ celebrity, even if miserable from lack of privacy is considered universally Rich. So what we end up having is a whole cultural identity thrilled by the possibility of being like their "idols", and how do these people go about reaching the "possible goal of rags to riches? They copy their idols every move (great for the industry) and take lyrics in songs as instructions (not so great for personable society which emphasizes social interactions). Out of excitement of the "rags to riches" reward, the culture embeds implicit violence into American culture as they regurgitate the "dream"

If more people were in it for the beats- then the violence implicit in the songs probably wouldn't be exemplary and motivating but would be more like sounds creating/ complementing a song. Mike- you've got strong will. Maybe song construction should be an essential class at school, so people hear the sounds and lyrics as what they are instead of exciting instructions on how to make it big, or how to act poor/ violent/ rich/ masculine/ how to wash a car successfully without using your hands...ad infinitum

The W said...

i read somewhere that there has been no lotto in cuba since the revolution (not to say that cuba is a shining example of socialism (its not by any means)) just a fun fact...

Nielsen said...

I think it is another incorrect assumption, and an unfortunately pervasive one in discussions about rap music, that the impoverished black population that the music targets are unsophisticated listeners to their own music, that they are largely incapable of a distanced and nuanced understanding of what they hear while someone like myself (white, suburban, brutally intelligent) can judge the music on it's artisitic merits without being attracted to it's darker elements. The truth, I believe, is just the opposite. This impoverished black population are the ones who live with the constant threat of violence. They understand the high-death/high-incarceration rates of drug dealers and gang members better than we ever could. These are conditions, as stated before, that pre-dated and would exist without hip-hop. To say that music that deals directly with these realities, whether glamorizing them or not, are harmful for this impoverished black population and are something to be censored or bemoaned is paternalistic and ridiculous. For those regularly witness to or engaging in violence, it's harmfulness is easily discerned. Now an apathetic reaction to the harm of violence may shock and appall, but nihilism and anger are gonna be resultant feelings from those who feel they have no chance at success, a concept alien to us.

Drug dealers and pimps had a primary stature in ghettoes before hip-hop popularized their sland and style nationally, they were the conspicuously wealthy, and thus seen as the successes. Rappers are no different, they are the conspicuously wealthy (plus they're on TV), they are the successes. Conspicuous wealth signifies success through all American classes. Some rappers might not show a great deal of social responsibility, but hell, neither do most elected politicians.

"A big problem is when a bunch of middle class white kids run out a buy garbage rap CDs, thus pumping up sales and thus getting the shitty singles more spins on the radio than ever necessary." It's not middle class white kids, it's just kids in general. 13, 14, 15 year olds control what in hip-hop becomes popular (and most of popular music). They are the ones buying CDs (can't figure out how to dl), buying ringtones, listening to the radio, watching MTV. Kids have the disposable income, their money doesn't need to go to anything important, so it goes into the rap industry. It's strange when people talk about all the violent rap on the radio and on TV, because most of the popular songs aren't violent. They are the goofy kiddie dance/hooky hits, shit like "Pop, Lock & Drop It". Sure popular rap is often frivolous, most 14 year-olds skew frivolous.

Jasper Yate said...

"Surely the foremost reason is the poverty cycle (what poverty does to people) and the institutionalized racism (what it prevents people from achieving)."

I think that in citing something external like a poverty cycle, institutional racism, and conditions that are typical in poor urban areas such as bad schools is taking away the ability of the actual people of doing anything and in a way justifying the way that they act; it's admiting that they are somewhat trapped and that they probably have nowhere to go. If every one of the people in these areas were to stay in high school and graduate and go to some college and get some job and raise themselves above the mindset of the 'ghetto', or move their asses (yea, walk even, people can do that) to another place where they can prosper, every one of them could live as comfortably as they wanted. I'd even go so far as to say that they could go and live somewhere outdoors and learn to survive on the land - become farmers in the middle of nowhere only to support themselves. Instead rap, which is the dominant for of music in this culture (anyone listening to soemthing that could be called hip-hop today is probably already aware of these things we're discussing and is doing what he can to stay away from it) convinces people living in 'ghettos' to be proud of being useless and poor and shows that the two options in life are, one get obscenely rich by rapping or selling drugs, or two stay poor and live in the 'hood. When you deny the ability of people to act, then maybe it is excusable, but I'm not ready to do that; these people just refuse to act, or rather, are made proud of their place in society and lack of action, and are furthermore encouraged by the same music that gives them a sense of pride and identity to be violent, sell drugs, and break into people's cars who have plates from a different city than theirs. Everyone loves something that gives them a sense of pride and identity, and often people will follow whatever this source of pride says is right - I love being a human being and find my pride and identity in the human race, so therefore I am driven to do what is right by the human community - and in this case the pride and character that hip-hop once gave poor urban areas was handed down to gangster rap culture and the violence now goes with the pride.

Maddy, you've got such a talent for tangents.

I think that Mike raises a good point about the understanding of rap music by the people who inspire it and are it's largest supporteres. I'm having a hard time getting it through my mind, though, that these people who are in fact appreciative of the artistry in rap music and at the same time know the dangers of the ghettos in which they live, one support the industry - they must know that, even if it is not the foremost cause, that it is certainly in the conversation about violence and misoginy in ghettos - and two: have the time to listen to the music at all - if they are aware of the negative effects of this music on their culture ( I think we can all agree that if anything it does have a negative effect) would they not be themselves trying to improve their own predicaments and get themselves out of the ghetto - and if they are then are they any longer the target 'hood' audience? The only way I can see that an objective listener of rap music and viewer of 'ghetto' culture in american can be a participant in both is if that person is swayed by the sense of pride and identity, which now-a-days comes along with the violence and misoginy. I look at it like this; if a person is brainwashed, and then taught basic moral and humane standards, would it ever look at this culture and choose to be a participant? No, it's not an appealing environment for humans to live in, unfortunatly convincing people otherwise in order to take thier money (record sales) is what rap is about now. What if ghettos dissapeared tommorrow, what would any prominent rapper of today have to say?

It just processed as I was writing this cuz I saw it outta the corner of my eye that mike said that gang violence peaked in LA and the Bronx before run dmc and shit, which i assume is because of crack, and I imagine oranized crime (mafia) had something to do with it, but it doesn't go blame free; I can't Imagine that the people woke up one morning and decided that green paper with dead guys on it and shiny circles wrapped in rubber were worth killing for - people made these things because they would make them money; it seems to me that legitimate cultural ideas are extinct in capitalistic societies; it's all about keeping everyone else poor by taking their money, and in raps case, making them proud of that. It's a good point, though. I'm gonna have to think more about it because I still see rap culture as creating complacency and pride in the lack of action in the culture, and by doing so promoting the violence and misoginy witnessed now.

Another thing: being the reverse feedback mechanism, or whatever you call it, that American commerical culture is, the instance of that gang violence that spiked in the 80's (I'm guessing, correct me if it matters) could very well be the reason for the continuation of gang violence today. Commerical rappers saw that and sold it back to people in hyped up form, creating battles among ghetto gods such as pac and biggy. If the violence never happened back then, where would rap have gotten the material to create such violent rants? I'm not saying that this is definatly the case, but it's a possibility that rap is responsible for the continuation; it could've died off by now.

As a last note to this ridiculously long post is that I don't really think that 13-15 year old kids (the ones who are more in control of the industy as mike says) have the ability or intelligence or maturity of mind to appreciate the artistic nuances among the onslaught of cussing and gunshots found in rap today. For example, swimming was my childhood 'culture'. When I was 13 or so, all I did was swim fast, I didn't car about tecnique or hurting my shoulders or this or that, I just wanted to go fast. This is how children think. I seriously doubt that anyone at 15 is interested in the things mike has to say about rap; they want it to be fuckin' hard, they want guns and tits. They don't want cadence and rythm.

I walked by a eb games today, saw the sign for the new madden, walked in, told them to keep on living in dream video game world while people are starving to death and shooting each other by the thousands in the form of 65 dollars, and then came back here to an internet that finally loaded. This took so long, I just wanna play madden. Haha. Peace.

The W said...

Point by Point:

"every one of them could live as comfortably as they wanted."

Impossible, people could work there way up ever so slightly in today's system, but it would take generations before a middle class plateau was reached. Within a capitalist system there always has to be a poor underclass of workers (and unemplyment). Even if your "ghetto group" were able to transcend all of capitalism's evil and live happily ever after, their ghetto would just be replaced with another ghetto and so on.

" become farmers in the middle of nowhere only to support themselves"

Not so easy. Farmers need money to buy land, and thus good credit to get a loan. On top of that farmers need to pay taxes (thus make a profit, or have the IRS give em an all exdpenses paid trip to prison). Farmers who want to make a profit need to compete with agrabusiness (huge corporate farms with more volume and more surplus to control the markets with).

"encouraged by the same music that gives them a sense of pride and identity to be violent, sell drugs, and break into people's cars who have plates from a different city than theirs"

There is still no proof (that ive come across) saying that the person(s) who broke into your car were influenced by rap. Its still unfounded as far as im concerned, however your intial accusation has spark an interesting conversation and i appreciate that, but im not sure the claim is concrete enough to continue to repeat.

"rap...convinces people living in 'ghettos' to be proud of being useless and poor and shows that the two options in life are, one get obscenely rich by rapping or selling drugs, or two stay poor and live in the 'hood"

A lot of rap, not all rap. Here a lot of rappers take to form of the bourgeosie and are out to keep the lower class in its place. Many of these rappers do an amazing job at this (whereas the exploited class still has love and respect for the exploiting class...many rappers)

"- if they are aware of the negative effects of this music on their culture"

many may not, as they might not recognize the workings of the feedback loop (most consumers and tv watchers cant falthom this, so rap fans cant be expected to be on a higher level as an audience).

"if a person is brainwashed, and then taught basic moral and humane standards, would it ever look at this culture and choose to be a participant?"

Probably not, but people dont have a choice (at birth) and have to grow up with the conditions they were prescribed, whether they want to or not. Only later, with a proper education, can one rebel against the system, but by then pop culture and false hope (or real defeat) will have set in for most...

"unfortunatly convincing people otherwise in order to take thier money (record sales) is what rap is about now."

Much of rap, not all.


"What if ghettos dissapeared tommorrow, what would any prominent rapper of today have to say?"

Most would not, but many still have a great skill in rapping and might be able to adjust their content. Most of these rappers aint kill someone or sell "so much white it would hurt your eyes", and theyre able to rap "well" about that...surely utopia wouldnt be a stretch...


"seems to me that legitimate cultural ideas are extinct in capitalistic societies"

Not necessarily extinct as much as systematically murdered and comerciallized. Hip hop was a real cultural idea at birth. Not many of the originals made that much money, or any at all. It still exists in its real idea form on a very small scale today, until the market finds it...

Jasper Yate said...

I disagree. Disguising the problems under the mystical cover of capitalsim and this and that is only justification. I still think that we are underestimating the power of action, instead we seem to be dealing with these people as pawns in systems that have options A, B, and C with prerequisites C, D, and F and consequences X, Y, and Z. I'm sure a plot of land large enough to build a house, a small graising pasture, and a garden somewhere in the world is not so expensive that a poor family could not work their way to buying it. The only problem I can see here is the space, the amount of room on the planet for all of these people to be self supporting farmers. Either way about the land I am not talking about farming for profit. I mean that if these people were to want to have a better life so badly they could buy land, that I don't believe is so outrageously expensive that it can't be obtained by these people (who must have some money), and support themselves; grown their own vegetables and fruit and raise their own meat. How much does 2 acres in kansas, corn seeds, and two cows cost?

I absolutely wasnt saying that it was definiat and this is proof. It was an event that sparked a thought. I do think that the influence has a large part in shaping the culture that brought up a person who does these things; it's much more complex than kid hears 50, kid shoots people and sells crack thats not what I'm saying at all, I just think that it undeniably plays a very large part in the attitude of the 'ghetto's of america.

That's my point though about rappers not having anything to say; it's not a human instinct to smack females and grind plants into powder and sell the powder at a very high price; the latter makes money, and talking about it over drums does as well because people who have no interest in acting for themselves like to hear about how their lifestyle is cool and right and good; rappers saying that living in the hood sucks doesnt get through, just the gun talk gets into peoples heads, it seems.

Of course they aren't 100%, people live in capitalist societies, and people have ideas, and sometimes if we're all lucky those ideas aren't inspired by money.

This is also in an imaginary world where people are awake. Unfortunatly they are not, so I'm not sure that arguing over the hypotheticals is where our efforts are best placed. I would instead like to divert this conversation for those who would like to continue it to the question of what we, as the few individuals we are, can do to help out our fellow human beings in the situation that they are in? How can we take action, however small, to stop the racism and such and help stop ghetto's being ghettos?