the insane rants of an apsiring rap manager and hater

Friday, May 19, 2006

white hip hop "critics" are getting pretty ballsy....

i can't believe what its come to. the state of hip hop has gotten so awful, that it is now okay for white people to say whatever they want about hip hop with total impunity. and in the village voice no less. who would have thought that their blog page would become the mouthpiece for a new generation of white hip hop fans whose attitudes on race don't differ much from that of a duke lacrosse player.

man. i hate that people are going to think that i only started this blog to talk about tom breihan. the fact of the matter is though i haven't had much to say about hip hop in the last couple of days. thats until i read
his review of the roots show at carnegie hall, a show which i unfortunately didn't attend

dude didn't hate it, but the review was pretty dismissive. he dismisses slum village like they are irrelevant ("Slum Village? You'd have to ask someone who cares about Slum Village"). he talks about common like he's an irrelevancy ("I don't much like Common, but he is a commendably dedicated live performer, running around the stage and generally staying on beat, though he too insists on busting lame freestyles.") he dismissed black thought, who while boring a lot of the time, is one of the better rappers we've ever seen as "a good worker bee." and he says that kweli can't stay on beat, sounds pretentious when he's talking about nina simone, and can't ride a beat to save his life. in a response to a comment, he says that kweli sounds better when "hes having fun."

what?! you've got to be kidding me. i'm not sure what tom means by that, but to me it seems like he's saying that kweli would be a lot better if he were talking about partying, girls, crack or guns, and not talking about positive stuff.

everything he ever says about a rapper who isn't young jeezy, the clipse or 3-6 mafia (all of whom i like also) is totally dismissive. if its not crack rap, this white boy from baltimore doesn't like it.

it's funny because a week ago i was in baltimore, and my wife and i stumbled into a really bad neighborhood in east baltimore. this was one of the worse neighborhoods i had ever seen. and after we found our way out, i honestly felt guilty about the fact that i listen to shit that glorifies drugs and guns. when you are confronted with the ramifications of the shit that these guys glorify, it makes you realize that its not a game. to some people the shit that the jeezys and clipses of the world talk about isn't a joke and isn't a ghetto gangster movie to make your white-bred life more interesting.

i'm not saying that these artists don't make good music. i've said it before and i'll say it again. i like all sorts of hip hop, and i'm not going to completely write off an artist because of lyrical content. but at least i acknowledge that the shit isn't necessarily cool. but when tom writes from his $1100/month apartment in williamsburg (or whatever lame, gentrified hipster neighborhood he lives in) and fails to acknowledge that crack rap ain't exactly good for the community that it effects, it absolutely incenses me. compound this with the fact that he writes articles like his review of the roots show that totally dismisses positive hip hop, and it makes you realize what's going on...

tom's a white boy who wants to listen to music that affirms what he really thinks. he may use big words and an air of pretension to talk about it, but it doesn't change a thing. he's a white boy who praise negative depictions of african-americans and feels threatened by the positive depictions of them...there's a name for people like that. its not going to take you long to figure out what it is.....


Justin said...

I've been into rap music since the age of 12 when I heard Biggie on "Warning." During my leftist/postmodernist phase in high school & college I could quote Talib & Black Thought ad naseum, Common was a hero and Mos Def was a big brother.

These days Lupe Fiasco & Clipse share equal time in my stereo and I just interviewed Ghostface & reviewed "Fishscale" (9.0, probably shoulda been a 8.8) for my blog.

I'm a white dude. You probably saw that coming.

Like Tom & a lot of people, not all of whom are white, I've gotten tired of the army of "conscious" MCs who use the mainstream as a negative compass. There are only so many ways you can say that gangsta shit hurts the black community before it starts to get rote & uninteresting, regardless of how true it is.

On the other hand the Clipse & T.I. (whom I consistently criticize politically while praising artistically) are fresh to my ears. Is crack rap new? No. But these guys make some of the best that's come along in a while.

Does that mean I praise "negative depictions" of African-Americans? No more than you or any other critic/fan of the deeply problematic and contradictory subgenre of crack rap. I spent a week of sleepless nights trying to work through the messy moral implications of "Get Ya Hustle On." I'm not cavalier or cool about this shit.

I've lived on both sides of the tracks and know what kind of damage this music can do to impressionable kids. But the damage it can do doesn't mean its artistically worthless. By the same token, music that ups a community isn't good by default.

You're a smarter dude than me and you clearly realize this, so why do you deride Tom for not digging on your conscious cats of choice? You say "everything he ever says about a rapper who isn't young jeezy, the clipse or 3-6 mafia (all of whom i like also) is totally dismissive."

Without much difficulty I could mount a similar argument re: you & white critics, making all sorts of insinuations of racism without actually saying the word. Context is everything. Just cause you haven't read Tom gush about your conscious rapper of choice doesn't make him some crypto-racist, and I'm really tired of that accusation getting lobbed at white critics like some territorial trump card.

Despite my recognition of the hurt that Jeezy does through his Ghetto Superman talk, I'm not allowed to like him cause I'm white?

That can't be what you mean, but it's what I hear. Please correct me, man.

Matt Gilmour said...

My biggest beef with Tom's posts of late isn't so much that he's deriding conscious hip-hop and praising "crack" rap. It's more that he's saying shit that I either disagree with or think is flat out wrong, and he's doing it in a completely disrespectful way that when coupled with the things you've stated that are of a questionable nature, it makes him look like an uppity cracka asshole.

He shits on Kweli, says Black Thought is uncompelling, basically ignores Common, and tosses aside KRS-One as merely crazy. My feeling is, like them or not, those cats deserve a bit more respect. Some would probably say the same to me when I make rude comments about classic rock legends (Clapton is one who I'm usually underwhelmed with), but somehow that doesn't feel as wrong to me.

I don't know -- I sense I'm traveling down a slippery racial slope, where I'm basically saying that black hip-hop artists are above such dismissals, which is racist in its own right. But at the same time, I can't help but feel that the unique relationship between white critics and hip-hop carries with it these racial implications that can't be unpacked.

I think back to the opening of John Leland's "Hip: The History" (which everyone should read, by the way):

"At its worst, hip glosses over real division and inequity, pretending that the right argot and record collection can outweigh the burden of racial history. White hipsters often use their interest in black culture to claim moral high ground, while giving nothing back.

When Quentin Tarantino tosses around the word 'nigger', he is claiming hipster intimacy while giving callous offense. Really that high ground lies elsewhere. Hip can be a self-serving release from white liberal guilt, offering cultural reparations in place of the more substantive kind. This is white supremacy posing as appreciation" (6)

I sometimes fear that I fall into this category more often than not, but I don't know what I'm supposed to do to NOT be that "white liberal appreciator". In a sense, its like none of us can ever escape the history of this country.

I don't even know if I'm making much sense anymore. It's late and I should be in bed. Let me know if ya'll follow any of that...

bsidewinzagain said...

it's not even close to what i mean.

for such a bright guy you sure don't read carefully.

i listen to young jeezy. i listen to 3-6 mafia. i listen to the clipse. i listen to dipset. i too find mos def's preachiness to be annoying and hypocritical.

the problem with tom and his ilk is they ALWAYS praise the negative and never praise the positive. and in the process they don't even acknowledge that juelz santana's music might be dangerous for 12 year old kids in red hook. all i say is that they should AT LEAST acknowledge this. sounds liek you do, so no problem there.

breihan never does. he talks about how brilliant the shit is but ever even thinks about the ramifications.

my beef is with him and critics like him. i never said what you couldn't listen to.

bsidewinzagain said...


i totally get your point. and that Leland quote is spot on.

as for worrying that you fall into that category, you probably do. but I do also....white hip hop fans who try to just be a part of it, are missing something. its not that easy....race is EVERYHING in this conversation.

but its like Kanye said, "we're all self conscious, i'm just the first to admit it."

if you can recognize the fact that race is an element of everything from your interests to how you interpret those interests, then you have taken an important step.

this is way more than tom breihan has ever done....

Justin said...


Leland's book is great, read it a bit back and it really opened my eyes to a handful of issues I hadn't considered/articulated difficult problems in a comprehensible way. I've lent it out to a few friends and they all dig it.


I read all that (3-6, clipse, etc.) and tried to consider it in my response. Sorry if it didn't come across too clearly.

In typical (and indefensible) hipster fashion, Tommy boy is evaluating the music completely divorced from its context. When the music itself can be so socially destructive that can be very problematic. We agree there. But dude, your post is titled "white hip hop "critics" are getting pretty ballsy." Despite your deliberate aim at Tom, isn't it clear that your double-barrel assualt (cause it is strong) can hit a lot of us white dudes?

Your first sentence!

"i can't believe what its come to. the state of hip hop has gotten so awful, that it is now okay for white people to say whatever they want about hip hop with total impunity."

How was I supposed to NOT respond to that?

Despite our misunderstanding, glad to see you're as measured in your response as I'd hoped.

Anonymous said...

man, if you don't like Tom's blog, don't be such a dickrider that almost everything you post is about him. there's a lot of shit to write about out there, get your own content and stop feeding off of your disagreements with one dude.

Justin said...

That settles that, then.

bsidewinzagain said...


settles what? that i shouldn't attack someone that vehemently disagree with?

this guy has something which offends me, as a long time hip hop lover, in every column.

should i just be quiet against this because i'm afraid that some guy who posts as anonymous is going to call me a dickrider?

aspecks global soldier said...

er'ting seems cool though, bcos just as long as each side of the issue is considered wtihout undue animousity we can all learn. the purpose of the forum, no? nah'mean.

Anonymous said...

no, you should be quiet because there's already a more estalished blog with almost the exact same name:

Joey said...

bside, just wanted to give you a shout. i thought that your comments here and over at the voice site were on point.

bsidewinzagain said...

nice reply anonymous. maybe if you could come up with something to refute what i said and i migt take you seriously....

dan ex machina said...

i have a serious problem with this post. yes, i'm white. yes, i think tom breihan's a great writer, and yes, i disagree with a fucking lot of what he says. i love common and the roots but if he disdains them, why should i care? it's just another excuse for me to play and reevaluate records i love when an intelligent person makes a convincing argument about them. but my main problem with this is that you're turning an argument about content (whether black thought, talib kweli and common, or clipse and jeezy for that matter, make compelling music) into one about race and attitude (tom is white, you cringe that the "only" rap music he appears to like reinforces the worst stereotypes about young black people, as if they're all dealing crack). if talib kweli is an overrated rapper (which he is), then a music critic's going to make it known. i don't believe in sacred cows like tupac, who in my opinion did records 99% thugged out and 1% pro-woman (and sometimes only if you include his moms) or "conscious." of course, as a blogger with the handle "bsidewinzagain" that'll probably offend you. but i don't give a fuck. i'm a music writer, too, and i think 2pac sucks except for a hanful of classic pop singles and i'll say why until the day i die. it's not a racial thing, or about his attitude. there's plenty of rappers reinforcing stereotypes about young black men who i have plenty of time for. jay-z's one of the all-time greatest entertainers, the closest thing the hiphop world has ever produced to a frank sinatra (unless you count eminem, which you don't), and like frank, he's probably as callous an asshole as his music suggests. in fact, one reason why a lot of young people gravitate towards metal and punk and "crack rap" is because they like that kind of dangerousness, the fact that their heroes are fuckups (or at least portraying them) like them. if they don't want to be preached at by krs-one or serenaded with blandness like dave matthews or jack johnson or black eyed peas or jurassic 5 in the name of being "laid-back" or "positive," that doesn't make the kids any less smart than the so-called "conscious" rap fans. black thought hasn't made a compelling verse since phrenology, and common's be is fantastic musically with nothing new to say lyrically. it's not their fault that ghostface's sexist, crack-narrative, hell, even "gangsta" fishscale is a better album than they'd ever make in 2006. oh, and i believe tom breihan enjoys kanye west, if that's conscious enough for you.

steveburks said...

I'm responding to dan ex machina's comments, or a few among the many in the heap, anyway.

* What makes Tom Breihan's arguments about The Roots, Common, or whomever else he dislikes, "convincing"? In other words, WHY do these cats supposedly suck? I presume that there are actual criteria for suckiness, and that we're not dealing with circular reasoning here, e.g., "they suck because they suck."

* Do you follow the idea, whether or not you agree with it, that what you characterize as "turning" an argument about content "into" one about race and attitude, is actually a reference to the possible cause-and-effect relationship between the two? Meaning, racial attitudes can color one's judgment of content? Is it possible for you to entertain the idea that there have existed - and still exist - white Americans who prefer "nigga" music over the "conscious/positive" stuff, not because those consumers are dumb, nor because the "dangerous" stuff is actually better, but because those listeners operate under the influence of a subconscious premise, buried so deeply that it's never even considered (and whose invisibility to those who suffer from it spurs debates like this one): namely, that "nigga" is the way rap is supposed to be, because "nigga" is the way BLACKS are supposed to be.

"Supposed." Yes, that's what I meant. If you grow up being bombarded with images of black folks as criminals or social footnotes or dummies or weirdos or metaphors for evil, and if you are born into (which we all were) a society, most of whose media heads, federal politicians, industrialists, and all other kinds of leaders who control what impressions you receive, learned as kids what "black" means from the Jim-Crow era, then that worldview is going to color everything they touch - as it has -and they will pass on that Jim-Crow mentality to susceptible members of subsequent generations, who watch cartoons and network t.v. and read mags and go to movies and buy CDs and cybersurf, and on occasion rub elbows with blacks who have adopted that script about themselves from the same sources. We're awash in this stuff, guys. Just because we don't see dogs and waterhoses doesn't mean that bonafide racism is no longer being propagated. The mindscape, folks.

So speak for yourself Dan. Maybe you're not that type, but speak for yourself. For I assure you, these people exist.

* What makes for a "compelling verse"? Criteria? What is this that Black Thought supposedly stopping writing or doing after Phrenology? I'm a broken record here, but I think it's necessary.

Eloquence does not = a good point.

If you get a minute, take a look at the blog entry, "Is Rap Not About Words?" on my blog. I suspect that you'll have something to say about it as well.

This was long, but hopefully worth considering.