Friday, April 13, 2007

One Down, A Dial's Worth To Go

With Imus Gone, Critics Turning to Rap, cries one SF Chron headline. For some reason, this passage really bothers me:

Cultural critic, author and columnist Stanley Crouch, a longtime foe of rap music, suspected the Imus ordeal would galvanize young black women across the country. He said a key moment was when the Rutgers players appeared at a news conference this week — poised, dignified and defying stereotypes seen in rap videos and "dumb" comedies.

"When the public got to see these women, what they were, it was kind of shocking," Crouch said. "It made accepting the denigration not quite as comfortable as it had been for far too long."
Because they were assuming what instead? This is and is not the point here. The problem was never really that the words were said about women who were in no way ho-ish. The problem was that they were said. And the larger problem, of course, is that a lot worse is being said at this very moment on iPods, cell phone ringtones, and radios across the country.

Let's clarify my point above with this bit:

Some defenders of rap music and hip-hop culture, such as the pioneering mogul Russell Simmons, deny any connection between Imus and hip-hop. They describe rap lyrics as reflections of the violent, drug-plagued, hopeless environments that many rappers come from. Instead of criticizing rappers, defenders say, critics should improve their reality.

"Comparing Don Imus' language with hip-hop artists' poetic expression is misguided and inaccurate and feeds into a mindset that can be a catalyst for unwarranted, rampant censorship," Simmons said in a statement Friday.

The superstar rapper Snoop Dogg also denied any connection to Imus. "(Rappers) are not talking about no collegiate basketball girls who have made it to the next level in education and sports," he told MTV.com. "We're talking about hos that's in the 'hood that ain't doing s--- that's trying to get a n---- for his money."
Ah, so the problem for some, then, isn't that Imus said it. The problem is that the women were not, in fact, "nappy-headed hos." Had they been non-college educated, or if they still resided in one of a handful of deeply urban zip codes, then, boys, go nuts.

And no one here - at least I'm not - is talking censorship. It's more a matter of asking just what in the hell they (those profiting from milkshakes, lady lumps, hos, pimps, slapping bitches up, etc) are thinking.

Some hip-hop is absolutely a reflection of a painful environment that needs all the light upon it possible. But c'mon now, we all watch MTV, right? We've seen the cribs and the rides and the trappings afforded the successful bootstrappers who've made it out of the ghetto. And the gals they sing about? Just Jenny's from the block? Memories of hos? Nah. Don't buy it for a second. These are everywomen than still exist as a frame of reference and a handy shorthand. Are they asking for their fat-kid-loved-cake and to eat it too? Seems so - because a large cross-section of lauded and well-compensated hip-hop stars make extra cash from showcasing their wealth - all blinged, rimmed, and flossed nearly nonstop on a variety of music channels - but we're still afford credibility to their street-bred personas? I'm all for remembering your roots, but try celebrating what you've achieved rather than what you've escaped.

In the final analysis, there's very little intellectual honesty present in any discussion of the Imus incident and its fallout - including the now beat-late coverage of corporate pimped misogyny and whether, gee, we might need to take a look at that.

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