This week I am reading the Ahmir Thompson (Questlove) interview in The Believer (http://www.believermag.com/) and some of his comments apply here:
"...nine times out of ten, if there's depression, more social depression than anything, it brings out the best art in black people. The best example is Reagan and Bush gave us the best years of hiphop. I think had Carter and then Mondale won, or if Jessie were President from 84' to '88, hiphop wouldn't have existed. I think you would have more black Tom Waitses. Marsalis would be going double platinum. There would be more Joni Mitchells. The Roots would sell ten million."
What was most interesting to me about the article was Questlove's theory that crack is responsible for hiphop. I agree that crack era brought money into the 'hood, as well as danger, street cred (respect), and a false sense of power. Without crack there would be no hip-hop (as we know it). But hip-hop is just an art form and art is about expression, not necessarily education or awareness or even civic engagement.
In the past, hip-hop has been used as a call for action (Public Enemy) but that was more about the community-at-large, not the art. Art reflects life so if the life changes then so does the art. But something bothers me by John H. McWhorter's assertions:
>They were extremely loud and unruly, >tossing food at one another and leaving it on the floor.
I see this every Friday night around Boston University. Plenty of "extremely loud and unruly" white kids (mostly middle-to-upper middle class) blast their hard rock music and disturb the relative peace of their environment. These white college students "clearly weren’t monsters, but they seemed to consider themselves exempt from public norms of behavior..."
Cleary McWhorter is expressing his Black fear, not concern for the Black community. This is yet another example of double standards.
>Early rap mostly steered clear of the Sapphires and Studds, >beginning not as a growl from below but as happy party >music. The first big rap hit, the Sugar Hill Gang’s 1978 >“Rapper’s Delight,” featured a catchy bass groove that drove >the music forward, as the jolly rapper celebrated himself as >a ladies’ man and a great dancer.
Many white folks clearly are more comfortable when Black people are happy, not angry or unruly.