This is a guest post by PMS Rhino.
I overheard a conversation today that bugged me a bunch, and then I realized that I'd heard this conversation probably a billion times before, and that I have even, much to my dismay at my younger self, participated in at times.
White people REALLY love to debate whether rap is music or not.
Many white people constantly degrade rap for a supposed lack of musical notes, for only having a beat, and for being classified more as poetry than music. They even get on the lyrics ("it's all chest thumping and degrading women,” etc.).
But seriously, I've never heard people wonder if Beethoven is music. If punk rock is music. If heavy metal is music. If country is music. Not once. If trance is music.
And it's so easy to find ways to discount those genres as music too. If you define music as having lyrics, then classical and trance is out. If you define music as an aurally pleasant string of notes, then a lot of punk and metal and industrial is out. If you classify music as requiring a strong back beat, country would generally be out, along with a lot of alternative music. Any musical genre can be discounted in some form or fashion, and yet rap is the only musical genre I have ever heard white people debate.
I don't even want to get started on the whole "chest thumping and degrading women" train of thought. While many rap lyrics contain these themes, so many other genres that do the exact same shit. Older rock music was FULL of lyrics about living a life of drugs and sex and violence, where women were nothing but groupies and sex objects to write songs about. Country can be just as bad (generally minus the drugs part, though). And even if we get into the more pop-songy stuff, classifying women as damsels in distress or delicate flowers waiting for a man isn't much better either.
Is there a musical blinder that white people wear so they can't see this? Is this common criticism a case of, "I don't like rap music [which maybe means, I don’t like black people?], therefore I can find more stuff wrong with it than the music I love and listen to"?
White people are rarely willing to recognize the huge amount of talent that most rap music requires. Won't acknowledge it in the slightest. It's “black people music” that's only about drugs and sex and violence. Or it's “not even music,” in which case the complainer can never seem to decide what it is, if not music.
I suspect this is all another semantic way to “other” minorities and their music yet again. Especially when you take into account that basically the only place men and women of color can get a musical career is in R&B, hip hop or rap (or another appropriately ethnic music genre). I don't know many punk bands or rock bands or country bands or pop or whatever include minorities. Those are pretty white musical genres out there.
So when white people say rap isn't music, they pretty much mean it's not music because it's black. Which pisses me off to no end. As does the fact that this debate is so constant and so consistent. I've heard it many, many times, and I can be fairly certain taht many other White people have heard it too. And even engaged in it.
Side note: I remember going to high school dances where the DJ would play a mix of all types of music. At smaller functions it was easier to notice, but the dance floor changed with genres. When "music" (white people music) was playing, all the white kids would jump up and dance their hearts out. When rap was playing, all the white kids quickly left the dance floor, and if more than one rap song would play in a row, every so often you'd hear a grumble about “why they have to play this rap stuff or whatever,” with such disdain. I danced to whatever, a beat was a beat, but the contempt many of my white friends and acquaintances held, because "how dare they play rap?!", was amazing.
So yeah, this kind of debate about the musical validity of rap has gotten on my nerves more and more, as I've heard it over and over again. And today I just didn't even want to get into it with these people. Generally, the people who don’t think rap is music cannot be swayed to think otherwise, no matter what you say about it.
The "debate" is more a statement of feelings and beliefs that the White person has, and they feel that their beliefs are completely correct, and they will never be convinced that rap is music. Oh, but it's okay if you like rap, they're not trying to tell you what to listen to. It's just not music. You can still like it, just don't think it's music like their white bands are. That would just be silly and ignorant. So there.
Is this something that other people notice too? Or did I just happen to hang around with particularly asshole-ish groups of people?