Friday, March 5, 2010

claim that rap isn't music

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?

130 comments:

  1. I've noticed it, but not often since I was a kid (I'm 33 now and have been listening to hip-hop for more than 20 years). Its success makes it difficult for people to claim it's anything but music, and saying it's not makes one seem worse than a fuddy-duddy nattering about how abstract art isn't art.

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  2. My former town of residence was exceptionally white and conservative, and I found two common groups of white people residing there:
    those who embraced rap music, but still freely used racial slurs and stereotyping, under the impression that it was fine because they "weren't racist"; and those who hated rap music, which is fine if you just don't enjoy it, but most of them couldn't just leave it alone. I once had a friend rant at me about how awful rap music was and demand an explanation for why I was going to see a Jay-Z concert. He seemed to be labouring under the misapprehension that all of the music I enjoy needed to be pre-approved by him.

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  3. Yeah, I've noticed it. I have friends who actively say they don't like rap music for the reasons that you mentioned. I always had to hide my like for rap music for fear that people would criticize me for it. But now that I think about it, you are right, rap and (some pop) is more inclusive of minorities than punk rock or country is. I mean, when is the last time you saw a Black country star or an Asian punk rock band (that is purely based in America, not J-Rock)

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  4. Yes, I've noticed it. I also live in an area where white contempt for blacks is rather unvarnished. (Although the 1st person I ever heard say rap isn't music was Wynton Marsalis.)

    However, whenever I encounter this:
    So when white people say rap isn't music, they pretty much mean it's not music because it's black [,] I like to remind them about who created rock music. :o) It's funny because the musical genres that are associated abroad with America are: jazz, r&b, rock...who created these? ;o)

    Great post, btw, PMSRhino!

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  5. LOL!

    Reminds me of conversations with my parents and relatives concerning hip-hop. Of course, they don't consider it music, since they're used to the genres of soul, funk, R&B, gospel, and blues. There is the occasional tune that gets their attention, but that's about it!

    I've listened to hip-hop and rap since the late '80s. To be honest, I don't consider many aspects of the genre as music, since I'm more on the level of "it takes instruments" myself. Many artists, past and present, have used house bands or are bands themselves to produce hip-hop or rap, so that's no problem. I just don't think using a DJ or sampling past (or current) tracks constitutes being music, more so than basic house-party gigs and an MC with a creative (and sometimes sharp)tongue...which is a part of its roots to begin with. Now, being creative with the above aspect is in some other territory (of which I enjoy).

    I'll co-sign on the notion of other genres, especially classical music. To slam hip-hop and rap as "chest-thumping", but to give classical music, which some songs are based on the same premise, including war, violence, and sex, is sort of odd.

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  6. i like the definition of music as 'organized sounds'.
    this is a clear case of white people using semantics and their own narrow experiences as an excuse to discount black culture. as if the art form of music is one more gated white community that needs to be protected from the invasion of black cultural influence.
    i tend to think that the biggest problem whites have with rap music is that white culture didn't
    appropriate it fast enough or appropriate it completely. there is simply too much black left in
    rap for whites to recognize it as an art form.
    rap music (especially ganster rap) is one of those things that white people claim to hate. we are supposed to believe that white people are shocked, appalled, and offended by ganster rap, an
    art form that confirms every prejudice and fear that white people have towards blacks (some
    would say: towards POOR blacks). we are supposed to believe whites loathe an art form that legitimizes their racism. love/hate, i would say.

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  7. Almost 'funny' how people don't consider the voice to be an instrument let alone the use of technology. Which makes even 'funnier' when [white] technousic love claim that rap and/or hip-hop, which they can't differentiate, isn't music.

    And just as frustrating is when its acknowledged as music then its often the white performers given accolades. And not just people like eminen and the beastie boys but the white boy on that credit-report-or-whatever commercial.

    Only good thing that comes out of the frustration is that I come to know rather immediately which white people are worth my time & attention.

    -Juan

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  8. with the exception of classical none of those genres
    would exist without black people. Even modern country borrows very heavily from r'n'b.

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  9. @Juan: Yeah, I've often noticed that when rap is discussed no one ever brings up white groups like the Beastie Boys, Rage Against The Machines or Sum 41 (I mean come on, El Nino was the BIGGEST song for forever when I was a teen) when they argue about it. Rap metal/rock was (maybe still is in some circles, I haven't heard much of it lately) a very popular genre in my high school and college years. But most rap rock bands are white and use guitars (or something) so they're music.

    And the voice has always been one of the most important instruments for me in music. If I don't like someone's voice in a song that is a deal breaker. Also agree with the observation about techno which is almost always considered music, when most of it is entirely electronic and technology based, but rap is discounted BECAUSE of it's use of technology.

    @TAB & Jas0nburns: Yeah, funny how everyone seems to forget that we stole a lot of music from black people. Especially all the White friends who love rock and country.

    @J Ergle: Totally agree. If white people had taken over rap music sooner it wouldn't be debated as often. I can't recall white rappers being brought up very often. Unless it's Eminem, but Eminem gets a crazy amount of press.

    @Najela: Omg I love Jrock and Jpop! Lol, just had to get that out of my system. :P

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  10. Okay this is just wrong.

    http://www.cracked.com/funny-1708-satan/

    Note the section "influence on music" where "music" is crossed off and heavy metal is written in its place.

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  11. -I mean, when is the last time you saw a Black country star or an Asian punk rock band (that is purely based in America, not J-Rock-

    Well Darrius Rucker has made a bit of a name for himself in the country scene after he began a solo career in country back in 2008. Many still love Charlie Pride. Can't help you with the punk scene though.

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  12. I hear this a lot from my white friends - but not from my friends who are/ were serious musicians. I usually counter with not only is it music, but it is, in fact FOLK music!

    Much of the criticism I hear from WP goes along the the using-sampling-is plagerism and nothing-is being-created meme. I hate this b/c 1. Show me the piece of music that DOESN'T draw from or harken to other music, 2. It seems to me like a way to just ignore or invalidate the creative engeries and talents that go into making rap/hip hop (Hey, you think it's so easy? Let's see you try!). 3) It ignores the music and poetry of the performing.

    The misgyny/violence arguments are spurious, IMO. Most music genres (with lyrics) marketed for western consumption are redolent with them; not surprisng given that the cultures from which the musicians arise are imbued with both.

    There was a recent PBS Independent Lense on the issues of sampling and rap/hip hop that had great conversations with the artists themselves.

    I loved it for how it gave a voice to the creative processess of the musicians, and exposed the systematic way WP - in this case judges and the music industry execs - both managed to denigrate that creative process, and extract exhorbitant profit from it.

    http://www.pbs.org/independentlens/copyright-criminals/film.html

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  13. I just remember the pop radio station in my racist hometown when TLC's "Waterfalls" was blowing up. They'd played an edited version of the song with Left-Eye's rap edited out. Which spurred my sister and I to learn the entire thing so we could promptly fill in for our slighted sister.

    White people have never had a problem with appropriating black art forms. And usually, before they've successfully done so, they claim that it's not really art. So, I'm sure that once the white rap scene has burgeoned beyond the occasional 'great white hope', it will graduate to being recognized as actual 'music'.

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  14. Just curious: for those who believe music requires instruments, how do The Roots measure up?

    J Ergle I'd never thought @ it that way. That's part of why I keep reading this site.

    Juan, good point @ omitting white rappers from the diatribe (yet rewarding them with accolades). I'll have to remember to bring up the Beastie Boys the next (and there's always a next) time.

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  15. Might be good to hear from an actual white person since I really think you are generalizing. (putting on my flame-retardant suit as I write) Most white people(like me) know it's music, but I beleive many negatively react to the lyrics....the constant references to ridiculous content that has pretty much made it more of a cliche'; bitches and ho', being a thug, poppin' a cap..yada yada yada. That's why, IMO they don't want to admit it's music. Agree with your comments regarding RNR and Country...I remember 80's rock was drugs and sex primarily.....country was just drinkin and cheatin'. Sorta reminds me of the disco music days. People were posing then as well. It was a search for identity then , jsut like today. Although most rap these days is pretty violent and not something you generally want kids listening to. Country has overall started changing to better lyrics and who the hell knows what is going on with RNR :-) Lots of music share some of the same crappy uncreative lyrics....but rap, country and RNR is all music....just pick your flavor! Good discussion, hope you'll show tolerance for some other views!

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  16. Apparently, the Merriam-Webster dictionary says of music:

    the science or art of ordering tones or sounds in succession, in combination, and in temporal relationships to produce a composition having unity and continuity b : vocal, instrumental, or mechanical sounds having rhythm, melody, or harmony

    Re: violence - Sheeesh. As if metal doesn't degrade women? Didn't Guns 'n Roses have an album cover with a picture of a completely 'used' or raped woman (which I couldn't even bear to look at)? (Rhetorical question.)

    Btw, I once was at a club with an all Aussie female crowd. I didn't enjoy the music until a black guy went up to sing. It had a little more beat and I liked it better. But all my girlfriends said his music wasn't too good and it was difficult to dance to. I was like, huh? Not that I'm a good judge of music, but there was an obvious difference in taste.

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  17. i'm always amazed when people are so militant about music. especially people who pride themselves on their music taste and therefore, have to put everyone else's music down. art is freakin' subjective!

    growing up in northern virginia 8 years ago, the dances at my mostly white HS only played hip-hop and R&B. i'm not sure the age of the OP but i feel like now, hip hop is THE dance music and that kids in general find it impossible to dance to other genres like rock etc. the idea of kids dancing to anything other than hip hop seems like a scene from the past. has anyone experienced this?

    i'm amazed (but I guess not surprised) to hear WP slamming rap! how can they be so stupid? rap is so pervasive, respected, and admired by the pop music scene and it has completely influenced other genres.

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  18. the dances at my mostly white HS only played hip-hop and R&B. i'm not sure the age of the OP but i feel like now, hip hop is THE dance music and that kids in general find it impossible to dance to other genres like rock etc.

    I'm mostly in accord with Nina, here. My first thought upon reading the post was that the observed tendency was common among white people...in 1993! I guess that goes to show that it's impossible to underestimate peoples' cultural fluency. After all, I guess you do still see plenty of white people wearing mom jeans, too.

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  19. My experience was somewhat dissimilar; I grew up in Southern California and remember that at school dances everyone in my (almost entirely white or Mexican) school was dancing to rap and related genres. But I also think that even then rap was starting to develop a kind of coolness factor - that in some ways we white suburban kids were fascinated by "ghetto culture", and wanted to share in (read: appropriate) it by being into the music.

    I haven't really heard anyone in my social circle arguing against rap, but almost all of my friends tend to be into electronic music of one form or another, so we're used to more minimalist music. (Or maybe they just don't discuss it around me, ha.)

    I think those that deride rap and/or hip-hop as being all or mostly about misogyny/violence haven't listened to very much of it. Yes, a good deal of it is about sex, and so is a good deal of almost every other genre. The objectification of women is not something pioneered by rap. (And there are some notable female rappers who are doing the opposite with their own misandrist music - Trina*, for example.)

    Even if somebody just picks the Top 40 Hip-hop/RnB tracks for a given month and checks all those out, I think that they'll find the anti-woman/violent shtick is by no means the majority. Most of them are about the same thing most genres are about: going out, having fun, picking up**, and having a good time.

    * I like Trina, I'm not slagging her. Just wanted to make that clear.

    ** Yes, picking up can be talked about without being it being the stereotypical "bitches and hos".

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  20. I guess whites really hate this Bobby McFerrin guy. My God the very thought of making music without instruments- why the nerve! And don't even get me started on A-cappella; that's just taking this no instrument thing a bit too far (tongue in cheek.) I don’t listen to rap- and I didn’t allow it in my home till my children were of age and therefore free to decide for themselves. I listen to Jazz mainly- with Classical music and Gospel running a close second.

    But Rap is music, no question about it- its just not “My” kind of music. However, if I were to choose a favorite it would be Baby Phat by De La Soul; because of the praise if heaps on women of size. (A weakness of mine I must admit.) "Skip the salad girl, bring us both the menu. And eat the whole box of chocolates I sent you"

    I’m sure most of you are old enough to recall images of a frantic DJ smashing a 78 rpm record and saying, "Rock and roll has got to go! It was thought the suggestive beats and lyrics of that vile Ni**er Music was just too sexually seductive to white girls, and could very well spawn a mixing of the races. It was considered a tool of the devil and Elvis Presley its chief pawn. You couldn't convince most white people otherwise. It was just considered too black-- and too Anti American, and therefore tainted and evil.

    But when Elvis- Pat Boone, the Beatles, and even Wayne Cochran got into the act they won America over by whitening the genre up a bit. (Similar to what the Beastie Boys, Vanilla Ice and Eminem did to Rap and R&B.) Black music was rendered legitimate and therefore safe for white consumption, especially when it was performed and appropriated by Whites for a white demographic.

    Of course, some of these same whites don't see anything wrong with the Girls Gone Wild videos, which put some rap videos to shame in terms of content. But these (some whites say) are just All-American-Girls having good clean fun. Oh the hypocrisy.

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  21. "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."

    --- Isn't this paragraph just another example of the "Arab Trader fallacy" that we are not supposed to use around here?????

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  22. @Um: If it was about something bad white people did and then white people attempted to justify it by saying, "But those PoC do it too!" then it would be Arab Trader.

    But since what's happening here is that white people are saying, "This [minority] thing is so bad because of XYZ!" and then somebody else is saying, "Wait, no, those white-dominated genres do XYZ too," it isn't Arab Trader.

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  23. I'm curious if anyone knows if similar arguments were used to say that other forms of music which originated as black art forms (jazz, blues, etc.) were also called "not music" or "not real music" when they originated - or when white people got around to noticing them. Anyone know?

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  24. I've definitely heard white people deny that other genres are music - mainly electronic, but also experimental, punk & occasionally metal. I haven't heard any of these claims in quite a while, but I'm sure that's due to who I choose to hang out with.

    I still think the OP is totally right about the reasons, though. And of course it goes for people who think it's music but just don't like it (usually for the same reasons described above). I've heard plenty of white people say that the only music they don't like is rap (though often it's "rap or country", which maybe brings classism into it, too).

    I listen to some hip-hop, but I admit I get tripped up by the sexism - it seems like even "conscious" rappers often can't let an album go by without dropping a little (though not as much or as bad). I need to sit down and do some thinking about that. Maybe the sexism seems more prevalent in comparison to the other stuff I listen to (which includes instrumentals & non-English) - or maybe it just jumps out at me more because it's expressed by black people :/

    Also, what molecularshyness said:
    "White people have never had a problem with appropriating black art forms. And usually, before they've successfully done so, they claim that it's not really art. So, I'm sure that once the white rap scene has burgeoned beyond the occasional 'great white hope', it will graduate to being recognized as actual 'music'."

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  25. @candied re: "Might be good to hear from an actual white person since I really think you are generalizing."

    Saying that white people do something is not saying that all white people do it. Even stereotyping recognizes exceptions. To apply something to all of a certain group, it has to be made explicit; that's how those words work. Generalization means that there are exceptions. Besides, there's a kind of disclaimer right in the subtitle of the blog. Stop being so hypersensitive. (irony)

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  26. I know quite a number of white people (one a former boyfriend) who flatly refused to acknowledge hip hop or rap as music but would freely admit to liking Eminem's music.
    I'd say their disdain for rap is deeply rooted in it's perception as 'black' music. It's only when a white artist falls under that category is he then given kudos and widely embraced.
    I used to have a comeback when they said' rap is crap' I'd counter that with 'rock is crock' as in a crock of s**t! The outrage was interesting :)

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  27. ""I'm curious if anyone knows if similar arguments were used to say that other forms of music which originated as black art forms (jazz, blues, etc.) were also called "not music" or "not real music" when they originated - or when white people got around to noticing them. Anyone know?""

    Actually, can't remember whether I read it or it was a PBS documentary but yes--for the most part when they were at first visibly Black or identified as/with Blacks--the forms were derided and degraded by whites. Even Black gospel music as well was put down by whites! o.0

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  28. If these people you debate with are forcing their worldview on you and it's racist, then fuck 'em. It's racist or at the very least narcissistic and not worth arguing with someone who thinks that THEIR opinions are obviously the way everyone else views the world. If they're narcissistic about their racist worldview... then there's no hope, really. Even a cluebat won't help.

    I don't think, however, that personal taste automatically means racist unless the person arguing is deliberately conflating 'Music I like' with the definition of music.

    For me:

    "I don't like the rap songs that degrade women." I don't like the rock songs, country songs, or any songs that degrade women either. It's legitimate to not want to listen to the rap that deals with those themes. It's NOT spurious just because 'all the other genres are doing it'. It's NOT something that should be lauded. It's damaging because even though 'it's just music', people get catchy tunes stuck in their head and repeat them like a mantra. Repeating "bitches ain't shit", or whatever the catchy sexist phrase is, over and over does absolutely zero people any favors.

    I don't like music that perpetuates sexist attitudes and I shouldn't be required to like it because not liking it is racist.

    I enjoy rap that doesn't follow those stereotypes. Not ALL rap songs are sexist. I've heard rap dealing with family, thought, life, and all sorts of topics that don't perpetuate misogynistic, sexist attitudes.

    Rap is a perfectly valid musical genre. Disliking a _subset_ of rap for specific reasons is not directly correlated with racism. Just like I don't like the classical music that's mostly violins (*shiver*) or power metal in the metal genre (Makes me anxious!), I don't like the rap subset that is sexist. There's a big difference between, "I don't like sexist rap" and "I don't like rap".

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  29. What automatically came to my mind when reading this post were two artists that consciously write about having meaningful relationships with women and/or political stuff: Dead Prez and The Roots. I can't think of a single pop artist that does both (or either really).

    I also feel like some WP might get uneasy because most of radio rap/hip hop is also about money. Better not even think of taking their class privilege or they'll quake in their country western boots!

    This is exactly why I can't stand radio music anymore. Some artists that fit this bill that don't get airtime: Deltron, OH NO, The Very Best, Esau, Zomby, etc.

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  30. @Candied: I don't know if you were pointing the "like to hear from a white person" statement at me, but I am white and this is what I have observed from MANY of my White friends. Hell, I even got into it in my naive high school days. Though I don't know if it was more not wanting to disagree with my friends. As I mentioned, I seemed to have hung around with alot of snooty assholes back in the day. As someone stated, it's what MOST white people do. And I've seen it and heard it enough to consider it a common white tendency in my book.

    Plus, I dunno if I take kindly to you saying you need to hear from a White person because their observations are more OBJECTIVE and TRUE. Like a man saying "Can't we get a dude to talk about feminism? I think these women are too busy generalizing about nonsense." And you're experiences aren't the only experiences. Not trying to be mean, but just saying.

    @Nina: I'm 24, so I'm not ancient. Although sometimes I do tend to feel that way, lol. So I was in high school from 2000 to 2004, so maybe our dances weren't quite the same as others. During the bigger dances the white people leaving the dance floor wasn't so noticeable, but with the smaller dances held in our cafeteria it was fairly noticeable. So I dunno. Was just a random observation that I was wondering if anyone else noticed it too, see if it was common or not.

    :)

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  31. There are actually quite a lot of good punk bands that are minorities. For one there's Bad Brains, who are widely regarded as pioneers of the genre. There are a lot of Mexican punk bands too, since punk tends to be popular in Hispanic communities.

    Not trying to derail. And good post btw.

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  32. It seems to me like "Black music" is the gateway for most music. Like whenever Black people make up music, white people dont accept it until 1) black people stop listening to it. 2) More white people start making that type of music. Then it's "okay" And by the time its "okay" the new "black music" isnt music.

    Also in my generation it seems like alot of white kids like it, but don't say anything because they don't think other white people listen to it. Unless of course they are trying to be "cool and have swagga"d

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  33. @PMS Rhino

    Not pointed at you..don't know you white, don't care if your white.

    I'm really not concerned what you take exception to...but back to the discussion....my point is.. It's absurd to think that limited personal experiences in a group of "snooty" types qualifies your assumption that "most" whites do this. It's simply a small experience of yours and a few others and certainly does not make the assumption any more true. It simply has not been my experience that this is some prevalent hate-filled characteristic that "most" white people share. Damn I here white people listening to rap all the time AND in my experience working at a large Texas college...I see this daily....music is music, no ethnic group defines it and people's strong affinity for a certain type of music can certainly make them degraded other types. I just done't see this as a white-centric characterisitic since I hear
    100's of kids of all ethnicities talking up thier favorite music and degrading the others. Ther's no institutional hatred of rap any more than there is of the other types. Would be a good master's thesis for a student though to study it :-) Any takers? Might pass this along to some of my students......

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  34. To all the people who complain about Violence and Sexism in rap/hip hop. What music are you listening too? I agree about the sexism ** but rap hasn't been violent since circa 1992. Most rap music that makes the Billboard charts is about women or money with the occasional drug song. Most of what is incorrectly labeled as 'gangsta rap' these days does not even violent or gang related behavior. Part of me wonders if the constant mention of violent rap music is just that stereotype about blacks being violent.

    **yes the Sexism is rampant on the Billboard charts, even the artist that are so called "nice" guys like Drake still say b*tch and have misogynist music videos

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  35. Thanks for the name "texas piss ant". Think I'll keep it..:-)

    @ thelady...totally agree...rap was much more violent years ago. And i think now there are so many subsets of rap there's something that any one can enjoy.

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  36. @ TPA

    do you really believe that music in this country has not be racialized?

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  37. @texas pissant

    So you kick aside the experiences of others and a historical trend to assert your own experience as authority above all?

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  38. @PMS Rhino

    Oh! We are the same age and went to HS at the same time. I forget that the U.S. is so huge and culturally different region to region. Where did you attend HS?

    We didn't have smaller dances but now I wonder if I would have witnessed the same thing that you did. I'll never know.

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  39. I don't even think lyrical content matters in a discussion
    of whether or not hip hop is music. If you say you don't like it cool. If you say it's not music you don't know what music is. doesn't matter what the MC is saying. although there must be something about hip hop that opens it up to this type of criticism because nobody was saying funk and soul arnt music in the 70's and 80's

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  40. @ juan

    of course I don't kick that aside. You're free to think anything you wish. I have no authority over anyone. Simply saying I think jumping on the bangwagon of a assumption and an observation of a small group of people in no way makes something true or conclusive.

    Your hypocrisy is interesting....most of us don't beleive that POC should be judged on the actions of a few....do you? But you've jumped in with both feet in beleiving this about WP based on the observation of bloggers on this site...interesting narrow thinking... let's see you wiggle out of that one....we're waiting. Great discussion!

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  41. Hmmm - I think it's important to remember that while lots of whites swear not to like rap, whites buy the majority of rap and buy rap in numbers disproportionate to their actual share of the population. Blacks buy a minority of rap. Whites control the rap music industry as well. Often whites will consume rap "ironically" mockingly singing the lyrics - but singing them nonetheless and having evidently memorized the lyrics.

    I grew up in an affluent white commmunity, and I heard djs playing rap and white parties all the time - to the glee of white students. I've heard more rap at Bat and Bar Mitzvahs than anywhere else...

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  42. @TPA re: "Simply saying I think jumping on the bangwagon of a assumption and an observation of a small group of people in no way makes something true or conclusive."

    I think there's an entry in Derailing for Dummies on this tactic (saying that anecdotal evidence isn't evidence), but I'm not sure and can't get on the site for some reason.

    In any case, TPA, the OP doesn't make a claim that all or most white people dislike rap music. As I understand it, the posting says that the critique in question--asserting that rap isn't music at all--is practically unique to white people. Other people put down music they don't like, sure, but as a group, white people tend more than other groups to subscribe to the notion that rap is non-musical. Not just bad or hard to listen to--not even music. That isn't just disliking something; it's claiming ownership over the very definition of music.

    This is something white people do in terms of English as well--claim that certain dialects or vernacular forms are not English at all. It is linguistic imperialism, or, in the case of music and art, cultural imperialism. And it is something white people do even if you or I don't.

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  43. Simply saying I think jumping on the bangwagon of a assumption and an observation of a small group of people in no way makes something true or conclusive.

    What you are saying is that just because you see don't see it, means that it doesn't happen.

    Not only are you being dismissive, you've tossed in "you're-the-real-racist-not-me" and "teach-me-what's-already-been-taught" just for a little flavor...and it's bitter. Very, very bitter.

    Most of the commenters here, coming from different countries and different walks of life, have said, "Yes, as a Person of Color, I have experienced this." There have even been several white commenters saying the same thing. It goes back to the question, "How many people must be offended before something is labeled offensive?"

    You dismiss the very real experiences of POC - experiences that you, as a white person, will NEVER have - as simply "jumping on the bangwagon of a assumption". Here's a thesis topic for you:

    PROVE THAT THIS DOESN'T OCCUR. Prove that none of these experiences happened. Also, prove that when white people shun rap as a form of form of music, they are not doing it because of the institution of racism, intentionally or otherwise.

    Show your work.

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  44. Oh yeah, and Rhino is definitely on point about rap music being condemned b/c it's "black" -- after all, jazz and rock, when they were originally created, weren't considered music for the same reason.

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  45. @texas pissant

    If there is no net, the octopus has no need to escape. If the holes in the net are not woven small enough, the octopus will not be on your dinner plate.

    (*i sea what i did thar lulz*)

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  46. @bloglogger: "That isn't just disliking something; it's claiming ownership over the very definition of music.

    This is something white people do in terms of English as well--claim that certain dialects or vernacular forms are not English at all. It is linguistic imperialism, or, in the case of music and art, cultural imperialism. And it is something white people do even if you or I don't."

    Thank you. Was my point. I don't care if they like it or don't, but white people want to own the very definition of what something is. The English thing is so spot on.

    @Nina: Went to high school near Houston, Texas. About 30 minutes out. And yeah, it can be amazing how very very different areas of the United States can be. :) Went to small public school, very diverse and I went there from K-12, so I knew a lot of the people since we were 5. Alot of people were "lifers" as I called us, so we had an interesting dynamic. :) And yeah, I know a lot of people didn't go to schools small enough to have dances as small as we did. Hell, my graduating class was about 100-150 kids or so. :P

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  47. @PMS Rhino

    your experience will definitely continue to fuel my assumptions about TX...then you get white liberal ignorance in other parts of the country. that's a particularly "special" brand of ignorance bc white liberals honestly think they are sensitive to racism and often epically fail. it's kind of all over the NW...i'm writing from Seattle. i am definitely one of them and trying hard not to perpetuate that subtle institutional racism. that's why i'm here on SWPD.

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  48. [TS-- thanks for sharing, I guess, but that comment is too much about you, and not enough, if at all, about the topic at hand, which is the common white tendency to dismiss rap as non-music. ~macon]

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  49. "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."

    And people tend to forget that most popular music, whether it is RnB or Rock music stems from black music. Still, we get pigeonholed to only RnB genres.

    Also there are many black rock bands and some black country stars. It is a result of marketers refusing to market "minorities" as being part of rock and country genres. If you want to know more about black rock and punk bands, check out Rob Fields, the black rock evangelist, and the Bold as Love website ( http://www.boldaslove.us/). There are also black country artists today like Darius Rucker and Rissi Palmer.

    Last, as for the use of sampling in Hip-Hop not being music. How about other artists in the past who borrowed music and lyrics from other artists before them. For example, Led Zeppelin (although I love them too) "sampled" many blues riffs and lyrics in their songs. Yet, a lot of white people love them. Still, isn't that similar, but Hip-hop get criticized for it.

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  50. Sorry macon. I can be a bit long winded. Haha

    I was just trying to emphasize that many white people who dismiss rap music, have only ever heard Rap that isn't exactly the paragon of the genre. (Not that this dismisses the behavior)

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  51. @Reese.Very. Frank.

    KillSwitchEngage always makes me smile for their willingness to accept a man for his obvious talent rather than bow to their genre's status quot

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  52. "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)."

    well isn't pop short for popular? hip hop/r'n'b IS pop music now. so that's a bit like complaining that the ONLY place they LET Brett Farve play football is in the NFL.

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  53. Dang. I dislike most abstract art, wear mom jeans, and haven't yet found any rap or hip-hop that I cared to listen to (haven't tried very hard, I admit). But I don't dislike or disrespect anyone who loves abstract art, rap, and low-cut jeans, either. Surely being a fuddy-duddy as far as one's *own* tastes go doesn't necessarily make one racist or classist? And heck, shouldn't other people occasionally respect *my* tastes, even if they find them dull?

    It's hard enough to be happy in this world. Let people have art and music that make them happy, not what someone else thinks they ought to have.

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  54. hschinske, you don't seem to have read the post very carefully. It's not about people who don't like rap; it's about people who arrogantly claim it's not even music. Big diff, no?

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  55. @jas0nburns

    That is not the point. Playing in the NFL would be obvious, it is like saying the only place the let you sell music is the music industry. Well, duh! The point is that minorities should not be put in a box to do music they are expected to do. Any person who is a not white should be able to do rock music without being punished for it or marginalized for it. Just because someone is a certain race, does not mean they have to do a music genre specific to their race. If white people can do blues, I can do country.

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  56. It's quite simple, people.

    They can't do it; therefore, they can't steal it/appropriated it. If they could do the aforementioned, they would LOVE it!!! Think I'm joking? When they add the following; It's not music because any one can do it - challenge them to do a 2-minute freestyle. THEY CAN'T; therefore, the theory that any one can do it is null and void.

    They also do not like Latino music. Why? See the above reasoning.

    If you do so, you won't suffer from mind numbing headaches. I don't even get pissed about it because it's simple jealousy that here's a genre that they can't perform; yet, they witness it's global conquering.

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  57. @IcedEarther check out The Kominas for some (South) Asian punk rock.

    The rap thing - I've heard it a lot - the whole "rap isn't music" thing - but mostly in the 90s. These days, no one's really debating it that I can see. Rock is dying and hip-hop is taking its place, it seems.

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  58. I have also heard white people claim that rap isn't really music. Also, while I've never heard anyone say that reggae isn't music, I have seen a few white people react to reggae with a sort of extreme disgust, totally out of proportion to what one would expect from simple dislike (even strong dislike) of a genre. Their explanation for this reaction: they can't understand the lyrics. Has anyone else encountered this?

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  59. might not be blackMarch 6, 2010 at 8:06 AM

    Whoo boy, alright while I might not be black I know more about rap music than just about anyone I know and a rapper myself, so I am very passionate about this topic.

    First off, and I don't know why this is first off, I don't think saying "I don't like rap music" is equivalent to "I don't like black people". Some people just don't care for it. You can tell the difference, the difference is when people go out of their way to criticize it rather than just leaving it at "I'm not into it" or something like that.

    But on to the people that really just don't understand, and say really played out gimmicky lines like "rap is crap". What angers me is that these white industry modern day masters push out a really low quality lyrical product, so that the main appeal of today's songs are that they are good in a club setting. When that is all they hear, it actually reinforces these misinformed people that rap takes minimal talent. Though I doubt a lot of them could ride the beat, I understand the complaint, rappers rhyme "club" with "f**k" and it really isn't that hard to that. What angers me is that these people don't get angry at the people that promote and market these rappers, because there are plenty of talented artists out there that the industry could put on but won't. Interesting story. A North Carolina group called Little Brother had a video that was destined to blow up on BET but BET deemed the video "too intelligent" for its audience. That tells you everything I've been trying to say, but better. My words are mixed up right now, my mind is spinning.

    Don't get me wrong, I don't think the club music is all bad, every music has its place, but there needs to be variety. If it is just one sound the whole time and that style happens to be materialism and sexism then people watching that one style will think the groups making the music are all materialist and sexist. I'm not saying it is not white people's fault entirely, because I think it is ridiculous how Eminem embodies a lot of misogyny (and lately materialism as well) but he never reflects bad on white people. But I do think the hip-hop industry perpetuates racism or at the very least exploits it by assuming its buying public wants to hear simple, have nothing to say black men instead of challenging them a little bit.

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  60. might not be blackMarch 6, 2010 at 8:07 AM

    But there's another thing. People always want to say rap degrades women. Even the poster mentions it and just passes it as every genre does it (not to diminish degrading women but to diminish the claim that it only happens in rap, I don't think I have it twisted). But people see such a limited sector of the rap spectrum, they actually do believe that is all rap is about. Never will you hear the underground artists like Common Market or Blue Scholars get mentioned as examples of rap artists that don't degrade women, you just get the mainstream examples of rap artists who do. Even the token "conscious" mainstream rappers (the term is an insult, Mos Def explains it better than I could, read his thoughts on the word on wikipedia or something) like Common or Nas have some anti-women messages in some of their songs (check "I Poke Her Face" if you don't believe me). This is very frustrating, because it seems the only "conscious" rap the industry allows to shine is the ones that accept degrading women as normal. Therefore even when white fans look "underground" (goes for white, black...every racial group basically) they really only look as deep as Common or Immortal Technique (who is overrated as fuck as far as "revolutionaries" go, the dude is a massive homophobe which to me is an extension of a sexist) and never truly get an idea of all the "conscious" yet female-neutral/female-positive (for lack of better terms) there are like All Natural, Blackalicious, The Coup or Abyssinian Creole to name a few. Not to mention female rappers like Jean Grae or Invincible.

    And that's even another thing though. The mainstream rappers who advocate violence against women (Eminem, UGK, Lil Wayne...) are no less sexist than society as a whole. The difference is, their sexism manifests itself in more overt ways. I am not condoning it, but I do understand that in the conditions some of these men grew up in they had to be sexist/homophobic to survive. And because of that, I tend to blame the system that forced them into that situation just as much.

    My bad for the length.

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  61. The drummer for the Dead Kennedys was black. Bad Brains was fronted by at least two black men. Living Colour was an all black rock group. A member of Yellowcard is a black fiddle player. The Carolina Chocolate Drops are a black folk group.

    There is no code, formal or informal, that requires these genres to be exclusively white. Typically it comes down to participation and taste. Largely, black people do simply do not like this type of music and they therefore do not pursue a musical career in these genres. There's nothing wrong with that.

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  62. Man of color,

    There are indeed exceptions to just about every social or cultural rule or norm. They don't necessarily disprove the rule or norm.

    But more to the point, do you think that there's anything wrong with the common white tendency that this post discusses -- to claim that rap isn't even music?

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  63. My experiences definitely coincide with the poster in that I have heard many (mostly white) people question whether or not rap is music (although I have also heard some older people of color ask this question as well).

    The poster also says, "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."

    My experience is similar with Beethoven; I have also never heard its status as music questioned. However, my experience differs with respect to punk rock and heavy metal in that I have heard some (mostly older) white people say that it isn't really music...it's just loud noise.

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  64. @Man of Color


    they therefore do not pursue a musical career in these genres.

    Yes, rock genres are not exclusively white, still they are dominated by white groups. Groups like Living Color that are all black have to struggle to get recognition than white bands or the band has to have some white people in it to get some industry backing (like the groups you mentioned). Watch this documentary about it to see how hard it is called Electric Purgatory: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zrdEHvREfdI . It is not not only that some black people are not interested (majority of audiences are white anyway), it is that they feel they cannot make money off of going into those genres because the music industry will not market them as much.

    @might not be black

    I agree with what you said, I like Little Brother and Blackalicious, but they do not get the attention they deserve.

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  65. In regards to:
    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.

    At the time, at least jazz, punk, and rock and roll were all openly questioned as legitimate forms of music. It could be argued that the forms were all originated from ethnically black music, but I think it's alienation which causes folks to disregard another art form. From an art perspective, similar "non-art" tags were applied to other groups that threatened the current mainstream... Jackson Pollack as an example.

    This doesn't take away from your larger point, though, I view it as a method of trying to suppress an alienated group, but it's actually pretty common... especially in art.

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  66. Disclaimer: I am white. I don't like rap. I like rock. Disregard my opinion if you want.

    To me, the question of whether rap is music begs the question, what is music? Quickly googling "definition music" yields "an artistic form of auditory communication incorporating instrumental or vocal tones in a structured and continuous manner." By that definition, rap is music.

    In my experience also, there certainly does seem to be a division along racial lines on this topic. But as the poster says, rock has plenty of lyrics degrading or objectifying women, and it was frequently called "not music" and "noise" by many in its early decades.

    Whether it is music or not, it is art. And like all art, there is rap that is truly good, and rap that is crap. And popular recordings often cater to a lowest common denominator. It's no wonder that people who don't take time with and/or explore the genre don't appreciate it.

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  67. Black music through different eras was always disdained when it came to the attention of white society. From minstrel music, syncopated music, 'race music', jazz, rhythm and blues, soul etc, etc. This disdain is no different. There's nothing new under the sun as far as this disdain is concerned. It is part of the historical continuum.

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  68. It's interesting to me that the same people who dismiss rap because "they can't understand the lyrics" don't dismiss opera for the same reason.

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  69. @ chthonic,
    Amazing; I thought I'd heard it all, but that's a new one for me! Though I've omgdefinitely gotten profoundly white "othering" comments about JA'n patois ("I just can't understand it, haha!" and "say 'hey mon!' say it! say it!"), I've never heard that as a criticism of reggae.*

    Universally, the WP I've encountered cannot. get. enough. of reggae. As in, to the distasteful point. Especially where I live now, as soon as most WP find out I'm JA'n, it's: "squeee! reggae!!" I'm not exaggerating. They literally just scream, "Oh, really, Jamaica?! Cool! Bob Marley! Reggae!!" and then they do that grin/fast-nod thing, like that's a coherent statement. It isn't. I'm always like, uhh... okay? Not sure how to respond. (Reggae: "yes"? Is that what you're looking for, or...? *confusedshrug*)

    Presumably, they're listing everything they know about JA. Like I said, it can be kinda distasteful. I usually just smile, nod, make some kind of affirmative noise and try to move on.

    _____
    *In recent years, a complaint has started to appear: they'll do the usual, "reggae, how cool!" and then a thought strikes them and they look a bit sad and go "oh, but it's so homophooobic!! it's a shame. tsk, tsk!!" (Me, in my head: "oh, shutthefuckup.")

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  70. Let me be straightforward and admit to disliking most rap music. I also dislike most country and electronic music, however, and the rap music I like isn't at all limited to white artists. (In fact, I haven't ever really been impressed by any white rappers.) Nor would I ever discount any of those genres as music.

    As for the sexism, I feel like the misogyny in lots of rap music is particularly blatant--but I acknowledge both that this is probably due in large part to my social conditioning as a white person (which I need, and am working, to overcome) and that, like you said, rap is not the only genre in which you can find blatantly sexist music. Quite frankly, an extreme degree of woman-hatred in music always turns me off, regardless of the genre.

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  71. I tend to classify rap as "dramatic recitation" or "poetry" rather than "music" because I have the usual Western European-derived bias toward melody as important as or even dominant over rhythm. But that's MY classification scheme, NOT the "one and only" classification scheme. It doesn't say anything about the merits or lack thereof of individual works within the performance categories. And rap isn't the only vocal performance type that includes subordinate melodic music, European classical music has "sprechstimme" and new classical music sometimes incorporates voice in a non-melodic non-traditional manner. Most white people don't know what to do with these works, either.

    I am an old fogey in my musical tastes. I have the feeling that the most interesting rap probably doesn't get much airplay on commercial stations.

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  72. Y'know, you kind of automatically lose if you complain about "rap music." That specific two-word phrase is just so redolent of pearl-clutching white fogeyism. I'm sorry, but I just can't take that seriously. It's definitely annoying, but it's also vaguely funny, almost. It's like, seriously? Not hip-hop, not even just rap, but... "rap music"? Really? Ha, good one; it's like you're some geezer from 1989! Wait, you're serious? Ooookay...? Excuse me while I just get off your lawn!

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  73. J Ergle: "we are supposed to believe whites loathe an art form that legitimizes their racism. love/hate, i would say."
    Bingo: "while lots of whites swear not to like rap, whites buy the majority of rap... whites control the rap music industry as well."

    Word. There's a WP attitude I describe as "delightedly horrified." That'd be how rap became what it is today. Ice Cube saw this decades ago, right at the beginning, and he called it out"I'm the nigga you love to hate!" [worth reading; very relevant here.]

    White kids have shaped rap by supporting ONLY its extremes. That's what they can "relate" to, so the entire middle is ignored. Gangsta rap was around for years, but only blew up because white kids looking to rebel against the authority they were about to join saw how much it pissed white adults off. That is how they "relate" to rap: as a way to rebel. Note the crassness of early Beastie Boys (white kids themselves)— "Paul Revere," anyone?? Rape, robbery, murder and beer; it's got it all! It was made to shock; that IS the appeal. And today, WP continue to USE rap to temporarily "reject" their whiteness/authority at the permanent real-world expense of black people. It's just about "I'm not my parents!!!" (Which is very different from say, punk, which had an actual philosophy and action points behind the shock.) Mainstream rap is punk rock for pansies; it's the look of rebellion without the sacrifice. That's good for the white "fans," and the "haters" can love it too, because the "fans" are still doing the establishment's work! No wonder WP love rap so, whether they "like" the music or not.

    It's the exact same appeal that every other now-popularized (ie: whitened) black genre had for WP. How many times have you heard an older WP reminisce with breathless delight about sneaking off to their local Harlem to listen to jazz back in the day? Me, dozens. "My parents would have KILLED me!" Umm... or, you could have explained to them that, and how, their hysteria was racist and mistaken. But oh yeah, hysteria was the desired effect. You wanted jazz to be seen as hysteria-inducing. Nice.

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  74. hschinske, you don't seem to have read the post very carefully. It's not about people who don't like rap; it's about people who arrogantly claim it's not even music. Big diff, no?

    It's the comments I'm reacting to, not the post itself so much. Hence my inclusion of abstract art and mom jeans, which aren't in the post. Colin said "I still think the OP is totally right about the reasons, though. And of course it goes for people who think it's music but just don't like it (usually for the same reasons described above)." So people who just don't like it ARE being assumed to be "usually" in the same category as those who say it's not music.

    Incidentally, I once saw a white woman on the bus grumbling about music to her mixed-race granddaughter, who was about ten -- can't remember if it was rap or what, but a black guy with a radio blasting something very loud had just gotten off the bus, and this lady was asking her granddaughter if she liked that kind of music, and how to her it just wasn't music, etc. I thought it was pretty horrible of the grandmother, actually, and it's made me more careful about how I express my opinions about music ever since. It's not as if it would have been any better manners to blast Mozart's Requiem at everybody like that.

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  75. Rap is such a wide genre; I used to be a radio DJ (and a white woman, if that's relevant) and I'd guess that those who say rap "isn't music" have been exposed to it in a limited way -- snippets of gangsta rap at parties or people with heavy bass at stoplights or 30-second ads. I bet you there are songs they'd love if they had a wider exposure to rap in general.

    People who won't acknowledge rap is music think it is: not relevant to their experiences, lyrically and sonically repetitive. The funny thing is, that's the way I feel about the country genre. I think of it as about ex-wives taking pickup trucks and dogs and the songs all sound the same to me, but I admit there are some country songs I've grown to like.

    So I'm not sure if it's a value judgment about rap being by black people versus people not really giving it a chance because of limited exposure to the genre.

    Citing misogyny is valid, but the Rolling Stones and other rock bands have had misogynist lyrics too and I don't see people bringing that up very often. There are also rock and country songs which glorify violence.

    Not sure INCLUDING the mention of violence in art glorifies violence, though. Does the novel American Psycho glorify it? Does Reservoir Dogs? How about some of Goya's art?

    Geezer from 1989? Jesus! I was 19 then. Am I a geezer?

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  76. To applejack
    You claim it ALL turns you off but then why is it that rap is the ONLY one getting criticized?! Please if it's all wrong then ALL forms of music should be getting criticized and they aren't not even here. So let's stop pretending race isn't a factor in THAT as well or for any criticism rap recieves. It's all a great big smoke screen from jealous assholes who refuse to recognize something as 'real' until THEY run the show. That's the arrogance of privilege it also allows you to blissfully criticize others while doing the very SAME thing your damn self.

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  77. Sandy Waves:

    Make no mistake--I think this article is spot on. I'm not denying that the way the mainstream reacts to rap music betrays the lingering racist sentiments many white people (myself excluded--but some of my friends and family included, unfortunately) like to pretend are no longer there. I'm an active feminist, so I'm always vocal about particularly nasty misogyny in music--in fact, I complain about rap the least because I don't really listen to rap unless I already know I like the artist (and, again, I'm the same way with country, metal, electronica...). I'm just saying that I feel like it's possible for an individual to criticize rappers and rap numbers for certain perceived flaws without being racist, as long as that individual is being consistent and hating on all music--of all genres--that has those flaws. Rap shouldn't be singled out, no, but it shouldn't be exempt from criticism or analysis--I don't think any variety of music should be.

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  78. @man of color

    I didn't know that the drummer for the Dead Kennedys was black.

    Minority punk musicians are not really the exception to any sort of rule. I don't know how fair it is to judge a whole movement/genre by the most visible bands in it. Punk is more than Green Day and Blink-182.

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  79. It seems like rap music is the only kind of music that need discussions as far as the content is concerned. While, it's being addressed, though, not too many people bring up the facts discussed in this blog such as the content in other genres of music or that blacks may have a chance in the music business if he sings RnB, rap, hip hop or other ethnic forms. Overall, it's music by blacks that's demonized.

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  80. Re: Honeybrown1976

    Um, essentialist much?

    Also: I'm white, and I quite enjoy rock en español and various Latin dance music, which I guess you would define as "Latino music."

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  81. You're too young to remember when punk came out - obviously I am too but my old punker friends can tell you that when punk came out, nobody saw it as music, it was just "noise" played by a bunch of untalented kids who couldn't play their instruments. Fast-forward 35 years and it's different, sure, but not when it came out.

    Same with electronic music, I've had a lot of people tell me it's not real music, that producers of electronic music aren't musicians, etc.

    So yes, the legitimacy of rap is questioned, but it's not by far the only genre to be viewed that way.

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  82. @ Bella Belladonna

    The author of this post has already established that other genres have received the same treatment. However, rap is not new. It's at *least* 30 years old already and still highly scrutinized by people who are unable to do it successfully (globally) themselves.

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  83. For every 1 white person that says hip hop isn't music
    there are probably ten thousand white people who love
    it more than any other genre. saying hip hop isn't music is common among the lunatic fringe of white people. But it's not a "common white tendancy"
    Unless you live in Texas or something.

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  84. To clarify, I don't think every white person's dislike of rap is racist, but I think that dislike boils down to racist feelings often enough to warrant mention.

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  85. @jas0nburns

    Personally, I strongly believe you've got that backwards and mistaken.

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  86. @Juan
    studys have shown that white people make up the
    majority of hip hop consumers. that means millions of
    white people love hip hop. "women lie, men lie, numbers don't lie."

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  87. jas0nburns,

    I don't agree. My experience is far different. About half of the discussions around hip hop with white people are me defending it as music, because it doesn't have instruments, its content is sexist, violent and homophobic, it uses sampling too much (?), etc.

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  88. I think the phenom OP are referring to (i.e., "but White people love rap music") only strengthens the message behind this post, or presents another example of SWPD: recite rap lyrics to prove their street cred. Once on my blog I jokingly wrote about why White guys always saunter over at parties and shout rap lyrics in my ear like I'm supposed to be impressed. It's just another way to show they are "down" but not really down. And the cynical part of me wonders how many times people have to say this post isn't about individual preferences in music before people stop saying why they dislike rap music (or what types of music they like/dislike in general). I'm sorry, did I give you the impression that I cared?

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  89. Yes. However they are not the majority of the white population listening to music. Nor does their purchasing of hip-hop excludes them from their own racism when there are those (who may not be all that common) that share or agree with the mentality of the artforms detractors but choose to listen to the music nonetheless.

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  90. @juan

    yeah i totally agree listening to hip hop while white doesn't absolve you of being racist at all. just saying in my experience more white people seem to like it than don't but i don't discount anyones experience to the contrary.

    "Nor does their purchasing of hip-hop excludes them from their own racism when there are those (who may not be all that common) that share or agree with the mentality of the artforms detractors but choose to listen to the music nonetheless."

    actually i think this is a common mode.

    i knew white people growing up who listened to only hip hop and had systems in their cars and dressed in hip hop fashion who were at the same time outspokenly racist in my company. i was always really confused by that and said as much to them. usually they would say something to the tune of "just cause i like their music don't mean i gotta like them" or something.

    i honestly never understood that reasoning but there it is. it taught me you don't need to discredit hip hop to be racist. these were extremely unsophisticated white people though so....maybe it gets more complicated in grad school.

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  91. I have noticed this. Many of the same people will also admit they like Eminem and have every single Fergie rapped Black Eyed Peas song.

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  92. Like with every genre of music, you have good stuff (very little) and crap. I appreciate all types of music. Wether it's some guy beating on a peice of wood and another guy grunting, it's music. It's what makes humans, human.

    But that being said, I have that in 90% of the cases that most other white folks who don't like rap, don't like black folks. But that being said, you got the right to dislike whomever you dislike.

    I think this day and age, the best question to ask bigots is "why do you dislike said group?". I don't use the term "racist" because most folks simply don't have the power to use their bigotry to impact another person's life.

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  93. To apple jacks
    No it shouldn't be singled out for misogyny however the problem is it IS being singled out and that's where I personally feel race comes in. If you want to knock rap and hip-hop fine but don't criticize it for glorifying things I see glorified all the time in everything from movies to tv to beer commercials to magazines to graphic novels,etc. That's what ticks me off you say all of this is wrong except when so and so are doing it, that's wrong hell even toys glorify violence.

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  94. While listening to some hip hop today, (which reminded me of this post) I thought of something. Maybe it's just a side effect of how I select music, but I noticed that so much of rap has something in common that is so rarely mentioned in White discussions. Rap, especially older rap when it was under the heaviest fire from whites, tends to be very political. Rap voices alot of emotion and analasys about class and race issues. Tupac, Dead Prez, Wu Tang Clan, NWA, etc... some of the most famous black people in America got that way because they found a way to tell millions of other people some of what it is like to be Black in America. I think these are stories that much of the White community would be more comfortable keeping quiet about. Of course attacking rap for why it is most threatening would call attention to that (potentially forcing whites to aknowledge priveledge and reexamine their values) so it is instead villianized for whatever "flaw" can be found.

    Has anyone else thought this?

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  95. Music is organized pitch and rhythm. Every sound has pitch. Rap/Hip Hop fits easily within this definition.

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  96. @ Lutsen

    I've always noticed that, and that's one of the things I've always enjoyed about rap. I agree that the message being sent is partly responsible for the white rejection of it - a) many WP being totally unable to relate or comprehend, or b) feeling attacked or blamed somehow...then factor in the tone argument with rap often being called "yelling" or "angry," its messages supposedly being negative. Yeah, it's no wonder why many WP still don't get it.

    I can't wait to get into my classroom and present some of the old rap lyrics from my teenage years (the 90s) and before as supplements to my lessons (poetic devices, theme, etc.). I think rap is often so lyrically complex, so deep and intense, the ideas so challenging - and then when you get that magic of the perfect beat with it - it's... wow. I can't even describe it.

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  97. @Lutsen

    Off the top of my head—If you haven’t read them before then I direct your attention to bellhooks and Marc Anthony Neale (part of his work deals with hip hop) who have their take on it. Sadly I can’t recall specific essay titles. Though bellhooks does posit that the hypermasculinity, along with the misogyny and homophobia and materialism etc., expressed (and intentionally) promoted is that it reflects white culture without questioning its privilege and while allowing itself to be a scapegoat. This is, of course, to the detriment to artists and tracks that call attention to the ills of white/western/first world cultures.

    Pretty much they’re both in agreement with what you pointed out but do it far more coherently and elegantly than me just babbling it to you.

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  98. I personally like rap music, but as a musician for over 10 years, I have to say Rap may be music but most Rappers are not musicians.

    musician [mjuːˈzɪʃən]
    n
    (Music, other) a person who plays or composes music.

    Now in order to be a musician you must either sing, play an instrument, or compose, most rappers can not do any of these things so they can not be defined as musicians. Perhaps poet would be a better title.

    "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."

    Heavy Metal Sepultura, God Forbid, Seven Dust, Strait Line Stitch, and Killsitch Engage. All these are heavy metal bands and all of them have a black lead singer. I could go on for days naming Folk, Rock, and Punk bands that have black members. Let alone the great Blues and R&B musicians, but saying Rappers are musicians is degrading to real black and white musicians. Again Rap may be music but a Rapper is not a musician, unless he can sing, play, or compose.

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  99. Ó Dochartaigh,

    This post isn't about qualifying rappers as musicians. It's about rap being qualified as music. And I wonder if there are such qualifiers for people to be labeled artists. What exactly does it take to be an artist? It seems that one can be an artist no matter what. There's no specific medium that has to be used.

    By the qualifications you've stated even Britney Spears is not a musician. I don't call what she does singing.

    I will now refer you to research Call-and-response, a type of African music being signified on by African-Americans, Blacks and pretty much every other culture in the world. Including Europe...where it's called antiphony. In Europe, apparently, chanting is considered singing. But here, if said chanting is done by Blacks, then it's rap and no longer qualifies its "singer" as a musician?

    The collective white ear is still unable to fully appreciate the song being sung in rap. Blacks have been able to maintain an entire human history by word-of-mouth because of chants, songs, and yes, rap. The creators of these masterpieces are musicians.

    Do some homework on early African music and it will be easy to see exactly where rappers fit right in there as modern musicians. As whites we should not have the right to determine what makes music and who can make it. Yet, somehow we do - based on our own history of what music was to OUR culture and OUR ancestry. We're creating a false binary in doing that.

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  100. "By the qualifications you've stated even Britney Spears is not a musician. I don't call what she does singing."

    Well Britney Spears can sing, even if it is poorly done, so she would be a Musician, but as far as an artist; she is not, because she creates nothing and writes nothing in her music. Now because we speak English I am using English definitions, to be an Artist you must create something, rappers would fall under this category because they write lyrics and create story's, but musicians they are not.

    "The collective white ear is still unable to fully appreciate the song being sung in rap."

    Rap is not singing in most cases, because singing includes pitch and key as well as rhythm. You fail to see my point, it is not about black or white, it is about what is music. Black jazz, blues, and funk are all music, but rapping is not, at best it is rhyming with music behind it. Now the man that composes the the music behind the rapping would be considered a musician.

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  101. Oh, sweet baby Jesus. I came here to make a comment, but it's all but flown out of my mind, because: not Ó Dochartaigh.

    Oh god. Please.
    No.

    I hate to do this (I know it'll come off as a personal attack, but it's not) but people should know what they're getting into. Peruse her nearly-singlhanded trainwrecking of this comment thread. It's been bumming me out so hard I've had it open for weeks, trying to parse every aspect of the fail. It's... breathtaking. Disheartening. Painful.

    ÓD: you are not ready.
    I guarantee you're hurting people. I'm begging you with tears in my eyes: pleeease talk less. Read and listen more. Please!!!

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  102. @karinova: Having checked out the thread you linked to, I concur with its immense fail. (And I'm a politically active atheist myself; I know full-well of the ways atheists can be discriminated against; IT'S NOT THE SAME, PERIOD.) Perhaps we can all just collectively not respond to OD and that thread of the conversation will die?

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  103. karinova, thank you for posting that. I was just going to respond to her about the fact that she didn't read any of the links I posted because her response is pretty much the same as her first one, but now I see there's really no reason for me to bother. Even if she had read them, I doubt it would matter.

    Let's just continue to talk more about how we can exclude rappers from being called musicians since we all agree that rap is music. We wouldn't want rappers to feel like they're on the same level as REAL musicians. [/sarcasm]

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  104. Heh.
    The more I think about it, the more I like the idea.
    I mean, it's like techno and poetry, right? So cool.
    Does anyone want to link me some good rap stuff?
    Problem is, I don't like music about people issues :P. Curse my antisocial self!

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  105. To Ben

    Immortal Technique

    Jedi Mind Tricks

    Mos Def

    They tend to rap about politics and deeper issues rather than "Bitches and Ho's." I recommend Immortal Technique first.

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  106. Did she just say that? Wow. Hopeless.

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  107. Sorry, but I classify politics as "people issues". Also, "bitches and ho's"? What the hell? Did you forget where you were posing?

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  108. I'm not the one writing lyrics that are disrespectful to women, I was quoting an over popular rap phrase. Also I'm a man, Macon D seems to like censoring my responses, yet he leaves all this keyboard warrior sarcasm all over his blog.

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  109. Ó Dochartaigh,

    What's wrong with well-aimed sarcasm? I don't have a problem with sarcasm here (in part because it's not my job, especially as a white guy, to police the tones that other people use in discussions of racism).

    It's derailing content that I do my best to avoid here. And I don't "like" doing that; it's actually a pain in the ass.

    Instead of feeling personally persecuted, how about trying to figure out WHY some of your comments weren't published? (Here's some help: "commenting guidelines"). And along with that, how about sticking to the point of a post and addressing that, instead of, as in the case of your comments on this post, ironically and rather cluelessly demonstrating the common white tendency that the post itself is all about?

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  110. Sarcasm is a school yard tactic, intended to belittle a person. As far as derailing I was talking about rap and music, it may have been a little off topic but my mind tends to wonder sometimes, I apologize.

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  111. I would never make any insane claim that rap isn't music. That isn't an opinion. It contains notes(many)- it's music. However, I do understand the mentality that a good portion popular rap is terrible. It has been specifically noted that for at least 40 years popular music (I.E. most of what's on the radio)has been filled with songs about women in general. Songs about partying, dancing, and screwing women. (and men) Now it's obvious why music that people dance to would have such subject matter, but that doesn't make it good. In all art forms doing something different is rewarded. Exactly why groups like the Beatles and Public Enemy have had strong support from critics. Most popular rap artists today rap about having casual sex with women and about how much money they are making. Would you read a book about some arrogant guy going on about all this sex he's having and all this money he's made? It's annoying, boring (because everyone's talking about the same thing), and often vulgar. That may be music and by default art but it sucks!!

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  112. Is it racism to think this article is interesting?
    http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1093705,00.html

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  113. Ben,

    Why so cryptic? How and/or why would thinking that article is interesting be racist? (He's not claiming that rap isn't music . . .)

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  114. Well, I suppose I should have specified that I'm worried that it is racism/white centrism to think the article might be relevant to the topic of this post. No, I don't think the article is inherently racist or anything like that.

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  115. @Ben

    It is an "interesting" article. I think some people might object to calling music that's performed predominantly by white people "white music", when, as other comments have pointed out, the black community is responsible for the emergence of the genres that the author is referring to.

    I suspect that the author knows this, and was just acknowledging the fact that those genres are the ones that white people listen to and participate in the most, but it's still something to think about.

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  116. Quite interesting that I read this today.

    In advisement (a class dedicated to giving students free time to do work) the teacher allowed music to be played with only one condition.

    I has to be country.

    I was royally pissed off, because I didn't want to listen to country. Country was the only music we ever got to listen to, and I wanted something different. So I asked "Why only country?"

    The teacher answered, "Because it's school appropriate"

    uh huh, yeah sure. Me and another girl promptly called him out on how unfair that was, especially when that "honkie donk" song was playing when he said it!

    *huff*

    Anyways, the validity of rap as music quickly because the talking point of the class. No student directly said "rap isn't music" but a good number white kids said something like, "It's sorta like music."

    I didn't get it, I mean, wasn't it obvious that rap was music? I never once questioned rap.

    Finally the teacher budged and allowed for other music to play. I suggested that we listen to some black metal, such as Cthonic.

    People acted just as disgusted with that as they did with rap, why would these white people who dislike rap dislike Heavy-ish metal?.

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  117. While I do not debate whether or not rap is music, because to me it is music,it's the talent of some I debate. In all genres of music, how hard is it really to sample another artist's music and just add in some new words? I've also noticed that a huge chunk of rap music sales are made by white people around and under their thirties....just sayin...

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  118. Cher wrote:
    "While I do not debate whether or not rap is music, because to me it is music,it's the talent of some I debate. In all genres of music, how hard is it really to sample another artist's music and just add in some new words? I've also noticed that a huge chunk of rap music sales are made by white people around and under their thirties....just sayin..."

    You could say the same about rock music. How hard is it to throw together a chord progression that you've heard in hundreds of rock songs over the past 40 years and add in some new words?

    There's good sampling and there's bad sampling. The most notorious example of bad sampling has to be Puffy's "I'll Be Missing You," but I can think of many more examples of genius samples, in which producers take a 1-2 second snippet of a song and transforming it into something new. The source becomes almost unrecognizable, and in the cases where the sample is designed to be recognizable, you hear the original song in a new way. I mean, listen to "Archangel" by Burial (not rap, but it uses sampling) or "For Heaven's Sake" by the Wu-Tang Clan and tell me that what those artists did was easy.

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  119. Just to point something out...

    Ever notice that in these debates, rock and other times country are considered exact opposites of rap.

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  120. @ EbonyPrince:
    I've noticed that too.

    @ James; "why would these white people who dislike rap dislike Heavy-ish metal?."

    It's not an either or thing. I dislike (most) rap and (most) heavy metal for the same reason - I like tunes. Maybe it's because I'm a classically trained musician or something; but generally neither rap nor metal include the things I like in a song. Occasionally, the lyrical content will grab me, or a riff or beat will be funky enough to hook me in. But yeah, to me metal and rap are virtually two sides of the same coin.

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  121. Posting in an old thread :3

    Listen to Eazy-E's "Imma Break It Down" and tell me that's not music.

    Heavy Metal gets something like this too ("It's all noise!").

    People have a right to their musical preferences but claiming that Rap isn't music just defies logic. But when was racism ever logical? (because that's often what's at the core of this claim)

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  122. "But when was racism ever logical?"

    This ought to be a talking point. I mean, sure, it's a logical outcome in any diverse society. However, the "reasons" behind racism rarely make any sense at all and often aren't very well thought through.
    Not that it has to do specifically with rap, but...

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  123. It's not just white people who do this, all races have differing opinions on everything. Grow up and stop being ignorant, please.

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  124. This isn't even about difference of opinion, anyway. Disliking rap is not the issue, it's claiming that it's not music. There's often a subtle and sometimes not so subtle racist implication behind that claim. Even if there isn't any racism attached to it at all, claiming that rap is not music is like saying a sphere is not round.

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  125. "claiming that rap is not music is like saying a sphere is not round."

    no...because a sphere has definite properties whereas music encompasses a range of set rules hence why there is debate on what music is. It isn't analogous.

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  126. It is analogous, as rap fits any definition of music I've ever heard or read, yet certain people insist on cherrypicking superficial things that somehow make it "not music". At any rate, that statement was about describing how saying "rap is not music" makes no fucking sense.

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  127. I'm commenting wicked late, I'm sorry.

    I notice it all the time, especially in the rock scene, which is mostly white. The fact that rap takes that much talent and that great of a vocabulary is precisely why I like it as much as I do, and it really saddens me when WP try to say it's not music because it's electronic or it's just poetry. I try not to pay attention because WP created Juggalos, and I think that's all that really needs to be said.

    Anyway, the main reason I wanted to comment, was to alert you to some fantastic POC punk/metal/rock bands, since you said you weren't aware of any (If I sound patronizing, it is really not my intent!) though I must admit I haven't finished reading the whole thread so again I'm sorry if I've repeated any:

    Trash Talk -> Hardcore leaning on the side of thrash metal band from Sacremento, CA. Two, used to be three, of the members are men of color. They're one of those bands who are bigger overseas than in America (Gee, I wonder why?), but I saw them recently and they were awesome.

    Sevendust -> Sevendust is probably the most mainstream band on my list (If you haven't heard of them, I'd be shocked!), they're more of a nu-metal rock band. The lead singer is a man of color. Their album "Seasons" pretty much saved my life.

    Gym Class Heroes -> Another pretty mainstream one, but I'm not quite sure it's rock since Travis McCoy's (a man of color, the lead vocalist, and who also put out a spectacular solo effort recently) vocals are a focal point of most of their songs and are arranged around.

    Hed PE -> This is like the rap rock I've seen mentioned up thread. The leader, Jared, is a man of color. Not so mainstream, but pretty popular, especially amongst angsty suburban teenagers.

    So to answer your question: they definitely exist. You might just need to look for them, which sucks.

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  128. @asghsdf, who said I try not to pay attention because WP created Juggalos, and I think that's all that really needs to be said.:

    I'm glad I wasn't drinking when I read that, because I would have sprayed my keyboard. Well-played!

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  129. That argument made me sadder than Einstein at a Hitler speech. Music has nothing to do with race, for one. Rap is no doubt music, music is an organized collection of sounds, however, the vocals are used as a rhythmic instrument (like a drum) while it is generally used with tones. This reminds us of poetry because poetry is rhythmic and uses words. To illustrate why rap is seen as musically inferior, consider the fine art of poetry and it's evolution after the development of complex linguistics, (words) or painting with the whole rainbow instead of black and white. Music was at one point probably only rhythmic; we progressed and began using melody. Rap music generally uses a rhythmic melody line (the vocals) and a beat repeated throughout the song. Classical music, even without words, has a transitional melody, more complex (generally) than a rap song.
    So from there someone (of any race) might assume that because someone likes rap music, they are not using their brain right, like a poet who enjoys the line "I go." Stuffwhitepeopledo can be a funny subject, but you (and the comments I read) are just expressing racism in a socially tolerable way, and in my opinion (I am white for those concerned) you sound dumb.

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