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Voting Along Political Party Lines with Music? Senseless.
In case you’ve been dwelling in a cave for the past year, we live in the age of perhaps our nation’s most important Presidential race. Whether a Black man or just another Republican, our next chief will be faced with the daunting feat of creating some semblance of a happy ending to the eight year tale known as George W. Bush and His Epic Failures. But seeing as how my fields of expertise (namely love and Hip-Hop music) are hardly rooted in politics, I shall hereby attempt to draw a slight parallel between the processes of selecting one’s best candidate at the polls and the music we choose to ingest.
It’s safe to assume that in the evaluation of your next potential President you’re looking to identify with someone matching your personality’s beliefs and values, with a concise understanding of your struggle and needs. In this same way, the music that resonates heaviest within each of us understands our approach to life and our needs at each moment, be they reflecting on life or having fun shaking our tails on a dance floor. The same way it would be inane for a voter to hit the polls on Election Day and choose Barack Obama without understanding where the brother’s interests lie, only choosing him because he’s Black and/or Democratic, it’s far too simplistic how many Hip-Hop fans staunchly support the “underground”, separating the beauty of a culture heavily rooted in exploring so many various facets of (black) life.
While I fully espouse the virtues of selectivity and using a discerning ear in critiquing the music that enters our conscious minds each day, “backpackers” have become a parody of themselves so bent on “keeping it real” and angrily disavowing the mainstream that they’ll allow little to no potential enjoyment of talented artists who just happen to become success stories.
On the other hand, we have the “commercial” crowd who generally depends on the media to dictate what’s hot. You won’t nearly find this audience hating on underground Hip-Hop as it would require them to actually care about this other world of music. While this slack approach is surely less attitudinal than the curmudgeonly backpacker’s stance, relying on BET and urban radio to supply the selections of your musical buffet (be it laziness, lack of time, life’s more pressing matters that require tending etc.) only means you’re certain to miss out on quality music as corporate interests mainly lie in pumping out carbon copies of what’s already proven to be successful. I can assure you that if by some sudden shift in nature The Roots were to become a multiplatinum selling act, the industry would be shoving four more live Hip-Hop bands down our throats in no time.
Personally, I don’t listen to urban radio whatsoever unless I’m in someone’s car or a situation where I’m totally left without choice, reason being I don’t enjoy hearing the same 10 songs all day every three hours. As I grew up the radio played a wide variety of music that made you feel good, and it was safe to assume that anything getting spun was worth checking out at the time (albeit dated in this day and age] , and I’d be hard pressed to make the same assertion in 2008. My point here isn’t to outright lambaste the radio as everything clearly boils down to subjective opinion, but I find it particularly troubling that the effects of today’s black radio inevitably leave the masses far less objective than the days of yore. For everyday radio listeners there’s a saying that goes ‘if you tell a lie enough times, eventually it’ll become the truth”, and we can apply that idea to hearing a “bad” song so many times that you’re forced to find some worth in it. Backpackers alienate themselves from the rest of the world as the radio grates them to no end and let them tell it Kanye West, T.I., Lil’ Wayne and Jay-Z aren’t good rappers because they can prosper and thrive off of radio support. I’m somewhere in between these two factions as I believe a good song can come from anyone, even if I’m quicker to hear a lesser known act and I’m prone to remain three months behind in hearing what’s spinning on our daily airwaves.
Another issue I take umbrage with is the east coast’s refusal to embrace and respect the south’s rise to prominence over the past few years. I grew up in New York City all of my life, not feeling Outkast when they came out with Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik, but mind you I was 14 at the time and today there are grown men with the same childish mentality, afraid to attempt expanding their minds to see what the rest of Hip-Hop has to offer. Attending college in the south was one of the best cultural experiences of my lifetime, as it made me a follower of Cash Money Records, Devin The Dude, the aforementioned Outkast and T.I. amongst many of my other favorite artists. Sticking with my idea of strictly voting along party lines, east coasters will give a pass to a southern act like Little Brother because they supposedly don’t sound “southern” (to which I say listen to their voices) or Outkast because of their undeniably progressive output, and claim no one else in the South is making quality music. It borders on racism for whites and self-hatred for blacks if you can’t seek to gain the slightest modicum of understanding for all walks of black manhood, but I digress.
If you’re really to call yourself a lover of black music and consider yourself worthy of critiquing it, I urge you to understand not only what’s being said by the artists you’re listening but also why you (dis)like what you’re hearing. It also helps if to have open-minded friends on either side of the spectrum who can expose you to artists you may be missing out on. As it stands, your average backpacker is about as fair and balanced as Fox News, commonplace radio listeners blindly follow what they hear like sheep and a wonderfully artistic culture remains divided by folks on both sides claiming to love it most.
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