Jewish World ReviewAugust 14, 2003 / 16 Menachem-Av, 5763
Hip hop's thugs
hit new low
Black popular culture continues to descend. The most recent and
monstrous aspect of it comes, as usual, from the world of hip hop,
where thugs and freelance prostitutes have been celebrated for a
number of years.
This new development is observable in the work of Snoop Doggy Dog,
Jay-Z and 50 Cent: the elevation of pimps as cultural heroes. That's
A black executive in the world of popular music said to me a few years
ago that the number of Negro performers who have actually become
millionaires through hip hop sales is surely not even 100, but the price
that their influence has extracted from black communities across this
nation numbers in thousands upon thousands who have been
murdered or beaten up or terrorized. After all, the celebration of thugs
and thuggish behavior should not be expected to bring about any other
There are, of course, those who will say that all young people, not only
in America but overseas, are in love with gangsters and thugs and the
rebelliousness that thugs represent. That is why we find ourselves faced
with white and Asian young people who suffer from the same abysmal
taste and exhibit the same lack of social skills seen in the black and
But it seems to me that if all those other people were serious about
being thugs and gangsters, there would be an appreciable rise in their
neighborhoods of the murder, gang violence and urban terrorism that
so-called urban communities - code for black and Latino - are the
victims of, day in and day out.
The truth is something else. When a small but extremely dangerous
number of black and Latino young men imitate the behavior projected
in gangster rap recordings and videos, they go far beyond the surface
obnoxiousness that is common to most American young people.
This obnoxiousness has a strong tradition, coming from 50 years of
rock 'n' roll in which adults and authority are looked upon as the
ultimate enemies of teenage fun.
But with white kids, the point is irritating their parents, not becoming a
member of a violent gang. Most of those parents are now Cher's age and
are not at all bothered by noisy pop music turned up too loud. That is
exactly what they grew up on, even if the style was different.
Those white parents can, however, be disturbed by racial epithets and
the misogyny so rampant in gangster rap. Basically, that's enough for
obnoxious white teenagers.
With black teenagers, we have another problem, which is that street
behavior is defined these days as being "authentic" and "not trying to be
white." Those who take that seriously have been committing
intellectual suicide for years by aspiring downward.
No other ethnic group has ever judged its authenticity by the lowdown
ways of its scum. But in the poisonous wing of gangster rap, anything is
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JWR contributor and cultural icon Stanley Crouch is a columnist for The New York Daily News. He is the author of, among others, The All-American Skin Game, Or, the Decoy
of Race: The Long and the Short of It, 1990-1994, Always in Pursuit: Fresh American
Perspectives, and Don't the Moon Look Lonesome: A Novel in Blues and Swing. Send your comments by clicking here.
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