‘Try not to play a role in the degradation of musical traditions’

DUBUQUE — I realize that what I’m about to delve into seems to sound a bit judgmental on my part, and it probably is. But, I’m okay with that because, the truth is, I’m not entirely sure that even I buy into the ideas I’m about to propose. I’m not trying to make a scholarly point here, I’m just trying to get people thinking about and hopefully chuckling at the funny things that people (myself included) do in our neck of the global woods.

Raise your mental hand if you’re a person who likes to listen to and dance to rap/hip-hop music on the weekends. Now, raise it again if you find yourself racially profiling black people. I don’t mean that you’re an all-out white supremacist, but rather if you find yourself walking to the other side of the street late at night when a black man is about to pass you on the side walk.

Uh-oh, this is getting uncomfortable. Don’t worry, I’m not about to shame anyone for their habits, again that’s not my goal.

But don’t you ever wonder why all these white kids hike down to Ginn Ricky’s dance floor on the weekends and get down to some of the dirtiest, most degrading, and most sexist genre of music in our generation?

For those of you who are true hip-hop enthusiasts, exploring the likes of Tupac Shakir, at ease soldiers, it’s not you I’m talking about.

I’m talking about parochial whitey hammering out the lyrics to ‘Hot Boy’ on a Saturday night because he ‘likes the beat.’ We all know that on Monday he’ll go back to his house in suburbia and shake his head at the entitlement of minorities in this country (an idea I think is a truck load of crap).

Or, maybe it’ll be less explicit. Maybe you’ll just, like I said, switch sides on the sidewalk at night, because for some reason our country holds firmly to the idea of ‘otherness’ that we attach to the (as we secretly believe) less-civilized Black-American culture.

This isn’t to say that white people can’t listen to rap, or that Latinos can’t listen to jazz. Again let us focus on the principle. Let us recognize that there is a breakdown somewhere between who we are and what we listen to on Spotify.

That is to say that we don’t actually LISTEN to the music we play anymore, we merely hear the beat. But, I doubt that too, after all, how interesting is a 4/4 quarter note beat? It’s the same in every song.

In some cases I think we hide behind ‘the beat’ or ‘the catchiness’ of music and excuse what are perhaps true desires to act upon, under the cover of night, less civilized, less moral versions of who we are in the light of day. For instance, we allow bad lyrics and strobe lights to excuse our ulterior motives at house parties.

To sum things up: We use music as a mask to act in ways that are usually not acceptable in other, everyday, situations.

This isn’t the only offense though, because in using music to degrade each other, we have also degraded the music. We take rap, a genre that has played a major historical role in identifying and voicing struggles that are uniquely experienced by the black community, and strip it down to the rhythm of its electronically generated bass line because we ‘like the beat.’

Bust a move to whatever you choose to, it is your choice, but try not to play a role in the degradation of musical traditions, and in turn, the reality of the stories told through those traditions. There is enough of that done by recent artists as it stands, so don’t cast your vote for that trend to continue.

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