Danny Butt on Sun, 5 Jan 2003 12:17:54 +0100 (CET)

[Date Prev] [Date Next] [Thread Prev] [Thread Next] [Date Index] [Thread Index]

<nettime> Re: A Eulogy to Hip Hop

Ho-hum. Another self-aggrandising addition to the tired genre of guys (why
is it always guys?) proclaiming that it's time to call an end to something
that doesn't give a shit about them. It used to be great, now it's crap
because I don't understand why the kids of today can't see that it's all
junk not like back in the day where's the energy i don't see it happening
man i'm over this shit better to just stay at home and listen to my Last
Poets records these days a hum yada yada.

You've gotta ask the question: who cares about (and who benefits from)
Bennu's eulogy to "mainstream" hip-hop? Certainly not those actually making
the stuff, nor its contemporary fans. Three hours before reading this
article I was thinking about how cool it was that hip-hop was redefining
contemporary culture the world over, and that its political effects are much
more explicit than the laptop electronica more popular in art circles
(despite Paul's complaints about the boring hip-hop art shows). Bennu's
claim that "The lack of social responsibility from people who claim to 'rep
the streets' is stunning" is just stupid and wrong, and contradicts himself
by going on to describe initiatives from people like Russell Simmons that
are difficult to imagine being created by representatives of any other
western mass cultural tradition.

Bennu's other qualifiers to his "Fuck hip-hop" posturing also work in this
abstract way: "It's all crap" (i.e. "Listen to me") "though I guess OK there
are a few good things going on out there but I won't enumerate them" (i.e.
"I can't/don't want to keep up with what's going on"). My view is that there
is more great work being done now than at any point in hip-hop's history. In
a grandiosely titled article like this I would have expected Bennu to spend
some time acknowledging all of the great records being made *right now* that
are as authentically hip-hop as anything made by the old schoolers he notes
in the article. Sure, there's much more cynical and exploitative crap out
there as well, but I'm pretty happy to see great new records by Talib Kweli
and the Roots getting some rotation on MTV. Or to see an independent record
by indigenous New Zealand rappers the Deceptikonz go gold. Or the
proliferation of new magazines like Wax Poetics that treat the history of
hip-hop with respect but also look to its future.

This was an appropriate article to fwd to nettime because the people who
think hip-hop was truer back in the early 80s before MTV played Run DMC are
making the same proposition as the crowd who say the Internet was better
when hardly anyone used it and it wasn't commercialised. I would put into
this category Geert's recent assertion that "kids don't think the Internet's
cool anymore" based on the evidence of a newspaper article (though I know
Geert is not usually prone to these kinds of generalisations).  My problem
with these assertions is that they are contradicted by the available
empirical research that shows there is more creation and consumption of
great stuff (however you want to define it) both online and in hip-hop than
there ever has been. Who really wants to go back to the day when you knew
every online art gallery that existed, or could get your hands on every
great hip-hop record, even if the overall "quality" might have been "better"
or more easily defined.

Not to say that it's all good, but if someone posted a "Eulogy to the
Internet" nettimers would take it down faster than an AI crossover. Bennu's
piece deserves the same treatment. Both the Internet and hip-hop have
exceeded the capacity to be defined and analysed through being named as a
"thing". Their use continues to grow and diversify (both Sonia Livingstone's
Young People New Media project and Miller and Slater's ethnography of the
net in Trinidad are instructive in this regard), making pronouncements about
their demise irrelevant and insufficiently reflexive to be of any use. I
think this was best put by Mos Def in "Fear not of Man", the opening track
to his outstanding 1999 record "Black on Both Sides" (which went gold as
well, and he's apparently dating Destiny Child babe Beyonce Knowles, which
should deal to Bennu's "mainstream"/underground distinction):

Listen.. people be askin' me all the time,
"Yo Mos, what's gettin' ready to happen with Hip-Hop?"
(Where do you think Hip-Hop is goin'?)
I tell em, "You know what's gonna happen with Hip-Hop?
Whatever's happening with us"
If we smoked out, Hip-Hop is gonna be smoked out
If we doin' alright, Hip-Hop is gonna be doin' alright
People talk about Hip-Hop like it's some giant livin' in the hillside
Comin' down to visit the townspeople...
We *are* Hip-Hop 
Me, you, everybody, we are Hip-Hop
So Hip-Hop is goin' where we goin'
So the next time you ask yourself where Hip-Hop is goin'
Ask yourself: Where am I goin'? How am I doin'?
Til you get a clear idea ...


> FUCK HIP HOP A Eulogy to Hip Hop by Pierre Bennu Dissident Voice December 18,
> 2002
> I know you've been thinking it. And if you haven't, you probably haven't been
> paying attention. The art we once called hip hop has been dead for some time
> now. But because its rotting carcass has been draped in platinum and propped
> against a Gucci print car, many of us have missed its demise.
> I think the time has come to bid a farewell to the last black arts movement.


#  distributed via <nettime>: no commercial use without permission
#  <nettime> is a moderated mailing list for net criticism,
#  collaborative text filtering and cultural politics of the nets
#  more info: majordomo@bbs.thing.net and "info nettime-l" in the msg body
#  archive: http://www.nettime.org contact: nettime@bbs.thing.net