D.L. Chandler's frequent thoughts on the world of hip hop and beyond

Monday, January 09, 2006

Pat Boone, Hip Hop Critic

The popularity of today’s hottest Hip Hop stars is neither a measure of the level of talent nor highlights the worth of the music. Some could argue that because of that popularity, critics have a much easier time dissecting the current tunes and trends that dominate the airwaves today. With a noted amount of reluctance, I admit that much of what passes for Hip Hop these days is embarrassing, rote and devoid of any cultural significance. As I’ve said before in other blogs and journals, I can appreciate some of those songs in small doses and maybe enjoy them in larger parts. However, my stance changes once those songs become part of the dreaded “rotation”. This is where we are, sadly enough. There is no avoiding the "Laffy Taffys", "Grills", "Window Shoppers" and such of the world. These songs reflect the pulse of current generation: Give it to us cheap, easy, homogenized, warmed over and simple. Oh please god, do not challenge us to think. Give us the “hot 16 and hook” formula until our brains bleed from redundancy. Of course we don’t want to hear about socially relevant issues in our music. Hell, who wants to be preached to in song?

Forgive my introductory rambling as I do have a point to this blog entry. In my usual quest to find a subject that invokes my interest (or most often, my rage), I will come across some of the most asinine commentary on Hip Hop from people who wouldn’t know the music to save their lives. In fact, read this excerpt from a Wes Vernon interview found on the Renew America website (I know, I know) with singer Pat Boone:

BOONE: Oh, man, the whole music industry has been [dragged] into the ghetto. In fact, I see it as a ghettoization ... a coarsening of the culture, led by the entertainment industry. [This applies to] music in particular, because once ... hip-hop [and rap] music came in--because it was an outgrowth of ... a street or urban culture.

That is not to be derogatory. It was kids ... doing hip-hop stuff and rap and you know, throwing themselves under the pavement and doing all kinds of crazy gyrations, and really dramatic athletic things....

It captured the attention of not only the kids, but the record executives who saw a new thing that they could make a lot of money with, so they promoted it like crazy. And they discovered that if a hip-hop or rap artist had a criminal record, and if he was part of a gang ... out of it came an overnight hugely popular NWA [which stood for] "N**gers-With-Attitude."

Then there was Two-Live Crew, with them advocating that you should get a gun and shoot a cop.

All of this gangster mentality, and the danger and the guns, "Pimps and Whores and Bitches"--and all of this stuff was actively promoted by the hierarchy of the record business. They saw they could make millions promoting performers [who] made sure you knew they had been to prison, they'd been shot up.

The guy that was on with Dave Letterman last night calls himself Fifty-Cent. The first question was, "You'd been shot nine times?" [His answer was] "Yeah." And then he talks about being in prison and being in gang wars and selling drugs. So that [supposedly] makes him a very hip artist.

So all these artists--I say artists, [I should say] these performers--are making millions, driving Rolls-Royces, and buying [fancy homes], and dragging urban and suburban kids into a ghetto culture. It's one of the most ironic, crazy things that I have ever seen in my life.

WV: About as idiotic as you could imagine. Pointless.

BOONE: Yes, I mean they wear big diamond rings, put diamonds in their teeth.... [They get] all kinds of endorsements and people around them just making them into glamorous figures. They put out a record [and for] most of it, you can't understand a single word even if they perform it [live]. You're distracted by them grabbing their crotches. They've got--they say--"skanky-looking" women behind them, chanting and making all kinds of suggestive moves. All of it [is] designed to make this rap performer--and occasionally a white performer just trying to get in on it--making him look like [someone] who is able to serve as many women that they all desire. He takes his pick of all the women, and gives them ... champagne. I mean, these are all in the lyrics of their songs.

One that I saw on "Saturday Night Live" recently ... was doing a song called "You Can Lick my Lollypop." He makes it very clear what he's referring to. This is about a four-minute number as he struts around the stage, and the background singers act [as if] they just can't wait to get to him.

The kids see this, and they play the music and they emulate it. Then they find out on Oprah and other shows that pre-teen girls are engaging in oral intercourse [in] the hall closets at school.

All of this is sort of accepted [as] exciting.

Pat Boone – sage, social critic, philosopher, uninformed jerk. His side of the argument is quite evident yet lacks a certain finesse. It almost reeks of a latent cruelty or vehemence toward black music and culture. Was he really incorrect in his assessment? It's not as simple as yes or no. I'd argue that the images and songs we’re made to suffer in Hip Hop’s current state do not make things easy for those like myself who advocate heavily for the promotion of Hip Hop as not only a tool for change, but also high art. But that shouldn't be enough to have this sort of one-sided berating that always comes from those self-righteous "icons". Reading this passage from Mr. Boone filled me with obvious reactionary rage, so much that I wanted to light into his Reagan-loving behind (Is that “ghetto” of me, Pat?). I’m going to take the high road on this one but I’m looking at him and his right-wing ilk closer than ever when it comes to their criticisms of the music I defend – perhaps foolishly. I hope that when critics come forward against this important and viable culture in the future that they finally research every angle and not just the obvious, popular slants. Again, I’m not going to hold my breath on that ever happening in my lifetime.

Strength To You All