Tuesday, April 17, 2007

With College Kids Inflicting Violence on Each Other Let's Find a Way to Blame Rap Music

At one pm yesterday I wrote the following
somewhere in the rulebook of popular discourse it says, "Whenever there is a cultural crisis that indicts middle class Americans, you must point a finger at whatever popular music is lowest on the totem pole of culture capital to divert attention, see Columbine, etc."
Of course, that position today is occupied by hip hop, i.e. it gets no respect. And, of course, right after I signed off we got something worse than Columbine. And, yes, somehow, somewhere, someone is blaming rap music:
Casually flipping through the news networks last night, when little was known about the shootings and nothing was known about the shooter, I saw that those same conservatives are already using the Virginia Tech shootings as a way to lash out against culture they disapprove of. One particularly scattered conversation on CNN featured an anchor and a pundit using incident to suggest blame lies with a host of perceived societal ills: gun control, violent movies like Grindhouse, violent music, Don Imus. Yes, they somehow worked Don Imus into the conversation. The discussion made absolutely no sense, but it sure was spirited.

Eight years ago the post-Columbine debate sparked what some described as "a witch hunt" against shocking metal, goth and industrial music. If there's a similar witch hunt today, however, it won't be against metal, but rather violent rap music, which our panicky pundit was already chastising last night.

Rap is already in the crosshairs of cultural conservatives, who never succeeded in their effort to censor it years ago. This week they were already making a push against rap music after Imus stepped down: If he can't get away with using racist, sexist slang, they argued, why can rap artists? Now, in the wake of the deadliest shooting incident in U.S. history, they'll almost surely make a renewed call to censor rap on the basis of violence.

This anti-rap push probably won't make a lot of sense—based on the vague description of the shooter, who is described a loner born in South Korea, it's a safe bet that he probably wasn't a rap fan—but neither did the movement against Marilyn Manson. And, like Marilyn Manson in 1999, rap music has been slowly falling out of grace with listeners (sales have fallen steeply). With rap music already down, its longtime critics won't miss this opportunity to kick it.

The British Magazine, Q, has similar worries

So if rock bands will not be singled out for blame, who will? It’s far more likely to be hip-hop, a genre that still retains a frisson of danger and urban threat – even more so now that rap no longer dominates the mainstream. It’s easy to imagine ill-informed moral guardians denouncing the bleak, nihilistic worldview of “cocaine rap” stars such as Clipse and Young Jeezy.
The idea that somehow the violence that has befallen the most paradigmatic institution of "middle classness" in our society, the four year college, is somehow associated with hip hop is simply beyond me. Instead of looking to and blaming rappers, which I am certain people are doing and will continue to do at this very moment for this most heinous violence, we need to be honest: this was not the result of a violent hip hop culture. This was an act of violence that was committed by an English major in his fourth year at one of the top 100 colleges in America. I do not know what to blame; what culture or what attitudes. But I certainly know it isn't hip hop.

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