Friday, March 30th, 2007

Snowbound In Laramie / Neocons Who (Think They) Like Hip-Hop

Spring in Laramie looks like winter in Alaska.

Thank you to Adrian Molina, Bethany, and the whole Laramie fam for taking care of their boy while we were all snowbound yesterday. The Shepherd Symposium was longish, I know, but great.

Unfortunately I won’t be able to make it this afternoon to the Vassar event. Skies are clear here now in Wyo but there is no physical way to be there today. We’ll resched the event as soon as we can.

See yall in Hartford at the Trinity International Hip-Hop Festival tomorrow.

Meanwhile it appears that the neocons have discovered hip-hop (or, uh, whatever that is), and they are still confused.

So I finally get out of town this morning to find that the neocons have discovered hip-hop (or, uh, whatever that is that they are trying to do). And that some of them have even begun trying to figure out how to create a neocon way of understanding hip-hop.

Signs of the end of the world or just that hip-hop really is dead? You decide.

Joseph Abrams begins by critiquing my new book Total Chaos, but he starts heading toward a way of defanging hip-hop by reducing it to just a pleasurable way of understanding “the black street world”, his words, not mine. You may remember these are the same folks that last year tried to rewrite rock history recently as a proto-conservative movement.

Might have helped if folks actually read Can’t Stop Won’t Stop, or for that matter, the book being reviewed, rather than just say they did.

In any case, reducing hip-hop to a simple “identity movement” is one way to make hip-hop safe for the Karl Roves of the world. (And you see what the results are…) Now, although many academics have made the claim, I have never claimed hip-hop began as political movement. I’ve always repeated the lesson that Kool Herc schooled me in: it simply began as a way for Black youth–African American, Afro-Latino, Afro-Caribbean–in the Bronx to have fun. No more, no less.

So, identity, yes. And yes, hip-hop is a worldview by now. That’s what Can’t Stop Won’t Stop was all about, for anyone paying attention. So the National Review is half right.

But here’s where they’re got it wrong. I have always said that it is impossible to separate aesthetics from the world it emerges in. If new-century neocons, or anyone else for that matter, would like to separate the rap and hip-hop arts that they think they like from the living, breathing context that it all issues from–the way they did with rock and roll–they will always have beef from me and the large large fam out here. Aesthetics is not a neutral truth that lives above the people.

People make art. Art represents actual lives. We can disagree about what it means, but no one should ever be able to erase those lives, just so that we can enjoy their labor conscience-free. Even if we buy the art, we don’t purchase innocence along with it.

But anyway, no use wasting any more time on time wasters. Hit us back here or in person when you see us. It’s all about extending the conversation.

posted by @ 7:54 am | 4 Comments

4 Responses to “Snowbound In Laramie / Neocons Who (Think They) Like Hip-Hop”

  1. cheryl says:

    did you cancel your chicago appearance? we are so disappointed! a couple of us english grad students are creating a first year writing syllabus around can’t stop, won’t stop. it would have been awesome to hear you speak. please come to chicago soon! -cher

  2. Jeff says:

    yes, sad to say we had to postpone the chicago event but it’s also safe to say we will be coming back bigger and better in the fall. thanks so much for the support, cheryl…

  3. Brian says:

    Jeff, I liked what you said in your post about aesthetics versus context. I quoted you in my analysis of the MC Rove performance and the debate over hip-hop’s “death”.

    I would really appreciate your feedback if you have time.

  4. Da Truf says:


    Don’t expect herbs like Joseph Abrams to understand hip hop. There are just some things that are misunderstood in theory and lost in translation. He probably doesn’t know how to dance, either. Rhythmless bastards.

    In solidarity,

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