Hip Hop & Talking Heads: When Rap Makes the News
By Jaylin Paschal
The intro to Kendrick Lamar's DAMN. closes with audio clips from political commentators discussing the police brutality line in his song, Alright. (And we hate popo/ Wanna kill us dead in the street fo'sho.) With a condescending tone, the talking heads disapprove of Kendrick's message.
Throughout DAMN., Kendrick makes several references to the news. Another clip on the album, from Geraldo Rivera, suggests that rap poses more danger to black youth than racism does, and in a handful of lyrics he addresses Fox News' depiction of him and Hip Hop. "Fox News wanna use my name for percentage," he raps.
Kendrick, of course, is not the first Hip Hop artist to be condemned by right-wing pundits. And I so doubt that he will be the last. However, as a journalism major, political science minor and Hip Hop enthusiast--I can't not discuss it.
In my piece, Race, Rap and Republicans, I wrote "We can't even pretend to be surprised by [Ann] Coulter's attempt to deflect onto rap as her party descended into a moral graveyard. It's an age-old tactic used by racists everywhere for nearly anything, but especially in times of ethical crises. Blaming rap is blaming black people, and blaming black people is damn near second-nature to conservatives. [...] When you can use rap to associate crudeness to blackness as if the two are synonymous or even the result of one another, you can effectively derail the narrative from a conversation about your own moral low points. [...] Republicans, respectability politicians, and racists (if not all the same party) point to obscenity in rap when asked about obscenity in politics. It's a reflex similar to how discussions about police brutality always seem to land on the topic of black on black crime--there's no correlation, but its easier to point at black people than it is to address the issue. [...] This criminalization of rap/black people is part of the reason why hip hop and right-wing politics have almost always been at odds. But it is crucial to understand that the tension between these groups existed before rap existed. Rap is the effect of this tension, not the cause." Which makes instances like these more bizarre than they are ignorant:
Bill O'Reilly (and Juan Williams) on... A Lot
You can read and watch O'Reilly say a lot more dumb shit about Hip Hop in this Complex article.
Tomi Lahren on Beyonce & Jay Z
Ann Coulter on Beyonce (but really Nicki Minaj)
Geraldo Rivera on Kendrick Lamar
The fact of the matter is, these "journalists," if you dare call them that, are using our culture as a scapegoat. It is much, much easier for Rivera to address Kendrick Lamar than it is for him to address white supremacy. And it is not so much that these pundits are missing the point so much as they are disregarding it. Kendrick Lamar told TMZ that Rivera was manipulating his message, and it's important that we do not confuse manipulation with misunderstanding. These political commentators are well educated, culturally savvy and politically trained--they understand exactly what and where the messages in Hip Hop come from. Their active choice to ignore that source is not a result of some sort of culture gap. It's a result of a calculated narrative.
With that being said, it must be accepted that there's virtually nothing we can do to stop right-wingers from highjacking Hip Hop for ratings. We can't find some middle ground, we can't educate them anymore. All we can do is laugh at the sheer blind lunacy it takes to so purposefully derail the message of an entire culture.