white(-collar) rap

I admire rap and hip-hop music on both a cultural and an aesthetic level. It’s beautiful that an art form so complex and intricate has arisen out of the concrete experience of urban African American life in this country. And I have room in my appreciation even for white rappers (such as Eminem) who grew up in harsh urban conditions with African American cultural influences.

What I’m a bit iffy on is this new trend of white college boys rapping about getting drunk and playing beer pong at house parties. These guys go to mid-Atlantic liberal arts colleges, a stone’s throw from their parent’s homes in suburban Philadelphia.

One such macho man, Asher Roth (I mean, he’s a secular East Coast Jew, for crying out loud! he doesn’t even have the unique world view of Hasidism that Matisyahu brings to the table…), was featured recently on NPR’s All Songs Considered. Here’s a snapshot of Roth’s personal mission:

‘The hip-hop community needs to be more about enlightening and awakening rather than the struggle,’ he says. ‘There’s millions of kids just like me who didn’t grow up in a struggle and didn’t suffer hardships but are very much inspired and influenced by hip-hop.’

And here’s a snapshot of his hit song, “I Love College”:

Um, that party last night was awfully crazy I wish we taped it
I danced my ass off and had this one girl completely naked
Drink my beer and smoke my weed but my good friends is all I need
Pass out at 3, wake up at 10, go out to eat then do it again.

Hmm… “Enlightening and awakening”?

There’s another white rapper called Chris Webby who went to a private high school in Westport, CT. I actually tutor some kids who go there now, and believe me, it’s no Bronx or South Central L.A. Chris Webby’s hit single is a smoked up sampling of the 90s single “It Goes Around The World” by ATC. It’s basically all about doing drugs and going to college–and getting away with it.

Am I the only one who thinks real hip-hop is being done a disservice by these folks? Granted that most African American rap these days is about having ludicrous amounts of money (and what one could buy with this money), isn’t there something about the socio-cultural experience that produced rap music which needs be a part of all ostensible attempts?

I think of W.E.B. DuBois, who saw the old negro spirituals as the unique expression–and determinant–of African American experience. What would he think about this trend?


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