It’s funny how pop culture goes from controversial to nontroversial so quickly that we never really see the pivot point. And it does it even without anything changing, necessarily, except time. Shakespeare’s dirty jokes are far, far filthier than any language on network television, and yet results in remarkably few fines; what seems like the height of smut one day somehow mellows with age (exhibit A: Prince). The explanation, I guess, is that it has to happen when we’re not looking, or it doesn’t happen at all. So when is it going to happen with hip-hop? Or is judging controversiality by the reactions of conservative political commentators really an accurate measure?
Beliefnet blogger Rod Dreher wrote a post last week about Stanley Crouch’s contention that Obama will make black people “turn away” from hip-hop. He ended it like this:
As for me, I don’t care what color you are, if you’re a kid who listens to hip-hop, I don’t want my kids playing with you. I want my kids to have consciences that find hip-hop’s lyrical content and themes repulsive. Which is to say, I want my kids to have a strong and uncompromising sense of character.
Well! There was some offense taken, of course, though generally gracefully, and none more so than Ta-Nehisi Coates, who puts this down to more of a misunderstanding—Dreher not knowing that there are positive as well as negative values conveyed by hip-hop.
But when, one wonders in a genuinely non-anguished way, will this stop? When will rap and video games stop being controversial? Maybe when something even more controversial comes along? Or when those who didn’t grow up with these things fall out of prominence? Hard to say. But Coates’ advice—that you shouldn’t write about things you don’t know about—will hold true even when we ourselves get into a position to criticize the crazy new things kids are into.
I guess this means no play-dates, huh Rod? [The Atlantic]