My daughter is a fan of hiphop music, and has been since she was about 14. Up to that time I was not really aware of this music as a cultural force. Apparently it is as influential and as all-pervasive in the lives of this generation as rock was in mine. And as with my parents before me, it is difficult to get a handle on it. Without the immersal necessary to appreciate any musical form, “it all sounds the same to me!” Every now and then she will play something for me but I really can’t appreciate the difference, and though I know the names of the current luminaries, at least the brightest as of who knows how long ago, I can never tell the difference between say Jay-Z or whoever.
I remember once she played me two songs by male rappers. One was a good-natured, if very explicit, description of how the singer liked to fool around with lots of women, and the other was a typical (stereotypical anyway) description of the pursuit of material objects, of which women were an example. I imagine she wanted to shock me with both of them, but I could not really find fault with the first, as he genuinely seemed to like women and, though obviously not one to stay around, was willing to do what it took to give as good as he got in terms of enjoyment. On the other hand. the other singer exhibited a hatred and contempt for women which would have been unthinkable in my era. He saw them essentially as whores, regrettably necessary for the fulfilment of male desires, but of no more real interest than any other consumable; a cheeseburger, perhaps, or a beer: tasty at the time but immediately forgotten once enjoyed. And in my brief survey of the genre this seems to be a recurring dichotomy, the one representing the traditional African respect and admiration for female sexuality, and the other reflecting the dominant American culture of the day: the culture of selfishness, rudeness and stupidity which has taken over all discourse and threatens to plunge North American society into a new dark age. The stereotypical hiphopper falls into this category just as much as Ann Coulter or Rush Limbaugh or whatever other shithead redneck is currently spouting their crap on American TV.
The strangest manifestation of this in black culture is the professed admiration for a most unlikely hero: the pimp. His styles, mannerisms and habits are held up as the highest possible aspiration. Why? Well, in my opinon it goes back to the liberation of blacks after the Civil War. At that time, freed blacks were at liberty (theoretically) to take up any occupation, and 100 years later, they were actually able to begin to put that liberty to practical use… and yet, both then and now, there was one profession to which no black person could legally aspire, and that was the one occupation that had had the greatest impact by far on the African immigre population: the slaveowner. I think the pimp represents that frustration, that at the moment of liberation there could be no hope of real payback in kind. So now the pimp, the closest thing in the modern world to the “massa” of old, abusing and exploiting his stable of hoes and bitches, becomes the ideal. Sad but true.