Racism And Rap: Drawing A Line
  • THURSDAY, APRIL 23, 2015

  • Posted by: Josh Ramos

Remember how in the cult classic Malibu's Most Wanted [Ed. note: Is Malibu's Most Wanted a cult classic now? Jesus, I'm getting old] B-Rad from Malibu had to constantly remind everyone around him all the time that he was "down?" The meaning of "being down" is never fully explained other than the obscure idea of being in touch with urban life or the ghetto. While B-Rad swore he had the potential to be one of the greatest rappers of all time, everyone looked at this privileged rich kid whose dad was running for governor as an annoying idiot. White people tended to laugh at him whereas the black folks in the film tended to react violently to his foolishness. In the end, B-Rad realized what many whites fail to understand still: cultural appreciation does not have to equate to cultural appropriation.



For the most part, whenever someone is accused of being racist, they tend to respond with several answers ranging from: 'I'm not racist', 'you're the racist', or the comical 'I have a black friend'. Ignoring the issue of microaggression theory for argument's sake, the defense of having a 'black friend' is never a way to signify that you are not a racist. The act of labeling a person of color as your "black/Asian/hispanic/etc. friend" means you see them in a different light than your white friends who you'll never go out of your way to describe as your "white friends." That old defense has ceased to be the unintentional racist's obvious counter defense. As cities continue to grow larger and larger, with the wealth gap between the poor and rich still startlingly/devastatingly enormous, a new "answer" has been used to defend one's self from racism. The new false defense comes in the art form of hip-hop. Black culture, specifically music, has been highly commercial since the 60s. Consumed by white America at an incredulous rate, traditionally black music like jazz, rock, and now hip-hop have had a very large white audience. So, when someone makes a racist remark, even unintentionally, and they respond with 'I'm not racist. I love rap music,' they are doing a disservice to hip-hop culture and the meaning behind it.



Lately, the proudly black and outspoken artist Azealia Banks has been coming at every and all white rappers because they "don't belong" in the genre. Her words are highly political and outrageous, and yet sometimes, she's dead on. Banks is willing to go after anyone including rap deity Eminem and the people's champ, Action Bronson. Even crazier, Lord Jamar has gone out to call white people 'guests' in hip-hop.



The new Kendrick Lamar album To Pimp A Butterfly warns against allowing the corporate machine of white America to use hip-hop as a tool to paint the hood in a certain image. Kendrick is worried that the original message of hip-hop is being watered down to violence, materialism, and sexism instead of spreading political messages, informing the world about urban poverty, and creating social change. Recently, the University of Oklahoma's Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity was filmed on camera chanting racist jokes about hanging blacks from a tree. As if that wasn't shi**y enough, another video soon leaked of the house mother repeating the "ni**a, ni**a, ni**a" refrain from Trinidad Jame$ "All Gold Everything."

The question of "Are these kids racist" is not something I need to answer. The answer is obvious. They are old enough but apparently not mature enough to understand the severity of their words. If anything, their fondness for rap music with little respect for black folks themselves shows what we already knew: white people are willing to be entertained by and take from black culture but don't expect them to want the actual experience of being black in America.



Any study could show you the statistical fact that quality of life for any black male or female compared to a white person of any socio-economic background in America is vastly skewed. The scales are tipped in whites' favor just based off perception alone. This recent activity by the frat, and countless other personal circumstances I've seen in college, shows that whites are not above belittling black art for entertainment. Frat types will sing every word in a party or "rowdy" setting but when it comes to playing the music in their car or house, they don't want to hear that "rap shit". If you listen closely you can almost replace rap with "ni**er" or "jungle music" in a cruel Southern accent.

I think it's time to start defending the culture out right. Begin to call people out. I am not saying people of all race and creeds aren't allowed to enjoy rap music. I'm saying they should respect the movement and the culture. If you need help understanding, just read the great Q-Tip's (A Tribe Called Quest) essay on the history of hip-hop and what it means to people. Maybe then people won't get bored of the new Kendrick album and turn to the regular trap star music of every cliche fake gangster on the radio.

Check out a real hip-hop song below that shows how rappers use their voice to inspire change and not just sell an image to portions of America who will never understand the real trials and tribulations of black America.

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