Similarities of hip-hop and the blues

Similarities of hip-hop and the blues

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Rapping the Blues: The Similarities of hip-hop and the blues

Hip-hop is one of the major music genres of today like the blues were in the 1950's. Stanley Crouch views hip-hop as being vulgar and obscene while he sees the blues as being one of the classic music genres. In actuality, these two genres are similar in many ways.

A very important part of Stanley Crouch's life is his love for the blues. Many of his essays are related to or have aspects of the blues contained within them. Crouch relates topics that he writes about to the blues, because this is a subject he believes he is very familiar with. In The All American Skin Game, Stanley writes,
"Jazz is very important to my vision of life in our time." (Lamb, 1). Jazz gives him a feeling of individuality and community. This means that when individuals push him, and he pushes them back, they both become better
individuals as well as a better community.

For Stanley, the blues tell the stories of the African-American community. Some of the stories talk about the harshness of their lives, but they also talk about the good times they had. [People] play the blues to get rid of the blues not to get them." (Lamb, 1). When people play or even listen to the blues, they are letting all of their worries go. They are not worrying about their job, the bills, or their kids. They are just trying to enjoy the moment when the blues are playing. The blues are some people's release from the stresses of their lives.

To say it lightly, Stanley Crouch does not like the hip-hop genre of music. The dreadlocks, the clothing style, and the "vulgar": gold chains are just a few things he does not approve of at all. (Crouch, 1 ) It astounds him to see how far African-American music has fallen since the days of the Motown. Stanley was quoted as saying this about rap, "It is rudeness, vulgarity, and pornography disguised as ‘keeping it real.'" (Crouch, 1) He also went on to say the hip-hop music genre has the worst impact of all music genres on our culture today. (Crouch, 2) Crouch believes one does not need much talent to become a successful rapper unlike the jazz greats he listens to all the time.

In Stanley Crouch's view, the only messages that rappers put in the minds of todays' youth is that they need to have sex, kill people, and do drugs all the time.

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Stanley stated that in one interview that rappers are the lowest of the group, the sex, [and] the species. (Crouch, 3) He also says that hip-hop is like slavery. He
believes we will get through this trying time as we have gotten through many other trying times in our lives like slavery. (Crouch, 2)

I can not believe Stanley crouch would say such harsh remarks about this music genre. Hip-hop is considered by some individuals today as being like the blues of yesteryear. Most of the artists rap about what is familiar to them, and that tends to be the hard lives they have lived in the ghettoes of major American cities. This does not include vulgar language, sex, drugs, and death. This keeping it real to them, because this is what they see as being real. Rappers have lived hard lives just like the blues people Crouch loves so dearly. The music may sound different, but many of the messages can be interpreted from the lyrics. Mr. Crouch can not deny that some of the major topics of the blues are drinking, sex, and women. I can not comprehend how Crouch can find it okay for blues people to sing about these topics while at the same time he can be disgusted at rappers for saying similar things.

When Stanley says hip hop artists do not need a great amount of talent to succeed in the music business, he is being very hypocritical. It is not that easy to create music of any kind. Rap music does not consist of a couple of obscenities repeated over and over again like he things. He does not realize that someone had to create and record the words, beats, and other aspects of the songs. All rappers may not be talented with a musical instrument like Louie Armstrong, but each artist is talented in his own way. Wyclef Jean of the ‘Fugees wrote, mixed, produced, and played all the instruments on the bands platinum selling debut album. Sean Combs is the cofounder of his own record label which has produced many top hits that he has helped to write, rap, and produce. I consider these two individuals to be very talented.

All hip-hop groups do not talk about participating in mischievous acts like Crouch assumes, Ren- DMC is one of these groups. They are one of the most well-known rap groups in the world, and they do not condone mischievous acts. One of their most famous lInes comes from a song entitled "It's Tricky":

We are not dumb, we don't use drugs, but you assume on your
They offer coke and lots of dope, but we just leave it alone

This is one of my favorite lines by any group. I respect Run-DMC very much for this, but I guess Crouch can not see this as being a good message, since it is being rapped. He even says that the thick gold chains that they wear are "vulgar." (Crouch, 1) They may possibly be tacky, but they certainly are not vulgar in any sense. Run-DMC tries to send as many positive messages to its audience as possible. They even collaborated with bands such as Aerosmith to try and get their messages across to an even broader audience. The Beastie Boys are another group that young people can look up to for positive influences. The group consists of three white guys who rap and also play rock music, They are also getting their messages across to a larger audience by blending aspects of different music genres together. They sing about their love for their mothers, their love for sports, and how much they appreciate women to name a few. They are also big advocates on the situation in Tibet where the Tibetan people are being suppressed by the tyrannical Chinese government. Since 1996 the Beastie Boys have held The Tibetan Freedom Concert which is a festival that bands perform at to create awareness and solutions to stopping the brutality in Tibet.

In the eyes of Stanley Crouch hip-hop could be sin in its purest form. I believe Mr. Crouch should have looked into hip-hop a little more before he came out with such a harsh article. He needs to open his eyes a little wider and take in the entire picture, not just the pieces he chooses to see. I do not listen to hip-hop, but I understand that it is an outlet for many youth. It can take them away from the harsh lives they live. If only for a moment, I believe it is worth it to keep this music genre alive.

Crouch, Stanley "Hip Hop Strikes a Sour Note", Feb. 1998 18 Fen 1998

Lamb, Brian. "Booknotes Transcript" May 1996 12 May 1996

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