Thursday, January 6, 2011

Chuck D: US Lags in Hip-Hop Dopeness

Hat Tip to Grisel for hipping me to this open letter from Chuck D:

A key point that Grisel picked-up on was that "According to Chuck D, the rest of the world has surpassed the U.S. in hip hop skills (community activism, turntabilism, DJing, dancing, art, etc.)...."

I love Chuck D, I really do, and I think his point about "so many being pimped by so few" is legit. But on the purely artistic tip, I welcome other countries bringing their flavor to hip-hop and "surpassing" the US. Dope is dope, whether it's happening in Beijing, Accra, or Boise. And with all due respect to Chuck D's underlying social point, there's no musical arms race. And even if there were, as Q-Tip said: "competition's good, it brings out the vital parts..."

The story of 20th century popular music is basically a recurring cycle of new forms taking shape here in the US, then travelling around, influencing the world (and then coming back, influenced by the world). Jazz, Blues, Rhythm & Blues, Rock, and now, Hip-Hop. We've seen this movie before, and I think it has a happy ending.... Again, just talking musically here...

Hip-Hop is as mainstream as it gets... Jay Z's new albums get reviewed on NPR and he gets name checked in Miley Cyrus songs. (Full disclosure: Miley's Party in the USA is a guilty pleasure)

Hip-Hop belongs to the world. And as a pioneer, Chuck has earned the right to be crochety and sound ever so slightly like Stanley Crouch. But, Hip-Hop is not what's "next". It will no doubt inform the shape of things to come, but it is the present moment. I love it as much as the next guy, but it is the music of the establishment, sorry.

As far as what's next? I'm eternally psyched that some kids in Capetown, or in Seno, Laos might be cooking up the next musical shot-heard-round-the-world


Grisel said...

Great points, Cliff!

volcker said...

Why should we listen to Chuck D, he doesn't even have a tight whip?

I hate to say it but that rant resembles something out of SWPL #116...


Bobby said...

Excellent post, Cliff.