Tuesday, December 28, 2004


i'm too pretty to sweat deez questions

I know that Sasha doesn't include a comments section for his blog because he probably doesn't want discussions degenerating into pissing contests (as they often do). I respect that - at times, I think I should just follow - but damn, how can guest-poster Josh Clover bust out with these 5 propositions (1, 2, 3, 4, and 5) and then end with these questions, with nary a space to hear feedback? Clover asks:
    1) Is the use of terms like "bitch" and "ho," and even dalliances with woman-beating, part of rap 2005's social content, or sonic form? Or sometimes one, sometimes the other?

    2) Is the musical inventiveness and pleasure of, say, Timbaland and the Neptunes a sonic formalism or a social content for hip-hop?

    3) Is it useful to think about what's happening in these terms?

    4) What is hip-hop's social content, anyway?

Pop Life opines:

1) The two aren't mutually exclusive, right? I think back to Q-Tip's song, "Sucka Ni**a" on Midnight Marauders where he's saying, "my lips are like an ooh-wop when I start to spray it" - I think that song perfectly captures (resolves?) the question of whether or not language is deployed as content or form. For Tip, a loaded word like "ni**a" is both.

That said, whether you treat it as either doesn't mean you can't problematize language, right? Especially when language doubles as both sonic form and social content - it just means you have to be more nuanced in your critique. It also doesn't mean you have to disavow how language creates pleasure, even when that pleasure is problematic (hell, what kind of pleasure isn't problematic?) Just because I think hip-hop is misogynistic (among other things) doesn't mean I don't enjoy it. And at times, I feel conflicted about that contradiction but acknowledging that I can simultaneously enjoy something I find troubling doesn't negate either the enjoyment or the problem. It only accepts that these two are also not mutually exclusive (some might argue they're inseparable).

2) People who study disco are constantly suggesting that the key to disco's liberatory effects lies specifically in its sonic forms - one scholar I read refers to it as the "empire of the beat," i.e. the ways in which rhythm can be - at times - this force that overtakes us and compels us to move, in unison, with others who have similarly surrendered. The most idealized reads of that moment suggest that when that happens, we've shed our other social conventions - vis a vis race, class, gender, etc. - and simply become one - under the groove. I think those perspectives might be just a little overstated but I understand where they're coming from.

So in this case, I think it's a sonic formalism that contains the potential to impact social content.

3) I think it's useful in some ways, but I also don't know if most people's relationship to music is strictly split along these lines. They can be so blurred - as Josh himself notes - that trying to pull them apart becomes nearly impossible.

4) Wisdom knowledge, culture freedom, power refinement.
Sex and violence.
Money, hoes and clothes.
Peace, love and nappiness.

Take your pick.