Saturday, December 13, 2003


Sam's latest counter appears on his December 10 entry. I actually don't have much to add at this point, mostly b/c I think the two of us are getting closer to agreement over certain points. Sam makes an VERY important observation - contentious as it could be - with this statement:

    "I think that in the early nineties there was still a lot of remnants of 60’s black radicalism, where people would empower themselves through identity, as where today’s artist realize that they have a greater degree of equality (notice I said greater, not total) and are looking for equity. Maybe that is the defining divide between the hip hop and civil rights generation."

To paraphrase Sam, it's the difference between "freedom now!" and "free market now!" where today's rappers feel like they have their rights secure, but they want to make sure they can get their ritz on too. I think this is a great observation though I'm stilling mulling over whether it can explain everything that's happened. One point Papa Zen always makes is that with monopolization of the music industry during the '90s, you had "more money being bet on fewer horses" (or something like that) which meant that if A&Rs didn't think consciousness would sell while gangsterisms would, they're going with the thugs. In other words, the shift is as much a change in the economics of the rap industry as it is with changing ideologies at the street level. That would certainly explain why the independent market is filled with so many self-stylized conscious MCs in comparison to the majors.

Sam points out that a lot of political consciousness in music journalism can be terrible and I absolutely agree. However, I never said that music journalism needs to be more "political" per se, especially not in ways that just smack of collegiate protest agit-prop. I think magazines and journalists need to reassert a fundamental separation between editorial content and financial priorities. The two serve very different ends and are absolutely antithetical to one another. However, the choice that most glossies have followed (alt. weeklies have done much better but they're also much poorer) is to go for the money, almost to the point where an "editorial" voice is in name only.

Basically, what I'm saying, is that I don't want to have to pick up the New Yorker or LA Times or, god forbid, Newsweek and see them contributing better, critical pieces on pop music than music magazines are able to. Not that they necessarily have but the way things are moving, I wouldn't be surprised.