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Hip-hop: the last bastion of American freedom It is our only cultural defence against sterile conformity

Run-DMC in 1988 (Frank Micelotta/ImageDirect/Getty)

Run-DMC in 1988 (Frank Micelotta/ImageDirect/Getty)


August 12, 2023   8 mins

On 11 August 1973, there was a party at an apartment building at 1520 Sedgewick Avenue in the Bronx. The host, Cindy Campbell, was a black immigrant teenager from Jamaica who wanted to earn some extra cash to buy back-to-school clothes. So she put up flyers around the neighbourhood, and convinced her 18-year-old brother Clive to DJ.

Known as DJ Kool Herc (a shortened version of his nickname, Hercules), Clive was locally famous for his physical size and strength and for a style of DJing that involved using multiple turntables and records to stitch together short, percussive passages of R&B music called “breaks” into extended loops of sound, a technique that he called “The Merry-Go-Round”. At his sister’s party, he cued up two copies of James Brown’s Sex Machine album and went back and forth, extending the break from “Give It Up or Turnit a Loose” while exclaiming street phrases over the music to encourage the dancers. And so, hip-hop was born.

As with most origin stories, the tale of how Kool Herc invented hip-hop is actually a set of clues that point in several directions at once. First, there is the fact that the Campbells were from Jamaica, where the practice of DJs rhyming over extended instrumentals had been part of the island’s musical culture since the Forties. By the late Fifties, “toasting”, or the art of boasting and telling stories over instrumentals and encouraging dancers, had become central to the fierce, island-wide competition between mobile sound systems sponsored by Kingston producers such as Duke Reid, Coxsone Dodd and King Tubby.

King Tubby, a protégé of Reid, showed a particular genius for taking the instrumental B-sides of R&B, ska and rocksteady records, and isolating and emphasising specific elements of the instrumentals and beats to create hypnotic music. As American R&B labels began to fade, reducing the supply of imported instrumental B-sides, Jamaican producers began to specialise in the production of original one-off instrumental recordings called dubplates which their DJs could toast and rhyme over. Arguably, then, hip-hop was simply a late American inner-city variant of a style of music that had originated in Jamaica at least two decades earlier.

Yet the realities of life in the Bronx in 1973 were equally important to the development of hip-hop. Jamaica was largely an island of farming towns where people gathered outside to listen to music. New York was a city of totemic skyscrapers caught in a seemingly irreversible spiral of crime, drugs and social decay. If the formal innovations that define hip-hop nearly all originated in Jamaica, the spirit and texture of the music clearly came from New York.

To grow up in New York City in the Seventies, as I did, was to experience the Biblical ten plagues on a more or less daily basis. There were rats everywhere, as city workers often failed to pick up the garbage. Alcoholics and drug addicts slumped against the sides of buildings in pools of their own urine. Playgrounds were littered with syringes, and later crack pipes. Summer evenings were regularly punctuated by gunfire, as police refused to get out of their cars. The terrifying rapidity of the city’s social breakdown sent around two million middle-class and professional residents, not all of them white, fleeing to the suburbs of New Jersey, Westchester, Connecticut and Long Island.

Those of us left behind — the city’s forgotten working class, elderly survivors of every type of historical trauma, ethnic minorities who refused to leave their neighbourhoods — adopted a kind of battle-scarred tolerance towards the state of permanent chaos that was apparently now our fate. If the city’s once-pristine and orderly facades were now covered in graffiti, it was possible to find beauty in what could be understood as a new art form. If the subway staircases lined with unconscious, half-naked bodies suggested a descent into hell, it was also fun to imagine how daring night-raiders had contorted their bodies into impossible shapes in order to spray-paint their names on the trains. Abandoned buildings were taken over by squatters and artists who used the energy of the streets to create in a new graffiti-influence vernacular that would become world-famous through the work of Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat. Clubs such as CBGB’s featured bands like The Ramones and Talking Heads who could easily find rehearsal spaces and pay rent while creating great new music. If the Seventies were one of the worst decades in the city’s history — socially, economically and criminally — they were also a time of undeniable creative ferment.

Yet the sense of danger, hopelessness and decay that pervaded the city was all too real. Along with the addicts and petty criminals, the streets were home to thousands of mentally ill people who became guinea pigs in a vast social experiment that liberated them from the oppression of state mental institutions to the “care” of communities that lacked any kind of infrastructure or funding to help them heal. Suburban flight cost the city tens of thousands of jobs, and devastated the city’s tax base.

The people hardest-hit by the city’s decline were the poor, especially the black poor, who lived in ghettos from which jobs and basic social services had disappeared. The only available sources of income in poorer city neighbourhoods were welfare payments or the drug trade. Public schools eliminated shop classes and music programmes, as city budgets no longer offered room for anything beyond teaching the basics and taking attendance. If being working-class or elderly in New York City in the Seventies meant running a menacing gauntlet of crime and decay, being poor and black was its own separate circle of hell.

Hip-hop was the music product of a world whose inhabitants had been forgotten but were no less human than anyone else in New York. It showcased a scavenger’s inventiveness in the face of deprivation, and a capacity for inventiveness and joy that the rest of the city had largely forgotten. If there were no more musical instruments or music teachers in the city’s public schools, kids could still make music in the parks with a pair of turntables and records that they bought for a dollar. The early stars of the music were the DJs with the best record collections and coolest breaks. The rappers were hype-men, who rhymed about their zodiac signs and moved the crowd.

There was more to the music, though. As new beats travelled from the Bronx, to Harlem, to Brooklyn, they became a kind of semaphore code that signalled first and foremost that the city was still alive. White kids travelled on the subways to uptown parks and clubs to hear the new music, while black DJs and performers migrated to downtown clubs, where they met the Talking Heads. Barriers of geography and race that had been raised even higher by budget cuts and the decay of the city’s social fabric and institutional structures began to come down. Break-dancers appeared on the subways and in parks in the hope of getting paid, spinning on their heads, popping their limbs, and performing other impossible-seeming feats, making themselves physically and psychically visible to their fellow New Yorkers as something other than likely muggers.

It is not my intention to recapitulate the entire history of hip-hop here. It is enough to say that in every decade since, someone has declared rap to be dead, only for the music to respond by generating new and bigger and arguably even more talented stars. The Eighties saw the rise of national acts like Run-DMC, LL Cool J, Rakim, the Beastie Boys and Public Enemy. In the Nineties, hip-hop’s centre of gravity moved to the West Coast, with the rise of gangsta rappers like NWA, Ice Cube, Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, and Tupac, a dancer from Baltimore who re-incarnated himself as the most fervent voice of LA’s brutal gang culture. The East Coast responded with Brooklyn’s Biggie Smalls, aka the Notorious B.I.G. (my personal nominee for the greatest rapper of all time), along with Nas, an artistic genius, Jay Z, a commercial genius, and the Wu Tang Clan, a collective of geniuses from Staten Island who fearlessly crossed hip-hop with everything from coke-addled scat singing to old kung-fu movies.

In the 2000s, Dr. Dre fathered Eminem, the white Elvis of rap, who sold more records than anyone else by marrying uniquely complex rhyme patterns with a bratty sense of humour that did more than his skin colour to help rap go pop. Eminem was followed by Jay Z’s old producer, Kanye West, hip-hop’s Mozart, who used his unique ear for sound and love of fashion to turn himself into hip-hop’s first global brand before being eaten alive by mental illness, which announced itself (to those who hadn’t been paying attention) in the form of antisemitic outbursts and his bizarre embrace of Nazi iconography. For each of these stars, there were dozens more who created new patterns out of words and sound, all of which referred back from one angle or another to DJ Kool Herc’s groundbreaking performance at his sister’s party.

Today, rap has secured its place alongside rock, country and pop in the American popular music pantheon with its own category at the Grammys, an outdated music awards show that no one watches. There are plenty of more recent rappers who do unique and original things with the form, such as Drakeo the Ruler, who was murdered in December 2021, and 03 Greedo, who is thankfully still alive. Stars such as Houston’s Travis Scott fill arenas while topping the pop charts.

Still, it was reasonable, until very recently, to see hip-hop as a 20th century cultural artefact that was gently ageing into oblivion. Anyone with a legitimate claim to having bobbed their head at jams in parks back in the day in Brooklyn, Queens or the Bronx is now pushing 60, which in pop-culture land is pretty much the equivalent of death. Snoop Dogg’s pop-culture partner is Martha Stewart. And while fans may still crowd arenas to hear an 81-year-old Paul McCartney sing and play bass, it is hard to imagine them doing the same for an 81-year-old Ghostface Killah, may he live long and prosper.

Yet on the 50th anniversary of its putative birth, hip-hop suddenly feels fresh again. In a culture in which free expression is increasingly marginalised and depicted as dangerous, even as criminal, hip-hop has proven to be the only native cultural form to successfully resist the sterility of the enforced monoculture that is strengthening its hold on the formerly glorious cacophony of American pop. What passes for American popular culture today is the product of a new regime which uses the tools of social pressure and censorship, combined with ever-more overt intrusions of political and bureaucratic power, to threaten anyone who refuses to conform. But no one can cancel hip-hop stars, because the spirit of the music won’t allow it — and neither will the fans. In a Puritan landscape of fearful, politically driven conformity, hip-hop sounds even more radically original and freedom-loving than it did when it was born.

The idea that hip-hop artists are the last real Americans may seem ironic. After all, they are predominantly urban and black, and spoke their truth in opposition to a dominant white political and musical culture. But anyone who thinks that the blackness is somehow outside the definition of “Americanness” doesn’t know much about either. Black culture is American culture, and hip-hop’s aesthetic, and the values it transmits, could not be more American.

It is the right of every American to invent themselves from scratch. It is the right of every American to not be defined by their given name, by the colour of their skin, or by the government, and to tell their own story in their own tongue. If you shoot at me, I will shoot back. These rights, whether they are written down in the Constitution or not, are what allow Americans in every generation to fashion a new language and new forms out of the materials at hand. That’s what being an American is about.

Today’s America is a country whose elites have turned their back on its foundational promises, preferring to preserve their fortunes while attempting to police and control a society whose size and energy makes them afraid. Hip-hop’s refusal to abide by this is the essence of the American spirit and the foundation of any free society. Which is how a musical form that was once defined as “the black CNN” came to speak for the vast majority of Americans, regardless of their skin colour or whether they were from Brooklyn or the Bronx. Hip-hop continues to speak its own truth, vastly enriching the American language, American music and American culture. This is why it will survive, in some form or another, for at least another 50 years. Happy birthday.


David Samuels is a writer who lives in upstate New York.


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N Satori
N Satori
9 months ago

This piece by David Samuels tries to sound like some sort of cultural analysis but it oozes the euphoric enthusiasm of the uncritical fan. I’m not surprised. All too often when white pundits write about black cultural phenomena criticism is surplus to requirements – reverence for the achievements of the disadvantaged is the default theme.

But no one can cancel hip-hop stars, because the spirit of the music won’t allow it…

—opines Samuels with the breathless eagerness of a true believer. Actually, no one can cancel hip-hop stars because they are almost all black – and cancelation would be racist (of course). Consequently, violent, sexist, homophobic and even racist “lyrics” are given a free pass.
Samuels is tells us that the menacing crime and decay of New York in the 1970s provided fertile ground for this new musical style. Should we greet the current descent of New York into crime and decay with the hope that it may give birth to another strain of pop music? Let society crumble into ruin around us – as long as we have popular entertainment, who cares.

Last edited 9 months ago by N Satori
Frank McCusker
Frank McCusker
9 months ago
Reply to  N Satori

“Pass the toast dear”, turns pages of Daily Telegraph, harrumphs about hip hop.
What a sniffy bourgeois take.
Loosen up man

N Satori
N Satori
9 months ago
Reply to  Frank McCusker

Clean yer ears out McCusker. Hip-Hop is 90% macho swagger blended with about 10% of not very inventive music. Haven’t you noticed how numbingly repetitive it is? Rather like that other overrated ethnic music genre known as Reggae. The entry level skill is very low – hence the surfeit of practitioners.
Are you perhaps one of those simple-minded fans who needs to enjoy the feeling of being edgy, dangerous and ever so rebellious by coming out as a supporter for something you fondly imagine to be shockingly transgressive?
Tighten up your critical faculty man. Try just listening to what is coming out of those speakers without congratulating yourself as you do so.

Ray Andrews
Ray Andrews
9 months ago
Reply to  N Satori

Why not accept the compliment with thanks? If you want to know what’s wrong with American Blacks, you need only listen to their music. Black culture openly celebrates drugs, rape, mayhem and every form of crime, and if it’s ‘bourgeois’ to prefer civilization, then I myself am happy to be bourgeois and tight. Not that I’m fishing for a similar compliment from Frank.

Ed Carden
Ed Carden
9 months ago
Reply to  N Satori

Hip-Hop is far from “not very inventive”. Within the world of music nothing new has been created in a long time. Everything is a remix, reinvention or inspiration of one or more other songs. If you think it’s so easy then queue up an instrumental Rap tune and see how long it takes you to crank of lyrics that rhyme and which people are willing to listen to and more importantly, like it.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
9 months ago
Reply to  N Satori

There is nothing repetitive about Public Enemy, Eric B, Beastie Boys, The Real Roxanne, KRS One, etc. No one was doing what they were doing or did before. Meanwhile the hip hop culture is more prevalent in every genre of music world wide now. It is immulated the world over. Meanwhile “standards” such as Rolling Stones, Beatles, and all the other white rock and roll knock offs are about as genuine as Jack Daniels.

Ray Andrews
Ray Andrews
9 months ago
Reply to  N Satori

Why not accept the compliment with thanks? If you want to know what’s wrong with American Blacks, you need only listen to their music. Black culture openly celebrates drugs, rape, mayhem and every form of crime, and if it’s ‘bourgeois’ to prefer civilization, then I myself am happy to be bourgeois and tight. Not that I’m fishing for a similar compliment from Frank.

Ed Carden
Ed Carden
9 months ago
Reply to  N Satori

Hip-Hop is far from “not very inventive”. Within the world of music nothing new has been created in a long time. Everything is a remix, reinvention or inspiration of one or more other songs. If you think it’s so easy then queue up an instrumental Rap tune and see how long it takes you to crank of lyrics that rhyme and which people are willing to listen to and more importantly, like it.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
9 months ago
Reply to  N Satori

There is nothing repetitive about Public Enemy, Eric B, Beastie Boys, The Real Roxanne, KRS One, etc. No one was doing what they were doing or did before. Meanwhile the hip hop culture is more prevalent in every genre of music world wide now. It is immulated the world over. Meanwhile “standards” such as Rolling Stones, Beatles, and all the other white rock and roll knock offs are about as genuine as Jack Daniels.

O. M.
O. M.
9 months ago
Reply to  Frank McCusker

The commentor was not harrumphing about hiphop, but about the quality of the piece.. the author is talking about some hiphop from an alternative universe – especially when you think about the past three decades or so..

Last edited 9 months ago by O. M.
N Satori
N Satori
9 months ago
Reply to  Frank McCusker

Clean yer ears out McCusker. Hip-Hop is 90% macho swagger blended with about 10% of not very inventive music. Haven’t you noticed how numbingly repetitive it is? Rather like that other overrated ethnic music genre known as Reggae. The entry level skill is very low – hence the surfeit of practitioners.
Are you perhaps one of those simple-minded fans who needs to enjoy the feeling of being edgy, dangerous and ever so rebellious by coming out as a supporter for something you fondly imagine to be shockingly transgressive?
Tighten up your critical faculty man. Try just listening to what is coming out of those speakers without congratulating yourself as you do so.

O. M.
O. M.
9 months ago
Reply to  Frank McCusker

The commentor was not harrumphing about hiphop, but about the quality of the piece.. the author is talking about some hiphop from an alternative universe – especially when you think about the past three decades or so..

Last edited 9 months ago by O. M.
Simon S
Simon S
9 months ago
Reply to  N Satori

My thoughts entirely. Aside from being triggered by the fundamentally holier-than-thou tone of the whole piece, I was also irked by its lack of awareness for non-metropolitan and non-‘coloured’ America

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
9 months ago
Reply to  N Satori

How do you cancel music? Hip-hop is a male dominated genre and as a white woman it has never appealed to me, ditto rap. Plus it’s very monotomous. But that’s neither here nor there.

Last edited 9 months ago by Clare Knight
Ed Carden
Ed Carden
9 months ago
Reply to  N Satori

I find it interesting to read that the NYC of the 70’s sounds very much like teh Democrat run cities today. If I remember correctly it was a change in party leadership in NYC going from Democrat to Republican in teh form of Rudi Giuliani that turned the city around; got things cleaned up and taken care like the trash issue.

Every time you let the Democrats run a city long enough it turns into a shifthole. While you don’t always get better with a Republican candidate you do have better odds with one.

Frank McCusker
Frank McCusker
9 months ago
Reply to  N Satori

“Pass the toast dear”, turns pages of Daily Telegraph, harrumphs about hip hop.
What a sniffy bourgeois take.
Loosen up man

Simon S
Simon S
9 months ago
Reply to  N Satori

My thoughts entirely. Aside from being triggered by the fundamentally holier-than-thou tone of the whole piece, I was also irked by its lack of awareness for non-metropolitan and non-‘coloured’ America

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
9 months ago
Reply to  N Satori

How do you cancel music? Hip-hop is a male dominated genre and as a white woman it has never appealed to me, ditto rap. Plus it’s very monotomous. But that’s neither here nor there.

Last edited 9 months ago by Clare Knight
Ed Carden
Ed Carden
9 months ago
Reply to  N Satori

I find it interesting to read that the NYC of the 70’s sounds very much like teh Democrat run cities today. If I remember correctly it was a change in party leadership in NYC going from Democrat to Republican in teh form of Rudi Giuliani that turned the city around; got things cleaned up and taken care like the trash issue.

Every time you let the Democrats run a city long enough it turns into a shifthole. While you don’t always get better with a Republican candidate you do have better odds with one.

N Satori
N Satori
9 months ago

This piece by David Samuels tries to sound like some sort of cultural analysis but it oozes the euphoric enthusiasm of the uncritical fan. I’m not surprised. All too often when white pundits write about black cultural phenomena criticism is surplus to requirements – reverence for the achievements of the disadvantaged is the default theme.

But no one can cancel hip-hop stars, because the spirit of the music won’t allow it…

—opines Samuels with the breathless eagerness of a true believer. Actually, no one can cancel hip-hop stars because they are almost all black – and cancelation would be racist (of course). Consequently, violent, sexist, homophobic and even racist “lyrics” are given a free pass.
Samuels is tells us that the menacing crime and decay of New York in the 1970s provided fertile ground for this new musical style. Should we greet the current descent of New York into crime and decay with the hope that it may give birth to another strain of pop music? Let society crumble into ruin around us – as long as we have popular entertainment, who cares.

Last edited 9 months ago by N Satori
Marcus Leach
Marcus Leach
9 months ago

“But no one can cancel hip-hop stars, because the spirit of the music won’t allow it”
No. The fact that its performers are predominantly black and it is considered a black art form prevents criticism and cancellation.
Rap lyrics are rife with the hard core misogyny and homophobia, the glorification of violence, guns, murder, criminality, It presents a depressing nihilistic, materialistic lifestyle that is lapped up by young men, both black and white.
A pop or rock song that contained the lyrics: “Bitches ain’t sh*t but hoes and tricks / Lick on these nuts and suck the d*ck.” (Snoop Dogg )or “Once again I gotta punch a b***h in her sh*t / I’m icy b***h, don’t look at my wrist / Because if you do, I might blind you b***h.” (Jasper Dolphin of Odd Future) the MSM, the feminists and the wokearati would have a collective meltdown. The black privilege pass that the hypocritical leftist establishment hands out is what prevents the censure of rap, not “the spirit of the music”.

Last edited 9 months ago by Marcus Leach
AJ Mac
AJ Mac
9 months ago
Reply to  Marcus Leach

There is death metal and punk of a similar dark “flavor” and Lost Cause anti-black tunes by people such as Johnny Reb. The stuff your talking about has too much of an audience unfortunately, but you will not come across it most stations, terrestrial or satellite. I agree there’s a level of unevenness in reaction, but white folks put out toxic garbage too.
Look no further than Insane Clown Posse and the demented band of fans known as Juggalos. who are classified as a criminal street gang by the FBI (not that many trust them here, but still).

N Satori
N Satori
9 months ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

An astonishingly lame bit of whataboutery AJ Mac. Are you deliberately choosing to miss the point?

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
9 months ago
Reply to  N Satori

The point always seems neatly encapsulated by what you prefer to emphasize and see doesn’t it? Would the reaction here be the same if there were a celebratory piece about hard-core punk music or horror metal?

I say yes and no. The would still be commenters pointing out punk’s negativity, for example, because that’s valid and because what is bad about each and all things is the primary focus here (and many places nowadays).

But I suspect there would be less high moralizing and sputtering insistence on the need to mention the evils of a genre of music if wasn’t a rebellious AND mostly black one. Might I be wrong about that? I hope so, but I doubt it.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
9 months ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

I think you would be wrong about that. Hip-Hop, Rap, punk and heavy metal won’t endure as music to remember, replay and singalong with.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
9 months ago
Reply to  Clare Knight

Early heavy metal bands Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin are over 50 years old and some of their tunes hold up to my ear. Now is it Bach, Louis Armstrong, or the best of The Beatles? No. But but I don’t know why mixed bag or even mostly rotten genres of music need to receive such fulminating disparagement and even sermonizing denunciation by so many here. Will nothing short of a predictable “kids these days” or “hell in a handbasket” takedown signal enough virtuous taste or righteous anger?

Much taste, or lack thereof, involves legitimate difference of opinion, not any single correct answer. And the casual or accidental listener to Rap OR Heavy Metal is unlikely to have heard much of the better sort, or even “best of the bad” if you will.

I despise easily 90% of punk, metal, AND hip hop, but I’ve heard enough outliers to withhold any blanket dismissal. I like the Blues much more than any of the above genres but I’d say the majority of that is pretty bad too, same for Rock n Roll and Country: a lot of good stuff, mostly not so much.

Even most extant Baroque, Classical, and Romantic music, while not as bad as the bad in the other genres to my ear, is not quite to my taste. Much of it is boring, pompous, or repetitive. (Yes, I can be all those things too).

Name one genre of art or culture that isn’t mostly junk according to the strictest, posterity ratified judgment, whether painting, film, music, poetry, fiction, architecture or whatever else.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
9 months ago
Reply to  Clare Knight

Early heavy metal bands Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin are over 50 years old and some of their tunes hold up to my ear. Now is it Bach, Louis Armstrong, or the best of The Beatles? No. But but I don’t know why mixed bag or even mostly rotten genres of music need to receive such fulminating disparagement and even sermonizing denunciation by so many here. Will nothing short of a predictable “kids these days” or “hell in a handbasket” takedown signal enough virtuous taste or righteous anger?

Much taste, or lack thereof, involves legitimate difference of opinion, not any single correct answer. And the casual or accidental listener to Rap OR Heavy Metal is unlikely to have heard much of the better sort, or even “best of the bad” if you will.

I despise easily 90% of punk, metal, AND hip hop, but I’ve heard enough outliers to withhold any blanket dismissal. I like the Blues much more than any of the above genres but I’d say the majority of that is pretty bad too, same for Rock n Roll and Country: a lot of good stuff, mostly not so much.

Even most extant Baroque, Classical, and Romantic music, while not as bad as the bad in the other genres to my ear, is not quite to my taste. Much of it is boring, pompous, or repetitive. (Yes, I can be all those things too).

Name one genre of art or culture that isn’t mostly junk according to the strictest, posterity ratified judgment, whether painting, film, music, poetry, fiction, architecture or whatever else.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
9 months ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

I think you would be wrong about that. Hip-Hop, Rap, punk and heavy metal won’t endure as music to remember, replay and singalong with.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
9 months ago
Reply to  N Satori

The point always seems neatly encapsulated by what you prefer to emphasize and see doesn’t it? Would the reaction here be the same if there were a celebratory piece about hard-core punk music or horror metal?

I say yes and no. The would still be commenters pointing out punk’s negativity, for example, because that’s valid and because what is bad about each and all things is the primary focus here (and many places nowadays).

But I suspect there would be less high moralizing and sputtering insistence on the need to mention the evils of a genre of music if wasn’t a rebellious AND mostly black one. Might I be wrong about that? I hope so, but I doubt it.

Ronald Bell
Ronald Bell
9 months ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

But white folks get held to account. This sort of comment infantilises black people. Grow up!

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
9 months ago
Reply to  Ronald Bell

I don’t agree that mostly deeply negative, moslty white styles of music gets attacked in rhe same way, not by a primarily right-leaning commentariat.

I think it’s valid to point out the vulgarity, emptiness, even proud criminaltiy of much rap music and I would also have preferred that Samuel’s had at least acknowledged that.

But in my opinion the character and scale of the angry reaction here is quite overblown.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
9 months ago
Reply to  Ronald Bell

I don’t agree that mostly deeply negative, moslty white styles of music gets attacked in rhe same way, not by a primarily right-leaning commentariat.

I think it’s valid to point out the vulgarity, emptiness, even proud criminaltiy of much rap music and I would also have preferred that Samuel’s had at least acknowledged that.

But in my opinion the character and scale of the angry reaction here is quite overblown.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
9 months ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

But they’re in the minority and they don’t make cartloads of money, do they?

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
9 months ago
Reply to  Clare Knight

The top few acts do.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
9 months ago
Reply to  Clare Knight

The top few acts do.

Ed Carden
Ed Carden
9 months ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

The FBI considers parents as domestic terrorist’s if they challenge/stand-up to their local school board so I wouldn’t put any faith/trust in anything any US Intel agency tells us.

N Satori
N Satori
9 months ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

An astonishingly lame bit of whataboutery AJ Mac. Are you deliberately choosing to miss the point?

Ronald Bell
Ronald Bell
9 months ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

But white folks get held to account. This sort of comment infantilises black people. Grow up!

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
9 months ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

But they’re in the minority and they don’t make cartloads of money, do they?

Ed Carden
Ed Carden
9 months ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

The FBI considers parents as domestic terrorist’s if they challenge/stand-up to their local school board so I wouldn’t put any faith/trust in anything any US Intel agency tells us.

Tony Reardon
Tony Reardon
9 months ago
Reply to  Marcus Leach

Here in Australia, we have an all night music video show on our national broadcaster (ABC) which runs on Friday and Saturday nights called “Rage”. Someone decided that this needed sub-titles (for the deaf on a music video show?) and it was also decided that all sub-titles should be in English. The sub-titling work is the very last thing that is done and is not checked by anyone before transmission. 
One night someone programmed a selection of “Swedish Death Metal” music which, if you don’t understand Swedish, is just a lot of noise and shouting. However, the lyrics are truly disgusting and there they were in all their glory in the sub-titles, covering sexual deviancy, rape, abortion, cannibalism, etc. I have a relative who was nominally responsible for this program and she was in deep trouble on the following Monday over the “unacceptable” sub-titles.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
9 months ago
Reply to  Marcus Leach

So true. And why Snoop Dog is lionized has always confounded me.

Ed Carden
Ed Carden
9 months ago
Reply to  Marcus Leach

Feminists are Leftists and right now that means woke as well and since within the religion of woke the only ethnic group OK to belittle is Caucasian or white.so naturally the :Left’s hypocrisy is going to really shine when it comes to black culture like Hip-Hop.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
9 months ago
Reply to  Marcus Leach

There is death metal and punk of a similar dark “flavor” and Lost Cause anti-black tunes by people such as Johnny Reb. The stuff your talking about has too much of an audience unfortunately, but you will not come across it most stations, terrestrial or satellite. I agree there’s a level of unevenness in reaction, but white folks put out toxic garbage too.
Look no further than Insane Clown Posse and the demented band of fans known as Juggalos. who are classified as a criminal street gang by the FBI (not that many trust them here, but still).

Tony Reardon
Tony Reardon
9 months ago
Reply to  Marcus Leach

Here in Australia, we have an all night music video show on our national broadcaster (ABC) which runs on Friday and Saturday nights called “Rage”. Someone decided that this needed sub-titles (for the deaf on a music video show?) and it was also decided that all sub-titles should be in English. The sub-titling work is the very last thing that is done and is not checked by anyone before transmission. 
One night someone programmed a selection of “Swedish Death Metal” music which, if you don’t understand Swedish, is just a lot of noise and shouting. However, the lyrics are truly disgusting and there they were in all their glory in the sub-titles, covering sexual deviancy, rape, abortion, cannibalism, etc. I have a relative who was nominally responsible for this program and she was in deep trouble on the following Monday over the “unacceptable” sub-titles.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
9 months ago
Reply to  Marcus Leach

So true. And why Snoop Dog is lionized has always confounded me.

Ed Carden
Ed Carden
9 months ago
Reply to  Marcus Leach

Feminists are Leftists and right now that means woke as well and since within the religion of woke the only ethnic group OK to belittle is Caucasian or white.so naturally the :Left’s hypocrisy is going to really shine when it comes to black culture like Hip-Hop.

Marcus Leach
Marcus Leach
9 months ago

“But no one can cancel hip-hop stars, because the spirit of the music won’t allow it”
No. The fact that its performers are predominantly black and it is considered a black art form prevents criticism and cancellation.
Rap lyrics are rife with the hard core misogyny and homophobia, the glorification of violence, guns, murder, criminality, It presents a depressing nihilistic, materialistic lifestyle that is lapped up by young men, both black and white.
A pop or rock song that contained the lyrics: “Bitches ain’t sh*t but hoes and tricks / Lick on these nuts and suck the d*ck.” (Snoop Dogg )or “Once again I gotta punch a b***h in her sh*t / I’m icy b***h, don’t look at my wrist / Because if you do, I might blind you b***h.” (Jasper Dolphin of Odd Future) the MSM, the feminists and the wokearati would have a collective meltdown. The black privilege pass that the hypocritical leftist establishment hands out is what prevents the censure of rap, not “the spirit of the music”.

Last edited 9 months ago by Marcus Leach
Steven Carr
Steven Carr
9 months ago

‘To grow up in New York City in the Seventies, as I did, was to experience the Biblical ten plagues on a more or less daily basis. There were rats everywhere, as city workers often failed to pick up the garbage.’
Why did New York go from being the set for Breakfast at Tiffany in 1961 to being the set for Taxi Driver in 1976?
By coincidence the demographics of New York went from 85% white in 1960 to 65% white in 1980. In the same period, the Black demographic roughly doubled in percentage.
Incidentally, about 50% of dead rappers and dead hip-hop artistes died by being murdered.

Michael Coleman
Michael Coleman
9 months ago
Reply to  Steven Carr

Good observations. The article would have been even better if it had at least acknowledged the dark side of hip hop – the celebration of the gangster life

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
9 months ago

True, he romanticised Hip-Hop.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
9 months ago

True, he romanticised Hip-Hop.

Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
9 months ago
Reply to  Steven Carr

I was 15 in 1974 and spent a few weeks in the city – 58th and 8th Avenue. It was everything “Taxi Driver” portrayed. I moved there (Gramercy Park) in 1981 with my fiancĂ©. It was better, but not great. We left for Connecticut after two years but still went to the city regularly for work. Under Giuliani Manhattan was transformed – it felt very much like the “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” era you cite – and stayed that way under Bloomberg. But NYC has a death wish, apparently; the elections of DeBlasio and Adams are proof.
Hip hop is not only repetitive, as N Satori points out, it’s has three themes: money, money, and money. Graphic sex and violence are both fuel and result of the money motif. It’s also largely egomaniacal: rappers self-aggrandize in every single effort while they pick fights and settle scores with others of their ilk (thus the many murders).
Samuel’s “geniuses”, his “Mozarts”, don’t play instruments. That would require discipline. They take insults and boasts, give them a monotonous beat, spit tribal noise into a mic, and gesture. At least the equally tedious Ramone’s could play guitars.

Last edited 9 months ago by Allison Barrows
AJ Mac
AJ Mac
9 months ago

Hip hop with live instruments (42 tracks):
https://open.spotify.com/playlist/2FBtJ97KjoNGDJzcg7SjDg

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
9 months ago

The ugly oversized, gold ropes on the men in the photo say a lot, as they’re meant to.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
9 months ago
Reply to  Clare Knight

I suppose it might mean something different to a black kid in the ghetto in 1986, when that photo was taken, than it does to you or any likely white person.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
9 months ago
Reply to  Clare Knight

I suppose it might mean something different to a black kid in the ghetto in 1986, when that photo was taken, than it does to you or any likely white person.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
9 months ago

Hip hop with live instruments (42 tracks):
https://open.spotify.com/playlist/2FBtJ97KjoNGDJzcg7SjDg

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
9 months ago

The ugly oversized, gold ropes on the men in the photo say a lot, as they’re meant to.

Chauncey Gardiner
Chauncey Gardiner
9 months ago
Reply to  Steven Carr

But the late 60’s were supposed to deliver Nirvana.
The “Great Society” programs had just been passed. The administration of John Lindsay was going out of its way to get money from these programs into everyone’s hands. But, the city and its communities still deteriorated.
ï»żThe great leap forward that the Great Society programs had anticipated turned into the opposite: a great regression.

Michael Coleman
Michael Coleman
9 months ago
Reply to  Steven Carr

Good observations. The article would have been even better if it had at least acknowledged the dark side of hip hop – the celebration of the gangster life

Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
9 months ago
Reply to  Steven Carr

I was 15 in 1974 and spent a few weeks in the city – 58th and 8th Avenue. It was everything “Taxi Driver” portrayed. I moved there (Gramercy Park) in 1981 with my fiancĂ©. It was better, but not great. We left for Connecticut after two years but still went to the city regularly for work. Under Giuliani Manhattan was transformed – it felt very much like the “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” era you cite – and stayed that way under Bloomberg. But NYC has a death wish, apparently; the elections of DeBlasio and Adams are proof.
Hip hop is not only repetitive, as N Satori points out, it’s has three themes: money, money, and money. Graphic sex and violence are both fuel and result of the money motif. It’s also largely egomaniacal: rappers self-aggrandize in every single effort while they pick fights and settle scores with others of their ilk (thus the many murders).
Samuel’s “geniuses”, his “Mozarts”, don’t play instruments. That would require discipline. They take insults and boasts, give them a monotonous beat, spit tribal noise into a mic, and gesture. At least the equally tedious Ramone’s could play guitars.

Last edited 9 months ago by Allison Barrows
Chauncey Gardiner
Chauncey Gardiner
9 months ago
Reply to  Steven Carr

But the late 60’s were supposed to deliver Nirvana.
The “Great Society” programs had just been passed. The administration of John Lindsay was going out of its way to get money from these programs into everyone’s hands. But, the city and its communities still deteriorated.
ï»żThe great leap forward that the Great Society programs had anticipated turned into the opposite: a great regression.

Steven Carr
Steven Carr
9 months ago

‘To grow up in New York City in the Seventies, as I did, was to experience the Biblical ten plagues on a more or less daily basis. There were rats everywhere, as city workers often failed to pick up the garbage.’
Why did New York go from being the set for Breakfast at Tiffany in 1961 to being the set for Taxi Driver in 1976?
By coincidence the demographics of New York went from 85% white in 1960 to 65% white in 1980. In the same period, the Black demographic roughly doubled in percentage.
Incidentally, about 50% of dead rappers and dead hip-hop artistes died by being murdered.

Andrew Morgan
Andrew Morgan
9 months ago

No mention here of the pathetic, degenerate culture propagated by much of the hip hop genre over many decades. Hip hop since at least the early 90s has been synonymous with a staggering lack of talent and mind-numbingly juvenile mentality.

Studio Largo
Studio Largo
9 months ago
Reply to  Andrew Morgan

And a culture that gets stupider, uglier and more nihilistic every time you turn around

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
9 months ago
Reply to  Andrew Morgan

But which came first the chicken or the egg?

Last edited 9 months ago by Clare Knight
Studio Largo
Studio Largo
9 months ago
Reply to  Andrew Morgan

And a culture that gets stupider, uglier and more nihilistic every time you turn around

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
9 months ago
Reply to  Andrew Morgan

But which came first the chicken or the egg?

Last edited 9 months ago by Clare Knight
Andrew Morgan
Andrew Morgan
9 months ago

No mention here of the pathetic, degenerate culture propagated by much of the hip hop genre over many decades. Hip hop since at least the early 90s has been synonymous with a staggering lack of talent and mind-numbingly juvenile mentality.

Robert Hochbaum
Robert Hochbaum
9 months ago

“Our” cultural defense?
No thanks. It’s all yours, Mr. Samuels.

Robert Hochbaum
Robert Hochbaum
9 months ago

“Our” cultural defense?
No thanks. It’s all yours, Mr. Samuels.

Will Rolf
Will Rolf
9 months ago

This idea of rap and hip hop as something subversive to the dominant American culture is laughable. Rap is the materialistic consumerism, sexual objectification, and underlying violence of America magnified in a fun house mirror.

To announce the premature descent of American culture into conformity is absurd. Americans are nothing if not pathologically individualistic, youth conform to the non-conformity dujour which is always commercialized and monetized.

Last edited 9 months ago by Will Rolf
Clare Knight
Clare Knight
9 months ago
Reply to  Will Rolf

Well said.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
9 months ago
Reply to  Will Rolf

Well said.

Will Rolf
Will Rolf
9 months ago

This idea of rap and hip hop as something subversive to the dominant American culture is laughable. Rap is the materialistic consumerism, sexual objectification, and underlying violence of America magnified in a fun house mirror.

To announce the premature descent of American culture into conformity is absurd. Americans are nothing if not pathologically individualistic, youth conform to the non-conformity dujour which is always commercialized and monetized.

Last edited 9 months ago by Will Rolf
Alan Kaufman
Alan Kaufman
9 months ago

The French have. saying that describes Mr. Samuels’ bowing to the thug gods: “nostalgie de la boue”, which translates to “nostalgia for the mud.”

Last edited 9 months ago by Alan Kaufman
Alan Kaufman
Alan Kaufman
9 months ago

The French have. saying that describes Mr. Samuels’ bowing to the thug gods: “nostalgie de la boue”, which translates to “nostalgia for the mud.”

Last edited 9 months ago by Alan Kaufman
Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
9 months ago

Interesting article, especially at a time where the woke Eye of Mordor has now set its sights toward linking black rappers to right-wing extremism:
https://amp.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2023/aug/10/black-rappers-aligning-right-conservative-ice-cube

Last edited 9 months ago by Julian Farrows
AJ Mac
AJ Mac
9 months ago
Reply to  Julian Farrows

Wow. That linked article is suffused with a kind of activist neo-speak that’s extreme even for The Guardian. I was unaware that rappers had a “responsibility” to promote a certain kind of politics in accordance with the “lived experience ” of black Americans, or that they ever had in some lockstep way.
Yet even though she castigates them for their non-solidarity, Bero doesn’t blame the wrongthinking or irresponsible rappers (isn’t this close to a redundant phrase?), but the evil white forces that have misled them into thinking they can think for themselves, instead of carefully crafting their lyrics and public associations for the ideologically approved benefit of the whole black community.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
9 months ago
Reply to  Julian Farrows

Wow. That linked article is suffused with a kind of activist neo-speak that’s extreme even for The Guardian. I was unaware that rappers had a “responsibility” to promote a certain kind of politics in accordance with the “lived experience ” of black Americans, or that they ever had in some lockstep way.
Yet even though she castigates them for their non-solidarity, Bero doesn’t blame the wrongthinking or irresponsible rappers (isn’t this close to a redundant phrase?), but the evil white forces that have misled them into thinking they can think for themselves, instead of carefully crafting their lyrics and public associations for the ideologically approved benefit of the whole black community.

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
9 months ago

Interesting article, especially at a time where the woke Eye of Mordor has now set its sights toward linking black rappers to right-wing extremism:
https://amp.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2023/aug/10/black-rappers-aligning-right-conservative-ice-cube

Last edited 9 months ago by Julian Farrows
Mark Goodhand
Mark Goodhand
9 months ago

Every instinct (prejudice?) in me said I should ignore this article, based on the headline and cover image, but I’m glad I read it.
I resent the new American focus at UnHerd, and I’ve never had much time for hip-hop, especially the variety with stupid hats, stupid gestures and gold chains.
But it’s a well-written article, shedding light on a (sub)culture that’s interesting, if not one I understand or respect.
I needn’t agree with an author to respect his writing.

Mark Goodhand
Mark Goodhand
9 months ago

Every instinct (prejudice?) in me said I should ignore this article, based on the headline and cover image, but I’m glad I read it.
I resent the new American focus at UnHerd, and I’ve never had much time for hip-hop, especially the variety with stupid hats, stupid gestures and gold chains.
But it’s a well-written article, shedding light on a (sub)culture that’s interesting, if not one I understand or respect.
I needn’t agree with an author to respect his writing.

Dominic A
Dominic A
9 months ago

“Still, it was reasonable, until very recently, to see hip-hop as a 20th century cultural artefact that was gently ageing into oblivion.”

The author neglected to mention a single recent rapper who has shown that the genre is not now tired and moribund. The early stuff was fantastic, ground breaking – Gil Scott Heron through to Afrika Bambaataa, Eric B & Rakim, KRS1, Jungle Brothers, Tribe called Quest, Public Enemy etc – smart, community minded, honest, musically excellent, highly original, funky. That which followed became increasingly generic, label/sales-driven, with moronic egotistical themes to the point of self parody. It’s gone from ‘wow how funky and cool are they’ to a cringe fest. Now black American rappers are as rich, uncool and edgy as Warren Buffet with a backwards baseball cap – equality of sorts.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
9 months ago
Reply to  Dominic A

I’m in primary agreement but to me Kendrick Lamar makes at least one notable exception.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
9 months ago
Reply to  Dominic A

Well said.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
9 months ago
Reply to  Dominic A

I’m in primary agreement but to me Kendrick Lamar makes at least one notable exception.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
9 months ago
Reply to  Dominic A

Well said.

Dominic A
Dominic A
9 months ago

“Still, it was reasonable, until very recently, to see hip-hop as a 20th century cultural artefact that was gently ageing into oblivion.”

The author neglected to mention a single recent rapper who has shown that the genre is not now tired and moribund. The early stuff was fantastic, ground breaking – Gil Scott Heron through to Afrika Bambaataa, Eric B & Rakim, KRS1, Jungle Brothers, Tribe called Quest, Public Enemy etc – smart, community minded, honest, musically excellent, highly original, funky. That which followed became increasingly generic, label/sales-driven, with moronic egotistical themes to the point of self parody. It’s gone from ‘wow how funky and cool are they’ to a cringe fest. Now black American rappers are as rich, uncool and edgy as Warren Buffet with a backwards baseball cap – equality of sorts.

Alan Kaufman
Alan Kaufman
9 months ago

Hip-hop is the doggerel of the ignorant, the crude and the dumb. It is the bottom of the barrel of black culture. If the alternative is a “sterile” world, I prefer a sterile world.
The notion that no other music is viable, that it is all sterile, is the work of the fantastical imagination of the beings that inhabit the world that worries about pop music.
What a dumb, intellectually claustrophobic article.

Last edited 9 months ago by Alan Kaufman
Dominic A
Dominic A
9 months ago
Reply to  Alan Kaufman

Sorry you missed out. BPD has a message for you –
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gYF1xRgqdOM&ab_channel=ganstawar93

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
9 months ago
Reply to  Dominic A

Killer percussion and thoughtful, direct lyrics. Thanks.
*They didn’t play that one on MTV!

Last edited 9 months ago by AJ Mac
Dominic A
Dominic A
9 months ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

Good isn’t it, though it’s displeased some people evidently. I wonder why that might be. I took a listen of Kendrick L – sounds good, I think I could get into it if I shake off some of my oldie crust.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
9 months ago
Reply to  Dominic A

Haha. We can only speculate. Lamar’s no easy ride for me either, but I’m impressed with some of what I’ve heard.

Last edited 9 months ago by AJ Mac
AJ Mac
AJ Mac
9 months ago
Reply to  Dominic A

Haha. We can only speculate. Lamar’s no easy ride for me either, but I’m impressed with some of what I’ve heard.

Last edited 9 months ago by AJ Mac
Dominic A
Dominic A
9 months ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

Good isn’t it, though it’s displeased some people evidently. I wonder why that might be. I took a listen of Kendrick L – sounds good, I think I could get into it if I shake off some of my oldie crust.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
9 months ago
Reply to  Dominic A

Killer percussion and thoughtful, direct lyrics. Thanks.
*They didn’t play that one on MTV!

Last edited 9 months ago by AJ Mac
Dominic A
Dominic A
9 months ago
Reply to  Alan Kaufman

Sorry you missed out. BPD has a message for you –
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gYF1xRgqdOM&ab_channel=ganstawar93

Alan Kaufman
Alan Kaufman
9 months ago

Hip-hop is the doggerel of the ignorant, the crude and the dumb. It is the bottom of the barrel of black culture. If the alternative is a “sterile” world, I prefer a sterile world.
The notion that no other music is viable, that it is all sterile, is the work of the fantastical imagination of the beings that inhabit the world that worries about pop music.
What a dumb, intellectually claustrophobic article.

Last edited 9 months ago by Alan Kaufman
Ray Andrews
Ray Andrews
9 months ago

“hip-hop has proven to be the only native cultural form to successfully resist the sterility of the enforced monoculture”
I suppose, given that gangsta rappers define themselves as criminals they might even say something as incendiary as: ‘men can’t get pregnant’ and live another day.

Ray Andrews
Ray Andrews
9 months ago

“hip-hop has proven to be the only native cultural form to successfully resist the sterility of the enforced monoculture”
I suppose, given that gangsta rappers define themselves as criminals they might even say something as incendiary as: ‘men can’t get pregnant’ and live another day.

Steven Carr
Steven Carr
9 months ago

‘In a culture in which free expression is increasingly marginalised and depicted as dangerous, even as criminal, hip-hop has proven to be the only native cultural form to successfully resist the sterility of the enforced monoculture that is strengthening its hold on the formerly glorious cacophony of American pop. ‘
‘Try that in a small town’ was marginalised, and depicted as dangerous, even as criminal.
Hip-hop is totally innocuous and unthreatening to the white people who were enraged by country music.

N Satori
N Satori
9 months ago
Reply to  Steven Carr

Take your point about Try that in a small town but, as a white person I do not find Hip-hop totally innocuous and unthreatening. Rather, I see it as pernicous.

Ray Andrews
Ray Andrews
9 months ago
Reply to  N Satori

I know exactly this much rap:

It don’t matta if yo’ a n***a

With yo’ fin-ga on the trigga

Of an Uzzi or an AK

Blow that pig away.

‘Free expression’ to be sure, but …

N Satori
N Satori
9 months ago
Reply to  Ray Andrews

Here is an extract from a song, 38 Special, by that blues legend of the 1920/30s, Robert Johnson:

Gonna shoot my pistol

Gonna shoot my girl and run

Gonna shoot my pistol

Gonna shoot my girl and run

All the doctors in the hospital

They sure can’t help her none

The lyrics posted on the internet vary quite a bit but those are taken from a vinyl recording I have sung by Johnson himself.
Here’s another blues singer of that era – Blind Boy Fuller. An extract from his song Pistol Slapper Blues tells how he wishes to deal with an ex-girlfriend who claims not to know him:

Well, I feel like slapping my pistol in your face

I’m gonna let the graveyard be your resting place

Gunplay in the black music world, it seems, is no new thing. And let’s not forget how Marvin Gaye died.

Last edited 9 months ago by N Satori
AJ Mac
AJ Mac
9 months ago
Reply to  N Satori

Another of your freewheeling parallels, Mr. Satori. I guess the sub-genre of the Murder Ballad, with pre-modern origins in England and other European countries is somehow less relevant, or not in the argumentative grab-bag here, since we are talking about black violence only. And a Soul/R&B singer who never sang a violent word (I don’t think) but was tragically shot to death by his own father is also fodder for that general campaign. Because the assertion of an intrinsic black pathology seems to be The Point for you, N.
John Lennon, a genuinely gifted and powerful musician (sample lyric: “I’d rather see you dead, little girl, than to be with another man”) was shot by another white man. Or is that too off topic now?

Last edited 9 months ago by AJ Mac
N Satori
N Satori
9 months ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

AJ Mac, do try a bit of intellectual honesty instead of all this whataboutery and denial. Black on black violence is a serious problem. Just look at the statistics (if you dare). Is there a propensity to violent action in ethnic Africans (for want of a better term)? I believe that there is. For that reason the examples I give have more significance than, say, Tom Jones’ well known murder song Delilah or old English folk songs such as Matty Groves or The Banks of Minori.
The killing of John Lennon is a cherry-picked example. There are so many cases of black on black violence that I have no need to cherry-pick. Even here in England we have major problems with knife crime and gang violence among black youth. With that in mind those violent Hip-Hop lyrics seem more immediate and relevant.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
9 months ago
Reply to  N Satori

I wouldn’t say you cherry-picked. You reached into different fields for other crops of the same color. Not content to confine yourself to the genre of music under discussion, you joined your myopic dispositional brethren in turning the topic into a racialized piling-on fest, yet are unwilling to even admit the existence of other piles. That’s a strange excuse for intellectual honesty. A hypocritical deflection really, in service of an insistent, overarching Point that you attempt to circumscribe to fit your prejudice.
 “Is there a propensity to violent action in ethnic Africans (for want of a better term)? I believe that there is. For that reason the examples I give have more significance…”. Wrong. That is not even a reason or an argument, but an avowed prejudice cloaked in a QED. A lazy and self-serving belief.
I now see more than ever why you were so emphatic, during a previous exchange, in telling fellow commenter Mr. Alex Carnegie that debate can’t have much effect. It’s because you have minimal willingness to engage in real debate, or any kind of good-faith exchange across disagreement.
How far back and how far afield do you want to go in determining which race has perpetrated more violence, either amongst themselves or across racial lines. Do you really invite that comparison?
I reject all forms of racial essentialism, but I don’t imagine that group-associating myself with all people of similar paleness would somehow exonerate me over here in America, from mass shooters and serial killers to clansmen and Old South separatism enforcers and on back to the time of you-know-what institution.
And on your side of the Atlantic, you probably shouldn’t even start down the colonial roads of the old British Empire.
Go ahead and perform your cultural and ethnic chauvinist tunes for an often favorably disposed audience here. But you’ve not established much of a case, except for your own towering bias.

Albert McGloan
Albert McGloan
9 months ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

Eight times more likely to commit murder than anyone else, but go ahead and “reject all forms of racial essentialism”. Reality is indifferent to the fairy tales we tell ourselves.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
9 months ago
Reply to  Albert McGloan

I shall. And you can continue to use de-contextualized statistics to present your bigotry as a scientific, evidence-based reality.
Give white young men a similar social, and economic, and family history and watch the gap in violent crime narrow. That is true of poor whites with wretched education and one parent homes or foster homes today; the gap is narrowed when you adjust for background and situation.
But trailer park kids are not in the same kinds of ghettoes, nor shadowed by the same national & social history. They are also unlikely to get sentences that are nearly as long blacks do for the exact same crimes. Prison is a “college of crime” for many.
But even in some twisted reality–the one you apparently inhabit–where the truly alarming murder rate among young black men was in their very blood and bones like some kind of biblical curse, your broad brush fear and hatred would still be misplaced. For the vast majority of black men do not and will never commit murder nor any violent crime. The shocking numbers are a good enough reason for someone like you (or even another black man) to cross the street more quickly when a big mean looking black guy approaches than if it were a white guy, but not to regard an entire population as essentially criminal, mostly inferior, or unequal before God and man.
The color-coded bigotries you share with many like-minded people here are not scientific, unless you put pseudo in front of science.

Last edited 9 months ago by AJ Mac
Albert McGloan
Albert McGloan
9 months ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

You passionately believe in lies and are no different to the religious fanatics who hounded E.O. Wilson, etc. And you’e delusional if you think Randy the redneck is getting a lighter sentence if he’s as surly and contemptuous in court as Devaunte from Detroit.
P.S. You project your own, well-founded, insecurities onto me. Not all of us were raised in nice, white communities.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
9 months ago
Reply to  Albert McGloan

I am passionate and I have some insecurities–you don’t? But I’ve been through a lot, including a few trips to jail and a spell of homelessness. I’ve lived mostly in relatively safe communities, true, but my parents were split and this being coastal California, these places are far from lily white.
You’re delusional or dishonest if you think Travis receives close to the same average sentence as Darnell over a hundred tries, all other things being equal. You threw in “surly and contemptuous” to muddy the waters.
I’d like to see the good in you and do sense some in there, but not in your totalizing contempt for–to use a conservatively short list–blacks and The Left.
Many extreme right-wingers call themselves Christians. Do you?* (Indirectly established elsewhere by your use of “unbelievers”)* Because your harsh judgments and blanket condemnations are nowhere in the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth. (Many honor him with their lips, yet their hearts remain far from him).
Putting the bible aside, I could group associate you with some pretty nasty people who spout similar views, but I’m a nice guy (mostly) and I’d rather not do that.
There are far more differences within large ethnic groups than there are between them–especially pan-ethnicities like white, black, Latino, and Asian–and even plenty of mitigating variation among groups of likeminded opinion-holders who outwardly spout the same views about other whole groups of people, according to viewpoint, religion, ethnicity, or whatever else.
Thanks for the lively if overheated exchange.

Last edited 9 months ago by AJ Mac
Albert McGloan
Albert McGloan
9 months ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

The Adversary is wont to quote scripture so I’ll refrain from giving what is holy to dogs and casting pearls before swine
Totalizing is very much a vice of your coreligionists which you project onto others. Only a Leftist will be proven wrong, ruminate upon it, yet return to confidently repeating what she now knows to be a lie. A useful skill but poison to truth and virtue.
My point was that the defendant’s behaviour in court will affect the sentence he receives. A transgressor who refuses to even appear contrite will receive less mercy from anyone.
It’s always good to examine the fairy tales we tell ourselves. You ought to try it. Perhaps read something by St3v3 Sail3r* or John Derbyshire’s ‘The Talk’ article. You needn’t worry about being ‘converted’, but you may begin to realise that the people you trust are lying to us all and that they themselves are unaware of the lies that were deliberately told to them decades ago.
Our Lord commanded us to be wise as serpents and harmless as doves. Wilful ignorance brings no justice and no peace.
I am not “a nice guy (mostly)” but if it helps you to see the good in me, what little there is, please admit my small boast that not four months’ past I saved a non-white from being stabbed to death not once but twice, when the would-be killer returned to finish the job. My call to the emergency services cut-out moments before he came back – a pagan might call that ‘good luck’! He was quite the hulking young brute and had six inches on me but, by the grace of God, I am unscathed. Modesty prevents me from repeating what the detectives said of my conduct (but not so very modest).
I’ll leave you with a quote from St. Moses the Black, an Ethiopian who couldn’t change his skin, but through grace changed his ways. An example to all us brutish criminals.
“You fast but Satan does not eat. You labour but Satan never rests. Only in humility can you outmatch Satan, for Satan has no humility.”
*in case his name triggers the local Censor.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
8 months ago
Reply to  Albert McGloan

A “non-white”. There’s something to take to your grave. I’m glad you could perceive that person’s humanity. No more pearls before swine indeed

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
8 months ago
Reply to  Albert McGloan

A “non-white”. There’s something to take to your grave. I’m glad you could perceive that person’s humanity. No more pearls before swine indeed

Albert McGloan
Albert McGloan
9 months ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

The Adversary is wont to quote scripture so I’ll refrain from giving what is holy to dogs and casting pearls before swine
Totalizing is very much a vice of your coreligionists which you project onto others. Only a Leftist will be proven wrong, ruminate upon it, yet return to confidently repeating what she now knows to be a lie. A useful skill but poison to truth and virtue.
My point was that the defendant’s behaviour in court will affect the sentence he receives. A transgressor who refuses to even appear contrite will receive less mercy from anyone.
It’s always good to examine the fairy tales we tell ourselves. You ought to try it. Perhaps read something by St3v3 Sail3r* or John Derbyshire’s ‘The Talk’ article. You needn’t worry about being ‘converted’, but you may begin to realise that the people you trust are lying to us all and that they themselves are unaware of the lies that were deliberately told to them decades ago.
Our Lord commanded us to be wise as serpents and harmless as doves. Wilful ignorance brings no justice and no peace.
I am not “a nice guy (mostly)” but if it helps you to see the good in me, what little there is, please admit my small boast that not four months’ past I saved a non-white from being stabbed to death not once but twice, when the would-be killer returned to finish the job. My call to the emergency services cut-out moments before he came back – a pagan might call that ‘good luck’! He was quite the hulking young brute and had six inches on me but, by the grace of God, I am unscathed. Modesty prevents me from repeating what the detectives said of my conduct (but not so very modest).
I’ll leave you with a quote from St. Moses the Black, an Ethiopian who couldn’t change his skin, but through grace changed his ways. An example to all us brutish criminals.
“You fast but Satan does not eat. You labour but Satan never rests. Only in humility can you outmatch Satan, for Satan has no humility.”
*in case his name triggers the local Censor.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
9 months ago
Reply to  Albert McGloan

I am passionate and I have some insecurities–you don’t? But I’ve been through a lot, including a few trips to jail and a spell of homelessness. I’ve lived mostly in relatively safe communities, true, but my parents were split and this being coastal California, these places are far from lily white.
You’re delusional or dishonest if you think Travis receives close to the same average sentence as Darnell over a hundred tries, all other things being equal. You threw in “surly and contemptuous” to muddy the waters.
I’d like to see the good in you and do sense some in there, but not in your totalizing contempt for–to use a conservatively short list–blacks and The Left.
Many extreme right-wingers call themselves Christians. Do you?* (Indirectly established elsewhere by your use of “unbelievers”)* Because your harsh judgments and blanket condemnations are nowhere in the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth. (Many honor him with their lips, yet their hearts remain far from him).
Putting the bible aside, I could group associate you with some pretty nasty people who spout similar views, but I’m a nice guy (mostly) and I’d rather not do that.
There are far more differences within large ethnic groups than there are between them–especially pan-ethnicities like white, black, Latino, and Asian–and even plenty of mitigating variation among groups of likeminded opinion-holders who outwardly spout the same views about other whole groups of people, according to viewpoint, religion, ethnicity, or whatever else.
Thanks for the lively if overheated exchange.

Last edited 9 months ago by AJ Mac
Albert McGloan
Albert McGloan
9 months ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

You passionately believe in lies and are no different to the religious fanatics who hounded E.O. Wilson, etc. And you’e delusional if you think Randy the redneck is getting a lighter sentence if he’s as surly and contemptuous in court as Devaunte from Detroit.
P.S. You project your own, well-founded, insecurities onto me. Not all of us were raised in nice, white communities.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
9 months ago
Reply to  Albert McGloan

I shall. And you can continue to use de-contextualized statistics to present your bigotry as a scientific, evidence-based reality.
Give white young men a similar social, and economic, and family history and watch the gap in violent crime narrow. That is true of poor whites with wretched education and one parent homes or foster homes today; the gap is narrowed when you adjust for background and situation.
But trailer park kids are not in the same kinds of ghettoes, nor shadowed by the same national & social history. They are also unlikely to get sentences that are nearly as long blacks do for the exact same crimes. Prison is a “college of crime” for many.
But even in some twisted reality–the one you apparently inhabit–where the truly alarming murder rate among young black men was in their very blood and bones like some kind of biblical curse, your broad brush fear and hatred would still be misplaced. For the vast majority of black men do not and will never commit murder nor any violent crime. The shocking numbers are a good enough reason for someone like you (or even another black man) to cross the street more quickly when a big mean looking black guy approaches than if it were a white guy, but not to regard an entire population as essentially criminal, mostly inferior, or unequal before God and man.
The color-coded bigotries you share with many like-minded people here are not scientific, unless you put pseudo in front of science.

Last edited 9 months ago by AJ Mac
Albert McGloan
Albert McGloan
9 months ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

Eight times more likely to commit murder than anyone else, but go ahead and “reject all forms of racial essentialism”. Reality is indifferent to the fairy tales we tell ourselves.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
9 months ago
Reply to  N Satori

I wouldn’t say you cherry-picked. You reached into different fields for other crops of the same color. Not content to confine yourself to the genre of music under discussion, you joined your myopic dispositional brethren in turning the topic into a racialized piling-on fest, yet are unwilling to even admit the existence of other piles. That’s a strange excuse for intellectual honesty. A hypocritical deflection really, in service of an insistent, overarching Point that you attempt to circumscribe to fit your prejudice.
 “Is there a propensity to violent action in ethnic Africans (for want of a better term)? I believe that there is. For that reason the examples I give have more significance…”. Wrong. That is not even a reason or an argument, but an avowed prejudice cloaked in a QED. A lazy and self-serving belief.
I now see more than ever why you were so emphatic, during a previous exchange, in telling fellow commenter Mr. Alex Carnegie that debate can’t have much effect. It’s because you have minimal willingness to engage in real debate, or any kind of good-faith exchange across disagreement.
How far back and how far afield do you want to go in determining which race has perpetrated more violence, either amongst themselves or across racial lines. Do you really invite that comparison?
I reject all forms of racial essentialism, but I don’t imagine that group-associating myself with all people of similar paleness would somehow exonerate me over here in America, from mass shooters and serial killers to clansmen and Old South separatism enforcers and on back to the time of you-know-what institution.
And on your side of the Atlantic, you probably shouldn’t even start down the colonial roads of the old British Empire.
Go ahead and perform your cultural and ethnic chauvinist tunes for an often favorably disposed audience here. But you’ve not established much of a case, except for your own towering bias.

N Satori
N Satori
9 months ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

AJ Mac, do try a bit of intellectual honesty instead of all this whataboutery and denial. Black on black violence is a serious problem. Just look at the statistics (if you dare). Is there a propensity to violent action in ethnic Africans (for want of a better term)? I believe that there is. For that reason the examples I give have more significance than, say, Tom Jones’ well known murder song Delilah or old English folk songs such as Matty Groves or The Banks of Minori.
The killing of John Lennon is a cherry-picked example. There are so many cases of black on black violence that I have no need to cherry-pick. Even here in England we have major problems with knife crime and gang violence among black youth. With that in mind those violent Hip-Hop lyrics seem more immediate and relevant.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
9 months ago
Reply to  N Satori

Another of your freewheeling parallels, Mr. Satori. I guess the sub-genre of the Murder Ballad, with pre-modern origins in England and other European countries is somehow less relevant, or not in the argumentative grab-bag here, since we are talking about black violence only. And a Soul/R&B singer who never sang a violent word (I don’t think) but was tragically shot to death by his own father is also fodder for that general campaign. Because the assertion of an intrinsic black pathology seems to be The Point for you, N.
John Lennon, a genuinely gifted and powerful musician (sample lyric: “I’d rather see you dead, little girl, than to be with another man”) was shot by another white man. Or is that too off topic now?

Last edited 9 months ago by AJ Mac
N Satori
N Satori
9 months ago
Reply to  Ray Andrews

Here is an extract from a song, 38 Special, by that blues legend of the 1920/30s, Robert Johnson:

Gonna shoot my pistol

Gonna shoot my girl and run

Gonna shoot my pistol

Gonna shoot my girl and run

All the doctors in the hospital

They sure can’t help her none

The lyrics posted on the internet vary quite a bit but those are taken from a vinyl recording I have sung by Johnson himself.
Here’s another blues singer of that era – Blind Boy Fuller. An extract from his song Pistol Slapper Blues tells how he wishes to deal with an ex-girlfriend who claims not to know him:

Well, I feel like slapping my pistol in your face

I’m gonna let the graveyard be your resting place

Gunplay in the black music world, it seems, is no new thing. And let’s not forget how Marvin Gaye died.

Last edited 9 months ago by N Satori
Ray Andrews
Ray Andrews
9 months ago
Reply to  N Satori

I know exactly this much rap:

It don’t matta if yo’ a n***a

With yo’ fin-ga on the trigga

Of an Uzzi or an AK

Blow that pig away.

‘Free expression’ to be sure, but …

N Satori
N Satori
9 months ago
Reply to  Steven Carr

Take your point about Try that in a small town but, as a white person I do not find Hip-hop totally innocuous and unthreatening. Rather, I see it as pernicous.

Steven Carr
Steven Carr
9 months ago

‘In a culture in which free expression is increasingly marginalised and depicted as dangerous, even as criminal, hip-hop has proven to be the only native cultural form to successfully resist the sterility of the enforced monoculture that is strengthening its hold on the formerly glorious cacophony of American pop. ‘
‘Try that in a small town’ was marginalised, and depicted as dangerous, even as criminal.
Hip-hop is totally innocuous and unthreatening to the white people who were enraged by country music.

John Taylor
John Taylor
9 months ago

This article could not be more off-base. Hip-hop, like LGBT culture, is where the worse cultural excesses of commodity capitalism percolates before being released wider (compare and contrast 60s black culture and camp). The number of rappers who name-checked Trump admirably pre-2016 is bigly. Hip-hop is the soundtrack of neo-liberalism, not of any enlarged sphere of freedom.

Last edited 9 months ago by John Taylor
John Taylor
John Taylor
9 months ago

This article could not be more off-base. Hip-hop, like LGBT culture, is where the worse cultural excesses of commodity capitalism percolates before being released wider (compare and contrast 60s black culture and camp). The number of rappers who name-checked Trump admirably pre-2016 is bigly. Hip-hop is the soundtrack of neo-liberalism, not of any enlarged sphere of freedom.

Last edited 9 months ago by John Taylor
T Bone
T Bone
9 months ago

Agree in part, disagree in part. We live in age of inauthenticity. All people want is something raw like Oliver Anthony just produced. If you have legit talent and you mean what you sing, you will succeed. Hip Hop had a cultural vibe because it was authentic. I’m not familiar with any authentic apolitical hip hop these days. If I’m missing it, point me to it.

Steven Carr
Steven Carr
9 months ago
Reply to  T Bone

Obviously country music is the real scary music for white liberals.
‘RIGHT-WING INFLUENCERS ARE losing their minds over a new country song that just appeared on streaming services today.’

Frank McCusker
Frank McCusker
9 months ago
Reply to  Steven Carr

Nonsense. Lots of black people in the US are into country.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
9 months ago
Reply to  Frank McCusker

Some of them even perform it. One of the greatest country vocalists, Charlie Pride (1934-2020), was black, and so is Americana artist Rhiannon Giddens, a singer and banjo virtuoso.
Among others, “Outlaw Country” pioneer and living songwriting legend Willie Nelson–whom I saw perform last year just ahead of his 90th birthday–is far from right wing.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G6lxpt8lzbo

Last edited 9 months ago by AJ Mac
T Bone
T Bone
9 months ago
Reply to  Frank McCusker

I think he’s quoting Rolling Stone.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
9 months ago
Reply to  Frank McCusker

Some of them even perform it. One of the greatest country vocalists, Charlie Pride (1934-2020), was black, and so is Americana artist Rhiannon Giddens, a singer and banjo virtuoso.
Among others, “Outlaw Country” pioneer and living songwriting legend Willie Nelson–whom I saw perform last year just ahead of his 90th birthday–is far from right wing.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G6lxpt8lzbo

Last edited 9 months ago by AJ Mac
T Bone
T Bone
9 months ago
Reply to  Frank McCusker

I think he’s quoting Rolling Stone.

Frank McCusker
Frank McCusker
9 months ago
Reply to  Steven Carr

Nonsense. Lots of black people in the US are into country.

Steven Carr
Steven Carr
9 months ago
Reply to  T Bone

Obviously country music is the real scary music for white liberals.
‘RIGHT-WING INFLUENCERS ARE losing their minds over a new country song that just appeared on streaming services today.’

T Bone
T Bone
9 months ago

Agree in part, disagree in part. We live in age of inauthenticity. All people want is something raw like Oliver Anthony just produced. If you have legit talent and you mean what you sing, you will succeed. Hip Hop had a cultural vibe because it was authentic. I’m not familiar with any authentic apolitical hip hop these days. If I’m missing it, point me to it.

Studio Largo
Studio Largo
9 months ago

Anyone else notice how the rise of gangsta rap coincided with the spread of ‘political correctness’ in the culture? On the one hand, people were increasingly being pushed to self censor so as to not offend the delicate sensibilities of an ever expanding list of the oppressed, while on the other hand, promotion of ugly, violent, nihilistic attitudes toward others, women in particular, was being tolerated and indeed celebrated by the People Who Know What is Best, as long as those attitudes were being expressed by black people.

Studio Largo
Studio Largo
9 months ago

Anyone else notice how the rise of gangsta rap coincided with the spread of ‘political correctness’ in the culture? On the one hand, people were increasingly being pushed to self censor so as to not offend the delicate sensibilities of an ever expanding list of the oppressed, while on the other hand, promotion of ugly, violent, nihilistic attitudes toward others, women in particular, was being tolerated and indeed celebrated by the People Who Know What is Best, as long as those attitudes were being expressed by black people.

John Tyler
John Tyler
9 months ago

Bit of a stretch!

John Tyler
John Tyler
9 months ago

Bit of a stretch!

Christopher Barclay
Christopher Barclay
9 months ago

Mention should also be given to the
New York City blackout of 1977 – Wikipedia
due to which so many turntables were looted that it led to the creation of a new art form.

Christopher Barclay
Christopher Barclay
9 months ago

Mention should also be given to the
New York City blackout of 1977 – Wikipedia
due to which so many turntables were looted that it led to the creation of a new art form.

Douglas Hainline
Douglas Hainline
9 months ago

Historically, it has been the Right who have been in power — or at least, its basic, pro-civilization values have been held even by the liberals who held power — and it’s been the Left who have had to seek the means of gaining power. Consequently, they are far better than we are at influencing the general population.
We need to learn from the enemy, and consciously work to develop ‘popular’ means of reaching people who will never read Reflections on the Revolution in France, or even The Federalist Papers. If this means allying with hip-hop musicians, so be it. But we need not shed our critical facilities while doing so.
Concretely, this means that conservatives who normally listen to Mozart and Bach should spend some money on Try That in a Small Town, and also on anti-progressive Hip-Hop. You don’t actually have to listen to it, although you might want to give your purchase to a teenager.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
9 months ago

I can think of non-political rap or hip hop that promotes some traditional values, but can you provide any example of anti-progressive hip-hop, aside from just being very materialistic and openly sexist? (*Plenty that I wasn’t aware of, aside from Diamond and Silk. My mistake).
*Your program of suggested outreach and potential conversion to a shared worldview suggests that not all sociopolitical opponents should or need to be regarded as the outright enemy–especially if they are your own sons and daughters!

Last edited 9 months ago by AJ Mac
Studio Largo
Studio Largo
9 months ago

No idea what this pseudo revolutionary drivel is supposed to mean. Far lefties have been fantasizing about a coalition of the oppressed going back to Marx and Engels.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
9 months ago

I can think of non-political rap or hip hop that promotes some traditional values, but can you provide any example of anti-progressive hip-hop, aside from just being very materialistic and openly sexist? (*Plenty that I wasn’t aware of, aside from Diamond and Silk. My mistake).
*Your program of suggested outreach and potential conversion to a shared worldview suggests that not all sociopolitical opponents should or need to be regarded as the outright enemy–especially if they are your own sons and daughters!

Last edited 9 months ago by AJ Mac
Studio Largo
Studio Largo
9 months ago

No idea what this pseudo revolutionary drivel is supposed to mean. Far lefties have been fantasizing about a coalition of the oppressed going back to Marx and Engels.

Douglas Hainline
Douglas Hainline
9 months ago

Historically, it has been the Right who have been in power — or at least, its basic, pro-civilization values have been held even by the liberals who held power — and it’s been the Left who have had to seek the means of gaining power. Consequently, they are far better than we are at influencing the general population.
We need to learn from the enemy, and consciously work to develop ‘popular’ means of reaching people who will never read Reflections on the Revolution in France, or even The Federalist Papers. If this means allying with hip-hop musicians, so be it. But we need not shed our critical facilities while doing so.
Concretely, this means that conservatives who normally listen to Mozart and Bach should spend some money on Try That in a Small Town, and also on anti-progressive Hip-Hop. You don’t actually have to listen to it, although you might want to give your purchase to a teenager.

Peter Johnson
Peter Johnson
9 months ago

Wow – you sound like a bunch of curmudgeons in the comments. This was a great article that taught me something I didn’t know – I loved the early history in particular. I also love that hip hop artists still don’t buckle under to the cultural regime that governs the North American ‘cultural’ class. So you get songs praising Trump – or dissing Biden – etc. It is still dissident.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
9 months ago
Reply to  Peter Johnson

Yes. And the piece is an unapologetic celebration on a round-number anniversary. Why get so mad? Such a puffed-up outrage factory here sometimes.

Studio Largo
Studio Largo
9 months ago
Reply to  Peter Johnson

It’s not that they don’t buckle under, they’re not targeted by the wokerati in the first place. They’re given carte blanche to promote violence, misogyny and murder all they want. On the other hand, white people are to be held responsible in perpetuity for the sins of past generations.

Peter Johnson
Peter Johnson
9 months ago
Reply to  Studio Largo

I don’t know. They went after Kanye West pretty hard. I think they realize that other than the big stars with a broad audience – neither the performers or their fans really care what white female university professors think about them. To be fair – Kanye doesn’t appear to care much either – despite what is has cost him.

Studio Largo
Studio Largo
9 months ago
Reply to  Peter Johnson

I’m sure that gangsta rappers could care less about the opinions of the academic set. What is outrageous is the way the supposedly anti-gun violence, pro women’s rights far left turns a blind eye to the nihilistic violence they celebrate.

Studio Largo
Studio Largo
9 months ago
Reply to  Peter Johnson

I’m sure that gangsta rappers could care less about the opinions of the academic set. What is outrageous is the way the supposedly anti-gun violence, pro women’s rights far left turns a blind eye to the nihilistic violence they celebrate.

Peter Johnson
Peter Johnson
9 months ago
Reply to  Studio Largo

I don’t know. They went after Kanye West pretty hard. I think they realize that other than the big stars with a broad audience – neither the performers or their fans really care what white female university professors think about them. To be fair – Kanye doesn’t appear to care much either – despite what is has cost him.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
9 months ago
Reply to  Peter Johnson

Yes. And the piece is an unapologetic celebration on a round-number anniversary. Why get so mad? Such a puffed-up outrage factory here sometimes.

Studio Largo
Studio Largo
9 months ago
Reply to  Peter Johnson

It’s not that they don’t buckle under, they’re not targeted by the wokerati in the first place. They’re given carte blanche to promote violence, misogyny and murder all they want. On the other hand, white people are to be held responsible in perpetuity for the sins of past generations.

Peter Johnson
Peter Johnson
9 months ago

Wow – you sound like a bunch of curmudgeons in the comments. This was a great article that taught me something I didn’t know – I loved the early history in particular. I also love that hip hop artists still don’t buckle under to the cultural regime that governs the North American ‘cultural’ class. So you get songs praising Trump – or dissing Biden – etc. It is still dissident.

Aidan Barrett
Aidan Barrett
9 months ago

Oswald Spengler (of “the Decline of the West”) states that culture is the collective symbols out of which we overcome our fear of death…and 1970s NYC certainly had that element.

Aidan Barrett
Aidan Barrett
9 months ago

Oswald Spengler (of “the Decline of the West”) states that culture is the collective symbols out of which we overcome our fear of death…and 1970s NYC certainly had that element.

Dumetrius
Dumetrius
9 months ago
Dumetrius
Dumetrius
9 months ago
Frank McCusker
Frank McCusker
9 months ago

There’s even a decent scene in Dublin – I esp like this lad (at link below) as, unlike most, he raps in an inner-city Dublin accent, without lapsing into a faux-American accent. (Decades earlier, Bowie of course was one of the first artists who sang in his own accent.)
Inner city Dublin is as dodgy af, and we’re regaled with regular tales of naĂŻve American tourists, heads stuffed full of obverse racism about “friendly Irish people being friendlier than most other people” (nonsense, of course), getting whacked by feral kids. The snag is that no tourist board has the balls to tell tourists to do what every Irish person knows, namely avoid the North Side. But if they listened to this inner city rapper, they’d have a better handle on it than any tourist board brochure would ever tell them:
https://youtu.be/u69Sw3GNML0

Frank McCusker
Frank McCusker
9 months ago

There’s even a decent scene in Dublin – I esp like this lad (at link below) as, unlike most, he raps in an inner-city Dublin accent, without lapsing into a faux-American accent. (Decades earlier, Bowie of course was one of the first artists who sang in his own accent.)
Inner city Dublin is as dodgy af, and we’re regaled with regular tales of naĂŻve American tourists, heads stuffed full of obverse racism about “friendly Irish people being friendlier than most other people” (nonsense, of course), getting whacked by feral kids. The snag is that no tourist board has the balls to tell tourists to do what every Irish person knows, namely avoid the North Side. But if they listened to this inner city rapper, they’d have a better handle on it than any tourist board brochure would ever tell them:
https://youtu.be/u69Sw3GNML0

Christopher Chantrill
Christopher Chantrill
9 months ago

As I get older I find that it’s hard to get excited about anything more recent than Bach, old chap.
Mind you, Bach was a piece of work. He once told Frederick the Great that he could take his fortepianos and put ’em where the sun don’t shine. (In German, of course).

Christopher Chantrill
Christopher Chantrill
9 months ago

As I get older I find that it’s hard to get excited about anything more recent than Bach, old chap.
Mind you, Bach was a piece of work. He once told Frederick the Great that he could take his fortepianos and put ’em where the sun don’t shine. (In German, of course).

Nic Cowper
Nic Cowper
9 months ago

Interesting debate. I love that hip hop enthuses and infuriates in equal measure. Sorry all but we do need this – we need debate and we need differences. Long live free speech – whatever form it takes.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
9 months ago

US hip hop today lives either according to the familiar ‘get rich or die trying’ ethos of ‘ghetto’ free market capitalism, or nods to social progressivism in the tradition of Public Enemy and vaguely back to the Black Panther age of social radicalism.
The first trend is just sociological and aesthetically redundant now; the second is sociologically redundant to anyone but the faithful. The only debate left then is over the aesthetic value of the political stuff and there, as a 90s/00s underground rap fan, I remain heavily sceptical at to its musical value and particularly its level of innovation within the genre.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
9 months ago

I like this essay a lot a lot. While I can’t agree with the unserious outward premise–“rappers are the last real Americans standing”–I appreciate that Samuels doesn’t lean on it hard but uses it more as an entry point into the topic. Good prose enhanced by his childhood recollection of a 1970s NYC that was even rougher than today in several key ways, including racial hostility and violent crime.
It’s hard to deny that much hip-hop is crass, hostile to women, even proudly vicious or pro-criminal, perhaps more so now than in the 80s and 90s when I heard some of the better stuff as a suburban white kid and young man, including: A Tribe Called Quest, Mos Def (now Yasiin Bey), and the wildy fun Missy Elliot.
There’s still underground or non-mainstream stuff of quality, with some combination of strong lyrics and musicality; I hear examples from time to time, though not as often as I hear braindead or poisonous junk blasting out of passing bass-mobiles. Pulitzer Prize for Music winner Kendrick Lamar is challenging but brilliant. The late Mac Miller (1992-2018), a white kid who was a “natural” and might have taken his act a lot further, had a lot of lyrical and rhythmic talent.
Here’s a “conscious rap” from the Nineties. It has clever lyrics (I think), no profanity, and even some nice guitar and piano in places. Warning: The tune–“They All Fall Down” by Grits–promotes a non-denominational, Christian perspective. Take a listen if you’re so inclined:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TCsyJ6n7AZo

Last edited 9 months ago by AJ Mac
AJ Mac
AJ Mac
9 months ago

I like this essay a lot a lot. While I can’t agree with the unserious outward premise–“rappers are the last real Americans standing”–I appreciate that Samuels doesn’t lean on it hard but uses it more as an entry point into the topic. Good prose enhanced by his childhood recollection of a 1970s NYC that was even rougher than today in several key ways, including racial hostility and violent crime.
It’s hard to deny that much hip-hop is crass, hostile to women, even proudly vicious or pro-criminal, perhaps more so now than in the 80s and 90s when I heard some of the better stuff as a suburban white kid and young man, including: A Tribe Called Quest, Mos Def (now Yasiin Bey), and the wildy fun Missy Elliot.
There’s still underground or non-mainstream stuff of quality, with some combination of strong lyrics and musicality; I hear examples from time to time, though not as often as I hear braindead or poisonous junk blasting out of passing bass-mobiles. Pulitzer Prize for Music winner Kendrick Lamar is challenging but brilliant. The late Mac Miller (1992-2018), a white kid who was a “natural” and might have taken his act a lot further, had a lot of lyrical and rhythmic talent.
Here’s a “conscious rap” from the Nineties. It has clever lyrics (I think), no profanity, and even some nice guitar and piano in places. Warning: The tune–“They All Fall Down” by Grits–promotes a non-denominational, Christian perspective. Take a listen if you’re so inclined:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TCsyJ6n7AZo

Last edited 9 months ago by AJ Mac
Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
9 months ago

Excellent essay.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
9 months ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

Not a popular view today.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
9 months ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

Not a popular view today.

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
9 months ago

Excellent essay.