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Saturday, March 03, 2007

Rap is dying...

...or at least, desperately clinging to life. That is, according to the latest sales figures which show a dramatic decline in purchases just in the past year, indicating a loosening of the tetherhold the genre has held on the American market for over thirty years. With a downward slide of 21 percent from 2005 to 2006, for the first time in 12 years no rap album was among the top 10 sellers of the year.

Pundits attribute the diminishing popularity to its audience's growing weariness with violent and misogynistic lyrics - and a mounting awareness of the fallout in terms of actual violence and racial and sexual disparagement, especially among African Americans. A recent study by The Black Youth Project affirms this, as does a poll by the Associated Press and AOL-Black Voices.

Ironically, what made rap a driving force in the last decades is now what is slowly killing it. As writer Nekesa Mumbi Moody notes in her AP article, many of its audience are just sick of it now. Back in the '90s, rap critics such as the late activist, C. Dolores Tucker, who rallied against the sexist images of young black women in rap videos, were ridiculed for "trying to destroy a brotha," which is what Tupac once rapped about Tucker. But in the end, many are beginning to see that the destruction of black men and women are wrapped in the lyrics themselves. When black women are repeatedly referred to as "ho's" and young men as "niggas," it was only logical that their self-views would skewer to reflect the warped mirror being held up to them.

Proponents still argue that rap is simply telling what is going on in the streets, that "it's real." It spoke to and of a generation who had been invisible to the masses. But now that generation is growing up, and it is they who are feeling the ennui of simply telling it like it is without offering any solutions to - or even wanting to change - the ills being rapped about.

Another reason why rap is becoming an anathema is that too many of its proponents insist upon living "the life." Rappers easily boast about the crimes they've committed. That is 180 degrees from earlier hip hops masters who could tell it like it was without proudly pointing to rap sheets. And, thanks to the saturation of gangsta rap promoted by the major music labels, today's positive artists like Mos Def, Common and Talib Kweli don't get the play that their more "gangta" brothers receive.

Will rap resuscitate to its former glory? I for one hope not if that glory is from recent years. To be honest, I am not a rap or hip-hop aficianado. But I do like some: Common, Mos Def, KRS-One from back in the day. I also miss the female artists from the past - Queen Latifah (when she was rapping - still love "Ladies First"), Monie Love, MC Lyte, Lauren Hill who didn't have to show and shake a booty to be heard.

They may not be gangsta, but only they and those like them can bring life back to a music form in desperate need of resuscitation.

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Sharon Cullars Coffee Talk at 3/03/2007 06:15:00 AM Permanent Link     | | Home


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