Wednesday, August 22, 2007

PUNCHLININ' AT HIP HOP'S EXPENSE: WHERE HIP HOP DIED AND WENT TO...

Saw the trailers for the new MTV/VH1 reality show "Celebrity Rap Superstar" last night. In the spot, Perez Hilton (above) and Tone Loc are in the studio and Perez, as one would expect, is playfully and gleefully "rapping" or, moreover, "imitating" what he knows to be hip hop and trying his hardest to make it funny. "Parody" is what it's also known as, my friend.

I'm fairly confident at this point, in an artform that has been shook by a number of years of stifled creativity, cultural pimping and taking itself way to seriously, the Parody Age of hip hop has officially begun. It hasn't begun because I said so, but really, because it just has. Look, I probably could've typed this about two years ago, but I strongly felt that, even back then, there were reputable artists out there that, at least on a critical tip, still were recognized for their achievements and that, for me, at least gave the artform credibility. Maybe the title of this post is a little deceptive because, I still feel that hip hop as an artform and culture is alive, but it's not healthy. I mean, musical forms never die. Jazz doesn't die. Metal doesn't die. New age drivel doesn't die. Classical music doesn't die. Hip hop won't die.

I never want to take myself too seriously as I make comments on the culture, but as a fan, I have to say that I'm a little frustrated by the "Celebrity Rap Superstar" trailer I saw. Then again, they're only doing what everyone else is doing--forcefully reflecting on the masses what they've been fed for almost the last ten years of popular culture. Eventually, you had to see it coming. I've spent many conversations over the last decade or so trying to explain many cultural complexities of hip hop to people (yeah, like I'm an "authority"). Like the "guns and the cars are a mere reflection of the heroism portrayed in movies and in the projects and, as kids from broken or fractured homes, they look to the outside for influence" or, my favorite, "the jewelry represents the victory or arrival, if you will, after years of slavery and imprisonment." Whatever. Most of the time, I don't even believe what I'm saying.

The truth might be that, yes, hip hop is as shallow as many believe it is. There is no underlying meaning or symbolism to the gear, the jewelry, the cars. There is no deeper meaning to the lyrics. And, because there's nothing to it and it is a shallow artform, it's just as easy to parody. In fact, people feel no guilt in doing so. It's like we're getting Spinal Tapped. And, the hip hop community has no one to blame but themself. From writers to fans, from artists to executives. We made our bed and now we gotta lay in it.

Probably need to visit this more because I've already left a lot of things open-ended and need to make quite a few notes for later, but I gotta day job, y'know? Speaking of Spinal Tap and mockeries of a culture, here's our boy Richard Marx with everyone's favorite Robert Plant impersonator, David Coverdale.

It's almost like Richard's hanging out with David Coverdale because Robert Plant wouldn't return his calls. Like, "Yeah, David will do. In photos, they might mistaken him for Bobby." I particularly like the towel around Richard's neck like his performances are that draining. Awesome stuff.

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