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User Name Thread Name Subject Posted
GUEST,Neil Lowe Blues vs Rap (136* d) RE: Blues vs Rap 26 Jan 00


Interesting observations, although I wouldn't necessarily agree with all of them. First off, I love blues and I can tolerate rap - at times I can say I like some of it. The "groove" rap gets into occasionally can have an entrancing effect. Although I don't enthusiastically embrace it, I appreciate the fact that rap is its own genre, an outgrowth of seemingly random elements that combined in just the right way to produce something different. I also think there are creative and unique (abeit repetitive) uses of sound being employed in rap music (this coming from someone who can broadly define music to include the sounds a trash compacter makes).

Mostly, though, I listen to rap for social and ccultural perspective - to stay informed by keeping a finger on the pulse of popular trend. In that respect, Shambles, maybe you hit upon the reason for the disparity you observe: that blues has roots in a rural/agricultural setting, while rap seems to be primarily an urban phenomenon. Another reason may be an insular lack of exposure to a variety of influences. If I had not had an uncle who had taken enough interest in my budding musical tastes to expose me at an impressionable age to the music of Jimmy Reed, Mozart, Bobby Bare, Dylan, Frank Zappa, Coltrane, and The Doors (sometimes all in one sitting), I may not have had the liberal perspective on what constitutes music - and what has musical value - that I have now.

As to general acceptance...hmmmm. There are a lot of kids, regardless of race, color, creed, etc. who seem to be enthralled with rap. When they eventually become gainfully employed, independent, and firmly ensconsed in the middle class as upstanding citizens of the community, they will bring their musical memories with them. I did. Rock 'n' Roll was once reviled by parents as being "evil." The children who grew up with it are now parents themselves, and as they matured, rock matured and gained a modicum of respectability. If some popular rappers can continue to make music when they are sixty years old, rap may well gain a standard of respectability (or at least acceptance)itself.

Is rap popular because its (mature) listeners identify with it - hearing echoes and seeing reflections of their own experiences - or does rap's message function as a "standard" against which people try to gauge their lives? Media analysts constantly try to determine whether the stuff being churned out influences consumer choices, or if consumer choices influence the stuff to be churned out. As it is with most things, the two are probably not mutually exclusive: the choices made are the result of a complicated interaction (that thankfully/hopefully will never be fully understood) between the consumer and the thing consumed.

In any event, rap has been absorbed into the corporate fold, homogenized and diluted for mass consumption, and any substantial value or influence it had as a catalyst for political change or revolution has been relegated to the role of serving as a marketing vehicle for selling the latest fashionwear and beverage product. The powers that be learned forty-odd years ago that the best way to diffuse a socio-cultural revolution was to sell it for profit. Usurp its symbolic images and manufacture them for mass consumption. When everybody's wearing beads and bells, it's hard to maintain the "us versus them" lines of demarcation.

Neil Lowe (with reference to Marshall McLuhan's Understanding Media)


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