First, a letter of mine printed in the March 9, 2006 issue of Las Vegas CityLife:
Regarding Presley Vance Conkle’s tirade against Sheriff Bill Young in the March 2 issue [“Thug lite,” Your Opinion], Conkle is yet another zombie wetting himself with excitement over an opportunity to get his merit badge for Standing Up To The Man In Defense Of Anything Demonstrably Harmful. Sheriff Young’s effort to reduce hip-hop violence has hardly been tarnished. Cockiness is not an argument, Mr. Conkle, and being sarcastic does not make you right.
Nobody is muzzling the expression of rappers — their music will always be readily available. Asking business owners to voluntarily not book shows that will incite crime isn’t censorship, it’s citizenship.
Rap music never killed anybody, Mr. Conkle? We don’t need to go back to Ice-T’s “Cop Killer” or Boyz in da Hood. Just last week, a man was shot at a 50 Cent concert. This is the same 50 Cent whose recent movie, Get Rich or Die Tryin’, was greeted in Philadelphia with a murder in the theater lobby.
Conkle can’t really defend hip-hop. All he can do is make up lame comparisons, but the many incidents of fatal violence caused directly by hip-hop in our city in recent years, as reported by the Review-Journal on Feb. 12, are significant. Mr. Conkle, what has hip-hop done in our schools? Are the honors classes full of students whose diligence is driven by their Eminem CDs? Are the dean’s offices full of students whose negative behavior stems from indoctrination by Norah Jones, or Snoop Dogg? Are the truants marching out of school proudly brandishing the fashionable poses of Vince Gill, or P. Diddy?
Hip-hop encourages people to adopt the most destructive antisocial attitudes. Instead of extolling Western civilization, it specializes in bitter self-segregation. Hip-hop has become an all-pervasive media cult that makes its followers into Nelly’s image, complete with high priests ready to condemn all critics of hip-hop as heretics, accuracy of their assessments notwithstanding.
Our children already have a legion of mentally flabby teachers who themselves are the products of hip-hop’s endless apologia. Mr. Conkle, as Clark County teens continue to do worse on math tests and increasingly imitate thug stereotypes, they don’t need any more.
Interestingly, not long after this letter ran, the perfect illustration of my cult meatphor played out: 50 Cent, Ludacris, and other rappers publicly excoriated the most powerful woman in the world, Oprah Winfrey, not because she had campaigned against hip hop, but only because she wasn’t endorsing it enough. Apparently, the Salem judges thought Goody Winfrey hadn’t sufficiently toed the party line on this issue, and condemned her as a witch accordingly. Oprah, for her part, played into this sad farce, not by chastising anyone for having the audacity to challenge her priorities, but by bowing and scraping before the professionally aggrieved, whining about how she really did have some rap songs on her iPod.
And thus it is. Questions of artistic merit notwithstanding, anyone who dares to criticize the obviously harmful effects of hip hop in the world is quickly branded a racist (yours truly has been the target of such slander before), so that their argument may be safely ignored. What the media machine doesn’t want us to get past is that the problems with hip hop aren’t based on race (though it’s tragic that so many people have bought into that artificial, commercial identity, which only limits those so self-defined and creates unnecessary social strife), but that hip hop simply thrives on negativity.
If I single it out for blame over other similar media brands such as heavy metal, it’s because hip hop has ruled youth culture as the single omnipotent, omnipresent force in shaping the character of children for an entire generation now. The occasional op-ed about “the death of hip hop” can’t nullify the truth seen on every street corner and at every mall in America–this juggernaut isn’t going away anytime soon.
Though those with a vested interest in the continued success of hip hop–from Madison Avenue execs to the permanent juveniles whose minds have been stunted so as not to realize that they have had Stockholm Syndrome forced upon them–will jeer at anyone who says it, I maintain my stand, if only because all the evidence of my eyes reinforces the conclusion that this media empire will be remembered for ruining as many lives as any actual war in history.