Sunday, April 14, 2013

Came Into This World as a Reject

Will Shetterly:

Its third sin is featuring a rap artist. Many elitists hate rap as much as they hate country, though they don’t like to admit it for fear of appearing racially insensitive. Those who do like rap, like Ta-Nehisi Coates, say Brad Paisley teamed with the wrong rapper, as if only certain black artists deserve to have opinions about white folks who wear the Confederate flag.

I admit up front that this is nothing more than anecdotal evidence and speculation, and that it's nothing anyone would candidly admit to in any event, but I've always suspected that much of the visceral loathing you see expressed on pop-culture snob havens like the Onion's A.V. Club or Pitchfork toward the musical genre popularly known and reviled as nü-metal was a pure example of scapegoating. What I mean is: one of the defining characteristics of that genre, the thing that made it more than a simple continuation of late-80s, early-90s heavy metal, was the overt influence of rap and hip-hop. These were the kids who grew up seeing the collaborations between Aerosmith and Run-DMC, Anthrax and Public Enemy, and the Judgment Night soundtrack, and turned them into entire signature styles, rather than just novelty songs.

For a while there, I recall a lot of people saying it outright: bands like Limp Bizkit, Crazy Town and Korn, whatever else could be fairly said about them, were objectionable in large part for being wiggers. White boys who acted black, adopting the slang, clothing and mannerisms (to wit). The high-minded interpretation that sociology students and social justice warriors would likely offer is that they were simply offended by the "cultural appropriation" of privileged honkies getting rich and famous by making black styles more palatable to the mainstream. (Of course, if Elvis, Led Zeppelin and the Rolling Stones can be respected as artists having done the same thing, Fred Durst can probably feel at least a little justifiably aggrieved at his lack of critical acclaim.) But it always seemed to me that your typical discerning, progressive music fan would usually acknowledge the misogyny and other, uh, regressive attitudes prominent in some rap with a squirming awkwardness, whereas they had no problem coming down like a ton of bricks on nü-metal musicians for the same things.

Again, it's just my (possibly limited) perception. But I used to read a lot of popular music press, and it wasn't difficult to find attacks on those bands for their dick-swinging macho lyrics about bitches and fags, for their unashamed, un-indie commercial striving, and for their lack of musical creativity, expressed with rabid hatred in a way that I seriously doubt any of those critics would have felt comfortable criticizing black artists.