Monday, December 22, 2014

Don't Talk About Politics in Music

There is a bit of outrage in the rap world over the lack of an outcry over the subject of the hashtag #blacklivesmatter.

Hip-hop’s inner-circle celebrities, our Jay Zs and Drakes, have endorsed the same outcomes of Reaganomics that rendered their people such a disenfranchised one; a political move that grew tremendously, as did its audience.

While the current epidemic of police brutality and the lack of indictments may be quite reminiscent of a time when powerful black voices were, themselves, marginalized, the widespread merge of hip-hop and pop music that has occurred in the 26 years since Straight Outta Compton has greatly altered the culture framework. Rap music and capitalism, from an outsider’s perspective, are as intermixed as ever; there’s even a subgenre that Spotify recognizes as “pop-rap.”

I don't think it's fair to single out rappers because politics doesn't appear to be an important part of the rock world, either. In England this past month, they have tried desperately to get another Band Aid single off the ground. It's been successful, but there's been a backlash against it and a nasty one, at that.

The same artists who should be protesting what is going on are silent across the board. Country artists don't care and neither do pop acts or hard rock acts or people on the genre fringe of music. People are struggling to find corporate sponsorship deals. Being controversial means that the cross-promotional opportunities are going to dry up fast if a company feels like an artist might turn on their message. Rap acts are doing exactly what rock acts are doing--they're staying out of it and they're trying to be as uncontroversial as possible. Who can blame them?

If music is no longer a medium where protest and politics can appear as a mainstream issue, then don't blame Jay-Z for it. Blame the audience and their lack of tolerance for anyone who carries a message.

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