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Burnett's Urban Etiquette

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Still a hypocrite

If you've been reading this blog for a while then you know that occasionally I have to admit that I am a hypocrite.

Well, I got busted at it again today, except this time it had nothing to do with cell phones (click the link above to understand).

Today I was a music hypocrite. And I know I'm not alone. Tell me - if you're 30 or older and reasonably sane and reasonably responsible - that you have never gotten annoyed when you see a younger person rocking out to too-loud music with naughty lyrics.

I know some of you have. I don't care what the musical genre - rock, rap, country, whatever.

For me it tends to be rap/hip-hop. Nothing annoys me more than seeing a car full of teens roll past my house or pull up next to me at a traffic signal bumping window-shattering bass. The funny thing is they're usually playing songs that I know, songs that I have listened to as well.

So today I was driving up Biscayne Boulevard - a major north/south corridor to those of you who don't live in South Florida - and though it probably makes me a dork to admit it I was bobbing my head to songs from The Chronic, rapper/producer Dr. Dre's first big album from back in the day. Just as I pulled up to a light with my windows down to catch a little fresh air and breeze - sometimes you need that, instead of AC - I was singing along "Ain't nothin' but a G thang baaaaybeee, two loc'd out (naughty words) going craaaaaazy....fallin' back on that a$$ with a hellified gangsta lean, gettin' funky on the mike like an old batch of collard greens!"

Then I felt eyes on me. I looked up and to my left, and two elderly women who also had their windows down were looking at me with those disapproving half smirks that only grandmothers can pull off effectively.

It worked. I nearly choked on my words, and if I could've turned beet red right then I assure you I would have. I immediately smiled that silent apology, turned my stereo down and roled up my windows and cranked the AC. And I sat, gripping the steering wheel and staring straight ahead till the light turned green. To be fair to me, I know that my stereo was not really cranked up too loudly, but I'm pretty sure those women heard my recitation.

So back to the hypocrisy. I really do hate it when I see teens doing the same thing. You can call me a crotchety old-before-his-time man if you want. But the way I justify it is by telling myself that more people in my generation know that music is just entertainment than in the younger generation. I know, for example, that after listening to "Nuthin' but a G Thang" I will not feel inspired to become a thug or gang banger. I just know better. So I don't mind me or guys my age listening. I just fear that some of these kids take certain tunes as guidelines for life. That's a scary thought.

I spent part of Monday hanging out with the rapper/actor Ludacris for a story I wrote about him in today's Miami Herald. And when I got back to the newsroom to write the article I did a little Web surfing to see what fans were saying about him, and I found the following short story on a fan site written about parents who listen to tunes they keep from their kids.

I don't have kids of my own to protect like the guy in the article, but the writer sums up my sentiments perfectly; just substitute your favorite style of music for hip-hop:
"When his son, Clayton, is asleep, Mtu Pugh steps into his home office, pops in a CD and becomes a hip-hop headbanger, bobbing to the infectious beats and profane rhymes of rappers such as Eminem, Ludacris and 50 Cent.
But when Clayton is awake, Pugh keeps the discs hidden on a bookcase, behind a child-proof lock. Never mind that the child is just 14 months old.
"The last thing I would want is to have him sitting here as an infant soaking up [music] that plants something that really is only appropriate to be picked up later in life," said Pugh's wife, Lisa Givens, 33. "I'm on the very conservative end."
Perhaps, but she is squarely in the middle of a generation putting an old set of questions to a new beat. In the 30 years since the birth of hip-hop, the children of the 1980s who fell in love with the music have become parents faced with a dilemma:
How do they share rap music with their children, when so much of it today is laced with tales of sex, drugs and violence?
Popular-culture experts describe it as a case of generational deja vu--hip-hop parents find themselves mimicking their counterparts of the 1920s and 1950s, who were appalled by the racy sounds and moves of jazz and then rock 'n' roll.
Unlike previous generations of pop culture gatekeepers, however, many of the parents worried about rap's effects on their children still love the music."


  • Thanks for the visit! Your story makes me think of how we close the windows & turn the TV down when we watch 'Big Brother'. - How did you stumble upon my blog? (Always interesting to know)

    By Blogger AnnJay, at 6:32 AM  

  • annjay, a friend who read your blog told me I'd like the content and that I should check it out. So I did.

    By Blogger James Burnett, at 12:50 PM  

  • There should be a new name for you--hip-hop-ocrite. It's not about being grown up or mature--it's about being ashamed of yourself in some way for enjoying hip-hop. I'm callin' you out, papi! Hip-hop IS the music of Generation X, Generation Y, and Generation Whine. If you are embarassed by your music, it's because you reached a realization that you no longer connect with youth culture. You have turned into your father and adopted his expectations of maturity instead of creating your own. Which is fine if you don't mind second guessing yourself.

    But now what? What do you fall back on? What are the icons of your youth that must endure the filments of time? PUBLIC ENEMY! That's who. A TRIBE CALLED QUEST!! NWA!!! We hip-hop fanatics must again fight against the tides of misguided souls who cannot recognize that beats and rhymes are the essence of a largely uninterpreted language that we labeled hip-hop because that sounded as good as anything. It could have been called "and you don't stop" or "whoop whoop" but the essence is the same. It is a language as alien to most people as whale sirens or Kalahari native clicks. Failure to understand this expression is like being unable to understand Spanish. Some people just can't learn outside of their boundaries. They can't grasp that hip-hop is the name for a feeling of rebellion captured in a tangible medium.

    Led Zeppelin provided the same outlet for a youngster in 1970. Is that old man expected to turn down "Whole Lotta Love" today because some dusty-crotched old hag next door has a sour countenance? What happens when the paunch bellied captains of industry only have Jimi Hendrix left in their memory banks? Is that the only time our music and culture gain legitimacy? When an old crone doesn't disapprove?

    JB, you need to stand up for us like you stand up for your imaginary disapproving elders. This is your music, language and culture and it is our gift to the world. The ability to express yourself explicitly without filtration is rarely tolerated in this world. When we do have it, the public debate is better for its addition. The only people who don't want you to hear what hip-hop has to offer are the people who would so desperately love to believe that the life chatted over melody is a work of pure fiction. Don't hate the player--hate the game. And the game is why a guy still needs to talk about clockin' tricks and checkin' traps.

    By Anonymous Big Daddy, at 1:20 PM  

  • C'mon BD. As usual, you've given me a lovely speech that is oranges to the apples I offered up. I'm not condemning hip-hop. Sure, I felt sheepish when I drove up on the elderly women. And yes, I get annoyed when I see young fat heads bumpin' hard hip-hop. But like I said, my hypocrisy is born of the fact that my generation, your generation, our generation, has largely demonstrated that we can separate fact from fiction, that we can listen but not be driven to madness by the music. Some of these younger cats have not demonstrated that. On the contrary they know nothing about the revolutionaries who launched this genre of music. They think hip-hop is trap music, pimps & hos, and Roccawear. They're not thinking activism and social rebellion. They're thinking about which tennis shoes will go best with which pants are fallin' off their behinds. They're thinking about how cool they look ranting about shooting rival dealers.

    Hey, long live hip-hop. But if it's gonna live long this younger generation is gonna need to get a better grip of hip-hop culture and not base their knowledge on these fly-by-night, one-hit-wonder crunk acts.

    And if you read the top of my post you know this isn't about hip-hop. It was about whatever music it is you're into.

    Here's a better analogy. You have every right to swear and use as many naughty words as you like. You're grown. You're free. But if two old church ladies walked past you as you were cussing up a storm tell me you wouldn't tone it down till they were out of ear shot? Don't say you wouldn't. You're too smart for that. I know you would.

    By Blogger James Burnett, at 4:27 PM  

  • On the contrary they know nothing about the revolutionaries who launched this genre of music. They think hip-hop is trap music, pimps & hos, and Roccawear. They're not thinking activism and social rebellion. They're thinking about which tennis shoes will go best with which pants are fallin' off their behinds.

    Thank you and goodnight!

    And thanks for stopping by my blog. Oh, and re: your Ludacris interview - TEAM OPRAH!

    By Blogger Nichelle, at 8:53 PM  

  • "...parents find themselves mimicking their counterparts of the 1920s and 1950s, who were appalled by the racy sounds and moves of jazz and rock 'n' roll."


    I don't remember jazz and rock-n-roll having lyrics like "beat that bitch" or "all them bitches and hos are golddiggers".

    I remember jazz and rock-n-roll as having more taste and respect for itself unlike the present state of hip-hop/rap which has evolved (or should I say has suffered "devolution") from progressive message music into self-hating ("nigga this and nigga that") and misogynistic (woman-hating) music.

    By Anonymous Ann, at 11:57 PM  

  • Thanks for stopping by!

    I still like to crank the tunes - rock and roll being my genre.
    And I don't mind other people doing the same, as long as it's something I can roll my window up to get away from.
    Imposing a subwoofer on me though, no matter what you're listening to, just ain't proper.

    But anyway, those naive adults back when I was a teen thought we were all going to turn convicts for listening to the music we listened to. I think that you find what you're looking for. Just because the music you listen to has bad words in it don't mean you're going to live by them unless you're psycho (or at least a bit nuts) to start with. Whether it be from your environment, upbringing or whatever, the music ain't going to up and turn you into a nut.

    By Blogger curmudgeon, at 5:18 PM  

  • Let me add though, in keeping with my name, most of today's "music" sucks.
    Rappers are a bunch of talentless hacks who rely on lame rhymes and a monotonous bass beat. The lyrics are a pile of dog - well, you know what I mean.
    If promoting racism and murder, and belittling women is what it takes to sell records, the creator and the fans are already nuts.

    By Blogger curmudgeon, at 5:23 PM  

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