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Burnett's Urban Etiquette

Monday, October 02, 2006

The absence of a single word

One of my favorite Mark Twain isms is "The difference in the right word and the almost right word is really a large matter - it's the difference between the difference the lightning bug and the lightning."

Once again I find myself reluctantly defending hip-hop culture from a broadly generalized assault.

I say reluctant, 'cause as an old school hip-hop head who grew up on the deep rhymes of KRS-One, and Public Enemy, the cool guy tunes of L.L. Cool J, and the fun party songs of Run D.M.C., I am sorely disappointed at where rap music has gone today. Ninety percent of new material dumped on the public comes from inarticulate guys bragging about cars they don't own, houses they don't live in, women they don't have, drugs they've never used, and crimes they may or may not have witnessed or committed in recent years. So much of the music is bad these days...but not all of it.

So I have to defend it, when I hear people attribute the woes of society on rap music. It's the same thing folks did back in the day when rock music was becoming popular. People complained that all of it was the Devil's music and that it was causing young people to act up.

Anyway, I was watching MSNBC over the weekend and marveling to myself at how they get away with constantly replaying the same old crap on "MSNBC Investigates" week in and week out. Don't the advertisers care that every Friday, and Saturday and Sunday night the network replays the same episodes featuring inside looks at prisons that it has been airing for months (maybe a year or more)? Well, to my temporarily pleasant surprise I flipped to another channel and then turned back in time for a different episode, a replay of a recent Dateline, in which Matt Lauer interviewed Debra LaFave, one of the young, blond, female child molester teachers.

Lauer prefaced a question to LaFave by telling her that the writing was on the wall and that prior to her getting busted people around her were concerned that she was becoming a hellion. He pointed out to her that folks thought she was rebelling, because, among other things, she started dressing provocatively and "listening to rap music."

You may think it's a small thing, but that type of broad generalization is the reason so many younger people think some news folk are full of you know what.

I was disappointed, 'cause I thought Matt Lauer had more sense than that. LaFave is a woman in her mid 20s. She grew up in a generation whose collective CD rack probably contains an even balance of rock, alternative/folk, and hip-hop and R&B tunes. If he wanted to make a point he could have asked LaFave about a newfound interest in gangsta rap or crunk or trap music, or whatever. But by not being more specific about the type of rap, Lauer just showed that he's bought into the hype that a genre of music is a sign that the bogeyman has arrived. He gave LaFave an out, some musical scary thing to blame some of her outrageous behavior on.

Bad clothes and bad music are not signs of anything but bad taste.

I think that TV news hosts and news magazine contributors are clueless. Wait, scratch that. I think that the clueless ones are, well, clueless. Don't want to lump them in with those who actually make sense.


  • People whined about the end of music when Jimi Hendrix played. Every generation proclaims the music of the following generation "abominable" or "Unlistenable" or "talentless crap". Same as it ever was.

    By Anonymous og, at 4:05 PM  

  • I loved that Chris Rock routine about how even people who love rap music are tired of defending it. Easy to defend the original guys like KRS-1, a little hard to defend some of the new guys. He basically said exactly what you just said...only he swore a lot more.

    Lauer was way off on this one. He sometimes really nails certain interviews (George Bush especially) but other times can be surprisingly out of touch.

    By Blogger Sandra, at 4:52 PM  

  • No different with REGGATON,or whatever passes for Rock these days

    Generalizations and Misconceptions abound. But unfortunately one thing is true and constant ,
    The excuse made by some promoting Bad Taste for their own commercial end increasingly give the young an excuse not to study and better themselves no matter what the musical genre.
    Althogh it was always the case it is made more acute by technology

    Today's Teenagers have obstacles that would not even have occured to me and I grew up in NYC.

    The same technology gives them an opportunity to leapfrog bad taste and bad influence
    Let's hope and Pray for the Best!!

    By Blogger roberto e, at 8:03 PM  

  • hey somebody should write about where the hell were these teachers when I was in sixth or seventh grade? i understand that its wrong to have sex with any underage person, but honestly, what boy of 13. 14, or 15 years old would turn that down. Have you seen some of these teachers, they're hot. I won't speak for anyone else, but when I was that age, getting on with a hot 20 something teacher was a fantasy that I certainly wouldn't have considered a crime.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:56 PM  

  • The whole interview was a sham as far as I'm concerned. He validated her actions by even giving her one millisecond of airtime. In these stories of crime where the criminal admitted doing it, the only person who should ever get interviewed is the victim. Since he didn't want any publicity, the story should have ended there.
    All that balding clown Matt Lauer did was give her a chance to explain why she's an immature slut too stupid to know why what she did was wrong. It wasn't the sex that was completely wrong (I myself would like to be the victim today), it was her stupidity in going about it. Sex with a 14 year old is gonna get back to everyone because any 14yo who had his baloney bopped by someone that good looking could never keep it a secret from his peer group. It doesn't fit into the male conquest paradigm, which hasn't been changed since forever.

    Her blaming "rap" music is the worst kind of copout and shame on Matt Lauer for serving it up to her. She looked like the type that likes the "jukebox rap" they play at places like Gordon Biersch--"Baby Got Back", "Back That Thing Up" (while singing the word ass on the floor); and "Shake that Ass, Bitch and Let me see What you Got"

    In other words the "rap" she likes is pretty much just like her--effing stupid.

    By Anonymous Big Daddy, at 6:01 PM  

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