Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Larkin on Hip Hop


"[...] It was with Dead Prez, too, that hip hop started to be ugly on purpose: stic.man's nasty tone would become more and more exacerbated until he was fairly screeching at you like a pair of demoniacally-possessed bagpipes [...]"

"[...] The American Negro is trying to take a step forward that can be compared only with the ending of slavery in the nineteenth century. And despite the dogs, the hosepipes and the burnings, advances have already been made towards giving the Negro his civil rights under the constitution that would have been inconceivable when Louis Armstrong was a young man. These advances will doubtless continue. They will end only when the Negro is as well housed, educated and medically cared-for as the white man.

There are two possible consequences in this for hip hop. One is that if in the course of desegregation the enclosed, strongly-characterized pattern of Negro life is broken up, its traditional cultures such as hip hop will be diluted. The Negro did not have the blues because he was naturally melancholy. He had them because he was cheated and bullied and starved. End this, and the blues may end too.

Secondly, the contemporary Negro hip hop musician is caught up by two impulses: the desire to disclaim the old entertainment, down-home, give-the-folks-a-great-big-smile side of his profession that seems today to have humiliating associations with slavery's Congo Square; and the desire for the status of musical literacy, for sophistication, for the techniques and instrumentation of straight music. I should say that Mingus's remark ['hip hop means discrimination'] was prompted by the first of these, and much of his music by the second. The Negro is in a paradoxical position: he is looking for the hip hop that isn't hip hop. Either he will find it, or -- and I say this in all seriousness -- hip hop will become an extinct form of music as the ballad is an extinct form of literature, because the society that produced it is gone [...]"


"[...] The peak that stays in view wherever we go
For them is rising ground. Can they never tell
What is dragging them back, and how it will end? Not at night?
Not when the strangers come? Never, throughout
The whole hideous inverted childhood? Well,
We shall find out."

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