Which came first? The chicken or the egg? The talk about the commercialization of hip hop reminded me of the Taye Diggs, Sanaa Lathan movie Brown Sugar. Diggs’s character had problems staying in the industry after his firm signs a multi-racial group Rin and Tin, the Hip Hop Dalmations. This after finding Mos Def’s character, who is a “real” emcee. Daniels talks about the commercialization of hip hop, how it perpetuates the ghetto lifestyle, talking about “babymamas” and having “on the side” relationships, and how that is deemed acceptable more than something to be ashamed of (thank you Usher). It eclipses emcees like Aesop Rock and Flobots (interestingly, neither group is of African-American heritage) who spit it about topics people need to be talking about.
Hip hop isn’t the only music being commercialized. Are there any people dedicated to an art form anymore? Daniels’s brother is a jazz musician. If I play Bird or Mingus in my classroom, I usually meet some sort of protest. But its the most exposure many students get to a dying music. Two guys I played with when I was a kid have died already. And as they’re dying, the music is dying with them. I’ve even seen the change in the music. When I was a kid, my dad used to take me to the Jazz Kitchen in Indianapolis. There, I was introduced to some great players — be bop, latin, big band, vocal. But now, the market has changed, and that’s not what people want to hear anymore, and like a good business, it changed its music to cater to what the masses want. “Jazz” now is what I always called “elevator music.” You know (or maybe you don’t) the saccharine sounds of Candy Dulfer, Dave Koz or Kenny G.
But I teach the “mindless youth” of America. When they say “Miss, play hip hop,” and I play Aesop Rock, they say “Play good hip hop.” Of course, I think Aesop Rock is good hip hop. But they want Akon (Konvicked) or Usher (Confessions). Anything that perpetuates the misogynistic ideals of a disintegrating culture of TV raised children. That’s ghetto.