Category: Kelley, Robin

race rebel remix (quote)

Robin Kelley’s RACE REBELS: CULTURE, POLITICS, AND THE BLACK WORKING CLASS pp. 226-27

…A nice, neat ending to be sure, but I can’t go out like that. To write about the “politics” of gangsta rap is only part of the story. Let’s face it: listening to gangsta rap, or any hardcore hip hop, is not exactly like reading an alternative version of the Times (New York or L.A.). Hip hop is first and foremost music, “noize” produced and purchased to drive to, rock to, chill to, drink to, and occasionally dance to. To the hardcore, how many people get fucked up in a song is less important than an MC’s verbal facility on the mic, the creative and often hilarious use of puns, metaphors, similes, not mention the ability to kick some serious slang and some serious ass on the microphone. A dope MC leaves a trail of victims to rot in body bags, perpetrators who had the audacity to front like they could flow. This is why I insisted from the get-go that gangsterism is integral to all hardcore hip hop, from EPMD to MC Lyte, from Big Daddy Kane to Nice n’ Smooth, just as gangstas have been integral to all African American and, for that matter, black Atlantic oral traditions. Moreover, as microphone fiend Rakim might put it, hip hop ain’t hip hop if you can’t “move the crowd.” In my book, the most politically correct rapper will never get my hard-earned duckets if they ain’t kickin’ some boomin’ drum tracks, a phat bass line, a few well-placed JB-style guitar riffs, and some stupid, nasty turntable action. If it claims to be hip hop, it has to have, as Pete Rock says, “the breaks…the funky breaks…the funky breaks.”

I wrote this little refrain not to contradict my analysis but to go out with a dose of reality while giving a shout out to the hardcore. For all the implicit and explicit politics of rap lyrics, hip hop must be understood as a sonic force more than anything else. You simply can’t just read about it; it has to be heard, volume pumping, bass in full effect, index finger in reach of the rewind button when a compelling sample, break beat, or lyric catches your attention. This is why, for all my left-wing politics, when you see me driving by in my Subaru wagon, windows wide open, digging in the seams with the gangsta lean, rearview mirror trembling from the sonic forces, I’ll probably be rockin’ to the lyrics of King Tee, Dr. Dre, Pete Rock, and C. L. Smooth, Das EFX, The Pharcyde, Cypress Hill, Boss, Lords of the Underground, MC Lyte, Ice T, The Coup, Jeru da Damaja, Son of Bazerk, Gangstarr, and yes, Ice Cube. Keep the crossover and save the “PC” morality rap for those who act like they don’t know. I’m still rollin’ with Da Lench Mob, kickin’ it with the Rhyme Syndicate, hanging out in the Basement with Pete Rock and the rest, and like Das EFX, I’m coming straight from the Sewer…

I’m out…Peace.

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