[sixties-l] Will hip-hop kill the civil rights star? (fwd)

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Date: Sun Nov 24 2002 - 17:55:20 EST

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    Date: Fri, 22 Nov 2002 14:57:19 -0800
    From: radtimes <resist@best.com>
    Subject: Will hip-hop kill the civil rights star?

    Will hip-hop kill the civil rights star?


    Provocative generation-gap premise fuels a new book

    Nov. 21 When characters in the hit film
    "Barbershop" ridiculed Rosa Parks and other
    revered civil-rights figures, it infuriated defenders
    of '60s-style activism. But to Todd Boyd, it was no
    big deal. It was just talk from down the street. To
    Boyd, the movie's comments point to an
    intraracial cultural divide a long time building a
    generational split that, he suggests in a new book,
    spells an end to the cultural dominance of black
    Americans raised in the era of civil rights.
    BOYD IS AUTHOR of "The New H.N.I.C" (New
    York University Press), a book whose provocative subtitle
    "The Death of Civil Rights and the Reign of Hip Hop"
    points to a growing rift among African Americans of
    different generations, a crack whose potential to turn into a
    generational chasm has implications for the future of black
    Boyd, a professor of critical studies at the University of
    Southern California School of Cinema-Television, and
    co-writer of the acclaimed 1999 film "The Wood," argues
    that the civil rights movement, and its icons, resonate far less
    for African American youth than the music and esthetic of
    hip-hop that the swagger and braggadocio of the hip-hop
    world, and its underlying self-assertiveness, matter more than
    the protest-based traditions and values that typified the civil
    rights era.
    It's a viewpoint likely to put Boyd in the free-fire zone of
    racial politics when the book is published in December.

                                'A DIFFERENT GENERATION'
    "When you talk about civil rights, people from then are
    often held up as the model of blackness, as though anything
    that comes after that must adhere to those standards," he
    said in an interview. "It's the same impetus behind [NBC
    News anchor] Tom Brokaw saying the World War II
    generation was 'the greatest generation.'

    "However significant the civil rights movement was,
    there's now a different generation that relates to the world
    differently," he said. "The younger generation isn't going to
    identify with civil rights the same way their parents did."
    Boyd seems to stake out provocative territory in his slim,
    conversationally-styled book. But one could almost apply the
    comfortable '60s-vintage phrase "generation gap" to describe
    the division that Boyd describes.
    "I wouldn't minimize the term 'generation gap,' " he
    said. "That's quite instructive, in that it tells us that people
    from different generations relate to issues of their time
    and before their time based on how they came into the
                                DISCONNECTED ARGUMENTS
    There are curious disconnects in his argument. Boyd's
    broad identification of the civil rights era's seminal figures
    overlooks Malcolm X; the Black Power movement of Stokely
    Carmichael and H. Rap Brown; and the Black Panthers, all
    of whom came to prominence in that time with an assertive
    activism that contradicts the notion of civil rights veterans as
    mealy-mouthed accomodationists an in-your-face activism
    consistent with the hip-hop esthetic.
    But for Boyd, it's not the same. "Malcolm and the
    Panthers were not part of the civil rights movement," he said.
    "Martin Luther King drew his ideology from Gandhi, while
    Malcolm X defined his ideology from third-world struggles
    rooted in Marxism and Islam."
    In the book, Boyd
    distinguishes hip-hop from rap
    ("rap is what you do; hip-hop is
    what you are") and celebrates
    "hip-hop purists" who "regard the
    celebration of wealth and material
    goods to be counter to hip-hop's
    overall objective ... to make music
    for the margins, as opposed to the
    mainstream." Interviewed,
    though, Boyd offers an expansion
    on the book's argument that
    verges on the contrary.
    "I don't know that 'keeping it real' means doing
    without," he said. "It has to do with being honest and
    authentic about who you are, regardless of the
    circumstances. I don't necessarily see it as a vow of poverty.
    To me, ^A'bling-bling' [hip-hop's description celebrating
    conspicuous consumption] is a political statement where
    people are saying to a hostile world, 'in spite of obstacles,
    I've managed to succeed.' "
                                PORTRAYAL OF WOMEN
    And Boyd decries the violence in society against blacks,
    but to him, hip-hop's misogynist aspect something that's
    complicated acceptance of rap and hip-hop in the wider
    cultural arena is a matter of artistic expression.
    "It may not be politically correct; it may be offensive,
    sexist or misogynistic," he said. "But these ideas exist and
    hip-hop allows you to hear that they exist.
    "Hip-hop's representation of women is more
    complicated than 'bitches and ho's.' When people want to
    reduce it to that, they miss the point," he said. "The
    articulation of these sentiments is important because it allows
    us to hear what people think."
    But Boyd rails against what he sees as bigger
    inconsistencies in popular culture. "Hip-hop is about
    portraying a certain aspect of society," he said. "People point
    to what hip-hop is responsible for, but they never point
    fingers" at other pop-cultural outlets, he said.
    "When women are treated in sexist ways in a James
    Bond movie, no one accuses James Bond of being a
    perpetrator of sexism in society. Rappers often describe the
    lives they came from. When [series creator] David Chase
    does that on 'The Sopranos,' he's praised as a genius.

                                NO STRANGER TO CONTROVERSY
    "Look at 'The Sopranos,' or look at 'The Godfather' or
    'Goodfellas' take your pick. Nobody sees [those films] as
    leading to a rise in the murder rate, as they do with hip-hop. I
    don't know what it is that makes people want to hang the ills
    of the world on hip-hop."
    Boyd is no stranger to hot topics. In a previous book,
    "Am I Black Enough for You?" Boyd examined ways in
    which aspects of inner-city life are woven into popular
    culture and the entertainment industry. And in April 2000, at
    a Los Angeles book festival, Boyd had a volatile, highly
    publicized row with Jonathan Entine, author of "Taboo," a
    controversial book on the dominance of black athletes.
    Boyd realizes that the viewpoint of his new book will
    probably raise readers' hackles, but he said he's ready
    eager, even for the return fire he's expecting.
    "We're at a point where people think disagreement is
    almost bad manners," he said. "People don't debate the
    issues anymore. Ideas are there to provoke and make people
    think. The same sort of competition that's on the basketball
    courts, I want to bring to intellectual discussion. I want to
    make people think, talk and reconsider some of the ideas
    they've held so dear. If my book prompts controversy, if
    someone wants to argue, hey, I'm from Detroit let's go at
    it. I'm ready to defend mine."

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