More than 10 years ago, I was offended by an op-ed in the Christian Science Monitor. My Response is pasted below. Can’t beleive it has been so long. Some things seem different, but some seem just the same . . .
from the January 12, 1998 edition
Give Hip-Hop a Chance
In response to the opinion article “For ’90s Kids, the Boom Box’s Blast Has Drowned Out the Written Word” (Dec. 24): It pains me to see an educator take such a close-minded stance. Prof. Chet Raymo’s main gripe is that listening to music has all but replaced reading for pleasure on today’s college campuses, and that the music being listened to is meaningless and just plain bad.
Mr. Raymo says, “One of the down sides to being a teacher of young people is that one must actually become aware of the existence of groups such as Wu-Tang.” Musical differences aside, my real problem is the approach in the article: Listen to as little as possible, and jump to conclusions as quickly as possible.
The author has forgotten that all good teachers are also students. I have some suggestions and questions I’d like him to consider: Take a walk across campus to the humanities department and ask about the issues of identity and voice in minority and oppressed cultures. Think about these ideas and listen to Wu-Tang again. Are the lyrics violent and obscene? If so, why?
You disdain the Wu’s “Cash Rules Everything Around Me” anthem and pine for the good old days of idealism at college. Better you should ask why idealism is tempered with such heavy doses of cynicism these days. You say the music of the ghetto is meaningless to affluent college students. Instead of condemning what seems incongruent, you should ask: Why are middle-class white kids into hip-hop and black inner-city culture?
The statement ” nothing matters except what music-industry megamasters decide will matter” is dead wrong if applied to Wu-Tang: they maintain creative control by producing and promoting their own music.
My intent is not to argue what music is good, but to urge you to listen before you judge. Hip-hop is very intelligent music; most people who don’t think so have simply not listened well enough. Check out one of my favorite rap artists, KRS-ONE (Knowledge Reigns Supreme Over Nearly Everyone). Dubbing himself “the Teacher,” KRS-ONE’s lyrics contain poetry, philosophy, and history – all the things you find lacking in the music of today’s youth. When divisions between races, generations, and economic classes seem to be growing larger, it’s the place of the educator to bridge gaps, not build walls.