Tuesday, June 13, 2006

It's just one of those white things

It’s not that I haven’t noticed that rap and hip hop have become a part of white culture, but I never quite realized how thoroughly white America had adopted these as their own until yesterday in Washington Square Park.  There a group of 30 or 40 Christian Teens from Dallas who billed themselves as Broken Ground gave a free performance to sell New York on Jesus.  The show was actually pretty good, they had a lot of spirit and did some fun dance numbers in the style of the musical Stomp, using trash cans and folding chairs as rhythm instruments and the like.

The music was a mix of rap, soul and gospel, the dancing was pretty much all hip hop or the Stomp-like numbers.  And even though the group was 95% white, seemingly composed primarily of slightly chunky blonde teenage girls (who ran up to audience members after the show eager to chat), the entire entertainment was drawn directly from black culture.  And when it gets to that point, it means you’ve got a generation who no longer thinks of rap and hip hop as a product of black culture, they are just THE culture.

I realize this is what people who witnessed the beginnings of rock and roll eventually saw.  First it was black music.  Then a few white singers chimed in.  Then it became so much a part of white mainstream culture that it was hard to remember a time when rock was considered truly edgy and dangerous.

I’ve started wondering when black people are going to ditch rap.  I mean, rock went from being 100% black to perhaps 95% white in maybe 20 years or less.  Perhaps it’s time for black people to invent something new for white people to appropriate.  Maybe it’s already happening; I’m not that hip, so I won’t know about the big new musical style until years after it hits the streets.

Of course, black musicians never deserted jazz, and white people never totally appropriated soul, so nothing can be said for certain.  But it is fascinating to watch this happen, to see that in one form or another this always happens and to realize that Africa, without intending it, has had such an incalculable effect on the world’s culture that it is more influential on how the world was shaped than all those Christians flooding the planet in a determined effort to remake the whole world in their image.

1 comment:

  1. Really interesting. I never considered the possibility of blacks "giving" rap to the whites and inventing something else.

    Perhaps the biggest difference between rap and rock is that white people have not had the same sucess in the hip hop world that they did when they entered rock.