Figure 1: Hiphop’s Panacea
The term “non-black hip hop scholar” is almost redundant, because just about anyone I’ve ever met who fits the following criteria:
- Knows the year that virtually any hiphop album/single was released
- Vigorously defends hiphop from those who say it’s all about violence and misogyny
- Has an iPod so chock full of ill-gotten hiphop tracks that you almost develop sympathy for the RIAA
- Loves loves loves loves loves Tribe Called Quest and/or Mos Def and/or Talib Kweli
- Takes pride in knowing about ‘underground’ (a wannabe Afro-urban partial appropriation of the term ‘Indie’) rap artists
But not the hiphop scholar. This fucker will blindly LUNGE at the chance to defend hiphop – even from black people – and tell me exactly how I’m wrong, why I’m wrong, and how I’ve failed to understand hiphop. The irony of this behavior is what gets under my skin, because it takes a lot of nerve for someone who isn’t black to presume that a.) a black person from the inner city (me) could misunderstand hiphop which, at its core, is an expression of black people and the black experience, and b.) that they could ever in a million years understand that expression better than I could.
I could sit here for the next ten years listening to Fado – but no matter how much I studied it and learned about it, it would never occur to me to ‘correct’ the interpretation of this music by someone from Portugal. That would reflect a combination of rudeness, presumption, and flat-out wrongheadedness that was driven from me in my childhood by occasional smackdowns and yellings at delivered skillfully by my parents. I suppose when it comes down to it, hiphop scholars just don’t have any home training, or perhaps they were gifted children and aren’t accustomed to shutting the fuck up when they should.
With all that said, let me state that I don’t actually have a problem with the hiphop scholar studying the ins and outs of the music and the culture that surrounds it. Furthermore, feel free to light a fire under anyone who isn’t black and presumes to make blatantly false claims and misguided interpretations about hiphop. But when you’re around black people…do yourself a favor and keep your fucking mouth shut.