The New York Times Arts section continues to expend considerable space and quasi erudition on hip hop music. Articles and reviews abound, such as the one yesterday from Kelefa Sanneh, who writes frequently on this music. This time he writes about the hip hopper Nas, whose new album proclaims that “hip hop is dead” and rails against commercialism in the music. Instead of seeing this as standard-issue pop music posturing, Sanneh takes it seriously, citing the angry objections of hip hopper Young Jeezy. Sanneh writes:
sounded not just irritated but wounded too, asking, ‘I’m-a respect
his craft, he ain’t gon’ respect mine?’ Somehow a vague album
title had come to seem like a personal
Imagine that. I hope no one gets killed.
Later Sanneh quotes the scholarly Young Jeezy again: “‘Has Nas did anything he talk about? Has Nas been on the block? Do Nas have street credibility? Is any of his homeys in the feds?’”
Sanneh then goes on to differentiate between hip-hop formalists and hip-hop culturalists. Apparently the formalists really care about the words and structures and the culturalists, like Young Jeezy, think the hip hop “way of life” is the all important thing. Sanneh seems to side with the culturalists:
“There is lots to be said for the culturalist view, which gives rappers license to break formal rules so long as they honor cultural ones, to ignore old history so long as they pay attention to current context.”
Given the depraved, often homicidal culture that hip hop upholds, and considering how not just irritated but wounded Young Jeezy is feeling, I’d advise Nas to watch his back.