Questlove/Vulture

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I have wondered about this for years, and worried about it for just as many years. It’s kept me up at night or kept me distracted during the day. And after looking far and wide, I keep coming back to the same answer, which is this: The reason is simple. The reason is plain. Once hip-hop culture is ubiquitous, it is also invisible. Once it’s everywhere, it is nowhere. What once offered resistance to mainstream culture (it was part of the larger tapestry, spooky-action style, but it pulled at the fabric) is now an integral part of the sullen dominant. Not to mention the obvious backlash conspiracy paranoia: Once all of black music is associated with hip-hop, then Those Who Wish to Squelch need only squelch one genre to effectively silence an entire cultural movement.

– Questlove (Part 1 of 6) How Hip Hop Failed Black America 1 of 6 < read entire article

It doesn’t take much scrutiny to see that this is an especially benign form of consumerism. For starters, it’s not about the shoes themselves, in the main. It’s about the group’s experiences on the way to stardom: the audiences that came to see them, the shows they headlined. And fairly quickly, it’s not about them at all — it’s about Live Aid, a benefit concert focused on making sure that “the poor got paid.” In last week’s column, Albert Einstein and I talked about spooky action at a distance, which I reimagined as a version of the social contract: what happens elsewhere also happens to you, and it’s hard to divorce yourself from other people’s circumstances, no matter how much you try. This is that same principle, an illustration of connection. It’s sole music: the shoes convey you to the spot where you can see the haves working on behalf of the have-nots.

– Questlove (Part 2 of 6) How Hip Hop Failed Black America 2 of 6 < read entire article

The idea of withholding attention is central to most human interaction, of course: The person with less interest in any relationship has the upper hand. But go wider. In talking about cool here, we’re not just talking about a man and a woman on a subway. We’re talking about a black culture and a white culture, a subculture within a mainstream culture. Any of the figures of black cool we mentioned above (Miles, Hendrix, etc.) simultaneously drew the gaze of white cultural observers and thwarted that gaze. They acted in ways that weren’t entirely predictable to white audiences, weren’t entirely safe or regulated, and that prolonged and deepened the attachment.

– Questlove (Part 3 of 6) How Hip Hop Failed Black America 3 of 6 < read entire article

Hip-hop happened, largely, in reaction to disco. A half-decade earlier, punk had declared classic rock a bloated corpse and then killed it. Hip-hop was in a similar position with regard to disco. Disco had taken over black music by taking out most of its competitors with supreme confidence and efficiency, like a contract killer. After disco shattered, black music passed through various stages that incorporated elements of funk along with new synthesizer technology: boogie music and other post-disco sounds that followed milestones like Quincy Jones’s work on Michael Jackson’s Off The Wall, including the work that Leon Sylvers did at Solar Records and Leroy Burgess’s Universal Robot Band.

– Questlove (Part 4 of 6) How Hip Hop Failed Black America 4 of 6 < read entire article

Here’s what happens: One of the ways that astronomers prove that the universe is expanding is looking at distant light. If it’s moving toward us, wavelengths get shorter and it shifts toward the blue end of the spectrum. If it’s moving away from us, wavelengths get longer and go toward the red end of the spectrum. In DJ/sonic terms, it’s similar to what happens with a siren: When it’s headed our way, the pitch is a little higher because sound waves are bunched up. As it moves away, they spread out and that pitch drops. Well, hip-hop culture has redshifted. The pitch has dropped. Innovation may exist, but it’s not the dominant characteristic anymore. It’s moving away.

– Questlove (Part 5 of 6) How Hip Hop Failed Black America 5 of 6 < read entire article

Resistance here doesn’t mean revolution. It doesn’t mean storming the barricades. Resistance means using art for the things that it does best, which is to create human portraits and communicate ideas and forge a climate where people of different races or classes are known to you because they make themselves known. In the simplest terms, art humanizes. It opens the circuit of empathy. And once that process happens, it’s that much harder to think of people as part of a policy or a statistic. Art reverses the alienation that can creep into society. After Johnson, after DuBois, the Harlem Renaissance itself stalled, largely as a result of the Great Depression, and many of the economic gains made by African-Americans were lost, but cultural influence persisted. You could make an argument that it was as important as anything for speeding along the very real political and social gains of the ’50s and ’60s.

– Questlove (Part 6 of 6) How Hip Hop Failed Black America 6 of 6 < read entire article

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