So many books to read, so little time.

Posts Tagged ‘Robert Christgau

Rap Criticism and the Figure of the Hater

with 2 comments

Adam Elkus

One cliche of music criticism, especially by old-school rock critics, is the idea of hip hop as simply a bottomless pit of hollow bling-ish materialism. I was reminded of this by reading some archived Robert Christgau reviews for Rolling Stone and the Village Voice. The “Dean of Rock Critics” is particularly set on this view, using it to advance his general argument about the decline of rock music (something I’m not going to quibble with).

Defenders of hip hop make the fallacious argument that an opposition exists between soulless material rap and “conscious” political hip hop that contains the seeds of revolution. This argument is wishful thinking for left-leaning music critics.  Most rappers are materialist and those that are political are either wishy-washy “We are the World” types recording advertisements for Gap Third World debt relief campaigns or raving conspiracy theorists rapping about CIA crack sales, 9/11 Loose Change, the Illuminati, and UFOs.

Rather, rap’s true conflict takes place within the zone of the material. On one side, the groupie-having, Cristal-spilling, Bentley with spinners driving player. On the other, the “stone cold player hater” who is forever trying to stop the player’s “shine.” The conflict between the player and the hater is a historically under-examined aspect of rap music criticism.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Adam Elkus

October 16, 2008 at 12:53 am