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Hip-Hop News: Is It Time To Leave Hardcore Rap Behind
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Posted by Robert
Rap News Network
12/12/2003 6:42:06 AM

Tags and topics realted to this article include 50 Cent, N.W.A., Eminem, Dr. Dre, Ice-T, Black Eyed Peas and Snoop Dogg.

Rap and hip-hop marked a milestone in dominating last week's Grammy nominations. Some of us hope the scope of that recognition heralds the beginning of the end for its gangsta element.

It's not just Bible-thumping whites who loathe rap. Countless middle-aged African-Americans find its gangsta underpinnings even more abhorrent, promoting destructive stereotypes they fought to overcome in the civil-rights movement.

Certainly hip-hop has evolved into more expressive forms, such as The Black Eyed Peas' touching, Grammy-nominated ballad "Where is the Love?" Its lament over global strife contains a repeated plea for divine intervention: "Father, father, father, help us, we need some guidance from above."

And yet a rising star named 50 Cent, a former drug dealer, has been nominated for Best New Artist. His album features the song "P.I.M.P.," with these lyrics: "In Hollywood, they say there's no business like show business. In the hood, they say there's no business like ho business."

And in Ferncliff Cemetery in Hartsdale, N.Y., Malcolm X is turning in his grave, imploring: "Allah, forgive them. They know not what they do."

Certain musical genres established themselves on sheer originality - blues, jazz and rock 'n' roll -- all of which also sprang from the experience of poor, inner-city and rural African-Americans.

Others enjoyed huge, but fleeting commercial success as expressions of their time -- folk, disco and punk.

The passing-fancy genres still produced seminal works -- Dylan's "Blowing in the Wind" in 1963, The Trammps "Disco Inferno" in 1976 and the Sex Pistols' "Anarchy in the U.K." in 1977.

"Straight Outta Compton" by N.W.A. in 1988 and "Fear of a Black Planet" by Public Enemy in 1990 still stand as rap's most powerful expressions. Both alarmed a white America that thought black militancy had been suppressed two decades earlier.

Rap has enjoyed a long run because it spawned hip-hop artistry -- The Fugees, Lauryn Hill, Destiny's Child and its darling offspring Beyonce.

But gangsta rap's longevity also owes to the recording industry continuing to promote shallow, shock-value mimics of its hardcore pioneers. As funk artist Johnny Guitar Watson sang, "It's all about the dollar bill."

The industry is doing its damnedest to keep rap alive -- and the revenue stream flowing -- by selling it to white suburban boys, now the largest consumers of rap and hip-hop albums.

Where Vanilla Ice got drummed out of the business as a white-wannabe poser in the mid-1990s, the recording industry struck platinum in eloquent trash-talker Eminem.

Eminem could claim a kind of legitimacy -- he's a product of Detroit and protégé of N.W.A. alumnus-turned-producer Dr. Dre,. Now, the record industry has found a new emissary to the white kids -- and especially girls -- former boy-band heartthrob Justin Timberlake.

Timberlake has far more in common with the late Jon Benet Ramsey than rappers like Ice T. That's clear to anyone who's seen the video footage of the former Mouseketeer's talent-show crooning as a 10-year-old preened by his parents for stardom.

His reconstitution as a solo hip-hop artist is the music industry's ticket to sell millions more albums to the former pre-teens who made platinum-record artists of white boy bands that were just bland facsimiles of the black group Boyz II Men.

Timberlake garnered Grammy nods last week for music that's so derivative, it's clear the nominating committee does the industry's bidding. To his credit, he sang accompaniment on The Black Eyed Peas' "Where is the Love." That's how the industry's multi-level marketing schemes work.

Hip-hop and contemporary R&B have overtaken rap in popularity on the strength of fuller instrumentation and singing rather than spoken words. And as hip-hop goes global -- with European, Asian and South American variations on the theme --

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