Why Do My Friends Still Give Hip Hop a Bad Rap?

Ice Cube provides more excitement than a Tuvan Throat Singer. Photo Courtesy: Stuart Sevastos
Ice Cube provides more excitement than a Tuvan Throat Singer. Photo Courtesy: Stuart Sevastos

By Peter Gerstenzang

Sometimes, a friend can really surprise you, in a bad way, meaning, they take you aside at a party and tell you, say, they were born with a tail. You still love them, but you can never look at them in quite the same way. Unless the tail is really nice.

I’ve been surprised like this before over something nearly as shocking as a friend resembling a rhesus monkey. It’s when he decides to tell you he hates Rap even though it’s been 30-plus years since this music arrived. It’s so dumb partly because it’s too late. Rap’s been here too long. You wonder what they’re gonna say next, that they hate The Twist? Or President Roosevelt’s New Deal?

As The Okinawans say, ‘What’s up with that?’

It began years ago. I was talking with a pal about how I loved Ice Cube’s “It Was A Good Day.” that it was clever, detailed and really dirty which I should’ve mentioned first considering my mind has often been mistaken for a septic tank. I played the tune for this friend, Dave. He listened, frowned and said, “I really prefer more melody. That guy’s just talking.” This cracked me up. Dave’s favorite vocalist is Lou Reed who has all the melodic excitement of a Tuvan Throat Singer. Dave’s second favorite singer is Bob Dylan. I thought, ‘Aren’t these guys rappers?’

So I quoted a question made famous by the people of Pago Pago:

‘What the fuck?’

You’d think by now, people would be used to Rap. It’s been around longer than The Net, every Rocky sequel and four of Dick Cheney’s heart transplants. But Rock and Rollers won’t budge. And it’s not about racism. I get the same reaction from black friends as white. It’s sort of a stuffy, Thurston Howell III reaction, that rappers are just guys who yell onstage and at their after-parties misbehave like gangsters. Unlike, rockers, of course who sing like Caruso and after the show, go back to the hotel, recite The Lord’s Prayer and hop right into bed.

I’ve done everything possible to remind my friends that since 1980, Rap has been our Rock. I mention “The Breaks,” “Gin And Juice,” “OPP,” “Lose Yourself,” “99 Problems,” “Get Ur Freak On.” I name check Queen Latifah, Eminem, Rakim and even if he acts with all the modesty of Godzilla on ecstasy, Kanye West is worth a hundred Dave Mathews. Remember, I ask, when Rock and Roll was music that made you dance? That’s Rap. Nobody gets a party started by putting on Rush and if they do, they need to add Abilify because their medication isn’t working anymore.

So do me a favor, dear readers. When it comes to Rap, get religious and think about Mother Theresa who once said, ‘All we can do is try.’ Keep trying to like this music, okay? There’s so much excitement and eloquence there. And, forgive me but you don’t want to let Mother Theresa down now do you?

“For Trayvon”