Saturday, May 14, 2011

Is Rap Music REALLY More Violent than the "Stars Spangled Banner?"

News commentator Bill O'Reilly has criticized First Lady Michelle Obama for including among a group of poets invited to the White House, the rap singer, known as "Common."  He has over the years developed a reputation for himself as a "socially conscious" rapper, who according to U.S. News & World Report:
". . . has worked on the children’s show Sesame Street, and has written children’s books meant to encourage appreciation for poetry, spoken word, and reading. He also started the Common Ground Foundation, which works to help young people in poor communities to become “contributing citizens and strong leaders.”
Critics of the First Lady's choice of Common, claimed that he glorified "cop killing," in a hit called "A Song for Assata."  However, the theme of Common's song was quite the opposite of what angry conservatives asserted.  The Chicago-based rap singer was lamenting the fact that Joanne Chesimard (known as Assata Shakur)was framed, that is, falsely accused of killing a New Jersey state trooper.  The lyrics to the song include the verse:  "Assata had been convicted of a murder she couldna done/Medical evidence shown she couldna shot the gun."

The 1977 conviction of Shakur occurred at the height of the CIA's secret COINTELPRO, in which members of the Black Panther Party were, indeed,  framed for crimes committed by agents provocateurs on the federal government's payroll.  But the Assata Shakur case is actually beside the point.

 Violence is a common theme both in opera and country music, not to mention, our beloved national anthem.  The lyrics of "The Stars Spangled Banner" celebrate and promote militarism and warfare.  American rap singer, Larence Krisna Parker, whose stage name is KRS-One makes that point in a recent interview: 



Personally, I love the way rap music pours "truth-telling serum" down our collective gullet.  As for this musical form's  edgy lyrics, America is, after all, a country steeped in violence.  Its founding demanded a genocidal sweeping away of the land's Native American inhabitants, and the use of unspeakable levels of brutality against enslaved West Africans, in order to maintain the highly profitable slave labor system.  Even after the end of slavery, blacks and other minorities suffered the domestic terrorism of the Ku Klux Klan and other white supremacist groups.  Even today, disproportionately large elements of the black population are imprisoned either in ghettoes or U.S. prisons.  In the past ten years, the U.S. has invaded two Middle East countries in search of terrorist mastermind, Osama bin Laden.  It has come at  a cost of three trillion dollars, the loss of 5,000 American lives, and that of 500,000 civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan.   Having learned last week, that the man, had been living all along in an upscale suburb of Islamabad,  the capital city of our closest ally in the region, Pakistan, some Americans are even talking of invading that country as well. 

Maybe more American conservatives need to learn how to dance away their violent impulses, rather than condemn the message of rap music.  At least while they were jiggling and thrusting those hips on the dance floor, they couldn't be plotting new and costlier wars.