Among the dumber ideas I’ve heard lately: Obama will “elevate” the culture (how do you do that, anyway? floatation?) to the point that black people will see through hiphop and its “thuggish violence, misogyny, clownish behavior and crude materialism.” When did we start thinking that politicians we like can get rid of music we don’t? I can sympathize with Stanley Crouch for wanting someone who “will greatly diminish the national appetite for and the defense of those who proudly commit intellectual suicide by submitting to anti-intellectual stances and the surface styles that repel across all ethnic lines,” but “those who proudly commit intellectual suicide by submitting to anti-intellectual stances” sounds more like Bill Kristol than, say, Ta-Nehisi Coates, whose defenses of hiphop have been so good that I have little to add. But Ta-Nehisi didn’t post Blackalicious’s “Alphabet Aerobics,” so I guess I still have something to add.
Stanley Crouch and those who take his opinions on hiphop seriously always say that things like this aren’t the rule, they’re the exception. But that’s always true. Exceptional art is rare. That’s why it’s exceptional. And when you start x-ing out all the exceptions, you really aren’t talking about the art form anymore, you’re just talking about sociological trends. Which isn’t a bad thing in itself, but then don’t pretend that you’re doing aesthetic criticism.