Music critic all wrong on his, well, criticism

Recently, Daniel D’Addario, a staff writer for Salon’s entertainment section, wrote an article suggesting the appearance on the charts of white musicians “mocking” African-Americans by eschewing, lyrically, the excess that has come to dominate, in some forms, rap music. Now, rap excess is nothing new, and I’d argue vehemently that rap music, or hip-hop, is not and never was solely about fancy cars, flashy clothes, and bottles of champagne. It’s simply a part of what happens when young people are given as exorbitant amount of money, especially, but not limited to those who came from dire economic circumstances. Remember: rock and roll certainly had it’s fair share of party ballads as well.

D’Addario claims that “Mackelmore (in his song “Thrift Shop”) seems to be rebuking the almost entirely black hip hop world for it’s concern with wealth.” It’s with this that I disagree. While – and I’ll never attempt or claim to be an expert with Mackelmore’s life or lyrics – the rapper may be lyrically expostulating what some believe hip hop has come to equate (excess and materialism), it’s far, I believe, from a mocking approach, for if, as he claims, truly wants to be as a part of the hip hop community, as a white man, I doubt that he’d want to further alienate himself from inclusion by ridiculing the people by whom he’d want to be embraced.

Likewise, Lourde’s claim to reject “Cristal, Maybach, Diamonds on your timepiece/ Jet planes, island, tigers on a gold leash” isn’t critical of African-American hip hop musicians, it’s critical of a larger cultural of materialism pervasive across the United States. If D’Addario hasn’t noticed, we’re a community of people that value our possessions more than our time. We’d rather record our lives than live them. We falsely worship the rich. That’s what I perceive as Lourde’s criticism. And it’s not because she’s white. This excess has been mocked and rapped about by musicians like The Roots, Common Talib Kweli, Erykah Badu, all black, for years. It’s cultural criticism, not racial ridicule.

I find that, in some ways, we’re looking for new arguments to discuss race. We’ve come a long way in this country to find ourselves having the interracial relations we have in 2013. And, in my opinion as an almost 32 year old man, I’m fortunate to have grown up in a world where (most) of my friends who are of a different skin tone than I am have been able to enjoy the same advantages and opportunities I have. And there are plenty of problems still with the attempt to achieve racial harmony today, but starting an argument about whether lyrics in top 40 songs are subconsciously racist isn’t the way to start a meaningful dialogue.

This article is simply an attempt at starting a fire where there is none. D’Addario and the supporters he cites in this article should be ashamed.

Tell me, what do you think?

Editor’s note: Matt Osgood is a former hip-hop junkie who is jaded currently by the industry and still clings tight to his Reflection Eternal and Roots CD’s. It’s been a long time since he’s bought and liked a hip hop album.


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4 responses to “Music critic all wrong on his, well, criticism”

  1. Nate says :

    Why must everything be about race? I feel like every time someone writes drivel like D’Adarrio’s we go backwards. I wish we could celebrate artists like Macklemore for his ingenuity and his style. Songs like “Same Love” deserve more credit than they get.

    • matthewmosgood says :

      We’re starting dialogue’s about race, I believe, in a “safe way,” one that caters to more of an expression of sympathy, like, “oh, look how much I care. I think Lourde is racist because she doesn’t like Cristal.”

      It’s just not the way to do it. Cultural criticism isn’t always racially driven. Just something I felt compelled to respond to.

      Congrats on the engagement, Nate. Thanks for reading.

  2. Ryan says :

    Agree. What a song means or the underlying theme is usually only known to the artist themselves and any manifestation of racism is usually the opinions of the critic and a reflection on their beliefs or insecurities about race.

    • matthewmosgood says :

      Good point. Ownership of art is underestimated. Good art succeeds because we make it our own (even when it’s not). Our feelings on a painting, song, etc. rarely match the artists intent. That’s the point, I think.

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