[Marxism] RE: Ali G

David Quarter davidquarter at sympatico.ca
Tue Jul 20 21:37:42 MDT 2004

 Agree with much of what Calvin wrote. I would however add a few points  which are 
coloured by my experiences growing up around hip hop culture as 
well as being someone of mixed (black/white) heritage:

 First, LONG before the Ali Gs and Eminems of the 
world came into the picture, hip hop had been transformed *from*  
a form of black urban 'ghetto' expression (
started by black and  Puerto Rican youth in
the Bronx New York)
*into* a mainstream music  industry 
controlled by corporate America targeting primarily 
surburban white, middle class teens. I call this transformation the 
destruction of old school hip hop. 
The exact date that this process started is impossible to pinpoint, 
although I imagine the growth in popularity of
of west coast "gangsta" rap in the mid 90s (started by the NWA fad)
 and the introduction 
of Puff Daddy and the Bad Boy label did much to  propell it. Here's 
where you start seeing what I call New School rap, i.e., rap without 
a real message, which has really been a collasal break from hip 
hop of the old school, and which contains LOTS OF SEXISM. 
This is not to suggest that hip hop of the past contained no sexism.
Sexism has been around in 
hip hop culture for as long as rap has existed (which is a reflection 
of the conditions of black women in 
the urban USA past and present) 
Yet with the new school generation of rappers you get MUCH MORE 
denigrating images of black women being presented.
 You also find many more rapppers who don't actually present a 
message apart from talking about how much money they got, how 
many hoes they've pimped, guns they pack, "niggas" they've shot, 
time they've done in the pen, etc. 

What were once referred to as "conscious rappers" (as seen with 
groups like Public enemy, 
and black female rappers like Mc Lyte), i.e., rappers 
who challenged stereotypical images of black men and
women, have all but vanished now (I know of none to-day, although 
I must admit that I've become quite detached from hip hop culture 
since about 1997). 

In contrast to the new school phase of hip hop, I see the Old 
school as having represented a modern phase of 
rebeliousness of black urban youth. It was, as a form a Urban black 
culture,a product of the surbodinate condition of 
black youth in America, of the crystillization of hundreds of years 
of exploitation of black people by white America. The message 
being presented of black people in rap music was meant to counteract the stereotypical images of
blacks in  hollywood, the media, and the rest of mainstream 
('white') society. Consequently,  there is none of that harmonious 
upbeat message
and rythyms obvious in 'black' music produced in 
the 30s, 40s 50s, perhaps aside from the Blues). 

 In that sence,  Rap music of the old genereation was a form of rebellion against the notion of 
harmonious America, but it was also also offering a 
alternative/solution that contained a revolutionary message of empowerment 
and progress for black people  (i.e., black power). In that sense, it 
is I feel a misnomer to label  the process of mainstreaming hip hop 
music "the denigration of urban black culture". Rap music WAS 
meant ( at least, in its initial phase) to describe/critique  the (ONGOING) 
**denigeration of black people** by white America, yet while silmutaneously 
advocating change. It wasn't TRYING TO  glorify these conditions, 
as you see nowaday with hip hop, as what 
is really to glorify about growing up dirt poor, surrounded by drugs and 
gangs and having a better chance of getting your life cut short than 
in many war zones?  

Old school rap was **every bit as much** a 
remedy to the conditions facing black people in the U.S 
as it was a description of their plight. In contrast,
 the direction that hip hop culture has taken since the mid 
90s (as represented with the people like Puff Daddy, Eminem and the Ali G show) has seen much of this 
revolutionary fervour evoporate. 


From:           	"Calvin Broadbent" <calvinbroadbent at hotmail.com>

> Hi,
> Despite his occasional witticisms and ego-puncturing questions (cf. his 
> interview with ulster unionist bigot Sammy Wilson), Ali G is in fact an 
> appalling stereotype. His portrayed stupidity, sexism, and vain attempt to 
> 'be black' contributes to and propagates the mainstream denegration of urban 
> black culture (hip hop), as if the record labels, the government, and the 
> media were not doing that well enough already. Many of the reasons for his 
> success are related to those which generated the similar popularity of the 
> so-called 'wigger' controversy, stupidly hyped by the likes of the Oprah 
> Winfrey, show ten years or so ago. I do not suggest that hip hop music or 
> culture is necessarily a brilliant vehicle to propound serious or 
> well-developed insights into or commentary upon our contemporary world, but 
> the reality is that the cultural and political significance of hip hop (I am 
> thinking really of the music) is yet to be properly appreciated outside the 
> initiated. Whilst Chuck D of Public Enemy once desribed hip hop as 'black 
> people's CNN', the likes of Ali G ensure that it is perceived as, and is 
> more commercially viable as, 'black people's and white middle class people's 
> Fox Network'. Or perhaps black people's Daily Sport. Furthermore, the 
> character Borat (from supposedly backward and remote Kazakhstan) is just 
> racist. Ali G reminds me of a New Labour era Jim Davidson (whose similarly 
> hilarious character 'Chalkie' in the 1970s makes me want to puke just 
> thinking about it).
> cheers.

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