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Yankee Imperialism in Hip Hop? Jay Smooth Equates Waka Flocka With the Tea Party

Waka Flocka Flame - For My Dawgs

[Update: Please see the comments for Jay Smooth's well-reasoned response.  Maybe he's not so bad after all!  lol]

Recently I've been reaching out to a few folks from my days as a more serious hip hop blogger including some left/lib types that I was unduly insulting towards because I disagreed with their political choices. One of them is Jay Smooth who I mostly think of as a smart, funny guy who means well and sometimes does some really cool things.

Unfortunately, his piece for NPR, Waka Flocka Flame: The Leader Of Hip-Hop's Tea Party Movement, exhibits the kind of perverse logic that used to cause me to go off on him on a periodic basis:

"So for those who still struggle to make sense of Waka Flocka Flame, think of him as the leader of hip-hop's Tea Party movement. The other Tea Party has built up a passionate following by appealing to people's desire to rebel against the Washington elite, and to vent its frustration with the establishment by aligning themselves with outsiders who hold up their lack of Washington's traditional qualifications as the most attractive asset you could have."

"A movement fueled only by catharsis can be hard to sustain in the long-term, and you might well question whether Waka Flocka Flame or the Tea Party will still be viable around 2012. But for the moment it shouldn't be hard to understand the allure of the untutored outsider that's made Waka Flocka Flame such a big hit. Those Americans who can't align themselves with the Tea Party might even want to try Waka Flocka Flame, as an alternative way to shout their stresses away."

Come on, Jay. What the f*ck?!?  That is some deeply offensive nonsense.

We saw the Tea Party emerge as a cover for anger that a black man became President. That was the real catalyst and we all saw that. They have other issues but the trigger was Barack Obama and a nation that embraced him rather than embracing some right wing ahole.

But what's the real problem here for folks like Jay Smooth? Is it that nobody gives a f*ck anymore about so-called "East Coast lyricism", a tired, outdated aesthetic that is historically implicated in the oppression of every other form of hip hop that has come along? An aesthetic that is embraced by the left because some of the artists say ideologically correct things in the right style to the right beat.

Well, build me a Temple of Hip Hop and I'll build you a cult!

At the end of the day, Jay's take is another variation on Yankee imperialism and I don't care if you say nice things about earlier artists like T.I. and Ludacris, though I can't see how Luda's nursery school rhymes "show that a Southern rapper can have all the complexity and sophistication of their New York counterparts." Nice bone but this dog ain't biting.

Southern artists aren't outsiders. Waka Flocka charts. He just don't need you.

And not being needed is the one thing New York will never understand.

F*ck being Mr. Get Along With Whoever. I, too, will continue to go hard in the paint.

Comments

Because of time restrictions, and moreso the restrictions of speaking on NPR's air, I wasn't able to flesh this piece out anywhere near the way I wanted-as I said when I tweeted the link out. But that being said, you're still way off here. :)

"We saw the Tea Party emerge as a cover for anger that a black man became President. That was the real catalyst and we all saw that. They have other issues but the trigger was Barack Obama and a nation that embraced him rather than embracing some right wing ahole."

Since you are misreading my piece as an attack on the South, and you deride me as a "left/lib type," it's ironic that part of our disagreement stems from you having a narrower negative view of the Tea Party than I do.

Certainly race-based reaction to Obama is a factor in it and a strain running through it, but that's far from all there is to it. IMO it's a far more complex phenomenon than you give it credit for. I'm sure you follow Sarah Palin and her ilk enough to know how they've constantly played to their audience by mocking the Northeast's elite liberals and intellectuals, and presented themselves as the plain-spoken regular-Joe alternative for fellow "real Americans," and worn their failure to meet that elite's intellectual standards as a badge of honor and confirmation of their realness.

"But what's the real problem here for folks like Jay Smooth?"

I never said, anywhere in this piece, that I have a problem. I don't. I like Waka Flocka's album.

I merely laid out how Waka Flocka, *by his own account*, has consistently proclaimed his commitment to the extreme lyrical simplicity I described in the piece. How he has said straight-up "I don't have lyrics" and rejected so-called East Coast Lyricism and those who seek to enforce it on him.

And that rebellion, against what many view as an outdated orthodoxy of intellectual snobbery, has resonated with a lot of fans. For the very reason YOU just captured perfectly! You, right here, just decried it as "implicated in the oppression of every other form of hip hop that has come along.." Right there you just summed it up yourself, so I don't know why you're acting like you don't know what I'm talking about.

There has for many years been (as your own words just indicated) a segment of hip-hop's industry and critical establishment that treated this East Coast lyricism standard, or variations of it, as the sole true measure of legitimacy. And treated all those who don't measure up to it as outsiders. And those who received that treatment have often vocally rejected it and rebelled against it, scoffing at the idea that they need to live up to some NY purist's high falutin standards.

And I'd think you understand that whether someone charts doesn't always say much about whether they're considered outsiders by the segments of the music industry and critical establishment we're talking about here.

Or whether they view themselves, with pride, as outsiders from that establishment! I mean, what part of "f*ck this industry, bitch I'm in the streets" did you not understand?? :)

"He just don't need you. And not being needed is the one thing New York will never understand."

As for "he just don't need you," where did I say otherwise? My piece clearly described him as doing quite well without the approval of that mythical "you," and having no interest in gaining the approval of that "you."

But I have to ask who is this "you" that you speak of, anyway? You seem to be conflating me as an individual with the entirety of New York, as if everyone in the region is glommed together into a Borg Collective that shares a single snobbish brain?

I do appreciate you illustrating exactly the sort of anti-NY resentment I was describing in the piece. But New York, believe it or not, is in fact a very diverse city not only in culture and race but in opinion as well. I guess you assumed when I spoke of NY purists who loathe Flocka I was really describing my own reaction. But I wasn't. Just because I describe it as willfully simple doesn't mean I'm looking down on it, there are many simple raps that I like, including some of Flocka's.

(Just to be clear I don't share your apparent loathing for "east coast lyricism" either, and as I laid out in my previous video about Flocka there's loads of evidence against the notion that this traditional style is tired or outdated. There's plenty of room for both! I'm not with the blanket hate for either one.)

In general you seem to have projected sentiments onto me that I did not actually express in the piece, and that I do not hold. My piece was devoted to describing the very culture war that much of your own post exemplified, and how Waka Flocka has taken a leading role in it. But I'm not on either side in that war. Hello, I'm the guy who defended Soulja Boy all over the internet for years on end.

But I will note again that the piece didn't come out exactly as I'd wanted, and I would've hoped to leave less room for misinterpretation on my intent.

(And if you can't recognize that Luda is nice on the mic, I fear this whole exchange may be a lost cause. Egads!)

I appreciate your clarification and your extended nuanced discussion.

Maybe someday NPR's coverage of hip hop will be able to reach the level of your work in this comment.

"I do appreciate you illustrating exactly the sort of anti-NY resentment I was describing in the piece."

I've been writing about this for years. My responses, however dramatically staged, are based on the documented history of hip hop and my own experiences with New Yorkers in hip hop blogging over an 8 year period. Glad to help in any way I can!

Good points about your support of Soulja Boy and your evaluation of Ludacris. That's great!

Sorry the rich diversity of NY hip hop has been buried so deeply by NY hip hop media and the rabid web activity of Golden Age cultists. But even that is a rich little scene, I have to admit.

But the points you're making here were lost because you decided to tie together two volatile issues in what became a cheap, poorly supported comparison under the heavy hands of NPR. It makes you look like someone making a dramatic but ultimately unsupported gesture like those misleading headlines on Business Insider.

Sorry you got screwed.

And thanks again for dropping in, Jay!

Note: Jay Smooth drives me nuts sometimes but he's also a role model for good behavior in hard exchanges.

So, yeah, he's still schooling me!

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