Rap and hip-hop make up a multi-billion-dollar industry and represent the most powerful pop-cultural influence in the nation.
The sound can be loud and boorish, but it can also be quite unique and interesting. What’s not debatable is that it has an ugly past and a present that – lyrically – continues to escape much mainstream scrutiny. And, with no discussion or debate, it’s being given a home in the Smithsonian Institution alongside the flag that inspired “The Star-Spangled Banner” and other national artifacts.
The announcement this week of the new exhibit received universally uncritical coverage by mainstream media outlets, such as The New York Times. The Washington Post’s David Segal came closest to straying from the PC line, opening his piece this way:
Just another day for the Smithsonian: The place unveils a new project and some guy at the news conference recalls his days forcing women into prostitution.
"I decided I really wanted to try this pimp thing, so I went into the street and started getting me some 'hos."
The dulcet musings of Ice-T, ladies and gentlemen, gangsta-rap pioneer, "Law & Order" regular and now -- ta da – Smithsonian donor.
Segal also reports that Ice-T donated two copies of his CD "Home Invasion," including the Warner Bros. pressing that was never released. “The label didn't like the album cover, which depicted a home invasion,” Segal writes. More accurately, it is a depiction of racial violence and awful stereotypes: black intruders tear clothes from a white woman and bash in the head of a white man with the butt of a shotgun. THIS is to be proudly displayed in the once-serious Smithsonian, more than 80 percent of which is funded by your federal tax dollars. And none of the dozens of media outlets covering the story could find a discouraging word.
In case the album cover wasn’t clear enough, the lyrics are:
All right! When we go up in this godd-mn house
all I want is the motherf-ckin' kids!
As far as pops I don't give a f-ck what you do...
Bust him in his motherf--kin' head!
If he got any money, take it!
If there is money there, rob the motherf--kin' joint!
As far as moms bust her in her godd-mn head!
You won’t read any of this in the mainstream media coverage. Aside from the Post, you also won’t see a mention of one rap dignitary’s “shout-out to Nation of Islam minister Louis Farrakhan.” No, for the most part the reporters on hand did what was expected of them when they returned to the newsroom – the ran the facts through their PC strainer and produced copy that would not dare hint that any thoughtful person has noticed rap’s violent, racist history.
To get a feel for what’s being papered over, a few examples can be found here. These are not obscure recordings. All are major recording company releases. Many even won Grammy awards. You don’t think that’s deserving of space in the Smithsonian? You think a lack of media skepticism is odd? You can probably find a few lyrics that can tell you what to do with yourself.