Friday, January 28, 2005

Why Rap is a Lamentable Social Phenomenon:

Because what they are rapping about is all too real.

Look, I like The Sopranos; it's a very well made show. And some of the characters on the show are likeable. Yet, they are also portrayed as very morally flawed individuals and were they real persons, would rightly belong in jail.

However, they are not real people; they are actors. But many of the rappers are the real deal. And, relatively few young Italian Americans are lured into the Mafia. The same thing cannot be said of young African Americans and the "Gangsta" subculture.

If the two circumstances were the same -- if The Sopranos glorified a social phenomenon that was seducing and destroying the lives of more than a nominal number of Italian Americans, and if such young Italians took their cues from that show -- I wouldn't support it.

I know a lot of white kids from middle class homes listen to rap as well. And to them, listening to rap music is exactly like watching The Sopranos. That's not what concerns me.

To compare The Sopranos with The Godfather, I do think that The Godfather sends a more dangerous message to society. If we compare and contrast the characters, they are like night and day. The cast of The Godfather are regal and classy, The Sopranos, crude and vulgar. The Sopranos, like Goodfellas, shows these characters "warts and all" and in doing so exposes the true (probably somewhat exaggerated) degeneracy of real life mobsters like John Gotti and Henry Hill.

I remember watching Camille Paglia on C-SPAN where she noted that she, like a lot of other Italian Americans, hated The Sopranos because of the way that it portrayed Italians as low-class ignoramuses and that a lot of middle-class, educated non-Italian whites like to watch that show and look down on its characters. She also noted how she loved The Godfather, with its classy characters.

I'm sorry, but what Mafia families do is not classy and regal; it's criminal and wrong. The Godfather glorified such criminality in ways that Goodfellas and The Sopranos do not. Therefore, the latter are the more socially responsible productions, even if all three are great works of art.

What I don't get about rap is, in their productions, these characters are shown "warts and all" as well. And I think a lot of middle-class fans who listen to rap do look down on the thuggery and don't take it seriously (like watching a violent movie). But insofar as rap influences real lives in certain social circles, such productions do glorify this lamentable lifestyle. One would think that the crudeness and reprehensibility of such rap characters alone would turn people away from the lifestyle.

1 comment:

Steve Westphal said...

You've got a cool blog. Check this out. song download