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Hilburn's Defense of Rap--Fans and Foes React : Message Understood

July 08, 1990

Robert Hilburn's June 24 commentary, "Getting a Bad Rap," misses the point. His mistake is he fails to realize or examine the fact that rap scares parents and the mainstream not just by its content but its context.

To say people outside the inner city can't relate to life there because they don't experience it isn't the issue. If rap is representative of inner-city life, then what is shown is a life that is violent, scary, tough and aggressive, even in the positive messages that Hilburn says rap music gives.

By conveying all of this in a confrontational and aggressive posture, rap makes the inner-city life even scarier to the mainstream, and thus gentrifies our society even more.

Instead of feeling a stronger need to improve life there and understand it better, people get scared or put off by it and they build walls to avoid it.

The walls get stronger not because this music is misinterpreted but because it is understood.

Confront an audience, in this case the rest of society, with blatant, sexually or violently charged views of a tough and hardened life, then make the images graphic or explicit, and that audience will not only recoil, it will withdraw.

Right or wrong isn't the point; it's that "getting up in their face" will never gain you allies, only fuel your enemies. Hilburn may be able to see the city through the fire, but his explanation will not keep it from burning.



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