Thursday, May 11, 2006

Is It Racist For A Music Critic To Not Like Hip-Hop?

John Cook from Slate posted a thought-provoking essay this past Tuesday on Sasha Frere-Jones' and Jessica Hopper's efforts to brand music critic (and Magnetic Fields leader) Stephin Merritt a racist because he proclaims to not like hip-hop:

"Stephin Merritt is an unlikely cracker. The creative force behind the Magnetic Fields, Merritt is diminutive, gay, and painfully intellectual. His music is witty and tender. He plays the ukulele. He named his Chihuahua after Irving Berlin. And yet no less an influential music critic than The New Yorker's Sasha Frere-Jones has used that word—"cracker"—to describe him. Frere-Jones has also called him "Stephin 'Southern Strategy' Merritt," presumably in reference to Richard Nixon's race-baiting attempt to crush the Democratic Party. These are heady words, part of a two-year online campaign of sorts by Frere-Jones (also a former Slate music critic) and the Chicago Reader music contributor Jessica Hopper to brand Merritt a racist. The charge: He doesn't like hip-hop, and on those occasions when he's publicly discussed his personal music tastes, he has criticized black artists."...

I think it's worth reading/discussing for two reasons:

1) It raises several valid points about critics and criticism in the arts in this current climate of political correctness.

and 2) I love seeing music critics get all huffy, as if their jobs were more meaningful than they really are.

Knuckleheads. It reminds me of standing in line a few years ago to pick up my credential at a CMJ, and watching two whiter-than-white critics in line in front of me discussing some recent hip-hop records, each trying to out-bluff the other over how deep their knowledge of urban music was. They both cancelled each-other out when they started discussing the (then) new artist Nas, whom they both pronounced as NAZZ, much to the delight of the three guys from Vibe in line behind me.

Run-DMC "It's Like That" mp3 buy

Magnetic Fields "I Don't Believe You" mp3 buy

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