hip hop music

May 6, 2003

Race Theory According to Anticon

Although their music does not suit my personal taste, I've always respected Anticon's efforts to innovate and pursue their own musical vision. I sometimes have less respect for how they represent themselves outside of the studio, where they (and some of their fans) have been prone to gut-wrenching spasms of arrogance and elitism. Sometimes they seem to show a profound lack of respect for the musical form they are largely drawing from, and the people who created it.

I could write at great length about this, and perhaps I should, since the topic strikes a nerve for both fans and detractors. But for now here's a recent Anticon article I just came by, in what seems to be a student newspaper from Scotland. It's an interview with the member known as "Why?", and there are several passages I found rather troublesome. I'm especially disturbed by his attempt to discount the relevance of race in 21st century America, in the second excerpt.

Anticonservative Sounds

Revolutionising the outmoded concept of hip-hop, Anticon are taking on the world with their unique brand of 'independent-as-f**k' beats and rhymes.

"I THINK as much about hip hop these days as I do about Shania Twain, Clint Black and Limp Dickstick..." From the outset, Yoni Wolf, a.k.a. Why? of Anticon, the West Coast-based music label, makes no bones about his feelings towards a homogenised, corporate-led music culture. "I think it has become an irrelevant teeny-bopper/ wanna-have-all-the-decadent-shit-rich-people-have-even-though-I-can't-afford-to-eat phenomenon... The phrase 'hip-hop' doesn't mean anything worth meaning anymore if it ever even did..."

...Anticon releases music which could loosely be tagged as underground white West Coast American hip-hop but, as Yoni suggests, the act of description is often one which delimits musical potential. Anticon have received a bad rap, if you'll pardon the pun, from much of the hip-hop community for producing music not perceived as being true hip-hop. "I think as time goes on we grow increasingly more accepted by the music/art community and increasingly distinct from other movements at the same time," he says. "The more confident we become in our own individual artistic skins, the less pretentious we seem, and the more people are willing to accept what we do. As far as being white and male goes, I don't think it's a negative or a positive. Although we have all had very different upbringings in all different parts of the country, we do all have the white male rap kid thing in common. As time goes on though, I tend to think less and less in terms of race and more in terms of culture and class. So let's not say 'white' and 'black', 'cause I think those words are too abstract and the lines are too blurred I think more of the separation and fear between people in this country can be attributed to class and culture than to the colour of people's skin. It just so happens that because of a shitload of blemishes in this country's development and current state, a whole lot of people of African, Asian, Latin American, and Native American descent are quite poor; and in turn a number of people of European descent have a great deal of wealth and power. There are also a great deal of poor people of European descent in this nation. I think there is just as much disconnection between poor whites and privileged whites as there is between privileged whites and poor blacks, or wealthy blacks and poor blacks, and so on. Those who have the power and wealth want to keep the power and wealth and only share it with others who are powerful and wealthy. So eight lower middle class kids of European and Middle Eastern descent happened upon each other's music and felt related? Is that a bad thing? I don't think so..."

Posted by jsmooth995 at May 6, 2003 8:13 PM

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