January 11, 2005
More on Greg Tate
I gotta say, as I re-read Tate's piece and all the reaction it's produced (how can you not love blogville at times like this?), I am less convinced the piece is as balanced as O-Dub gives it credit for. O says "I think people are making certain presumptions of Tate based on what he wrote and didn't write," but it appears to me the naysayers are going strictly by what's in the text, while O is giving Greg the benefit of the doubt and presuming we should fill in the blanks a certain way. And while I suspect O is correct in much of his presumption, you can't blame others for going by what's actually on the page.
O says Tate "provides a balanced approach to both celebrating hip-hop's achivements while also being candid about its shortcomings," but where does Tate's text ever celebrate any achievements, at least without turning the compliment backhanded in the second half of the sentence? And O doubts this is a "Hip-Hop Is Dead" piece, but it damn sure reads like a eulogy to me:
"Twenty years from now we'll be able to tell our grandchildren and great-grandchildren how we witnessed cultural genocide: the systematic destruction of a people's folkways."
You can't have a genocide without something dying. If that something is not hip-hop in its totality, certainly the only part of hip-hop that Tate values is dead or dying in his eyes.
And that's the problem with the piece.. even when correct in his observations Tate cannot place them in their proper context, because he doesn't see there's so much more to hip-hop beyond the aspects he addresses.
I can only wish Tate's actual text was as sharp as everything O-Dub extrapolates from it:
The question this comes back to is this: what is the relationship between hip-hop, as a Black cultural form, and the Black community that it emerges from? Does hip-hop speak to the realities of that community? And if it does not, what are the implications of that disconnection?
Great questions, but as I read Tate's text he's not really asking them, so much as giving pat and myopic answers to them. As Oliver himself says, there's a lot more to go by than lack of politics when judging whether hip-hop sucks in 2005. So many other pieces of the puzzle Tate is missing when he answers his own question "what are we celebrating?"
And that's what I think the younger heads are reacting to, it's not that the issues Greg raises are irrelevant to their generation, but that Tate fails to put those issues in their proper context. It's not that he shouldn't be asking these questions, it's his omission of all the other questions you need to ask before you can render the type of verdict he hands down.
So as with much published work these days, Tate is lucky blogville is around to fill in all those missing pieces. But then again maybe we're also lucky Tate is around, to push us towards filling them.
EDIT: Pretty sneaky, O-Dub, not telling us you also had this one in the chamber.