A friend of mine recently told me he never really liked Tupac Shakur that much because his music didn't speak to him. He explained that as the child of two parents who lived together and raised him in a Christian, middle-class home, Shakur's stories of anger and angst didn't really reflect his life experiences.
At the time, I was confused. I grew up in the same sort of household, and I loved Pac. I still love Pac. Every time I listen to Pac I get hype and mourn his death. My friend also doesn't like Biggie, and I have the same sort of appreciation for Biggie. I can remember listening to Biggie's "Gimme the Loot" and thinking, "Robbing somebody sound kind of fun..."
Which is why I found this story interesting.
The story discusses the rise of Odd Future, a rap group composed of teenaged black males, that has garnered some serious love among white music critics. The article explores how strange it is to see black youth rapping about some of the most gruesome crimes imaginable lauded and championed by the very white folks who would seem to be most offended. Check it out if you get a chance.
But, I don't really want to discuss the merits of Odd Future, or whether they deserve their fanbase. Instead, there was a single quote in the article that caught my eye:
It's this overarching sense of youthful whimsy, this idea that they don't mean most of what they say, that keeps Odd Future in white fans' good graces. Because history has shown that white critics have a very low tolerance for actual, tangible black rage.Those two sentences packed a powerful punch.
I remember reading about how white folks, mostly liberals, trekked down to "nigger towns" all across this country when segregation was the norm so they could get a taste of the authentic black nightlife. So they could hear the best music, could eat the best food, and generally feel like they were more advanced than their Negro fearing friends.
Only, it was sham. The fear was still there. These same folks didn't want Negroes in their spaces acting like fully formed human beings. They didn't want black folks upsetting their status quo in any way. They just wanted them to stay in their little areas and be ready to perform when it was time to entertain.
I'm not saying that "conservatives" and their value systems that got abandoned as soon as some black vagina was available weren't a problem, but it was the liberals who truly deceived black folks. Black folks knew that racists only wanted to use and abuse them, but liberals liked to dress up as friends when really they were only enemies in disguise. That's more dangerous to the unsuspecting.
Odd Future appears to fill a familiar space in white folks lives. They allow critics to embrace the aspects of black life they find truly scary with the maximum amount of safety. Even more, the connection is controlled completely by listeners, who can engage or not engage as they see fit, which isn't an option in the real world.
In the real world, black people make demands on you. They force you to pay attention and do things that are uncomfortable. You can't hit pause to slow things down, or press fast forward to get to the good song when real life black people are involved. And, if you're not careful, you can get seriously hurt.
That ruins the fantasy.