The Birth of Cool was the Death of Mankind -- Pt.II My 50 Cents Worth

Perhaps you recall the Frontline program, the Merchants of Cool, which I discussed in this post a reverse fortnight from now. Said documentary ends with an analysis of the media orchestrated rise of Limp Bizkit to (however short-lived) cooldom. The observation was made that only a year previously Rap Rock and Rage Metal had been aggressively counter-culture, founded on the idea of saying fuck-you to society and the establishment and yet, by the time the documentary aired, this anti-establishment anger had already commodified. The situation called to my mind an interview with a nameless hiphop pioneer on Rocksteady Crew's Seven Gems Vol. II (I do love my ghetto doubly dubbed-VHS bboy tapes), in which it is observed that "Hiphop is the manifestation of a repressed black and latino creativity, Rap is the effort by rich white suits to package and sell that creativity."

The Frontline program observed that these musical groups were loud and boorish and utterly lacking in couth and that it was amazing that this type of anti-social behaviour could be made palatable to society itself. It was suggested that it was the very unpalatability of the product that granted it authenticity and 'cool.' Now, pressing ever-forward in its desperate, greedy, all-consuming search for an authenticity that it can never really have, the media-machine presents us with 50 Cents. This young upstart carries his authenticity around wherever he goes in the form of nine gunshot wounds to the face and a three to nine year jail sentence for manipulating sixteen year old girls into running crack for him. What a cool guy!

Taking things ten-steps and then a five-mile jog beyond the social unacceptability of Limp Bizkit, the coolest thing going right now is crime. While America has always had a certain fascination with gangsters, the fact that gangsterism is a bankable characteristic in legitimate corporate america is quite disturbing.

The gangsterization of hip-hop has been building steadily since the initial whitey-shocking of "Fuck the Police" by NWA. Within ghetto communities, this kind of aggressive swaggering is understandable. Poor, young black males have been disenfranchised from main stream society to the extent that fear is the closest thing to respect that they can hope to receive from suburban middle america. It is through the perversity of cool that this unfortunate defensive posturing came to be one of the most valued cultural commodities in the world today.

And even more disturbing is what this is doing to the young, impressionable boys who are so desperate to seem cool. Violence is running rampant in our school system; even in previously safe upper-class neighborhoods. What is bizarre is that this is not the same kind of violence that occurs in desperately poor inner-city schools, a violence which often reflects the students' home-lives and surroundings, it is a bizarre mirror-world violence that reflects the glorification of the desperate acts of the poor and oppressed, acts which are being glorified because they are the only remaining source of authentic, previously unmarketed 'cool.'

In Toronto, we recently witnessed the stabbing death of a teenager who was trying to keep older boys from crashing his little sisters party in an upscale neighborhood. These boys were not driven to violence by poverty, they were not forced to sell drugs on the street in order to survive, they were simply posturing and preening in front of their peers according to the model they had seen on television and things got out of hand. Children are imitating what they see on television, because the concept of 'cool' has led them to believe that they have a more authentic relationship with 50 cent, than they do with their parents who are not cool.

I am not making the ludicrous claim, that this is some sort of direct monkey-see monkey-do, relationship between children and television. What I am saying is that because the media holds cool as the highest good, it is becoming increasingly difficult to reach teenagers and make them understand the importance of genuine values.

I can hear my jaded hipster readers now, intoning sarcastically as they proclaim "Oh wow Von Mustard, another rich, old German guy hating on Hip Hop, that's the fucking News Flash of the Week." I can feel that you feel let down, I can imagine you thinking "Too bad, and he seemed like such a righteous iconoclast too."

Perhaps you see this as another anti-rap rant, a gussied up version of the following formula; "Man I hate hip hop. It should be illegal. People are always listening to hip hop and then turning into criminals."

To that I say simply; there will be no hateration in this particular danceree. I, in fact am a great lover of hip hop. Hip hop is not to blame for this disturbingly deformation of cool, certain, specific hip hop artists and marketers are. To blame hip hop itself for these trends is like blaming public speaking for the rise of Nazism. Do you ever hear anyone proclaim; "Man I hate public speaking! It should be illegal. People are always listening to public speaking and then turning into Nazis."

There is plenty of good hip hop, but cool has usurped quality in music, because, as everyone knows all too well, video killed the radio star. As a result Black Star Power has twisted and inverted into a demented reflection of its previous beauty. In the place of Barry White, Miles Davis and Jimi Hendrix we have 50 cent, Lil' Wayne and the Cash Money Millionaires.

And of course, following closely on the heels of 50 cent is his crunkness himself, Lil' John. It is a sad day on planet earth, when a man who uses the phrase "What?!?!" as some sort of an all-purpose, irrefutable logical syllogism has taken the throne as the hottest shit since the Poughkeepsie manure fire of 1875.

How has a man with a vocabulary of literally three words (What, yeah, ok) becoming the spokesperson of Black America? This is perhaps the saddest part of the new cool. It is an embracing of the primitive and uncivilized. These characteristics had never been commodified because they were previously, and rightfully, held to be negative.

As I mentioned earlier, certain disenfranchised black youths realized that the only power they could obtain in our society was the power to cause fear. Then, this twisted respect took on an aura of coolness and within a decade the marketing machine had packaged and sold it. It was fresh and cool because it was the last authentic expression to be consumed by the media behemoth. It was as-yet unexploited because it was coming from the furthest place beyond the mainstream, the most repressed part of society, the last outpost of outcasts in North America.

Until recently, the personas that these artists have invented would have been considered reprehensible stereotypes of black people. Essentially, Lil John and 50 Cent are Black men in Black face, pimping themselves and their people for the white media empire. What are we to say to those backwards people who still believe all blacks are idiots and criminals when they can support their position by pointing to 50 and Lil John? Thanks to the disturbing power of cool there are black criminals and black idiots on television, 24/7, prancing around and preaching their culture of ignorance and belligerance.


Blogger me said...

sorry...unrelated comment. this was faster than reopening e-mail. click this http://oneeyedsight.blogspot.com/2005/03/net.html.

you've seen it before but the bigger size is cooler, i think.

11:01 p.m.  
Blogger Bottle Rocket Fire Alarm said...

"It is a sad day on planet earth, when a man who uses the phrase "What?!?!" as some sort of an all-purpose, irrefutable logical syllogism has taken the throne as the hottest shit since the Poughkeepsie manure fire of 1875."

That is the best sentence I've read all week. My sweet potato pie almost tumbled from my mandibles as a result of my shuddering mirth.

Thank you sir.

4:32 p.m.  
Blogger Latigo Flint said...

You Sir are a titan!!! Mentally and physically!!!

1:56 a.m.  

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