- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 1, 2005

‘Neominstrelsy’

“On April9 a young black working mother came to midtown Manhattan to attend a public forum on hip-hop violence sponsored by the Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network. The event was prompted by a shootout, one month earlier, between rival rap entourages outside Hot 97, one of New York’s leading radio stations.

“When the station’s general manager, Barry Mayo, recited the cliche that parents should control what their children listen to and watch, the young woman rose to her feet: “I have a 12-year-old son, and I fear for him every day. I don’t let him watch the videos, but I can’t do it all by myself. I need help!’ …

“Violence and vulgarity are hardly unique to rap. The mainstream is full of gore and borderline porn. But these tendencies are undiluted in rap, which is why many young African-Americans and Latinos who grew up embracing hip hop as a grassroots, multimedia art form now deplore rap as a cynical “neominstrelsy’ being mass-marketed not just nationally but globally. …

“The industry’s primary audience is not black: Between 70 percent and 80 percent of all rap CDs are sold to whites.”

Martha Bayles, writing on “Heedful Hip Hop,” Thursday in the Wall Street Journal

No excuse

“I happened to watch the coverage of the Holy Father’s death, which included much commentary. Some praised his charisma; others, his love of fellow man. Then there were those who would … lament the fact that the Pope was out of touch with American Catholics. … This was usually followed with the ?wise-up’ argument, which went something like this: “You know, most American Catholics don’t even follow the Church’s teaching on birth control/divorce/premarital sex. We need someone who will move us into the 21st century.’ …

“American Catholics are the most spoiled Catholics on the planet. … The idea of prosperous people sliding into laziness and insolence is not unheard of in history. The real outrage is that it is happening to a people who have received teachings that extol sacrifice, humility, fidelity, and love of the helpless and lowly. The excuse “But Zeus does it, too’ won’t work for us.”

Abigail Palmer, writing on “My Kingdom for the Pill,” Wednesday in the American Spectator Online at www.spectator.org

Southern flavor

“From the early 1900s to the time when rock and roll altered the musical landscape, American popular music was blessed with numerous talented lyricists. … But, for me, at the head of the class in terms of the novel use of words and phrases was Savannah’s favorite son, Johnny Mercer.

“Born in Savannah, Ga., in 1909, Johnny was a member of the prestigious Mercer family; his earliest American ancestor being Hugh Mercer who emigrated from Scotland, settling in Fredericksburg, Va. A statue of Hugh Mercer stands today in Fredericksburg, celebrating his heroics as a famous general in the Revolutionary War. …

“The flavor of the South … saturates the mood of many of his songs. It was said that Mercer “could alternate between cornpone and ultra-sophistication.’ …

“Paul McCartney described Mercer as: “The greatest lyricist on the planet.’ It is estimated that Johnny Mercer wrote over 700 songs and if you pick any one of them, you will discover his special touch in the lyrics.”

Gail Jarvis, writing on “And the Angels Sing,” Wednesday at www.lewrockwell.com

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