Hiphop has been a net positive. There’s no way I could say that any of our lives would be richer if hiphop never existed. There has been too much brilliant innovation. But also hiphop is folk music, and folk are not always enlightened. I would not venture to say that any kind of folk music is a cause so much as an effect. Your mind doesn’t play tricks on you just because you listen to Ghetto Boys. That’s their confession, their life, their reality.
I take a much broader view of black culture in America. Hiphop may have all the attention of somebody, but somebody ain’t everybody. Jazz, Gospel, R&B, Blues and Hiphop are all creations in this broad culture, and anybody that knows that kind of music (IE can create it) knows that there are many different styles in all that. So I object to the idea that Hiphop owns ‘black culture’. Because most everything I know about hiphop is the hiphop of another time.
As for what is negative and positive in ‘black culture’, I can only presume that one means what are good and bad results of the choices black individuals make, and how do they explain themselves. I’m perfectly willing to admit that I leaned on Marvin Gaye and Al Greene to get the attention of the woman I married, and I love renting convertible sports cars and blasting Bruno Mars. But my intent was there before those songs ever existed. So a lot of people get into a kind of chicken and egg loop here, but I try not to. I’ve heard people say that if it wasn’t for movies and restaurants, they would never know what to do on a date. If it weren’t for Prince, 1 million babies wouldn’t be born. And yet that’s not a machine. You can’t just play Nelly on a hot night and guarantee that women will take off all their clothes. And if you listen to DMX, he’s telling you straight up that you aint strong enough. That’s a self-conscious distance between even the studio gangsta and his audience. Hiphop, especially gangsta is always reminding its audience who is real and who is not. Hiphop is smart enough to recognize it’s not causality. So anybody who takes it that seriously is either fooling themselves or actually stupid.
So of course there are fools and idiots everywhere. And yes we live in a society that has industries that capitalize on the weaknesses of fools and idiots. I’m just not so sure we can actually call that culture. There is not so much one should expect from folk music, folk dress, folk dialect, folk cooking anywhere in the world, especially when it’s in a consumer society aimed at its fools and idiots.
Individuals will always find a need to express themselves. In the English speaking world, most all poetry has gone into remission except for the 4/4 time rhymed couplets of most hiphop. I think if you give American culture and the English language the respect it deserves, it will be easy to find hiphop and poetry capable of expressing virtue, elegance and intelligence. If hiphop never did that, we could all write it off. But it did. For the world, and it probably will again.