Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Anonymous asked: Can Hip-Hop be punk rock?

Yes.* See recent answers about POS, Death Grips and whatnot.

*Of course problem with saying that hip-hop artists are punk rock is that you risk falling into that thing of PUBLIC ENEMY ARE THE BLACK CLASH where you frame all other subcultures and even forms of artistic and political rebellion in terms of that particular rockist narrative rather than, yes occasionally drawing valid comparisons between two groups of artists and there intents, methods etc, but never using one as a lazy way to place the other in the first’s shadow. Punk rock’s philosophical success is also one of its problems. It has become shorthand for any sort of rebellion, pretty much seen as a something zenith of popular revolutionary poise, probably because it did take a hugely popular form of 20th century music in rock and roll (and thanks to rock and roll’s own post-war rockist-built position as a synonym for youngsters tearing shit up) and pushed it as confrontational, simple (and thus open to almost anyone in terms of artistic access) and sometimes political as it got while still retaining enough melody and pop sparks (in its most widely-acknowledged heyday) to be something pretty damn big at the time. So every single blooming youth movement or culture since ‘76 or so, rather than before when they overthrew the previous trend, is written of in terms of punk rock (plus previous artistic and cultural movements are retroactively reassessed in terms of it), which sucks because often they’re doing something which is totally their own thing, or just has a tiny tangential connection to punk rock, but is described in punk terms because PUNK ROCK is such a potent shorthand for young and pissed-off and hating on the olds. So yeah hip-hop is punk rock, but you know, it’s so much more than that.

And not just music is written of in this way, everything is framed in terms of this, because, as noted, punk rock has been incredibly successful in the way it’s so commonly associated with rebellion, and a whole lot of people get into for reasons related to that, and not just in the inane nihilism of a streetpunk band screaming about FUCKING SHIT UP, but in building awesome progressive social movements and scenes, doing great activism work, all built-off, centred around, in tandem with  or at least somewhere in the physical or philosophical vicinity of a bunch of punk scenes. So, again, people who work towards a better world and generally fight the fucking power are PUNK ROCK, but punk rock has all those attendant parts of anger and noise and silliness in addition to that progressive aim, so when you have someone who has worked tirelessly to dismantle the fucked-up power structures that govern our lives is punk rock, just calling them punk rock often feels too frivolous and small for people doing something so obviously hugely important.

"Is Audre Lorde punk rock?"
"YEAH!"
"What, you mean she’s like a Tom and Boot Boys song entitled Who’s Gonna Fuck Cockroaches?"
"No wait, I mean, oh, I, fuck… wait…"

Also, importantly, punk rock is fairly strongly associated in many places, rightly or wrongly, with whiteness (while it’s true punk scenes in the UK/North America are usually predominantly white, the notion of punk rock as a solely white phenomenon is wrong, both in fact and in application, I have never been to a punk show with literally no people of colour, there have been amazing and important punk bands throughout punk’s history composed either partly or wholly of punks of colour and sure as sin there are now, plus this assertion rests on that incredibly myopic middle-aged dad-mag assumption that punk rock is an Anglo-American phenomenon whereas it’s actual a truly global sound and philosophy and there are thriving vibrant punk scenes all over East Asia, South America, Africa and plenty of other places where people don’t look like a damn thing like Billy fucking Idol and in dismissing punk rock as purely white music, even if it’s in an attempt to recognise the privileges and failings within a bunch of punk rock, it usually ends up, accidentally or not, erasing the experience of punks of colour and denying their self-determination, (Golnar Nikpour has a fantastic piece which excoriates this particular tendency) but you have to be aware of the way that punk is presented generally and the way it is in a bunch of places pretty damn white) and to primarily frame cultural movements that are clearly not associated with that, that explicitly reject that often, in terms of one that is, that ain’t great.

And yes, what this blog does ALL THE SHITASS TIME is frame shit that ain’t punk rock in terms of punk rock, and I hope that it’s obvious that I’m doing that with a full and fresh knowledge of its powers, of the sharp shining place it has in my heart and in the hearts of tens of thousands worldwide and the drive, the push and love it gives them, but also with an acknowledgement of the flaws inherent in its twists and yelps, and as such using it both as the highest compliment my stupid fucking brain knows how to give, where it sums up, or at least gives a nod towards, all the hope and struggle of a youthful art (not THE youthful art), the first moments of self-determination, of belonging, of coming up on the fact that A) THE WORLD FUCKING SUCKS and B) WE CAN FUCKING RIGHT THAT SHIT YEAH, the righteousness of continued struggles to prick a thousand pulsating boils of oppression and hate, and also using it simultaneously as a grim wry nod to the often overwhelming short-fuse short-tempered crack of self-righteousness, nihilism, violence and general altogether frustrated failings that we find in ourselves and in our amazingstupid stupidamazing friends we can’t help but run with, and yeah, sometimes just using it to connect with the clatter that saves us, sustains us, some of us, sometimes, to just say “Yo this band is pretty damn sweet. They sound like the fucken RAMOOOOOONES, punx.” 

Punk rock.

Notes

  1. isthispunkrock posted this