ARTICLE: Superficial Bitches

Superficial bitches (by Pizon)

I recently wrote an article for the upcoming Chicken Soup for the Hip Hop Soul book in which I described the necessity for keeping an open mind when regarding hip hop, and to a broader extent, music and art in general. In said article, I confessed that I too was guilty of pigeonholing certain artists as “wack” or dismissing certain styles of music simply because they did not cater to my particular tastes. While I vowed to attempt to cut down on this behavior, a slew of ongoing confrontations that followed seemed to do nothing more than reconfirm why I was acting that way in the first place.

Let me start by stating that I consider myself a hip hop head. No, I do not claim to know everything about the culture and its history, nor do I pretend to be down with most or even a relatively substantial portion of the artists and the music that is available. And you can love my work with all your soul like I do, or you could hate it with a passion. But the bottom line is that I live, sleep, and breathe hip hop. Hip hop is what constitutes a great deal of the fabric of my existence. That much is undeniable.

That being said, it not only offends me, but I take it to heart, when other people — outsiders, if you will — try to step in and debate their way-off-beat “opinions” with me. Again, I am not knocking personal preference, as I firmly believe that discretion is what makes this art form thrive, but what a casual listener may conceive as a valid argument often comes across as a personal insult on behalf of me and everyone else who makes up the livelihood of hip hop.

Let’s get one thing straight: People whose sole exposure to hip hop comes from the radio and TV are not hip hop heads. And that is not to hate on mainstream hip hop or people who choose to follow it exclusively — my only grievance stems from the all-too-common misconception that doing so certifies one as a knowledgeable and full-fledged hip hopper. Not to be snobby or elitist, but when one of these cats tries to argue with me over what’s good or who’s hot and who’s not, I feel insulted. Picture Joe Blow, an average American teenager whose full exposure to baseball consists of attending his younger cousin’s Little League game seven years ago, arguing with Cal Ripkin, Jr., over whether Derek Jeter or Rey Ordonez is the better shortstop. That’s precisely how I feel.

The other day, I was discussing hip hop with a “casual” listener (and after such encounters, I don’t know why I even bother anymore) who happened to be female. All was going as expected, until she eventually brought up a lesser-known hip hop group (a group that did have a video or two on BET though, mind you), and I salivated in anticipation of her being aware of these non-superficial artists. When I asked for her opinion of said group, however, she told me that she didn’t like their work. I commented that was fair enough, and asked her why not, to which she replied: “I think they look ugly.”

And motherfuckers can’t understand why we get so frustrated when they try to turn our passion into a mockery? This is the precise reason we are always at the throats of the mainstream fans and consequently, the mainstream artists. It may not be fair, and it’s certainly detrimental to our culture, but if anything, it is to be expected as long as hip hop continues to make such an impact in the mainstream world. Everyone constantly raves about how hip hop has finally taken it to billions and how we’ve finally gotten to where we want to be, but I have to ask: Did we? With every plus there seems to be two minuses.

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