Friday, June 03, 2005

Real Niggaz? West Coast rap as indie-rock fodder

During a Public Enemy panel at NYU, one reason thrown around for the band's quick commercial demise and failure to reach a mass audience was the emergence of the West Coast sound in the late 90's. NWA obviously had a more presentable package for the mass audiences even if they were, in their own way, trying to be incendiary as PE. The crucial difference is that while Chuck and company were haranguing about injustices, inequality, racism and the media on a broad level, Dre and company's politics confronted their own harsh realities with a harsh reality of their music and lyrics, attacking targets on a more local, personal level- the police that harassed them (though PE talked of that too), the hoochies who frustrated them (ditto), other neighborhood toughs they'd encounter, etc.. Unlike PE, there wasn't an overall agenda there other than getting paid, just the same as any other artist.

While there was already strong support among the black community, what made rap into a best-selling phenom was the support of a white suburban audience. No doubt that they were captivated by the danger and thrills they could experience vicariously in the lyrics and the whole outsider status that the music could still instill in them despite the fact that it was topping album charts- they could still piss off their parents by listening to it or at least ID themselves as fellow toughs and put-upon outsiders (again, despite the money that they and their heroes had).

But what happens when the (almost exclusively white) indie-rock nation wants to included there too? Granted that two recent examples aren't exactly a trend or the first time that this has happened but it's instructive to see how each of them approach the music.

So, is it any improvement to turn gangsta bluster into indie-rock irony? You be the judge.

- Ben Folds' version of Dr. Dre's "Bitches Ain't Shit"

- Nina Gordon (Veruca Salt) version of NWA's "Straight Outta Compton"


Blogger Scott Soriano said...

Uhhh...forget the tired attempts at irony, those versions are just bad music.

9:05 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home