Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Hip-Hop Has Gotten a Bad Rap

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Hip-Hop Has Gotten a Bad Rap

Article excerpt

Finally. An adult who says something good about rap music and the hip-hop movement.

He's the last person you'd expect: A middle-aged white male. And his pro-rap words are in a book from those staid dictionary makers, Merriam-Webster.

Tom Dalzell examines 20th-century talk in "Flappers 2 Rappers: American Youth Slang" ($14.95, paperback). To me, the most fascinating part is on hip-hop. Dalzell calls it "the most vigorous youth culture to arise since the demise of the hippie movement in the early 1970s." And if that upsets you old hippies, try this: "Unlike the hippie movement where anyone could don a tie-dye shirt and become a weekend hippie, the hip-hop culture did not provide a lifestyle that most American young people could embrace. Simply put, white teen-agers could not, as much as they might wish to, become black. "They could and did, however, listen to the music, dress the dress (emphasis on high-cost sneakers, sagging pants, hooded baggy sweatshirts and baseball caps), mirror the haircuts, adopt the rap vocabulary suitable for their daily lives, mimic the cadence of street speech, and admire from a safe distance the lives of prominent black rappers and athletes." Big deal. Kids buy outlaw glamour at the mall and go back to their safe homes. But Dalzell says this store-bought rebellion gives kids "a degree of awareness of social injustice." For the young blacks who "live in the chaos of inner cities," he says rap is "a true source of Afrocentric pride." So how does the well-bred, white-bread Dalzell know that a "bone" can be a cigarette or a song, that "bricks" are housing projects and "busted" means homely? "I spent a lot of time listening to the lyrics of hip-hop, and then I'd test them with kids," he said. "There are also rap and hip-hop dictionaries. "The lyrics are not easy to listen to. "It's not the violence I objected to so much. …

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