Thursday, May 22, 2008

CPC HQ: In Need of a "Hip" Replacement

"If I wasn't in the rap game, I'd probably have a key
Knee deep in the crack game;
Because the streets is a short stop
Either you're slinging crack rock or you got a wicked jump shot."

- Notorious B.I.G., "Things Done Changed", 1993

So through Canadian Blue Lemons, I caught wind of a fairly stupid piece the CPC has on the Party website about hip-hop and crime. As long-time CH readers know, I'm a huge hip-hop head. I bought my first rap album in 1986 (Run DMC, Raising Hell) and have been hooked ever since. So, I have a few thoughts about the parody.

Firstly, I should say that I understand what the ad is trying to do: namely, characterize the Liberal approach to crime under the whole soft, "hugs for thugs" type of small-l liberalism. I get that. But here's what the ad really does - it plays to type. Guess what? The CPC is seen as the party of 40-year old, rich, white guys. This does not help. Some photoshop of Dion in a 80's era dookie necklace and a stupid hat? Yeah, a 26-year old kid in a blazer and khakis thought that one up, I can guarantee you. No faster way to look like a party of old white dudes.

You may dismiss hip-hop, but I will GUARANTEE that some of our key target demographics - young mothers, various ethnic groups of the South Asian and eastern bloc variety, young families - listen to a whole lot of rap music. 7 of the 10 top songs on the Billboard Hot 100 chart this week is either an R&B song featuring a rapper or a rap song (#1: Li'l Wayne, "Lollipop").

Third - you know what? Ignatieff is right. In some cases, getting youth into programs such as producing and recording their own music is much more beneficial that a jail cell. As Adam Radwanski and others pointed out, some successful Canadian rappers such as Kardinal Offishall got their start from that kind of a program. As Kardi says:

"In the aftermath of all the kids rampaging downtown following the Rodney King verdict in 93, the Bob Rae government stepped in with some funding for youth-oriented programs like Fresh Arts. That’s really how Saukrates, Jully Black, Baby Blue Soundcrew and I got our start. It gave us something useful to do.

"We were able to go to radio stations and recording studios and see how engineers and producers worked behind the scenes. Many of us had never been inside a studio before, let alone recorded a song in one. Through that program we also got to promote our own events, from making the flyers to doing radio promotion, everything. I can’t begin to put a dollar value on what I learned."

I'm a big law and order guy, but I also recognize the complete and utter lack of opportunity that exists in some areas of society. There are no jobs. Its sports, music or running the streets. Can I identify with that? No. I had a lot of opportunities and I took advantage of them. But I also recognize that it isn't always that way for everyone.

Chuck D of the iconic group Public Enemy called rap music "the Black CNN." It has and will likely always be a reflection of life in urban America, for better or worse. While I concede that it is much more rare in Canada to find the abject poverty, crime and gang activity that is seen in the ghettos of large US cities, the same type of challenges exist here: a breakdown of the family unit, a lack of community services and employment opportunities, a sex and violence media culture. Does that give them license to be a criminal? Hell no. Is it a factor in driving people to commit crimes? Absolutely.

Hip-Hop is the messenger, whether you want to believe it or not. It goes back and forth with country music as the #1 selling music genre in North America. Future voters listen to hip-hop music. Current target voters listen to hip-hop music. The faster you get that, the faster you will effectively reach out to those voters.

We Conservatives constantly whine about how the Liberals have a natural societal advantage in Canada. But sometimes we give them that advatage by constantly and blatantly appealing to our core base: older, white suburban and/or rural voters. Try broadening your horizons, a bit there guys. It may mean more votes.

The ad is stupid and you look like a bunch of out-of-touch nerds relying on stale stereotypes. How will that help us to become the natural govering party? We're better than this.

Remember: More people listen to P Diddy than PM Harper.

Instead of Li'wayne you should use Mos-def

I think it was good and I grew up listing to hip-hop. Appealed to me and my friends.
I'm with you on this one, and posted so over at Canadian Blue's place:

I'm not so sure Ignatieff's statement is racist. When I think of hip-hop, I actually think of a cross-cultural genre no more race-based than rock's Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley relative to the Stones and Yardbirds. Hence: Eminem, for example and Kid Rock (let's not make too much of Vanilla Ice, just 'cause...)

The other point is that hip-hop is arguably far more socially conscious these days than rock or pop (U2 and a couple of exceptions noted), and no more prone to gangsta or other anti-social lunacy than rock is to satanic death-metal or Grand Theft Auto posturing.

Ignatieff might have a point.

And I'm 57...hardly the typical hip-hop demographic--but I've been paying attention to hip-hop since Beat Street opened me up.
I asked Lemon where exactly he was getting his ideas that the CPC posting made "cultural", "black people" or "xenophobic" references, as he had indicated there were... but he hasn't answered.

And as I said on his blog, I think he -- and you as well -- are missing the ironic nature of the post. Besides which, who is dismissing hip-hop? The page on the CPC site you are linking too doesn't dismiss hip-hop; it dismisses typical Liberal party naivety and stupidity.

Your post reads like somebody who loves hip-hop, has faced ridicule from people who don't, and as such are overly sensitive to anybody making references to hip-hop who doesn't spell out every subtle nuance of what their point is. I think you should take both a breather and another look. Your upset is quite simply misplaced.
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