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Hip-Hop’s new race issue

For the first time in my life, I feel almost entirely disconnected from youth culture. About a week ago, I watched as some group called Panic! at the Disco, whose video I hadn’t even seen, took home all of the big awards at this year’s VMAs. And it occurred to me that there could be any number of other such groups that I’ve never even heard of.

Here’s the thing: I’m aware that this could be a case of MTV purposely favoring some relatively obscure emo group because they feel like this could finally be their chance to bring back the rock, such as it is. They were never quite comfortable with hip-hop’s commercial dominance anyway, since, as us hip-hop bloggers are slowly beginning to learn, who the fuck wants to advertise to a bunch of black kids anyway? Black people don’t even use Noxema!

I’m sure they’ve been waiting for this moment ever since the days of Super Rock, when they would play a buncha Beastie Boys videos alongside whatever shitty grunge rockers hadn’t alread OD’d on heroin at that point. Holler at the lead singer from Better than Ezra, who I’m sure will outlive us all. In retrospect, Hole and Marilyn Manson’s joint performance at the 1998 VMAs, which kicked off their ill-fated tour of that year, was probably their last shot up until just now.

Not to relive my senior year in high school, but as I recall, this was right around the time when Jay’s Hard Knock Life and OutKast’s Aquemini hit stores. The OutKast album was a huge critical favorite and kicked off eight long years of people pretending that they were much better than they actually are. And Hard Knock Life did even better than it, commercially at least. Courtney Love, meanwhile, hasn’t been the same since. She even had to sell off some of Kurt’s publishing to pay her dealer.

It occurred to me the other day, while I was writing the story about the Roots’ latest miserable failure, that this current sea change in the world of commercial hip-hop must have some sort of racial element. If you notice, the kind of hip-hop that’s bearing the brunt of this current decline is usually the kind typically favored by cracka-ass crackas. Would weed carrier Young Dro have sold much more or less than 100,000 copies his first week out any other year?

It’s common knowledge, meanwhile, that the Roots rely on cracka-ass crackas the same way that Cadillac, Nike, and the malt liquor industry rely on black people. It’s too bad Soundscan lacks the technology to track the race of CD buyers, but I bet the bulk of Game Theory’s commercial failure vis a vis, say, Phrenology can be attributed to their white fanbase just not bothering. Listening to shit like the Roots is so 1998-2003. Nowadays its all about indie rock and/or LCD rap.

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