The brilliant pianist Kenny Drew, Jr., has reached the boiling point over the condition of black popular music in the United States. Here are two excerpts from his current essay on the All About Jazz website:
…when I first started studying music I was told that music had to consist of three elements: melody, harmony and rhythm. Rap music (an oxymoron similar to â€œmilitary intelligence â€œor â€œjumbo shrimpâ€) has basically discarded the first two elements and is left with nothing but rhythm. Since only one element of music is present in most of this crap it doesn’t even justify being called music. Our culture has been dumbed down to the point where your average dumb-ass American can’t tell the difference between a truly great musician and somebody who’s been studying their instrument for a week.
I recently discovered that there is now a form of rap called â€œcoke rapâ€, in which the lyrics deal mainly with the sale, distribution and use of cocaine and crack. I find it offensive that any record company would try to make a profit from glorifying something that has decimated the black community the way that crack has. I hope that one day while 50Cent is lounging by the pool in his humongous mansion surrounded by beautiful groupies, he might consider how many lives were ruined by the poison he used to sell, and how many more lives will be potentially damaged by the musical poison he’s selling now.
Drew gets more colorful and specific about what rap and hip-hop are doing to the fabric of American society with their messages about drugs, the subjugation of women and glorification of criminal violence. Heâ€™s far from the first to notice; Gene Lees long ago addressed all of it in his JazzLetter. But Drew is a young black man. Maybe his rant will get a modicum of attention in the black community. To read the whole thing, go here.