Wednesday, June 13, 2007

What passes for "mainstream music" & "popular culture"

Ya know, when I was a kid in Colorado, I became fascinated with music. I don't know why, but I remember watching the movie, "A Hard Day's Night" by the Beatles and the scenes I remembered were the ones when they were "recording" in the studio.

That has stuck with me through all the years that I have lived. I was so struck with that image, I took my mom's microphone and hung it from the ceiling in the laundry room and plugged it into her reel to reel and started teaching myself how to write songs.

From there it evolved into teaching myself music, learning guitar and well, just writing music. My father would tease me about wanting to buy a Led Zeppelin record because he said, "why would you want to listen to that hippie music?". I never thought about being a hippie until years later and I never was a "hippie". Just because you grow your hair long and play music, doesn't make you a "hippie" in the pure sense of the word.

I just always loved the act of creating a song, and then seeing if I could translate it to tape the way I hear it in my head. Though I haven't done anything lately, and I am hoping that will change, I still love the process of recording.

So, I was doing my usual reading on the net and ran across this story about some cat named "Stack Bundles" who was gunned down in an apparent robbery. Yeah, right. Maybe it's true, but having worked in the media for as long as I have, something is wrong with this story. I think it might have more to do with gang rivalry or drugs.

Now, I would not wish anything bad on my worst enemy if I had one, though "I wish Alec Baldwin would move to France", but I think the following article says a lot about the whole "rap culture" and the "thug" thing. I understand that it is supposed to be a reflection of contemporary black culture and there is some good music that I am sure has come from it, but I said some. Most of it to me is monotonous, uninspired, talentless, crude and well, just bad. I found this article pretty interesting for a few reasons.

I listened to 2 of "Stack's" recordings and it was the same old stuff. A lot of profanity and lewd remarks. And, trying to portray the "little guy from the streets that pulled himself up and is a gangsta" persona, which I find laughable. It's funny to me how many of these people take themselves so seriously like they really have a monopoly on life's injustices. What it seems more to me is that they are trying to appeal to the younger people out there with this crude, degrading "music" that seems to be popular.

Hey, I don't even really like country all that much, but I do have to say, country artists haven't yet sunk to the profane level that these "gang banger wanna-be's" have. And the violence associated with the whole culture. You have Tupac Shakur, Biggie Small's, Jam Master Jay from Run DMC (who were pretty good actually) and people like 50 Cent and Snoop Dogg, who glorify violence and drug use. Now, to be fair there are rock acts out there that are just as bad, if anyone remembers Blackie Lawless and W.A.S.P. and I personally find Marilyn Manson repulsive.

To each his own, I don't listen to any of it anyway and if you do, well, more power to you. I think there is enough anger, hatred, greed, violence in the world and listening to music that just keeps perpetuating that kind of attitude does nothing to change anything. I think there is a very valid reason to write about angst, whether it's life, love or whatever, but for educated people to somehow embrace "music" like that of any kind, I think serves no purpose. The reason being, kids start emulating what they see and hear and I do believe it leads to a "dumbing down" of society even more, just like watching worthless tv shows like "Springer" or "Desperate Housewives" or anything that is currently on network tv (and cable tv for that matter). It's bad enough when you are trying to hold a conversation with someone that can't speak English correctly because jewelry is "bling" and slang has seemed to replaced English.

And hey, I am not a snob, I just think that our language loses a lot when people can't speak correctly. And language is communication. You can't communicate effectively when you can't even pronounce words correctly and start resorting to slang to describe the world around you.
And I did grow up on the "streets" like almost everyone else, but I think the true measure of a person wanting to improve their lot in life is reflected in the way they speak and act. There is a lot to be said about someone that can effectively communicate ideas and thoughts without having to resort to using slang and verbal "hieroglyphics" to make a point, which is what a lot of street slang seems to be.

To borrow from one of my favorite phrases, no I do not speak "fluent moron" which is what I consider that kind of slang, When a "gangsta" type tries to speak to me in "street slang" I just ignore them until they can talk like an intelligent human being, which sad to say, is almost never.

So, read this article and and then read the comments that people posted about the death of "Stack Bundles". I really do have to wonder how the image these guys try to portray do anyone in the black community ( or society as a whole) any good when all you see in the media is the violence and crudeness of the whole "gangsta rapper" thing.

Stack Bundles Murdered, Details Begin To Unfold
By: MetroGnome
Published: Jun. 12, 2007 - New York, NY

Stack Bundles, a Byrd Gang member and native to Far Rockaway, Queens, was shot and killed early yesterday morning near his home off Beach Channel Drive.

Details are beginning to surface, but no arrests have been made or assailants identified in connection with the homicide of Bundles, born name Rayquon Elliott.

Stack was seen earlier that night at Stereo nightclub with his crew enjoying a problem-free evening. A friend traveled home with Bundles and had entered the building before the rapper. Upon hearing gunfire, the unidentified associate ran back into the building lobby to find Stack shot once in the head and the neck. The gunman had already fled the scene.

Cash and credit cards appear to have been untouched, but a medallion necklace seems to have been taken from Elliott.

Freekey Zekey of Diplomat Records issued a statement after hearing of the unfortunate news. He cited, "I just want to say life is never promised tomorrow, so you have to live your life to the fullest. Sometime you question the Lord's actions on certain things, but you just got to live steadfast. So don't make this a situation where you clam up and go in a shell. Big shout out to the big homie, we love you and will always remember you."

Additionally, Lupe Fiasco, a close friend and one-time labelmate with Bundles, issued a statement on Myspace about the incident. Lupe wrote:

"R.I.P. Stacks Bundles...My Homey

My Dear hurt so much to wake up to this...So sad...I've watched from the humble beginnings...when he used to live with me out in Chicago we rocked together everyday...He'd write rhymes in one room and I'd be writing rhymes in the other...He was there with me through many a milestone in my life , the up's and the downs, and I was so proud and happy to see him achieve success in his life at what he loved...Hip-Hop...Stacks was the first person that was signed to 1st&15th way back when it first started FYI...Even beyond that I considered Stacks family...My heartfelt condolences go out to his family and friends in this time of sadness...We all lost a Good Friend today...But He wont be forgotten...May God have mercy on his soul, Forgive him for his sins in this Life, and watch over him in the next..."

SoundSlam will continue to provide updates as they surface.

Comments (3)

Vanz says: RIP to Stack seemed like a good dude caught up in the wrong were something like a role model for us young dudes out here...God had another plan for you apparently.


Billy guy says: r.i.p to the nigga stack.may allah bless him and his family