Thursday, May 28, 2009

Deploying A Little Negro Spirit: The Responsibility of the (Sometimes) Buying Public

So this was supposed to be the end of my series of cultural abandonment and appropriation but I think it bears continuing even as I expand the way it has been framed thus far.

I've had some very good conversations in real life and online from a variety of people (notably a majority of Black women) who are tired of seeing our sisters being dragged through the mud. We want to hold others accountable for spreading the virus but it starts with us. It begins with looking in the mirror at what we support and why we choose it.

I went to a meet and greet session with music artist Ben Harper yesterday (I'll have photos on my Flickr account shortly). Now quite a few people may not know who he is (or like his style of music) but that's because many of us aren't seeking out music that isn't played on terrestrial radio. Artists that don't fit into the R&B/Hip-Hop radio format of today may be ignored by the average listener. They're missing out on a lot of great music. Or at least missing out on hearing diverse styles. 

During our time with him he mentioned how he has never stopped seeking out ways to improve his musicianship (he plays guitar, piano and dabbles with other instruments). He also practices regularly. He talked about his exposure to a variety of genres thanks to his parents and grandparents being open-minded about what they played. He also discussed early hip-hop songs that blew him away. The difference of course is that he actually reads and plays music and isn't dependent on knob-fiddling to produce a sound. 

He doesn't need to reach back two decades ago for a great song to sample to center his songs around. Now one could argue that learning to use an MPC is a skill, that mixing is a skill but to what end?  Truth be told even the great DJs have seen the emergence of what I call the "CD Players", who don't even bother sequencing a song properly and just hit the start button and cue up songs on a laptop. I've been to many clubs where it's some variation of Top 40 boredom. 

Some of these lauded "music" makers have even been exposed as having used preloaded music for their "hits".
We as consumers have gotten so used to listening to watered-down music we wouldn't know quality if it bit us on the...If we demand more from music artists things will change. If we raise the bar for what we deem quality we will see an immediate improvement. The market will have to meet our needs instead of the other way around.

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