Wow, Hip-Hop Heads People Need to Chill

by Winston "Stone" Ford

Update: I’m updating the post slightly to remove quotes which were taken out of context. Also, I understand how hip-hop heads may feel about this (I’ll address it later) so I’m not really trying to go at y’all like that.

So Santogold came out in some interview that said that labeling her hip-hop is racist, (Update: read the entire thing in context) and of course, the hip-hop heads went into overdrive:

Wow. See, this is why hipster bullshit needs to go away.

My, my, my what is with some of these artists nowadays? Do they just lack intelligent quotients or have no common sense whatsoever? Like who does PR for these ppl? See why such artists should never be blogged about on a hip hop blog Riz?

So yeah, if these er…hip-hop heads would get said heads out of their asses they would realize that they are contributing to the very same racism that non hip-hop Black artists have to deal with every day.

First off, it doesn’t seem like she’s dissing hip-hop, so calm the f$%k down. She’s dissing the music industry (labels, press, retail, etc) that automatically places Black people into boxes and assumes that they automatically are hip-hop artists. Santogold doesn’t rap on her album at all. In fact, most of the tracks are rock. So how in the hell is she a hip-hop artist when she doesn’t even rap??? That’s her whole point. For the most part, she does nothing remotely close to hip-hop, yet she is automatically placed in that box.

And that’s the problem. White artists don’t have this issue at all. If Santogold were white, should be hailed as the next Gwen Steffani (old skool Gwen, not Hollaback Gwen), but as a Black artist she’s stuck in the situation of being to “white” for black radio and to “black” to be fully accepted by rock fans.

As far as hip-hop goes, I’ve always taken offense at black people that criticize others for not being “black enough,” with the expectation that to be considered “black” you must do hip-hop. Some of the message board comments and blog hate regarding Santogold were very discouraging to see.

Of course, there is nothing wrong with hip-hop. I love hip-hop, and it’s the defining music of our generation, but its upsetting when I hear black people criticize someone for say, doing techno or rock, especially when they are completely oblivious to the fact that black people invented both genres. Shit, Black people did country too dammit!

Black people: you can be whatever you want to be. If you want to rock a skateboard, go for it. Pick up a guitar? Jimi did. Wear some skinny jeans? I can’t get down with that, but you just do you.

Meanwhile, I’m going to go and blast the album Burned Again from Stiffed, Santogold’s old band, and probably round it out with some Bad Brains, and Living Colour. And while I’m at it, maybe some drum and bass, some afrobeat, and some house music as well. And honestly, before you criticize, I suggest you do the same.

Black America is a really complex being sometimes. Just a short year ago we were all criticizing Barack Obama for not being black enough.

  • Darnell

    Santogold has been getting love from the hip-hop community. She was on Hot 97 a couple of weeks ago.

    I see where you’re coming from, but hip-hop has a tendency to protect its turf. Hip-hop is more than music. Its a culture first and foremost, and its the most dominant Black culture at that. And this culture is being threatened by all sides–from the industry backbiting, the Oprah/NAACP crowd, and Bill O’Riley. A lot of people who come at hip-hop do so because they misunderstand the culture. So I understand the reactions some in the community would have when they perceive a young Black woman diss or reject their culture, even when she wasn’t actually doing anything of the sort..

  • JCon

    The whole issue is a catch 22. If you honestly look at the issue from a corporate record label perspective, they’re trying to figure out how to sell. Not stroke an artist ego. Not be PC. It’s business.

    Now the following statements I’m going to make are concerning general music consumers…NOT conissuers who stay up on the latest before it becomes the latest and don’t need labels to guide them.

    A general consumer wants to buy some pop/rock music. Automaticly in their mind they have an expectation of what that means (whether it be wrong or right). The image the media feeds the masses of pop/rock music is young, white & glam. Let’s be real. Now, said consumer logs into iTunes and clicks the pop or rock genre. As he/she peruses the album covers of new releases the brain is filtering. The consumer stumbles upon a monocromatic cover with a flawed image (meaning undoctored) of a black girl spewing gold glitter from her mouth. NEXT. It is quite unlikely that consumer would be interested.

    Now, let’s flip it. She’s tagged as hip-hop/rap or R&B/Soul. A young black person stumbles upon the same cover however, amongst other images of black artists. There’s no disconnect. The likelihood that this individual would investigate further is much higher.

    Is that right? Not in my opinion. But, that’s the world as we know it. The record company signed Santogold NOT because they wanted to give her an open platform for her art…they signed her because they thought they could make money off her product. So they will make every descision in the best interest of making that loot.

    What black people and black artists need to understand is that if they want to control the way they are percieved then they have to be the source of the perception. Any other partis are simply going to serve their own interests.

    Now as far as black on perceptions of themselves, we all must aknowledge that there is room for improvement. I can’t recall how many times I’ve played one of my songs to another black person and they say “Oh, that’s you? So, you don’t like Hip-hop, right?”. Black people are the most multi-faceted and diverse people on this planet and its time for us to start recognizing ourselves for what we are.

    Of course by posting this comment on THIS site I’m preaching to the choir…but understand where Stone’s frustration is coming from.

    Maybe I should copy this whole thread over to the 106 & Park forum over at BET (jokes…).

  • Stone

    True, I think that the biggest problem with Santogold is that her music crosses two many genres to really get classified. And yeah, the album cover is a little messed up as well. I don’t think that was her fault, but her record company A&Rs should’ve been aware of this fact. Unfortunately, the way most music consumers shop is by category so she has to get put somewhere. I think her whole point is that her being Black (and female) automatically puts her in that box. I’ve seen Lenny Kravitz in the hip-hop section before!

    And yeah, one of the reasons I don’t write about top 40 hip-hop/r&b on this site is because I want to use my corner of the internets to highlight the wide diversity of music in the Black dispora. I’m glad that I’m not the only one who feels the same way!


  • Superbizzee

    I feel for her, but historically that’s been the misfortune of many Black artists whose music doesn’t fit into a specific box in accordance to their race.

    The publicity department at the record labels knows who she is as an artist. There’s no doubt about that. But the uninformed, largely ignorant buyers at the big chain traditional and non-traditional record retailers have no clue about buying trends of a growing subculture of music fans who have such vast genre interests. Flip through Vice or Fader mag and you’ll find spotlights on coke rappers and avant garde indie rock bands alike.

    She’s right, it’s totally racist to put her in the “hip-hop” or “R&B” box simply because she’s a black female. Even though her music shows very little traces of either of those genres. But artists like Justin Timberlake and Robin Thicke have the luxury of being labeled as both “pop” and “R&B” because they’re white.

    Personally, this genre branding is sickening. It puts restrictions on how an artist is able to be marketed and promoted. But the general buying public seems to need a point of reference for anything they haven’t heard of before.

    My thing is…why was she at Hot 97? That might have been kind of counter productive to her argument.

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