Middle age has been disturbing for people of the baby-boomer rock-and-roll generation, waiting with dread for the day when Mick Jagger wanders on stage with a walker. Rock music of the Rolling Stones vintage is now in danger of being seen as Muzak for retirees. You can certainly hear it at the supermarket.
Rap music and the hip-hop culture is about 25 years younger than rock, and believe it or not, it's happening there, too. Today's children are now beginning to look askance at their parents for liking "old school" rap, rather than today's truly toxic stuff. The Washington Post captured a bit of this horror from Generation X when Post reporter Lonnae O'Neal Parker wrote a piece for the Sunday Outlook section titled, "Why I Gave Up on Hip-Hop."
Born in 1967 in the middle-class southern suburbs of Chicago, Parker described the liberating nature of the early rap tunes for young blacks. She recalled getting in a musical shouting match on the school bus with the white students, "transfixed by our newfound ability to drown out their nullification." At first, it was a vehicle for racial pride, but then it all changed. Rap was transformed into a musical ghetto for gangsters and pimps, and Parker sadly concluded, "I could no longer nod my head to the misogyny or keep time to the vapid materialism of another rap song."
In raising her two daughters, Parker had one very definitive image in mind capturing what's wrong with today's dominant trend in hip hop. At the 2003 MTV Video Music Awards, rappers Snoop Dogg and 50 Cent added pomp to the song "P.I.M.P." by featuring black women on leashes being walked onstage.
This past August, she added, MTV-2 aired an episode of the cartoon "Where My Dogs At" that had Snoop Dogg again leading two black bikini-clad women around on leashes. She explained: "They squatted on their hands and knees, scratched themselves and defecated. The president of the network, a black woman, defended this as satire."
And the audience, mostly teenaged boys and girls, thought this was wonderful.
To protest the glamorization of the gangsta, itching to kill, loaded with bling and treating every woman like a subhuman plaything, Parker and her friends protested, including the printing of T-shirts for girls with messages like, "You look better without the bullet holes," and, "Put the guns down," and, "You want this? Graduate!"