When rock 'n' roll took a young generation by storm in the mid-1950s, it was routinely denounced on both musical and social grounds. In time, it was accepted by most: Elvis was a threat to himself, not to America.
In the late 1980s, a remarkably violent, vituperative form of rap music, "gangsta rap," emerged. Its most successful practitioners included N.W.A., best known for "F-- tha Police"; Ice-T, best known for "Cop Killer"; and Tupac Shakur, best known for dying as a result of a drive-by shooting.
But no one then seemed to care very much about this, and today that genre is becoming acceptable in the popular culture with a hefty assist from the Enlightened Ones who see this as a chic cause.
A 1992 Time profile of Ice-T began, "'Poetry is a way of taking life by the throat,' wrote Robert Frost. [Ice-T's] poetry takes a switchblade and deftly slices life's jugular." Frost read his poetry at JFK's inauguration. If Ice-T ever appears under similar circumstances, it will mean that Maxine Waters or someone of her ilk has been elected president, which in turn means that a lot of us will already have fled to Canada.
At least some in Canada are trying to do something about this filth. Late last month the attorney general of Ontario asked the national government to prevent the vile multiplatinum-selling rapper Eminem - a protégé of former N.W.A. member Dr. Dre - from entering the country to perform. According to the CBC, provincial AG Jim Flaherty said that "Eminem's lyrics clearly promote violence against women." "Kill You," from Eminem's most recent album, gives you a flavor for the hideous lyrics coming from this thug: "Bitch, I'm a [sic] kill you/You don't wanna f-- with me/You ain't nothin' but a slut to me."
But why restrict a discussion of Eminem's despicability to his sickening anti-woman lyrics? His masterwork "Just Don't Give a F--" is depraved brutality without regard for gender: "Slim Shady, brain dead like Jim Brady/...I'll slit your motherf-in' throat worse than Ron Goldman."
Like others before him, Eminem revisits topics. In fact, he virtually recycles a song title for, yes, "Still Don't Give a F--," which contains a wish to "crush your skull 'til your brains leaks [sic] out of your veins/And bust open like broken water mains."
Ultimately, Eminem did enter Canada, played two concerts there, then - luckily for Canadians, sadly for us - he returned to the United States.
Not all rappers are violence-spewing creeps; some are merely sex-crazed. The media website Inside.com reports that the prevalence of "jiggling female buttocks" in rap videos often tests the standards-and-practices limits at MTV, which "despite its edgy reputation [has] been relatively conservative on the [derriere] issue in the past."
I'm not quite sure when MTV was ever conservative. Regardless, now "booty videos have gone mainstream [and] much of the booty-centric content comes from major artists like Kid Rock and Sisqo, whom MTV can't afford to rebuff outright." The network's Tina Exarhos told Inside.com, "We understand [MTV has] a young audience, and we want to be as responsible as we can, but also protect the artistic process."
The problem is that you just can't put "MTV" and "responsible" in the same sentence. After all, this is the same network that has exposed its young audience to massive, toxic doses of none other than Eminem, a three-time winner at its Video Music Awards in September.
Is there anything MTV will forbid? Well, yes. As the Washington Post's David Segal writes, "In today's Osterized pop world, just about any combination of styles can get tossed into a blender and come out a platinum puree. Except Christian rap." Apparently there's a Philadelphia group called the Cross Movement, which meets resistance from both a secular music industry and certain devout Christians who believe rap - even rap with lyrics like "celebrate Him 'cause we know what He saved us from" - is of the devil.
Personally, I think rap music is an oxymoron: bronchitis-stricken frogs sound better. Artistic merit is important if we're going to call this music, but that debate pales in comparison to rap's message. And when this awful genre is applauded, and a monster like Eminem is lionized while an outfit like the Cross Movement is banished, there's something wrong, terribly wrong, in our popular culture.