Monday, April 21, 2014

Great Rap Beefs in History: The Fondue Chapter

In a thought-provoking post for this blog about Nas and the National Symphony Orchestra, Kira asked, 'Are hip hop artists performing the politics of respectability in these spaces?'  This past weekend reinforced to me the fact that hip hop artists have obtained respectability, as evinced by the fact that they have entree into all kinds of 'venues' from which they were previously shut out.  Three examples will suffice:

1) Hip hop is all the freak over NPR: Yes, NPR.  The station that has long demarcated a certain higher level of radio culture--and is generally perceived as the choice for white, educated listeners, as this parody evinces: 

In the past week alone, I have listened to hip hop appearing on numerous shows, mostly in a contemplative or esteemed light.  There was the Radiolab segment discussed previously on this blog.  Jesse Thorn, on Bulleye, offered his take on Nas's Illmatic as the best hip hop album of all time.  A segment on Ask Me Another featured a version of $25 000 Pyramid involving hip hop songs, with actor/comedian Hannibal Buress providing the clues.  Evidently, NPR believes that its listeners are conversant with 'classic' hip hop, enough so that they will understand the clues of this game.  I think that NPR is correct here, but this is a bold statement about how completely hip hop has been absorbed into contemporary American culture.  Also, there is a very white rap of 'Rapper's Delight' here (at around 1:30).  The contestant even substitutes 'NPR' into one of the lines.  That's right.  There is now, theoretically, an NPR rap.

2) Hip hop at hockey: I attended Game 2 of the Tampa Bay Lightning versus the Montreal Canadiens on Friday night.  During the second intermission, as the zambonis were driving around the ice, they were accompanied by the start of Notorious B.I.G.'s 'Hypnotize.'  This is new, at least since 2011.

I cannot think of a single sport that is whiter than hockey.  When I was a kid, there would be, literally, one black player in the league at any given time, and that one guy was Grant Fuhr (there is a whole Wikipedia category for precisely this topic). 

 'Hockey music,' in my experience, tends to reflect this demographic.  Favorite styles include heavy metal (perhaps not surprisingly, this track gets played to start the third period at Lightning games) or dance music from the 90s.  Yes, it must be from the 90s.  Yes, it must be dance music.  You might be wondering what we listened to before that and the answer is organ music and Stompin' Tom Connors.  A great example that is even featured on the EA Sports 2011 NHL Game:

Biggie?  No.  I used to think that the fact you could hear hip hop anywhere was notable, but that was at bars and such.  Now that you hear it at hockey and on NPR, I am willing to declare that we have reached a new era of cultural saturation.

3) Terrible rap beefs on TSN: What is TSN?  The Sports Network.  It is the Canadian equivalent of ESPN.  And you won't  believe what Drake said this week on TSN about Jay-Z. At least, you shouldn't believe it, because it's pretty silly:

Drake claims that Jay-Z eats fondue.  From a plate.  If you can imagine.  I can't because I don't know, exactly, how you eat fondue from a plate.  It needs some kind of warming mechanism to keep it viscous, like the type traditionally placed under a fondue pot.

Let's take a moment here.  What does this even mean?  Supposedly, that Jay-Z is not keeping it real, because only fancy people eat fondue.  At least, this seems to be the general interpretation of this statement.  He has moved beyond bougie, to whatever class where you eat fondue off a plate on a regular basis.  Now, I am not, by any means, advocating a return to the violent outcomes of previous rapper beefs.  But when one side is accusing the other of fondue eating?  That seems like we have entered a new level of respectability, to go back to Kira's quote.  Drake made no claims against Jay-Z's ability to rap or produce or do all of that music stuff.  He just might be a little high-faluting for your average person.

Be sure to read this story on A.V. Club, which features some classic commentary on this particular beef.  Perhaps Alton Brown will weigh in for Team Jay-Z.  Perhaps Jay-Z will respond by besmirching poutine.  Perhaps those radio bleeps ('f******') really are bleeping out 'fondues.'  'Cheese rules everything around me.'  And let's not forget that Jay-Z has claimed in the past that he 'checks cheddar like a food inspector.'

Stay tuned for what shapes up to be the most mouth-watering rapper beef ever to go down.  Or at least one of the most respectable.

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