Taking a detailed look at art’s cultural impact is great — it’s a part of what criticism is. But why take Miley Cyrus to task for twerking when — sorry to break it to you — white girls have been twerking on college campuses for years? It’s been a part of youth culture for a minute now. Sure, Macklemore made a song that (sort-of) critiques the excessively materialistic and consumerist spirit of hip hop, but “Thrift Store” is basically a hipster anthem: finding weird esoteric threads and designer items at thrift shops is a holy grail of hipsterdom.
More importantly, questions of morality in hip hop are larger than “appropriation.” As irksome as it may be, “appropriation” doesn’t really hurt anything besides maybe somebody’s feelings. What’s tangibly destructive in hip hop is violence, misogyny, drug culture, and general ignorance. Not to play a game of Hitler vs. Stalin, but Rick Ross’ questionable couplet concerning date rape only scratches the surface of his dubious morality. He’s been committing crimes — felonies — on record for the better part of a decade. He’s glorified poisoning not only communities, but entire regions of the United States of America, not to mention killing people. The fervent adulation of this persona is what earned him his Reebok sponsorship. And let’s face it, the fact that he has a lyric about drugging a woman is not what caused him to lose that sponsorship. It was the outrage that followed.
It’s important to examine why Rick Ross thought it’d be OK to co-sign date rape in a song. His apologies on the matter were sincere, but he also missed the point — he stated that he would never use the term rape, or never rape a woman, and he was earnestly under the impression that he’d done nothing wrong. He believed his lyrics had been “misinterpreted.” But they hadn’t been — what they depicted was rape. Such a lack of concern about the implications of language is common in hip hop. This is why J. Cole, the communications major from St. John’s University, used “faggot” and “autistic” in verses.
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