Monday, December 14, 2009

Streetz Smarts, or: Kids These Days and Their Devil Music

104.7 Streetz FM officially launched today, after several weeks of initial on-air testing, and good for them.

My predilection for hip-hop is well established by now, I think, so I'll grant that this announcement is right up my alley; I think this is exactly the kind of development that FM radio needs in this city, unless somebody out there can convince me of his or her genuine belief that the city desperately needs another pop-rock station. They even seem willing to pander to my penchant for the oldschool, because I had it on last Friday on my way home from work and they played me some Afrika god damn Bambaataa.

And me listening to the station's test run for half an hour on the way home means that it's already beating HANK FM in the ratings, so I'd describe this as a mutualistic symbiosis. Everybody wins! Great how that works.

Now, I have an outstanding suspicion that radio only gets worse as you dilute the music with talk segments, so I'm not as excited for the initial launch as I might be otherwise -- but I'm willing to put that aside as a personal preference. I feel that music is always better than not-music; you may disagree. Fair enough.

But an official launch also means mainstream press coverage, and I made the mistake of reading the Free Press online today as it threw the matter open for public input. Reading the online comments on Winnipeg Free Press articles is the fastest way to remember why the rest of the country doesn't take us seriously.

Actual, not-making-these-up reader comments on the very idea of an aboriginal hip-hop station:

"These hip hop types dress like clowns with all their hoodies and bling and stooped shoulders."

"haven't heard a rap song yet that doesn't talk about violence, sexual perversions, abuse against women..."

"It seems that their demographic is actually Manitoba aboriginal youth who aspire to be poor, uneducated, black folks from the southern USA."

"A genre of music that promotes gangsterism, hate, misogyny, sexism, drugs, occultism and division. [. . .] Never has a style of music had such an (negative)impact on people as to justify their entire existence."

"Great, so they are going to do nothing more than endorse and purvey music that is intimately tied to violence, crime and 'gangsta' lifetsyle already rampant in the aboriginal youth community?"

"Why are our Aboriginal youth adopting the hip-hop lifestyle...this only fuels their desire to be like their black counterparts across the border...Aboriginal youth acting like black kids..."

Oh, well, sure -- we certainly don't want aboriginals acting like them black folk! You let them have the music they want, they get the violence and the occultism and the sexual perversions in their heads, suddenly they get all uppity on you, and the next thing you know they want... they want... civil rights! Well, not in our neighbourhood, buddy-boys! You know the rules: diversity is only acceptable in Winnipeg for two weeks of the year, and only when it can be confined to school gymnasiums where the different races and ethnicities dress up and dance for our entertainment.

I don't mean to pull a Shang Tsung transmogrification here where I turn into Gordon Sinclair and start blindly demonizing anybody whose views differ even slightly from mine -- but get over yourselves, you snivelling, stunted, painfully white manchildren. The aboriginals and the blacks are not conspiring to ruin your society.

Hip-hop is not, stylistically, based specifically around sex and violence; the reason that the hip-hop you've heard has sex and violence in it is because sex and violence sell, and mainstream music is a business. You are more likely to encounter this content because it makes more money, and that means they will play it more often. This is media literacy at its most basic, and if you don't have a basic grasp of media literacy you should not be writing comments on newspaper websites.

And I guess the rest of Canada must not have received the memo about hip-hop being a blight on society, because damned if they don't seem to have all survived it. In fact, I can't help but notice that other major Canadian cities -- particularly the ones that have had dedicated hip-hop stations for years and years on end now -- have lower homicide rates than we do. That doesn't strike you as strange? Edmonton made a rapper their poet laureate and their homicide rate is still lower than ours.

I've seen him perform live, by the way. He did a Weezer cover. Hip-hop is so dangerous, man! Weezer! Whoa! Dangerous art form.

Mind you, we're running out of musical trends and styles that haven't been condemned as dangerous, violent, rebellious, sexually charged, socially destructive harbingers of ruin in their day. Rock and roll literally shares its catchphrase with sex and drugs; punk rock breeds uncouth, loutish hooligans who howl like dogs for anarchy and erode the foundations of our civil society. Brazilian Funk Carioca is a sexually degrading cacaphony corrupting our youth as we speak, and chances are high that you've never even heard of it. Ohhhhh, if only we could finally get that law passed to ban dancing in this town -- that would straighten out these mixed-up kids for sure, I tell you what!

So how dangerous are the people running this new station, then? I steeled myself against potential occultism and did some poking around on their website to get a better idea of the menace that we upstanding God-fearing white folk will be forced to confront in the coming weeks and months.

Breaking news stories archived from their front page include a new Sade single, the same Tiger Woods news that everybody else in the world is reading, and Coolio releasing a cookbook. Coolio. Two of their Top 10 songs listed on the main page feature Wabanakwut Kinew, and -- as much as I like the guy -- he could not be less threatening to the status quo if he busted out a Carlton Banks cardigan. The '411' section of their website lists scholarship information, resume writing workshops, student lines of credit, and daycare centres. The station's announcers are disproportionately staffed by theatre nerds, one of their DJs is writing a book on traditional aboriginal languages, and its daily talk radio segments are hosted by a Catholic single mother working on a Masters degree. I SWEAR TO GOD MAN THIS HIP HOP STUFF IS BREEDING KILLERS

I'm not going to pretend that their marketing presence is flawless; the front page of the website seems to be slathered in two or three unnecessary coats of Flash, and the writing style used to promote the site does get pretty sloppy. (I get the motivation behind making it more 'authentic' and 'real', theoretically making it more accessible for the target audience -- but Jay-Z doesn't feel the need to pull that shit, and he seems to be doing okay for himself. I'm just saying.)

All that said, I welcome their inception with open arms and wish them unqualified success. They seem dedicated to establishing a positive message for a group of people that desperately need it; they provide a counterbalance to the irredeemably bland, conservative approaches of most other stations on the FM dial; and they've already got stuffy white people freaking out over nothing, which is always -- always -- something I enjoy. So I wish them all the best, and they have my full support.

Unless they start playing Nelly, of course. Then I'm egging their studio. Fair warning!

Sound Barriers - You Ain't Folk (Sound Barriers, 2004)
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Fat Arse said...

Informative post... but whose this Nelly of which you speak?

James Howard said...

This idiot.

You know every terrible thing that you have ever been told about hip-hop? Virtually all of it applies to Nelly.

He has multiple songs about buying new shoes. He has an energy drink named 'Pimp Juice'. Titles of his hit singles include "Iz U", "N Dey Say", "Errtime", "Na-NaNa-Na", the aforementioned "Pimp Juice", and "Wadsyaname".

More to the point, I worked retail in 2002 and had to listen to "Hot in Herre" an estimated million zillion times. I want Nelly dead.

Colin said...

I once witnessed a back-to-school karaoke thingy for kids -- CHILDREN -- at a shopping mall.
One milk-fed 10 year old waddled up and started singing "Hot In Here" to the assembled mass, the lumpen little brat's mother grinning vacantly the whole time.

Do they even KNOW the lyrics to that song..?

James Howard said...

In the wake of the station's most recent promotional video on their website, let me take this time to reiterate how deathly unafraid of these people I am.

Can you believe there have been zero homicides since the station launched? What's up with that? If I understood the initial expectations correctly, there should only be about eleven people still left alive in the city by now.