Regulating on The Tampa Tribune

The Tampa Tribune has never been known for going out of its way to cover hip-hop. And I’m not going to pretend to be a connoisseur. But having grown up during the '90s golden era of gangsta rap, I find it troubling that music critic Curtis Ross, who I often agree with, would discredit the movement because the lyrical content isn't positive, with a message, as if the only worthy rock songs were "Imagine," "Peace Train" and "War."

In today’s Friday Extra cover story “Hip hop for your brain” Ross and his editors offer “smart alternatives” for people who “hate the ignorant excesses of gangsta rap.”

The story is a Hip Hop 101 that grants Ice-T and N.W.A. a pass while slamming Dr. Dre for subject matter. Huh? Makes me wonder if Ross has ever listened to Ice-T’s 1991 masterpiece O.G. Original Gangster, a poetic, unapologetic how-to guide on pimping and hustling. Ross discounts the lyrics of Dre’s 1992 album The Chronic “which uncritically celebrated violence and misogyny.” The list of tracks recommended to “end your hip-hop resistance” includes ace selections by the likes of Public Enemy, De La Soul and Outkast, but doesn’t include a single gangsta entry? Which would be like listing the greatest songwriters of the last century and omitting Robert Johnson.

After all, the legendary bluesman was the meanest misogynist of them all. Violent, too. Most of the blues greats were. In dismissing gangsta rap nearly altogether, does Ross pretend not to notice (or know) some of Johnson’s famous lines? Lines like: “If she gets unruly, and thinks she don't want do/ Take my 32-20, and cut her half in two.” A “32-20” is a Winchester rifle. Johnson sings about killing his woman for coming home with her “hair all tangled.” Johnny Cash wrote and recorded a similarly themed number called “Delia.”

Gangsta or hardcore rap is like any other music: there is good and bad. Filmmakers such as Martin Scorsese rarely get criticized for killing people on screen. Apparently, glorifying violence and misogyny in movies can be high art but rapping about it is abhorrent. If the Trib still had a film critic, it would’ve been interesting to read his or her take on the matter.

Ross is right about songs like “Buy U a Drank” sucking. But any serious music enthusiasts (including a professional critic) who fails to recognize the genius in the modern version of the blues and Appalachian murder ballads is doing readers a serious injustice. Plus, what's wrong with a jam about just plain partying? They don't get much better than "Gin and Juice."

Recommended hardcore, gun-toting, bitch-slapping (i.e. politically incorrect) rap tracks:

“New Jack Hustler,” Ice-T

“Straight Outta Compton,” N.W.A.

“Welcome to the Ghetto,” Spice 1

“Mind Playing Tricks on Me,” Geto Boys

“Bitches Ain’t Shit,” Dr. Dre (and check out the Ben Folds cover version)

“Check Yo Self,” Ice Cube

“I’m a Player,” Too Short

“I Seen a Man Die,” Scarface

“Gin and Juice,” Snoop Dogg

“Hit ‘Em Up,” 2Pac

“Regulate,” Warren G

“Ready to Die,” The Notorious B.I.G.

“Cell Therapy,” Goodie Mob

“Get at Me Dog,” DMX

“’97 Bonnie & Clyde,” Eminem

“Wanksta,” 50 Cent

“Touch It,” Busta Rhymes

“Hustler Musik,” Lil Wayne

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