Of course The Root (not to be confused with The Roots, the popular rap group turned tv band, who, by the way, have been impressively inflicting their musical tastes onto a national audience on a nightly basis, Clyde Stubblefield say what?), will find someone to frame music consumption in terms of race, the question is why now and why OF? This “disparity of buzz” that is referenced is widely known to be present in the decades old rap music market. Why focus on this instance? Something smells like race-baiting here, obviously. Isn’t that sort of the point of the site though? The more interesting underlying issue is whether or not something meaningful gets added to the discussion.
The Root might have a storied history of relaying the black perspective but I sure as hell wouldn’t be the one to know, Henry Louis Gates gives me the creeps and by extension so does a WAPO-Gates backed site carrying a race lens. So, this is no knock on the site’s directive. Actually, if anything, what’s more disappointing, a site dedicated to exploring issues from a certain perspective or people being SHOCKED! by it? But I will say this, this article had the potential to investigate how notions of blacktivity and cauconciousness play into OF’s popularity but instead we are drawn into a tired, tired, discussion on cultural voyeurism. Have they (as in writer & editor) even heard of rap before? Or could they at least mention how old this story is?
So, what is it about OF that might be playing out differently from the past, with respect to race matters anyway? There are plenty (um, PLENTY) of rage-filled youths trying their hand at musical expression, why are they being singled out? Could it be that it’s not so much that they are minorities that can rap exceptionally well, ’cause they kind of don’t. And could it be that it’s not that their musicality is groundbreaking, ’cause it kind of isn’t. Is it possible then that their most innately innovative feat is their confident subversion of the portrayal of the now typical urban-black-hispanic identity/persona in popular media? Could it be that they are interesting to music critics and others because they make it more acceptable to align oneself yet be unfamiliar with the core of the difficult to define yet very much real circle that is Hip-Hop culture? I’m not necessarily saying this is the case, but can we at least talk about it?
As an aside, I watched an interview with OF recently, recorded during SXSW, and they went in a little on how they are still broke. If these kids don’t cake off of this popularity I will shed a tear for them. I wish them the best and I sincerely hope Tyler’s album (which is now available for pre-order) sells a milli. And I hope eventually the focus returns to them as individuals and artists instead of their fans and what their fans think and how their Stans feel and about what all this coverage means.