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Regression: it's the new progression

By Ewen Ramsbottom | 16 February 2016
Besides reinforcing criminal stereotypes, there is another aspect to the insidious agenda which has been slowly rolled out in hip-hop over the past two decades.
A case could certainly be made for mainstream output becoming deliberately infantile and retarded as the 2000s progressed, as the trend for songs coming with their own form of line-dancing emerged. Fans would be required to recite a dance that they'd seen on MTV when the record in question came on in the club, leading to armies of mind-controlled automatons doing as they'd been instructed. The likes of Soulja Boy's 'Crank Dat,' D4L's 'Laffy Taffy,' Lil' Jon's 'Snap Yo Fingers,' Young Dro's 'Shoulder Lean' and Cali Swag District's 'Teach Me How To Dougie' helped push this agenda. Jibbs' 'Chain Hang Low' even appeared to the tune of the nursery-rhyme 'Do Your Ears Hang Low?' as if to publicly announce the tendency to child-like intelligence levels that was being employed. By the time the 'Schmoney Dance' invented by newcomer Bobby Schmurda from his 'Hot Nigga' track had arrived, all hope had been lost.

The same tactics have been applied to what's now laughingly referred to as the 'R&B' scene, a genre which has always sat side-by-side with hip-hop. Where it once referred to Rhythm & Blues, 'R&B' now seems to simply be a reference to Rihanna & Beyonce. (Although 'Rubbish & Bollocks' might be a more fitting description for the 2010s.)

The current glut of urban music A-listers all have infantile nicknames to dumb their followers down yet further, (as if the 'music' itself wasn't enough to do it,) by regressing them back to baby-talk. So Jay-Z, Kanye West and Beyonce are Jay, 'Ye and B, Rihanna is RiRi, Rick Ross is Rozay, and Lil' Wayne, Chris Brown and Drake are Weezy, Breezy and Drizzy!  It's all presented as something for those 'in the know,' as if it's cool and 'down' to refer to the artists on these familiar terms.

The dumbing-down agenda was further enforced by a study put together by Andrew Powell-Morse on behalf of Seatsmart. For this, he fed popular song lyrics into a Readability Score software package, which he used to figure out the average reading level against US schooling standards. He concluded that lyrics in contemporary songs, (with offerings by Kanye West, Chris Brown and Beyonce offered as examples,) come in at below third-grade reading level. His report concluded that hip-hop had the lowest lyrical intelligence out of the four main genres analysed, and that the overall reading level in mainstream hits had been declining since 2005.

The Texas rapper Scarface seems to agree with the idea of the deliberate dumbing-down of intelligence levels through hip-hop. In an outburst that's rare to hear from an artist signed to a prominent label, he used his interview time on 'Hardknock TV' in April 2013 to state:

“I feel like we’re losing it, you know what I‘m sayin‘? I feel like the people that are in control of what hip-hop does is so fucking white and so fucking Jewish until they don’t give a fuck about what the culture and the craft and what it really is about…  Let me say this shit right… ’cos I want this to be as offensive as I can fucking make it for these old-ass, er, punks that’s running these record labels, you know, that’s in the powerful positions to dictate what the black community hears and listens to… like there’s no fucking way that you can tell me that it’s not a conspiracy against the blacks in hip-hop, because you put out fucking records that make us look stupid.”

As the UK's Conspiro Media site observed at the time:

"Scarface has good reason to bemoan the quality of modern-day hip-hop music, a genre that was once teeming with articulate, intelligent voices applying their rhymes to topics worthy of further attention such as inner-city poverty, police brutality, racism, drug-addiction, hidden black history, and the promotion of self-empowerment. This social and spiritual consciousness that once prevailed, has now been minimised and marginalised by spitters of lyrical nonsense who celebrate ‘bling, big bucks, big-brands and bitches."

The article goes on to quote Wise Intelligent of the group Poor Righteous Teachers, one of a number of hip-hop acts from the early 90s that adhered to the teachings of the Five Per Cent Faction of the Nation of Islam:

“It wasn’t expected for hip-hop to reach this level, but when they realised that it would, it followed the same format as every other music genre. Blues, rock - they all had a political edge when they started, but they eventually were over-marketed and commercialised and became what they became. And it’s necessary because, you have to understand, the powers that exist that are ruling the world, they can’t have too much influence in the hands of musicians. There was a time in Europe when it was the arts that actually educated the people. The people were being educated through the arts, through theatre, through Shakespeare and so-on and so-forth. So they understand that science, and they don’t want to let music expand and let the musicians have that kind of power."


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