Wednesday, May 16, 2007

open your mouth wide let me show you what it's made for/ thanks for saving hip-hop white people!

David Banner's joining the Adult Swim roster with a cartoon that's pretty much about him. Replete with a small-town MS setting, an old white family that's extremely resistant to change, and a young restaurant owner cum controversial rapper voiced by Banner himself (naturally), the cartoon, The Crook'd 'Sipp, seems a bit out of place among Adult Swim's snarky, eccentric, and overwhelmingly white programming. It really doesn't matter though, because the entire thing seems like a thinly veiled vehicle for Banner's character's rap group anyway. If you didn't click/read through that link, Banner says that The Sweet Tea Monsters (you know after pulling this ish you can get away with just about anything/I swear to Jesus I'm not hating) are going to be releasing a real album and Pimp C is slated to be the show's first guest star.

Adult Swim has sorta been in the business of promoting hipster rap for a while now. I haven't had access to non-youtubed TV for a minute, but I remember recognizing Peanut Butter Wolf instrumentals back when they had those black-screen/ white text interstitial bumps. Eventually, I guess, enough people got to asking about the background noise, and Adult Swim took the next logical step and started releasing full-length albums. Adult Swim got Chock Klosterman's FAVORITE BLACK PERSON EVER to team up with MF Doom to do DangerDoom in 2005, and it proved enough of a success to spawn a second album, as well as a clutch of other collaborations/sponsorships with other artists and labels. They later teamed up with Stone's Throw to do Chrome Children in 2006 (which also has its own follow-up), and Definitive Jux warmed up the internet to El-P's second solo LP with Definitive Swim, which came out this year. Turns out that they also did an album with Chocolate Industries, which is kinda messed up because I really like that label and I didn't even find out about this record until I was boning up on the Adult Swim website for this piece.

Anyway, I think it's safe to assume that David Banner's/ The Sweet Tea Monsters' album is going to be the next semi-decent hip-hop album that is (at first glance, at least) inexplicably bankrolled and promoted by Cartoon Network. Despite my perhaps quasi-hostile wording so far, I don't really think that's a bad thing. While none have blown my mind, I've genuinely liked most of the Adult Swim albums, and I've been jockriding a lot of these artists and Adult Swim's quirky programming since high school. G-d knows that if I were some miraculous combination of rich, influential, and not lazy, I'd be pouring a decent chunk of the resources at my disposal into music I like too. I'm just a little confused about what it means, exactly, when a corporate-backed cartoon series is pretty much developing its own indie hip-hop record label at the same time that we're eulogizing the entire genre.

Part of what seems amiss here is the fact that a lot of this stuff seems like hip-hop for white people who don't really listen to hip-hop. I cringe when I think about the Oprah's Book Clubbishness of the entire endeavor- stamping relatively harmless stuff (the downloads on the Adult Swim site are all clean versions, and they skirt issues that may be disturbing, even when it's coming from someone like El-P or Mr. Lif) with your seal of approval, and watching the hordes come to devour it. I'm not mad at people getting introduced to good music in any way, but I think Adult Swim may be presenting a narrow and increasingly lightened (see: Definitive Jux, the tracklisting of Chocolate Swim vs. the track listing of any older Chocolate Industries comp) version of rap music that its consumers may not be motivated to move beyond. And of course, there's the entire possibility/issue of inserting television programming and/or advertising into places where I don't want to hear it. David Banner's a smart dude who's totally able to take the reins of unfavorable situations, but still, I don't know that this bodes well for him. At the end of the day, I think I'm most disturbed that a bunch of white folks at the Cartoon Network, talented, funny, and inventive as they may be, are suddenly wielding so much power in the world of non-commercialal hip-hop. When old white record label heads can spin a Fiddy/Cam beef into media domination and a gazillion records/mixtapes sold, the idea of balance being brought about by the purveyors of Aqua Teen Hunger Force isn't that comforting.

- anika assassinationday

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