Thine Dirt in the Shell
God Bless Henry Abbott. Long ago, he made us realize that we could never keep up on current NBA events, controversies, and discussions to his level of skill and precision. We were forced to stop trying to stay current and break news, and it is with this admittance that I reveal the not-so-shocking secret that I have been terrible at keeping up with the NBA this year. I just realized that the Pacers were in the dumps...I also just realized that Carmelo has reverted to pouting and sluffing...and a few days ago I realized there was some big to-do over Whitlock, Simmons, and Scoop concerning hip-hop and the craziness of all-star weekend in Vegas. From what I've been able to gather, Simmons used the term "Hip-Hop Woodstock" innocuously to describe the Vegas scene, Whitlock went all Wynton Marsalis on us, and Scoop (amongst others) shot back IN THE NAME OF HIP-HOP. Then Simmons responded on some "You were never friends with Pac" type Ralph Wiley name-dropping, and D-Wil magically made a souffle out of it in this tremendously thoughtful piece.
I don't really feel like I need to "weigh in" on the whole back and forth except to say the following: People in the Scoop camp, who feel compelled to swoop in and defend hip-hop culture's honor in these situations--whether talking the age limit, the dress code, or Vegas weekend--are making hip-hop WAY MORE RELEVANT than it actually is.
No straw man. This type of argument is prevalent on the 'nets way beyond Scoop Jackson and I've been responsible for quite a good deal of it myself on this very blog. However, i really think that these culture-crusaders when using the term 'hip-hop' are conceiving of some emblematic monolithic reprsentation such as this:
and not this:
Hip-hop, while still artistically innovative, hasn't been the voice of a people (the people/a culture/whatever) for at least a few years. Don't start with me on those OMG YOU'RE NEGLECTING THE COUP AND DEAD PREZ AND FLO BROWN trips, because those people are simply not relevant right now. Of course things cycle around, and hip-hop will again serve (probably some time soon) as a powerful tool for the marginalized and for the truly revolutionary to voice significant biz. As it currently stands though, though Fall Out Boy is making blatantly racist videos for their songs and rap cats aren't doing shit but sitting back and remixing it.
This is all to say that hip-hop doesn't seem to care about shit. And hip-hop certainly doesn't care about the NBA, or the players that represent its aesthetic, so why should anyone rush to its defense when it is blamed for The Association's troubles. When we support hip-hop and fight for its innocence we're giving it way more credit than it deserves--it's not that relevant.
I'm as sick as anyone of media wigs citing "Make it Rain" THE SONG as the cause for Pacman Jones ACTUALLY MAKING IT RAIN in Vegas or drawing the Ron Artest = Wifebeater = Rapper (oh OBVIOUSLY Wifebeater/Thugh) connections. But hold up...peep this video of Roc-A-Fella underlings dissing Dipset: "Ron Artest sold more records than you." SEE. RAPPERS DONT CARE ABOUT RON ARTEST, so why should we care about them?
What I'm saying is this. The way things are currently, the link between hip-hop and the NBA is illusory. It's as illusory as for those trying to defend hip-hop as it is for those trying to blame it. Just because Gilbert Arenas is friends with The Game and Bow Wow is catching floorburns in the all-star celebrity game and Desmond Mason is playing the surrogate AJ Pierzynski-belting-Journey character for the New Orleans Hornets, doesn't mean anything more than Tobey Maguire showing up to the Lakers game. The hip-hop/NBA connection, as it stands now, is spurious. I grew up in an era when Tony Campbell was getting shouted out in Public Enemy's liner notes, and until something changes, those days are gone.