Hip Hop Week On NPR

NPR recently began their podcast strategy, whatever that means. What’s great is that it’s given music fans more of an opportunity to listen to music programs without commercial interests (debatable?).

Last week was hip hop week on Fresh Air. Terry Gross interviewed ?uestlove of the Roots, Grandmaster Flash and The RZA (which made me feel like an idiot because when DJing on my college station I would say “Coming up next is the ARRRRHHH ZEEE AAAAYE”, not “The Rizzz-AHH”; how it’s really pronounced), among other hip hop notables.

It seems odd. When one describes the stereotypical NPR listener they don’t usually list “hip hop fan” among the characteristics. My immediate (and flawed) reaction was of surprise; how interesting it is that the “whitest” people in America are talking about the “blackest” people in America…especially during a time when race relations in this country are under fire (or, to be more appropriate, under water).

Of course, my immediate generalizations are wrong. I know this, yet I had them anyway. NPR listeners aren’t all white and hip hop fans aren’t all black. What it does is demonstrate a musical melting pot of sorts where, for lack of a better way to explain it, white culture meets black culture. This has happened before; jazz and rock. This definitely won’t be the last time either.

After listening to the programs I had a basic understanding of the backgrounds of ?uestlove and The RZA. ?uestlove had a father that led a doo-wop group and attended a performing arts school (high school, college, I don’t know). The RZA grew up in a ghetto but was able to use his love of music to get out of it. Both are intelligent men and don’t really write music that’s violent like alot of hip hop today (is that accurate?).

That also draws parallels to other rappers, mainly Sage Francis and Kanye West (if I’m wrong then you get the satisfaction of realizing that I don’t listen to much hip-hop and therefore don’t know what I’m talking about…I heard about it on NPR).

Is this a preview of hip-hop to come? Will there be less Snoop Dog, bling and chronic and more Dave Sedaris, gin and tonic? Is this the beginning of “white safe” hip hop? My mom loves Outkast’s Hey Ya, but I’m not sure how she feels about We Luv Deez Hoez!

Maybe when that day comes we’ll also see white people dancing (well, and not to techno).

And Terry Gross will be discussing the phenomena on NPR.