Friday, December 24, 2010

Hip-hop all the way to hell

Culture precedes politics . . . and everything else.

Music both produces and is produced by a culture.

A culture centered on titty bars -- music deemed stripper friendly before it can burrow into your children's brains -- is no culture at all. It is an anticulture.

NPR was on the anticulture beat Thursday. I'm not so sure the reporter would have been this bemused had she known what she was dealing with. Then again, maybe the NPR report is part of the anticulture just as much as titty-bar-tested hip-hop singles -- I don't know.

JUDGE for yourself:
Hip-hop producers have been breaking records in Atlanta strip clubs for a long time now — at least as far back as 2003, when Lil Jon was doing it with songs like, "Get Low." He's been quoted as saying "the butts don't lie," meaning if the strippers can dance to it, the song has potential. In Tamara Palmer's book, Country Fried Soul: Adventures in Dirty South Hip Hop, Lil Jon says "Get Low" had a slow start: the dancers "didn't feel it at first." But eventually it grew on them and several dancers at different strip clubs asked the DJs to play it during their stage sets. "Get Low" took off — in mainstream clubs and on radio and TV across the country.

What attracted us to this story was that the strippers seemed to have a lot of power in the hip-hop hit-making process. Obviously they are the focal point when a new song is being played. As DJ Scream told me, "There's nothing like seeing a woman dance to a record. There's records that I hate and when I see a woman dancing I think, 'It's not that bad.'"

Another reason strip clubs are the perfect place to test out a song is the clientele. In Atlanta, I'm told nobody thinks twice about going to strip clubs for a bite to eat or just a night out. They're so popular that some of the dancers are treated like local celebrities.

On any given night you might find record label execs and radio programmers, other professionals, college students and couples watching the booty shake.

The dancers have an incentive to make a song exciting: They get paid when the patrons 'make it rain,' or throw money on the stage while they're dancing. I asked Sweet Pea, one of the main dancers in the Snack Pack at Magic City, if she'd ever refused to dance to a song she didn't like. She made it sound as though that just doesn't happen. "If it's got a good beat, you can dance to it," she said. In other words, even if she doesn't think a song has potential, she'll give it a try because she knows the folks from the record label will make it rain extra hard when she's dancing to their song.

As for the strip club DJs, they get paid when the dancers tip them at the end of the night. So it's in their best interest to keep the dancers happy and play whatever songs they request. Record label executives usually spend a lot of money on those nights they're trying to break a record, not just on the dancers but on drinks and food. When the song is working, and the dancers are happy, it might rub off on the patrons who — it's hoped — will spend even more money. So the strip club owners fully embrace the process. Sweet Pea says, "It's like a little promotional circle." One DJ told me, "We're all just hustling each other."
ANTICULTURES CANNOT long endure. They're either going to collapse utterly of their own societal, dysfunctional weight, or they're going to fold like a cheap tent before some opportunistic onslaught. See Visigoths, The.

Decline and fall -- one way or the other.

Laugh if you like. The ancient Romans did.

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