BTC: Black people are funny


Or so one might glean from this terribly tasteful item posted on the Conservative website.

Oddly enough, Michael Ignatieff’s argument is not without merit. Or at least advocates. Indeed, there is an argument to be made (one that, admittedly, surprised me when I first heard it) that Bob Rae is something of a legend in Canadian hip-hop.There existed for awhile in Toronto a program called Fresh Arts—part of a larger initiative by the ill-fated Rae government called Jobs Youth Ontario. Here’s what rapper Kardinal Offishall said of it in an interview with Now’s Tim Perlich some years ago.

“In the aftermath of all the kids rampaging downtown following the Rodney King verdict in 93, the Bob Rae government stepped in with some funding for youth-oriented programs like Fresh Arts. That’s really how Saukrates, Jully Black, Baby Blue Soundcrew and I got our start. It gave us something useful to do.

“We were able to go to radio stations and recording studios and see how engineers and producers worked behind the scenes. Many of us had never been inside a studio before, let alone recorded a song in one. Through that program we also got to promote our own events, from making the flyers to doing radio promotion, everything. I can’t begin to put a dollar value on what I learned.”

Here, too, is a segment the New Music did earlier this year.

When the Rae government fell apart, the program followed suit. Toronto’s recent problems with crime have brought it back up for discussion.

Anyway. If the Harper government’s interested in a larger discussion of modern hip-hop’s relevant merits, urban youth violence and Canada’s oft-unnoticed racial divides, so be it. But one surely hopes they aren’t, in this case, merely mocking black culture for the sake of cheap pandering.


BTC: Black people are funny

  1. A couple of points:

    First, while the youth-oriented programs like the Fresh Arts gave Kardinal and his pals something to do, this wasn’t exactly correlated with a drop in crime. I urge you to read this report http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20080516.wyouthcrime0516/BNStory/National/home

    It shows that youth crime rates, especially youth VIOLENT crime rates, increased during the 1990s and 2000s. So while Rae’s funding gave kids something to do, it didn’t exactly stop them from committing crimes.

    Second, to claim that the images of Ignatieff and Dion are “mocking black culture” is misleading. They’re mocking hip-hop culture. And hip-hop culture – with its gold chains and baggy hats, as per the images – is not simply black. White hip-hop artists, Hispanic hip-hop artists, and – increasingly in Canada – Aboriginal hip-hop artists all adopt the same garb. So criticize the Tories for mocking hip-hop, if you wish. But to call it mocking black culture is highly misleading, insofar as it assumes all black culture is hip-hop culture.

    Finally, oft-unnoticed racial divides? Really? I suggest you read virtually every statistics Canada and Heritage Canada report to come out in the last two decades, and then claim with a straight face that the racial divide is “oft unnoticed.” Oh, it’s noticed alright. Sometimes, as your reference to “black culture” shows, it’s noticed when it’s not even there.

  2. “Second, to claim that the images of Ignatieff and Dion are ‘mocking black culture’ is misleading. They’re mocking hip-hop culture.”

    First and foremost, I’d say the images are mocking Canadians.

  3. “It shows that youth crime rates…increased during the 1990s and 2000s.”

    No it didn’t. It showed that youth crime rates have declined by 25% since they peaked in 1991.

  4. David… Please direct your anger at the American Heritage Dictionary.

    hip-hop (hĭp’hŏp’) or hip hop
    A popular urban youth culture, closely associated with rap music and with the style and fashions of African-American inner-city residents.
    Rap music.

  5. More brilliance from Sandra Buckler.

  6. Robert McLelland: Allow me to rephrase:

    The study shows that youth crime dropped in the 1990s, and youth VIOLENT crime rates have risen substantially since 1991. I can quote:

    “While overall crime rates have dropped, youth violent crimes have increased 30 per cent since 1991.

    Violent crime has risen 12 per cent in the last ten years among youths, while the overall violent crime rate in Canada declined 4 per cent in the same time period.”

    So what we see is that, yes, youth crime has dropped, and violent crime (more generally) has dropped. My small lapse, and I apologize. All the while, youth violent crime has risen 30 percent – which was my central point that you conveniently passed over with a “…”.

    Are we to commend the government for a policy that sees lower crime rates overall, but much higher violent crime rates, among youth? Should we be thrilled that youth are breaking less windows but assaulting and murdering more people?

    And Aaron: The fact that hip-hop grew out of urban black culture (as I acknowledged) does not mean that a caricature involving a hip-hop artist is an affront to all black culture. Must a caricature involving a profession necessarily be an affront to the skin colour of the majority of that profession?

  7. In fairness to the Rae government and the Fresh Arts program, I’m not sure the Ontario premier and a program in Toronto can be entirely blamed for not lowering the NATIONAL crime rate.

    On your other point, I dare say it’s a bit glib to define hip-hop as merely a profession.

  8. “Should we be thrilled that youth are breaking less windows but assaulting and murdering more people?”

    Even those statistics are misleading. The article points out that 80% of the violent crimes are common assault. That’s not much of a violent crime.

    As for the rise in homicide rate, the article points out that “Given the relatively low number of youth committing homicides, rates are prone to large fluctuations; homicides represent only about 0.5 per cent of youth crime.”

    The Conservatives are doing nothing more than pandering to baseless fears.

  9. Fair point on the profession. I was searching my head for a better word and gave up. But for many, it is a profession. Perhaps ‘culture’ would be more inclusive.

    And I certainly wouldn’t blame the Rae government for what’s going on nationally. My main point was to show that Iggy’s idea – creation of hip-hop centres – was actually correlated with an increase in youth violent crime, in Ontario as elsewhere. I’m not sure that tougher sentences will do the trick. But there’s not much evidence that these hip-hop facilities will.

  10. Well now, that seems like the sort of debate you might hope to see the government encouraging (instead of, say, photoshopping together pictures of the opposition leader in a silly hat).

    On this particular point, I generally defer to British rapper The Streets, who once opined that, “Geezers need excitement. If their lives don’t provide them, they incite violence. Common sense. Simple common sense.”

  11. Er, so now no one can make fun of hip hop without being a bigot? Aaron, you’re not angling for Dean Steacy’s job, are you?

  12. Wait a tick, Mr. Snow. I think you’re putting words into Ignatieff’s mouth.

    I took his point to be that government can help keep kids out of trouble and become productive members of society by funding youth programs SUCH as “hip-hop centres” (as you call them), not that we should be opening up hip-hop studios for youth in every urban centre.

    As for whether hip-hop culture = Black culture or not, certainly it’s roots are decidedly Black (and recent, I should add — this ain’t rock and roll), and the field is still dominated by and identified with Black artists. You’d have to forgive people for equating the two.

  13. Say this for the Tories, they sure know their demographic — scared old white people.

  14. (In general, I promise to refrain from commenting so much on my own posts, but at least one more contribution to this.)

    Two things:

    1. By all means, there are jokes to be made at hip-hop’s expense. 50 Cent is several kinds of hilarious. But the Conservatives aren’t just poking fun at hip-hop here. They’re ridiculing the idea that urban youth might use hip-hop for positive purposes.

    2. Again, hip-hop often begs for parody. But that’s what, say, Saturday Night Live is/was for. And I dare say we should expect more from our governing party than we’d expect from our late night comedians.

  15. word up Aaron, those Cons sure are wack.

  16. Hip Hop can help reduce crime if you actually know the links between hip hop, business and education. For the Conservatives to post trash like this is very troubling. And for the Liberals to think that another bleeding heart program is a joke as well.
    Then again, with the state of our nation these days – it is no wonder that our youth are turning to other means.

  17. Mr Snow – you have a home in the Conservative Party of Canada.
    The CPC post on their website is the most egregious piece of communication by a main political party in Canada I have ever seen.
    I wonder why they do things like this.
    I figure they’re just mean and stupid.
    And not fit to run a western Democracy.
    And I’ve been a Tory for most of my adult life.

  18. Ad or no ad, we need more hip hop remixes of Dion’s speeches. That man has a natural poetry, at least in English.

  19. I can’t believe any intelligent person wants to read the Conservative website – it is the most pathetic and childish site I’ve every seen.

    They certainly are obsessed with Dion – freudian crush or something?

    Tacky, tasteless and an insult to any thinking person – for immature audiences only.

  20. who’s the racist when it’s assumed that the only way that black kids won’t fall into criminality is if we spend a lot of money on after school programs that give them the unrealistic idea that they’ll become celebrity rappers? and is a celebrity rapper really a good role model for anyone? Tribe Called Quest and public enemy are long gone Aaron – hip hop at this point is a pretty ludicrous subculture and I’m fine with the Tories mocking it.

  21. Being a student of history for about 50 years now I am fascinate by Hip Hop and contrary to what was posted above I like 50 cents and have been amused that people truly do not appreciate the origins and history of what used to be known as tone-poems – Hip Hop was not started by african americans as most believe indeed go back a few years and look into the origins of the flower children who inherited some of it’s subculture from the Beatniks – that’s right folks go back and check out the Beatniks and be prepared to be amazed because it’s Hip Hop! One more thing why are so called Liberals rarely Liberal I don’t get it – the Conservative web site is brilliant and funny – I love Iggy’s shades very Gangsta! The web site is considerably more advanced than the Liberals which more often than not has little comedy and a lot of out and out Liberal Shmear and Fear which frankly is getting tired.

Sign in to comment.