Wednesday, October 08, 2003

Here is an email that I sent to a columnist at the New York Post. I had to correct him in his editorial. First, there is the letter, and then his response. The collumnists name is Mark Goldblatt.

I plan to do this as a project of putting myself out there in the whole intellectual battleground. As it is, this guy and Bill O Reilly try so hard to fight the culture and write badly about it and influence their naive audiences by reinforcing what they said in the first place. I really dont like these people, but i will expose them and will take them to task.

I guess they look at the crowds of black guys hanging out at the local malls or in the subways stations, and feel that the hip hop crowd doesnt have its thinkers, its intellectuals, its brains. I just had to let him know.

In a message dated 9/20/2003 5:30:38 PM Eastern Daylight Time, ner21 writes:

In response to your article, Rap:Blood on Blood, I had to respond to you from my fiancee's computer and make some comments that will help you in the future in your opinion writing skills.

First of all, my name is Robert, and my email is When I see stuff like what you wrote, it disappoints me that somebody like you would make such extreme judgements about hip hop without doing any research. You, unlike me, have the attention of millions of New York readers. If I had that, I would make sure to make an intelligent and well thought out commentary. Instead, when I hit the link
to your article from, I found myself reading, excuse my French, bullshit.

I will insert some of my commentary in the parts of the article which I felt were relevant.In the end, my only question is this: "Why did you waste your time writing this?"


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This is hundreds of times more than are killed by police, but if you judged the situation according to the rhetoric of civil rights groups like the NAACP, you'd think rogue cops posed a far greater threat to the average black person's well being.

This is what I consider to be indicative of your lack of research. This would have had more of an impact if you had inserted a quote, as opposed to just making some generalization. I hate to say it, but you come off as just a bitter white guy who is pissed off at those "damned liberals".

Then again, to confront gang violence, such organizations would have to take on hip hop - which is shot through (so to speak) with gang ties.

Another strong statement. It can't be denied that in the history of the rap industry, there have been gang ties. However, to say that the organizations have to "take on hip hop" is bogus in that hip hop is only the end product of the much larger entities of the music industry and radio. So doesn't that mean they should take on the music industry and radio? How about the big radio stations like Hot97 up there in New York City? If you had done your research, you would see that its not only hip hop that has to be taken on, but you would be shocked to find out who makes money from this music! Who really benefits? I can assure you that its not some homeboy in Brooklyn or Compton wearing a red rag. Having this angle takes more thought and is more interesting. Again, dont take this the wrong way, but you come off as a hostile white guy ranting about the social ills of hip hop, and this theme is as old as the music itself. Besides, we already have Bill O Reilly for that.

Gangster rap, specifically, is woven around the theme "If you disrespect me, I'll kill you."

Again, can you provide something of an example, such as a lyric, or any song? This is just another generalization grounded in nothing. This doesn't help to build a strong argument. Im not saying that this is not one of the themes of gangsta rap, but can you even name one example?

If the "theme" you say of all rap is violence, and that is causing society's ills, well, this them is as prevalent in early 80's thrash metal and 70's punk; just dig up your old Metallica albums and find the song "No Remorse" and "Am I Evil" or Motley Crue's "Too Young to Fall In Love" which describes murdering a prostitute? What about those many violent Johnny Cash (RIP) songs, Jimi Hendrix's "Hey Joe", Lloyd Price's "Stagger Lee", or even Elvis's "Trouble" .Themes of violence are rampant in many genres of pop music and are not exclusive to gangsta rap or hip hop. Notice here unlike you, I am providing clear examples to back up my arguments and I dont write for a living.

Hence its vicarious appeal to adolescent white boys, seething with Oedipal resentments

(Huh?) Im sure that there is more to the audience than "adolescent white boys" given that the music is 20 years old, and has reached into every cornerstone of the world. What about Eminem? He has been lifted up by guys like you as a cultural icon, but I didnt hear them linking his music to any "white on white" violence.

and its deadly appeal to adolescent black boys, grasping at the mirage of racial pride.

Well, last time I heard, rap was brought by mostly other races but black, and appeal isn't the thing killing these kids in the street of every city in the USA.

To be sure, hip hop's pantheon is a pathetic testament to gangsterism:
Deceased rap icons Tupac Shakur and Biggie Smalls were members of the Bloods and Crips respectively, and their mutually fatal rivalry was fueled by gang loyalties.

Now this is the biggest bit of misinformation in your piece, and you should be embarrased to have your name on this one. If you had done your research, you would know that Tupac was signed to Death Row records, which was associated with the Bloods street gang in LA by way of Marion "Suge" Knight. However, Tupac never was a "member" of the Bloods. The only person I ever saw claiming this was you, but if you had read any of the many books about the whole scenario, you'd have a much better knowledge of all this. Its never been said in any of his articles, interviews, or even his songs that he was a Blood.

Now, Biggie a crip? Are you smoking crack? It was only alleged that the Southside Crips provided security for Bad Boy records, Biggie's record company, at the time when he was being threatened but still making trips to LA to promote his music. Its never been said, stated, written or rapped that Biggie was a Crip! Where did you get your information from?

Veteran rappers Snoop Dogg, P. Diddy and Lil' Kim scatter their lyrics with references to gang violence to underscore their street credibility.

This is too funny. Again, no examples are given of this. Snoop is an obvious example, but P Diddy and Lil Kim? You probably dont listen to much rap, I see, but cant you do better than that? Diddy is just flamboyant and rich; he talks about his money, cars, and his lifestyle. Kim is just a slut who talks about her sexual exploits. You missed the mark entirely, and look stupid again with your weak arguments.

And current rap sensation - and multiple gunshot victim - 50 Cent is widely assumed to be a former Blood.

The only one making this assumption is not his record company, the media, or anybody I know. The only one making this assumption is YOU.

If black leaders ever come to terms with the fact that the gangster is really just the new minstrel, if they ever have to courage to declare that Snoop Dogg is really Snoop 'n Fetchit, that P. Diddy is really P. Sambo, and that Lil' Kim is really Lil' Jemimah, then perhaps the tide of black-on-black violence will begin to ebb.

Gasp. Do you actually believe this? Making this ignorant statement shows how much of a closet racist you really are. I think that you should spare people the negative crap of this article and ask yourself, what are you doing for these kids? Have you asked any of the kids, such as the "scary" one you referred to at the beginning of your piece, what they think of rap artists? I'll bet that you haven't. The problem with most of you hip hop haters, is that you dont know the culture but most of you try to break it down and make yourselves look stupid. Also, none of you seem to address real issues, such as the poor quality of education in cities such as New York City, Washington DC, and Los Angeles, poor accesibility to healthcare, pollution,AIDS, the proliferation of guns in the inner city, and the whole prevailing cycle of poverty and hoplessness? Not to mention the whole issue of, gulp, racism, an issue most white guys like yourself would rather sweep under the rug with your "Gee, my best friends are black" sentiments. These problems will exist even if hip hop goes the way of disco, and I'm sure the cycle of violence, hoplessness and poverty will continue when Lil Kim, Diddy and Snoop are in nursing homes. Discrediting these artists will not solve any of these problems.

Besides, if these artists werent the problem, Im sure Bill O Reilly and your ilk would find another boogeyman, like Hollywood movies which are filled with violence and sex, or Nintendo video games. You'd rant, these companies would get richer, problems would still exist, and nothing else would happen.

I'd like to sum up my analysis with a statement that a youth minister gave at a church service I went to today; "The way these kids spell LOVE is T-I-M-E". Now, you sit on here and spew out a lot of misinformation about hip hop, saying that its the cause of most of the problems in the inner city, saying that this is the reason that this young kid is a "Blood" telling you to watch what you wear, and saying that if only these Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson types would tell everybody else that the rappers are a bunch of "ignorant niggers", then black on black violence will "decrease".

Im scratching my head and thinking, you have to know that this is more complex than this.

In the end, all I can ask you is this, besides writing this trash and bitching, what are YOU doing to help solve what you see as society's ills?

Until then, the likes of Anthony Bartholomew will continue to die for those leaders' silence.

Unless you consider the fact that maybe his killer may or may not listen to gangsta rap or hip hop, as you assume.(You know what your parents or teachers said about assuming) That we will never know, but if he doesn't, well, what then? If you really care, you will dig a little deeper.


Dear Robert--

Thanks for your response, albeit dissenting, to my column. I'll try to respond to your criticisms one by one:

1) Your point about providing evidence to support the charges I make is logically valid--and in fact would be damning except that I was writing a news column, not a full length magazine article, and thus I was constrained by a 500 word limit. Certainly, columnists are obliged to know what they are talking about, and their readers accept the column format only insofar as they are willing to trust the journal in which the columns are published to do a screening process. Columnists are not allowed to rant and rave; their evidence should be verifiable (as mine was) using reliable evidentiary sources.

2) My assertion that hundreds of times more black people are killed by gangs than by police can be cross-checked at the Dept. of Justice website--which I consulted for the column.

3) Your insistence that record companies/music industry determine the kind of music that is most widely circulated has an element of truth to it. But record companies do not create vanguards; they respond as quickly as possible to what sells; they certainly have no stake in promoting ideas that are destructive of black or white or brown communities. The belief that they do is characteristic of the racist paranoia found in rappers like Mos Def, PE, Dead Prez or Brand Nubian. (This is just the flip side of the idea that white people are doing everything possible to keep down the black man because they know it's his fate to rule the earth; see NOI/NGE theology.) It's worth noting, in this regard, that music industry executives promote Britney and Eminem just as heavily as Snoop or 50 Cent. They don't do so because they want their adolescent daughters and sons coming home with lowriders, navel rings and scowling dispositions. They do so because they want to make money.

4) The "if you disrespect me, I'll kill you" motif is so prevalent in hip hop, I'm shocked you'd even ask for an example (unless of course you're just trying to test me), but since you demand a P.Diddy instance later, maybe I can kill two birds with one stone: Here are lyrics from his song "Pain": "Now I'm doin' inventory/Guns, clips, vest, bullets /So when I pull it, it's the end of story /Leadin' my men to glory /Then get shorty to hold a pound for me /I know she down for me /Yeah, sneak up on 'em like a car thief /These niggas mad cause it's my party /And my Benz is wide-bodied /Despise me, like the feds despise Ghotti /That I kill for a hobby and lay in your lobby /So try me, go 'head and take a bite /Might as well say good night Try to put me in the dark, I don't take it light /Now if it's wrong, make it right /Not tommorow, tonight /They barkin', I know the bite /Jumped in the B-N-Z /Niggas gonna see the E-N-D fuckin' with me." Is he just playing a character in this song? No doubt he is. Does it glorify gang violence? I leave you to answer that.

5) As you can imagine, I've been getting bombarded by e-mails from irate fans who insist neither Tupac nor Biggie were gang members. The LA Times (which was the principal source I consulted for background) did a detailed investigation into the killing of Tupac several years ago (the reporter's name was Chuck Phillips, a Pulitzer Prize winner) and found that Biggie had paid off Crips to kill Tupac--which the Crips were only too willing to do because of Tupac's long association with the rival Bloods. The Times has stood by its story, and the fact that people keep insisting it isn't true is not enough to convince me otherwise. Naturally, Bloods and Crips membership is not like AAA membership; you don't get a laminated card to carry or pay your dues by check. At a certain point, the question of whether you call yourself a member becomes moot--what does it mean to be a "member" versus a "fellow traveller"? At what point to you forfeit plausible deniability? Was Frank Sinatra a member of the mob? Of course he was--even if he never carried out a hit himself. To my mind, Tupac and Biggie were gangsters in the same sense that Sinatra was a mobster. Granted, this amounts to guilt by association, but that's what a gang or a mob is--a loosely knit association. Just as Sinatra's mob ties were widely known, so too Tupac's and Biggie's ties have been widely reported in media ranging from mainstream newspapers to BET to hip hop web boards. Saying that, however, if I had it to do over again--given the volume and vehemence of the mail I've received--I would probably have used the words "who aligned themselves with" rather than "were members of" in describing Tupac's and Biggie's gang ties. It was exactly the kind of hedge I made with 50 Cent--who I said was "widely assumed" to be a Blood. (Again, the evidence for this is all over the web. Just google "50 Cent" and "Blood.")

6) Your assert that I am a closet racist because of my Fetchit, Sambo and Jemimah comparisons; perhaps this is so . . . although I cannot imagine a definition of the word that would apply to me except perhaps "expects the same standards of reason and morality from blacks as he does from whites." If that makes me a racist, so be it. But I'm by no means the first writer to make the gangster-minstrel connection; it has previously been made by Stanley Crouch and John McWhorter (if, as seems to be the case, you prefer your criticism coming from darker-skinned sources).

7) Finally, as to your question about what I am doing to solve society's ills, I'm doing just this: Calling a spade a spade.

Again, I appreciate your writing.

--Mark Goldblatt

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